BetteBack January 7, 1978: All Aboard On The Bette Midler Party Train

Winnipeg Free Press
Party time rolls around again
January 7, 1978

JanetMacoska

What better time,than the festive holiday season to turn our jaded attention to parties? And what better party than Bette Midler.

Ms. Midler has been known to let her Hair down. In fact, the Wild Woman of the East Is usually about knee deep In the stuff. She Is a carnival In which she plays the sideshow, the barker and all the best rides like the Octopus Osterizer.

She likes to call herself “the last of the tacky ladies” and her act “trash with class.” She likes to admonish her charming backup singers, the Harlettes, to “try to stay vertical until at least the first break, girls.”

Writers tend to use up most of their adjectives when they write about Ms. Midler, You run into curious strings like “loud, brassy, vulgar, outrageous, tasteless, gaudy, extravagant, shrill, tawdry and absolutely wonderful.”

1 once tried to find out from a reformed Harlette just what Bette Midler was really like. It was none other than the now very classy Melissa Manchester. When I asked Ms. Manchester on the telephone to describe her old friend and former employer, there was such a long pause that for a while I didn’t know whether she was live or Memorex.

She finally said some effusive things about what a wonderful human being Bette was and how she was only trying to find herself. Bette herself has said that her image as the queen of decadence probably got a little out of hand.

Like that girl in high school that we called Frieda Everybody, she has talked longingly about recapturing her lost Innocence. Which Is partially what she does in very entertaining fashion with the album, “Broken Blossom” (Atlantic).

1 mean, when you hear Bette Midler’s moving version of A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes from Walt Disney’s Cinderella, you are going to know this Is one born again innocent.

You are also going to smile and feel kind of warm unless you were one of those hard-hearted folks who watched Bambl’s mother get it without running emotionally disturbed out to the popcorn stand.

Of course, this innocent stuff could be overemphasized, I suppose. That tune does follow Bessie Smith’s Empty Bed Blues, which is the raunchiest song on the album. But then dirty old blues fans deserves little nostalgia, too.

The other most significant historical number is Make Yourself Comfortable, which was kind of a ’50s soft core forerunner of the more explicit skin songs of the ’70s, like Help Me Make It Through the Night.

Talk about returning to a more innocent era. There is actually a line which says Take off your shoesies, dear. That was a real shocker at the time. Children were sent to their room when Gisele MacKenzie sang it on Your Hit Parade.

Bette’s piano bar romantic duet with Tom Waits, I Never Talk to Strangers, is also on Waits’ new album. It makes more sense here. If Bette Midler is going to pick a romantic leading man, you just know It is going to be some reprobate like Tom Waits.

A couple of the most elaborate numbers are an extravagant production of Say Goodbye to Hollywood written by-Billy Joel and a ripping rock song that seems written for Bette called Red.

Bette Midler Is loud, brassy, vulgar, outrageous, tasteless, gaudy, extravagant, shrill, tawdry and absolutely wonderful. She Is also a fun party and a heck of an Innocent.

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