BetteBack December 8, 1977: Too Much For Television

Winnipeg Free Press
December 8, 1977
Midler talent better left to blossom on big stage

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HOLLYWOOD – Bette Midler, the “Divine Miss M,” took on commercial television Wednesday night with her first variety special, 01′ Red Hair Is back, on NBC.

And somehow, you wish she hadn’t. It wasn’t the show. On balance, It was a marginally good hour of variety television, with enough flashes of style and originality to counter the uneven structuring and sloppy pace.

Nor Is the Idea that Bette Midler is too good for television. She’s slmply too much for It — a victim of the medium’s compression chamber that, In her case, reduces an incomparable stage attraction into a hollow echo.

the program managed to accent her weaknesses rather than her strengths as a performer.

Midler In concert is not merely an Act, she’s an Event — from the bawdy, uninhibited patter to the calculating tacky ambience of her backup group, the Hariettes, to her wondrous kitsch bag of songs that range from Jitterbugs to ballads to blues, it Is the contact she makes with an audience, the Intimate atmosphere In the hall that turns a Bettc Midler concert into a unique experience.

Here, the event has been homogenized for the masses.

There was only an essence of the true performer, a strained earthlness just waiting to let go. What was left was her voice — a ragged Instrument these days — and her stylized way with a lyric.

The show’s most effective segment occurred midway through when Midler was joined by Dustln Hoffman, no less, for Shoot the Breeze, a song they wrote together.

Later, Hoffman was given a literal dressing down as he attempts to play Rachmaninoff ‘s Prelude In C Sharp Minor.

The great circus clown Emmctt Kelly was seen briefly — and effectively — with his spotlight sweeping act, and any show that openeds with the star emerging from a huge, spangled clam in hula togs to sing the title song from Oklahoma!
can’t be all bad.

But it wasn’t Bette, not really, This was what her fans •—• not to mention the just plain curious — missed.

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