Happy 76th birthday to the legendary Bette Midler! Here are 76 things I love about The Divine Miss M!
When Bette Midler turned 70 six years ago, I did what any gay blogger would do: I compiled a list of 70 things I love about her. Did most of it off the top of my head! Well today she turns 76 and I’m just basically re-running the list because there are some terrific videos in it I want you to see. She has had a showbiz run that has lasted nearly a half-century. From her Broadway debut in Fiddler on the Roof in the 1960s to a legendary career that has brought her a Tony, three Emmys, three Grammys, four Golden Globes and a whopping seven American Comedy Awards.
And the gays had her first.
This showbiz icon first built up a core following in 1970 by performing at a local bathhouse in New York City called the Continental Baths with her piano player – an unknown named Barry Manilow.
Her staying power is so great that Bette has been able to weather major flops like her films Stella, Jinxed! and Scenes From A Mall and changes in the music industry. When all else fails, she’s been able to put together an amazing show and hit the road or take up residence in Las Vegas. She was the toast of Broadway playing the title role in the smash revival of Hello, Dolly! for which she won the 2017 Tony Award for best lead actress in a musical. Her curtain call for that show and her hilariously long Tonys speech where she cuts off the orchestra are classics.
Here are 76 other reasons why I love her so.
1. Her Buzz-worthy Twitter account in which she regularly called out Trump. She also once called out ‘unseemly’ Geraldo Rivera for grabbing her breasts and shoving poppers under her nose before an interview. She demanded an apology from Rivera who seemed to be defending Matt Lauer.
2. Tireless campaign to clean up New York by founding the New York Restoration Project.
3. Oscar-nominated performance in 1979′s The Rose – her first leading role in a movie.
4. Unforgettable presentation of the Best Original Song Oscar to Arthur’s Theme at the 1982 Academy Awards. She decided to be dignified and ‘rise to the occasion’ and pretended to lifted her breasts then gave her own hilarious spin on the nominated songs.
5. The fact that she and Martin von Haselberg, her husband of 32 years, were married by an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas.
6. She tearfully sang Wind Beneath My Wings on the phone to a woman in the hospital with terminal cancer. It was her dying wish and she passed away a few hours later.
7. Emmy-winning appearance on Johnny Carson’s 1992 farewell on The Tonight Show – made Carson cry with her version of One For My Baby.
8. The classic character of Delores DeLago – a singing mermaid in a wheelchair.
9. Every single moment of For the Boys.
10. Every single moment of Hocus Pocus.
11. Every single moment of Beaches.
12. While accepting the Emmy in 1997 for her HBO special Diva Las Vegas, Bette admitted to being ‘extremely pissed’ that she lost the Emmy three years earlier for Gypsy.
13. Her classic line as the comically self-absorbed CC Bloom in Beaches: ‘But enough about me, let’s talk about you… what do YOU think of me?’
14. Classic guest spot in 1995 episode of Seinfeld as Bette Midler who George injures during a softball game.
15. One of the better celebrity websites around: bettemidler.com
16. The stellar 2014 album It’s The Girls which spans seven decades of famous girl groups. The wigs and wardrobe for TV appearances and the tour made it all even more epic.
17. Classic 1980 Golden Globe Awards acceptance speech when she teased: ‘I’ll show you a pair of golden globes!’
18. The sensational ballad From A Distance – one of the biggest hits of Bette’s career.
19. Memorable comedic performance as separated at birth twins opposite Lily Tomlin – who also played twins – in the 1988 hit comedy Big Business.
20. The make-up and the gloriously hideous teeth for Winifred in the 1993 film Hocus Pocus, now a Halloween classic.
21. Ruthless People
22. Outrageous Fortune
23. Down and Out in Beverly Hills
24. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.
25 Splendid performance of Wind Beneath My Wings at 1990 Grammy Awards shortly before winning Record of the Year.
26. Underrated dramatic performance in the little seen independent film Then She Found Me directed by Helen Hunt who played the daughter Midler gave up for adoption.
27. Unbilled performance in the 1997 John Travolta hit Get Shorty. Bette stole every scene she was in as Doris Saphron.
28. Hysterical Emmy-nominated guest spot on the sitcom Murphy Brown guest spot as Murphy’s last secretary (she had a new one every episode).
