Bette Midler

  • Pop singer and songwriter born in 1945 from Honolulu Hawaii.
  • Growing up in Hawaii, Midler began an acting career, taking a small role in a local film. In 1965, she moved to New York City to pursue theater work, and by 1966, she was performing in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway. In 1970, she began singing at a New Your City gay bathhouse that regularly hired first class entertainment to entertain their customers – she earned the nickname Bathhouse Betty there, and she established a stage persona that she referred to as The Divine Miss M. The house pianist at the bathhouse was Barry Manilow.
  • Manilow’s connections in the music industry got Midler signed to a recording contract, and Manilow was the producer for her debut album The Divine Miss M, released in 1972. The album included three singles that were top 40 hits on the Hot 100 – Do You Want to Dance, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and Friends. Bugle Boy originally was the B-Side to Delta Dawn, but Helen Reddy released Delta Dawn soon after Midler, and the record company decided to flip sides, making Bugle Boy the A-Side. Good choice – Reddy’s version of Delta Dawn went to #1, and Midler’s remake of the Andrew Sisters Bugle Boy peaked at #8 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. With the success of The Divine Miss M, Midler won a Grammy award for Best New Artist in 1973.
  • As the 70s progressed, Midler continued to record and act. Four studio albums and a live album were released, with modest success. The songs were a variety of genres – covers of old standards, jazz songs, rock songs, even a disco version of Frank Sinatra’s Stranger In the Night. In 1979, Midler had the starring role in the film The Rose. She won a Golden Glove award for her performance. A soundtrack album was released, and in 1980 the single The Rose reached #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, winning a Grammy award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.
  • 1980 saw the release of a concert film and soundtrack album titled Divine Madness. Only one studio album was released during the 80s – her cover of the Rolling Stones’ Beast of Burden proved to be quite popular in Europe. She focused more on her film career during the 80s, acting in nine movies. One of the films was in 1988 – Beaches. The soundtrack album for the movie became her best seller, certified 3x platinum, and the single Wind Beneath My Wings topped the Hot 100 chart, winning the Grammy award for Record of the Year.
  • Midler remained a prominent entertainer in the 90s – 11 films, numerous television appearances, two soundtrack and three studio albums. Her 1995 album Bette of Roses was certified platinum, and six singles released during the 90s reached the top 20 of the Adult Contemporary chart, with From a Distance reaching #1 (and #2 on the Hot 100).
  • Her star power remained strong in the new millennium. She had a television sitcom in 2000 called Bette, a residency in Las Vegas that ran from 2008 to 2010, four concert tours (the most recent in 2015), 11 film roles, performances in three Broadway shows (including the starring role of Dolly in the revival of Hello Dolly! in 2017 and 2018), and the release of five studio albums. Much of her music were tributes – she released albums covering songs originally released by Rosemary Clooney and Peggy Lee, and another album covered songs originally made famous by girl groups. This album, titled It’s The Girls and released in 2015, reached #3 on the album chart, and Midler became only the second woman to have top 10 albums in five consecutive decades (the other was Barbra Streisand).
  • Midler won three of the big four awards – Grammy (three), Emmy (two – for a variety show special in 1997 and for an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1992) and Tony (for Best Actress in Hello Dolly!). The elusive Oscar may not happen, though she was nominated twice for Academy Awards (and she had four Golden Globe wins). She had a special relationship with Johnny Carson, appearing on The Tonight Show 11 times, and she won her Emmy as the last guest ever on the show. Here’s the iconic clip of her final song that she sang to Carson in 1992 – One More For My Baby.

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