Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A View From A Broad

This next book is one that is purely written in only a way that she can. Although this book was originally written in 1980, it has been re-written to give a more modern update. This book is not just a biography, it is a collection of life seen through her eyes. With a career spanning 41 years, here is the life story from one of Hollywood's ICONIC greats, the Divine Miss M herself: Bette Midler. As Bette has said: "Here's what I did in my life and all the crazy shit along the way."

One of the first things you learn from Bette is that while her career consists of global and international travel, she is comfortable w/ NEW and unfamiliar territory. She loves her work and she is a worker. It's just the leaving what you KNOW and feeling like you're being thrown into the abyss. She ALWAYS had the desire to see the world. Originally hailing from New Jersey, Bette's father moved to Hawaii during the Depression. Not so much to find work, but as a proper setting for his wife, whom he always thought of as to beautiful & delicate. Growing up in Hawaii (a.k.a. Paradise) was difficult. For Bette, it was describing her surroundings as though she felt she was colorless and boring. Everyone else around her had sophistication of culture. In school, while everyone else had an exotic name or something of mystery, Bette felt like a plain jane.

While Bette is known for being a talker/rambler, it has somewhat made up a rather large part of her act and she depends on it. In the early dark days of rehearsals, within her new Harlette's did Bette find comfort. After needing to find new background singers for her Grand Tour, her old ones went to try to find their own fame/fortune. While others would leave and discard, those new ladies when/if Bette needed would BE THERE (no matter whether it was personal or professional.) Not only to enliven & enrich one another, they would help each other and be their best self!

What Bette realized she needed through a sh-lumpy period to be of worth again was an entrance! When it comes to fans, in her diary, Bette states that there is something ODD and comfortable about the DIE HARD fans that follow her tour from city-to-city. It's endearing that they're there. A comfort to have familiar fans. But crazy due to the financial backstory to be there! It gives Bette a sense of belonging & meaning. It's something to embrace. For fans to be that loyal.

Bette's first memories of Hawaii are of the oleander bushes that surrounded their apartment house. Their were 4 kids in the Midler household. The oldest were Judy & Susan, Bette and their youngest sibling was a boy, Danny. Their mother loved to sew. She was TERRIFIC at it. Better grew up always hearing the sound of the sewing machine. It became a comfort to hear. There was always fabric around the house. In her childhood, Bette would wear her mother's creation's. She never realized what an artist her mother was until they opened this crate their mother owned. It was FILLED w/ EVERYTHING she EVER MADE by hand. It was her trousseau.

When Bette turned 12, their mother decided it was time for her daughter to learn how to sew, just as her sisters had done before. It was an ordeal, but WELL WORTH IT! Bette could make the clothes of her dreams that were inspired by the revolutionary Mr. Frederick of Frederick's Of Hollywood. It wasn't long before Bette wore her desired fashions. Growing up on the Islands, she grew up surrounded by a blaze of color. Even today, Bette's Hawaiian roots shine through whenever she performs a show. Bette's first hula teacher was also the same one who blithely introduced a child of this age to the spotlight. Once she was there . . . . she was NOT going back. The same hula teacher also gave a young Bette her first lesson in spontaneity. A lesson she is still learning.

Bette describes an incident where she was in-between a show and an appearance where she was LITERALLY stuck inside a Hot Dog costume. She always likes to take a few characters w/ her when she goes out on the road. The ladies/characters she dreams up are masks she can hide behind. Something she TRULY loves. When she was 10 years old, Bette was in their local library. She snuck into an old out-of-the-way room she was always fascinated by. It was dark, cool & musty. It was FORBIDDEN to children. But Bette was drawn to it . . . . so in she ran. Once inside, she was drawn to Oscar Wilde's book, The Decay Of Lying. It ended up being exactly what she was unknowingly looking for. What she got out of it was a great persona and that she could invent. She got the answer to her problem from Oscar Wilde. Her first inventive character she dreamed up was Delores DeLago, spanning after seeing a picture of The Little Mermaid in her Danish phrase book. An innocent and vulnerable mermaid. A character who TRULY BELIEVED in herself. Delores may be down, but her self-esteem raises her up.

Another character w/ GENUINE spirit of an old soul was "The Magic Lady" after an old bag lady who took up residence on her stoop one July. After she was gone, Bette came to TRULY miss her. Making her up The Magic Lady was a way to give back to someone who gave Bette an INVALUABLE lesson. Unlike sassy & brazen Delores, The Magic Lady still had an unknown mystery. In many ways, The Magic Lady is someone of whom is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE (in person & in personality) of the REAL Bette herself.  The part of The Magic Lady that Bette has a hard time connecting w/ was her optimism. In the face of everything she faces: she is a SURVIVOR! That is the Magic within The Magic Lady. Bette admires that the most within this character.