29. Delicious pairing of Bette and Nathan Lane in 2000 film Isn’t She Great. The divine one played Valley of the Dolls author Jacqueline Susann and Lane her press agent husband Irving Mansfield. It was so bad it was good!
30. Broadway triumph in the 2013 play I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers.
31. Asked by Barbara Walters in a 1980 interview to rate herself on a scale of 1-10, Bette replied: ‘I think I’m about a 55. I think I’m a happening girl!’
32. Gave emotionally raw Golden Globes acceptance speech in 1992 just weeks after For the Boys bombed at box office. Bette could not hide her broken heart despite winning for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical..
33. Tear-jerking performance on The Glory of Love at end of the 1988 film Beaches.
34. The cover of the 1998 album Bathhouse Betty.
35. Putting her stamp on Mama Rose in 1993 TV version of Gypsy.
36. Fight scenes with Dennis Farina in the 1997 comedy That Old Feeling.
37. Gorgeous rendition of The Beatles In My Life in the 1991 film For The Boys for which she earned her second Oscar nomination for best actress.
38. Bette’s very cool 2006 holiday album called Cool Yule.
39. The absolutely hilarious – and raunchy – Otto Titsling number from Beaches.
40. The Grammy-nominated Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook produced by Barry Manilow.
41. Bette’s first turn as a grandmother (gasp!) in the 2012 hit comedy Parental Guidance.
42, Stupendously fun performance of the ditty Fat As I Am on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson in 1985.
43, Bette’s memorable voice work in the animated film Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
44. Short-lived 2000 sitcom Bette on CBS which actually had some very funny moments during its 18 episode run with Bette as a fictional version of herself.
45. Opening the 1994 Emmy Awards with a terrific performance of Rose’s Turn from Gypsy.
46. Bette Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Revue
47. The 1980 book Bette Midler: A View From a Broad
48. The 1983 book The Saga of Baby Divine
49. The Grammy-nominated Bette Midler Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook.
50. Bette’s old age make-up as Dixie Leonard in her 80s in For the Boys.
51. Her debut album The Divine Miss M released in 1972.
52. 1980 comedy album Divine Madness also made into a concert film.
53. 2003-05 Kiss My Brass tour
54. The soundtrack to For the Boys featuring Stuff Like That There, In My Life, Come Rain or Come Shine, I Remember You.
55. 1993′s Experience the Divine: Greatest Hits.
56. The soundtrack to Gypsy
57. Dressing like a giant rabbit – a singing rabbit – for her ‘meet cute’ scene with John Heard in Beaches.
58. When she took revenge on Danny Devito in the pier scene in Ruthless People.
59. The 1985 comedy album Mud Will Be Flung Tonight which brought Bette out of per post-Jinxed! career funk.
60. The Trashy Ladies medley with Cher on the first episode of Cher’s solo variety show in 1975.
61. The giant orange sweater that hid her pregnancy in some scenes of Outrageous Fortune.
62. Scenes with Nick Nolte in her comeback comedy Down and Out in Beverly Hills.
63. Do You Wanna Dance?
64. The annual Hulaween Ball to raise money for New York Restoration Project (NYRP).
65. Emmy-winning TV special Ol’ Red Hair is Back.
66. Glorious ending of First Wives Club when Bette, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn team up for a defiant version of You Don’t Own Me.
67. In First Wives Club when Bette’s character describes demise of her marriage: ‘He starts working out, he, he grows a mustache, he gets an earring. I said, “Morty, Morty, what are you? A pirate? What’s next? A parrot?’
68. She was voted ‘Most Talkative’ and ‘Most Dramatic’ in high school.
69. Bette’s good sense of humor about the We Are the World recording session when she was moved from being front-and-center with Bruce Springsteen to nearly out of camera range next to LaToya Jackson.
70. Touring and still filling arenas like LA Staples Center during 2015′s Divine Intervention show.
71. Returning to Hello, Dolly! over the summer for one final run before the show closed on Broadway in 2019.
72. Her memorable performance in the 2017 independent flick Freak Show as the mostly absentee mother of a gay son.
73. Reviving her memorable role as Caprice, one of Murphy Brown’s most memorable secretaries, on the 2019 reboot off the sitcom.
74. Doing the voice of Grandma in the 2019 hit animated film The Addams Family.
75. She is currently filming Hocus Pocus 2!
76. Bette is a 2021 Kennedy Center Honoree!