Bette Midler
Guy Lochhead, 10/09/10
American singer, actor and comedian. Midler began her career as ‘The Divine Miss M’, performing a camp vaudeville-influenced act on the New York gay bathhouse scene. She also had small parts on Broadway. Her big break came in 1971, when she appeared in the first professional production of The Who’s rock opera ‘Tommy’. Her first album, ‘The Divine Miss M’, made the Billboard Top 10, and she scored a #1 hit with ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’. Since then, she’s started in many films and theatre productions, and released many albums, with varying success. She also founded the New York Restoration Project, which aims to revitalise neglected neighbourhood parks in run-down areas. Although there are some aspects of Midler’s career that I think are fantastic, I don’t have much time for her act. It relies on insincerity and stereotypes to succeed. The change in these stereotypes resulted in a decline in her popularity around 1980. This effectively forced the break from recording between then and her reunion tour in 2008. I am also interested in her origins on the bathhouse circuit, but I think this was used more as a stepladder to mainstream success than because she had any real enthusiasm or interest in actively campaigning for gay rights. This can be seen in more recent quotes or interviews on TV chat shows where she describes the experience with a sort of detached amusement, and plays it for its shock value. The charity is brilliant, but I’d be more interested in including that as a separate entity. Also, she’s been in some truly awful films.

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