I was about 9 years old when Bette Midler burst on to the national spotlight with her rendition of songs from the 1940's and '50's. And, I was just starting in high school when she appeared in the movie "The Rose." That song was like an anthem almost as it was played over and over on the radio and was sang by kids at my high school for talent shows, etc.
I really did not understand Midler as much until college when her star catapulted into the stratosphere. When I say I did not understand her, I guess it was because her energy was so out there and her "language" a bit too salty for my sheltered and rather sequestered life at that time.
My oldest sister had her debut album "Divine Miss M" and when I wanted to buy a copy my mom said "no." Because, on the back of the album cover was a photo of Midler with her dress twirling upward.
Keep in mind I speaking about more than 30 or so years ago and the social climate was much different. For example back in 1972 where I was a the time, if you were heard using any sort of profanity, like "damn it" that was a trip to detention for an hour after school.
While on summer break from college I went to see a double-feature of her two movies that were playing at that time. They were "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" and Ruthless People." And, while I was shocked by her "potty-mouth" style of vocabulary, her zaniness was delightful.
During the 1980's while I was in college Midler's movie career was going strong and I enjoyed seeing all of her movies. Which then, lead me to learn a bit more about her, thanks in part to an article in "Newsweek" that I read while taking breaks from writing term papers in the library.
Midler's brash, sassy and risque image was only one side of her. Reading that article from Newsweek allowed me to see the human and vulnerable side of her that I had not know before. And in reading that article I was able to understand something very unique about her talent.
Of what I recall of that Newsweek article from the 1980's was that her life was one that evolved and yet in some unusual way was "meant to be" amid obstacles, twists and turns. Think about it for a minute, her goal was to be an actress, singer, etc. not a show-stopping feature at a bath house. That just sort of happened. I am sure if you were to speak to her at the very start of her career as an extra in the movie "Hawaii" the idea of singing at a bath house would have been unbelievable and also most likely unthinkable.
The article from Newsweek also noted the tragedies that have impacted her life as well as the triumphs. In some strange sort of way, the unplanned and unexpected detour singing at the bath house got her noticed and I think a spot on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.
And, since that time of reading that Newsweek article, I have followed her career. Yes, the movie "Beaches" and its title song was and is a favorite of mine too. Yet I can also understand her affinity for material and movies like "For The Boys" and "Stella" that were not so successful.
Midler can say and do all sorts of crazy, zany and risque stuff that I, especially at that time would not be able to. And, when I was in school would be punished for.
Yet, there is this deep side to Midler that is compelling that helped me to understand why she got so rowdy and bawdy with superlatives, profanities and all. Her life is legendary and so it is with those eyes that I watched "The Showgirl Must Go On" DVD.
I enjoyed it yet at the same time I realized this was a more mellowed Midler. Some of the notes in her songs she used to hit fast and furious. Yet now are reached at a softer pace.
Much of what made Midler a powerhouse was that unusual mix of angst, bombastic sauciness and tender vulnerability expressed in songs like "The Rose."
For Midler fans "The Showgirl Must Go On" is enjoyable and gives witness to the longevity of her talent and uniqueness.
If you wish to find any of Midler's movies, songs or even the "Showgirl Must Go On" DVD or anything that is hard to find check out All Music Services.