London Palladium
Bette believes in NOT taking the easy way out. If you're in a foreign atmosphere: learn about its culture and language. Trying to be culturally & educationally aware. Clothes were, and are, as important to her as an entrance. If it doesn't feel right - nothing else will either. When it came to performing at The London Palladium, Bette and her crew were so excited to arrive. After brushing up on London (from reading and onto more) She is just crazy about royalty - especially queens.

Ever since Bette seen Greer Garson show Laurence Olivier how to shoot an arrow in Pride and Prejudice, she has looked forward to seeing all of the FAMOUSLY HISTORIC English landmarks that she had been waiting for. Although having to donn a gray knit cap, a pair of sunglasses to hide her eyes and a long woolen scarf to hide the lower half of her face, although physically suffering, but completely unrecognizable. Bette felt these precautions were necessary due to the tremendous success in Tinseltown. But the English Theatrics celebration was a grand old time. While Bette was trying to introduce herself upon the perils of London, the remainder of her band of troupes were figuring out what to do and see.  She had always wanted to see the Scandinavian countries. But duties call there to work. Within her third performance in London, live on stage, the hot dog costume HAD TO GO when without warning, the buns of the costume fell off. They left its remains in London. A great relief and disappointment for EVERYONE. As things fell downhill, Bette needed to let out frustrations & vent. Finding a victim in her manager and letting it out. Sometimes the most innocent people are the ones we take everything out on. Words weren't enough. Bette felt the need to throw something of steel.

When Bette came to, 15 minutes later, staff told her she was lucky to be alive. She had somehow managed to, in reaching for a weapon to throw, stuck her finger directly into an electrical converter that was lying on the table, waiting to receive her hair dryer. Everyone thought she was dead. Then they were concerned that she felt no ill effects. One look in the mirror and Bette felt terrific. The shock had brought a lively spark back inside her. She had color back in her cheeks, curled her hair and a warm, tingling sensation where she had chills and shivering prior before. A one point feeling foreign and unable in this culture, then realizing what she truly has been blessed with and decided to rock out. The Jutebory Scandinavium in Sweden. It was a tremendous success!

Bette gives GREAT ATTITUDE and ADMIRATION for those who chauffeur. While some people treat them as a transportation prop, Bette doesn't! She takes an interest and gets to know and jokes around w/ them. If she is FOREIGN on a subject, Bette will most definitely do her research. While in Copenhagen, she very much wanted to lay her eyes on The Little Mermaid. In London, the people had gone simply wild over Delores. As they were exiting Sweden, Bette and her crew ran into bad weather, but Bette was DETERMINED to see this statue. It was NOW or NEVER! She stopped walking and lifted her head. Not more than 10ft from where she stood was The Little Mermaid. Bette was hoping her own-created character wasn't an insult. Just then a clap of thunder exploded directly overhead. In the same instant, a bolt of lightening struck the defenseless statue. For one moment, the statue glowed pure gold. It lasted a short time, but for Bette, it would always last.

They were traveling down the coast on a gorgeous, sunny day and Bette had gas! It wasn't from food, but acute aggravation stemming from Delores. The bitch of a character had been getting cockier-and-cockier. She was capable of doing ANYTHING and she DID! Bette had created a monster. Without warning one night, Delores had taken off w/ Bette's crew in tail. She was acting like a complete DIVA; Delores was. While Bette is serious in her work, Delores is the opposite. After arriving in Paris, France, from the moment of getting off the plane, Bette KNEW they belonged there. Bette also gives an introduction into her character, Madame Sophie.

When Bette was performing in Germany, she thought it was best to not tackle or think of certain things. She thought about the message it would send whether she did or didn't speak about them. (If I talk about this, It says I'm . . . If I don't, it means I'm . . .) But as fate would have it, as soon as she hit the stage, she was completely nervous. What she was trying hard not to say was the first thing to come out of her mouth. No one was more shocked than her! After realizing what came out, what could you do but go on! Pretty soon after, Bette had the German audience adjoining her. She still had no idea how they felt about it and the reviews never mentioned it, nor did any of the Germans that Bette had conversed with after the show. Maybe they were being kind. It was sort of an odd situation. When she was performing, the audience would laugh at the funny, and be warm in reception, but they mostly kept a composure like manner. When they began to arrive for the show, it was a little alarming. Group conformity is nerve wracking. You don't know whether you'e getting something joyous or harmful.

