Bathhouse Betty, aka The Divine Miss M

3519d0871a89d9dcf8d8a703e63ab8eaAs I said before, I’m no Bette Midler stan by any stretch of the imagination, but tomorrow night I’m headed to Omaha with my friend Kyl to see Bette Midler’s Divine Intervention Tour.  I think that it’ll be a pretty awesome show, and I’ve spent the last 6 weeks or so getting acquainted with some of Bette’s songs beyond stuff from the Beaches soundtrack and her new album It’s The Girls. It’s been an education, let’s just say that. Oh sure, I knew “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “The Rose” but there were so many deep cuts I didn’t know existed, I thought I’d do a quick blog post on the eve of the concert highlighting five songs I discovered.  The funniest part – they were ALL covers. I sometimes wonder if Bette had any songs that weren’t recorded by someone else first.

But when I was searching for videos to accompany my list, I found this piece of history. And I knew I had to abandon my original idea and post this instead.

As the title indicates, this is a Bette Midler show recorded at New York City’s Continental Baths back in 1971. I am never not amazed by the fact that Midler got her start singing in that particular gay batthouse, accompanied by Barry Manilow on the piano, earning her the moniker “Bathhouse Betty” (which I had never heard of until she released an album called Bathhouse Betty in the late 90s.) As a recent A.V. Club article said “while audiences around the country were getting a proxy version of’30s Berlin decadence in the musical Cabaret, gay New Yorkers were living the real thing at Continental, complete with libertine sex and their own personal Sally Bowles.” I can think of nothing that describes this performance more accurately.

I love that this footage survived (although judging by the quality, it appears that it barely survived) all these years and here I am in 2015 watching it before I go watch a 69 year-old Midler perform. Although she’s arguably less camp now than she was then, I’m super excited for the show tomorrow night. A friend of mine who saw the show in Las Vegas said the audience is definitely the AARP set – quite a difference from the folks who watched her perform at the continental 40+ years ago. I just told him that’ll be us at Madonna in 20 years.

Because you KNOW Madonna will still be touring at 76.

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