Bette tells a saddening story of a former classmate of hers who was teased and taunted due to his physicalities. A horribly teased taunt resulting in one step too far. Her classmate was soon missing after school and the next morning. He was found as a result of a suicide due to being tired of always being the punchline. Something that was - and still is - SADDENING a HUGE EPIDEMIC today. Bette thought about this kid ALOT in Germany. Something that today is widely underseen and invisible to the eye!

Bette confesses to the FIRST & ONLY time she ate hash. BIG MISTAKE AFTERWARDS. The effects were kicking in MINUTES BEFORE going onstage. After shrieking & heaving like the sea, Bette flew into the bathroom. When she came back out, she quite a bit lighter and sober as a nun. After being dressed and placed for the curtain raise, Bette gave the cue after confirming her okay, she picked up her mike, straightened her hem, got in position and went out onstage. After telling a BIG lie in Amsterdam when she was due to leave for Sydney to leave before 3 weeks of performances, Bette told her manager that she needed to be alone for awhile. She wanted to stay in Amsterdam and come to Sydney a few days later. She tried to reason as best as she could, but it was hopeless. Bette was ADAMANT! If she didn't get those few days to stay on her own, she would cancel the rest of the dates booked and go home! After being given her plane ticket, not only did she stay in Amsterdam, she did something brave, foolish and what she's ALWAYS wanted to do: She went to India.

a monsoon and a rice barge
During her journey heading towards the jungles of Thailand, a one-night layover on her way to Sydney, NOTHING would've prepared her Bette for what she would see. There was NO LAND ANYWHERE. No Land. Just water. She didn't know it at the time, but she had arrived IN THE MIDDLE of monsoon season. At this point, the monsoons had been pretty severe. A taxi driver convinced her that she HAD TO take a rice barge upriver to see the naturality of the jungles to see Thai life. It was rather easy for Bette. To get around, Bette used the same bargaining principles she's used in the past to put a show together. The boatman who showed her around explained Thailand's situation and future plans. In the '60s, Bette was committed to the antiwar movement and done her share of various shoutings of phrases. Now she was faced w/ people that she adored on-sight who might have to battle for what little they had.

As Bette rode down the river, the sun was setting around her. It had occurred to her that the beautiful, calming & serene peace of atmosphere around her may not always be there! (It would be like finding and centering yourself at peace in a world FULL of chaos.) As she ventured into different countries, not only did they have to change their language every day, they had to change. They had to change their change. it became so confusing for Bette that she stopped using money altogether. She made what few purchases she could the the old-fashioned way: The Barter System. Sometimes personal items or short exposes on celebrities. Once they hit Australia, it elated Bette to be privileged enough to count her change again. The situation and culture of Australia had Bette happier than anywhere else. Life was so relaxed & uncomplicated. She felt young and care free. But more than anything else, Bette wanted to see Australian wildlife. What she had expected was a scenery of jungle wildlife. It was a shock! Australia was awash in venom. Anywhere around, one could be instantly killed. It didn't stop her from immediately leaving, although fearless and brave, Bette didn't leave her room again.

However, The Magic Lady did leave on her own. She chose to go where there were NO people AT ALL. Only animals. It wasn't her venturing to make trouble for The Magic Lady, there was NO TIME in the schedule to do so. Time in Australia was becoming extended. As she boarded the plane, Bette had to keep herself from shrieking and ordering The Magic Lady to return back. It was over! There were more places to go and wonder what they would think of Delores, The Magic Lady or even Bette herself.

Bette recalls when she was pestered & annoyed by a director, Vilmos Angst, to do a role in his film. The role was something Bette would NEVER have accepted due to it including nudity. She was beyond that. Bette wanted to show she could act. She wanted to show that there was a difference between the two. But she kept refusing, but he kept persisting. After promising to return from retrieving a pen from her purse to sign, Bette was clever. She secretly went snorkeling. On-and-on she swam. There was nothing she could do. She was exhausted and resigned. When at last she felt in front of her, a white beach lined w/ coconut palms. Bette had reached Tuamotu. After about 3 days, Bette began to feel a pull back to REAL life. She preferred pavement to palm trees and gossip to grouper. When getting ahold of a newspaper, it had presumed in the headline article that Bette was dead. She found it a little exciting. But 2 days later, she had been discovered being filmed. With everything genuinely okay, Bette returned to the Australian mainland, finishing her tour in triumph!

Whether it's in music, film or TV, what is your FAVORITE song, film or role from The Divine Miss M?

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