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Bette Midler: The Divine Miss M

Alan Yentob joins Bette Midler on a journey through the chorus lines of Broadway and the bathhouses and nightclubs of the 1970s to the very top of the film industry.


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This programme contains some strong language

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I'm here with Alan Yentob from the Beeb.

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LAUGHTER

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This is my friend Marc,

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he will be underscoring this interview,

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which I think will be a first.

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I don't know of an interview that's ever been underscored.

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I'm sure the BBC has done it all.

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That would be good. Why don't you underscore the entire interview?

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-I don't want to...

-Oh, come on, bring me back.

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There's no-one quite like Bette Midler.

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Don't you know who I am?

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Her talents took her from Broadway to pop, and then screen stardom.

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Ta-da!

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An outrageous, captivating entertainer,

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with a soulful voice...

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# God is watching us

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# From a distance... #

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..and a raucous wit.

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My boyfriend Ernie said to me, "Soph, if you could learn to cook,

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"we could fire the chef."

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I said, "Ernie, if you could learn to fuck,

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"we could fire the chauffeur!"

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# Come on to my house, my house... #

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At the age of 72, Bette is about to appear on Broadway in Hello, Dolly!

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When I met her a few years ago, she invited me to spend time with her

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in New York and go back to some of the old haunts that were important

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stepping stones in her career...

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if we can find them.

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That doesn't look right, that doesn't look like it.

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No, that's not it.

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But this... It must have had...

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This must have been the doorway.

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This was the site of a club

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where I did some of my greatest shows.

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# I'm going to give you everything. #

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Inspired by the girl groups of her youth,

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Bette's making a new album with long-time collaborator Marc Shaiman.

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# Mr Sandman... #

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And I'll be sitting in on the sessions.

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He had that show, a smash, a couple of years ago.

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-Hairspray.

-Let's not...

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I said Hairspray, goddamn it! OK. Anyway...

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Singer, comedienne, author, dancer,

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producer, actor, activist, mother -

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this is the divine Bette Midler.

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# Bring me a dream

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# Bring us a dream. #

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Is the Bette Midler I'm talking to

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the same Bette Midler who's on stage?

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No.

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SHE LAUGHS

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Thank God.

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I mean, how could you live with that?

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How could you be like that all day long, every day of the week?

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It can be tiring, it can be tiring.

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I'm afraid I have to go back to the beginning.

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Oh, my goodness, the childhood, here it comes.

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-Yeah.

-Oops.

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It was an interesting childhood

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because I was in the most beautiful place in the whole world.

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I thought the whole world looked like that - I was in Hawaii.

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# I saw the splendour of the moonlight

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# On Honolulu Bay... #

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Bette's father, Fred, was a painter in the army

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and her mother, Ruth, was a seamstress.

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They moved from New Jersey to Hawaii when Fred was transferred.

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Ruth was an avid movie buff

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and when daughter number three came along in 1945,

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she named her after Bette Davis.

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I grew up in a...in what they would call the projects today.

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But we were not rich, we were not even middle class,

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we were, like, in the bottom strata.

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Growing up in a tropical paradise was colourful,

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but being Jewish with east coast parents,

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Bette didn't quite fit in.

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It was very tough being a Jewish girl in a Samoan neighbourhood.

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Everybody was Asian, there were no other haoles,

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which is the Hawaiian expression for white people.

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So she didn't exactly grow up in the Obama section of Honolulu.

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Do you think that sense of being in a community

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where there were lots of different kinds of people

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was that your kind of curiosity was aroused,

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so you took all that stuff in?

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Oh, absolutely. Yes, I do.

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And I'm grateful for it, I think it's terrific.

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So where did the allure of showbusiness and singing

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and all this come from?

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I think I had some opportunities to sing when I was a very little girl

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and I noticed that a lot of people didn't sing,

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which surprised me cos I was singing louder than anybody.

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Bette entered a talent show aged 11,

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singing the Andrews Sisters' Lullaby On Broadway,

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and she won.

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The song would help define her act for years to come.

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# Till everything gets hazy

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# Hush-a-bye, "I'll buy you this and that"

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# You hear a daddy saying

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# And baby goes home to her flat

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# To sleep all day... #

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I noticed that they liked you if you sang and were funny

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and all those kinds of things, and in high school

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I worked in the library during the summer

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and the librarian didn't pay me,

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she gave us tickets to the community theatre.

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And when I saw those people in their pink tights

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and their lipstick and their rouge and their fake hair, I just...

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I mean, it was all over for me.

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I was, like, completely mesmerised.

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It was just like Pinocchio, you know?

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# Hi-diddly... # It really was!

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And... I mean, I'm now, I've been at it,

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I've been on in pink tights and pink lights for a long time, so...

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I'm a little bit over it!

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But in those days, it was...it was mesmerising.

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Bette decided there and then that showbiz was the career for her,

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but her father hated the idea.

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My mother was a big showbusiness person.

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I mean, she loved it, she was entertained by it,

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she enjoyed it, she was amused by it.

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My father didn't want to have anything to do with it.

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My father was, "Meh..."

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My father was a curmudgeon.

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I think that it's something that she loved,

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I think that she wanted her dad's approval

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and I say that very honestly.

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# It's one for the money, two for the show... #

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Like teenagers everywhere, she immersed herself in music.

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This was the '50s after all

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and rock and roll was everywhere.

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But unlike most teenagers,

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Bette listened to her parents' records, too.

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She loved the girl singers, always, always, always,

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from The Andrews Sisters, The Boswell Sisters on.

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# Crazy people, crazy people

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# Crazy people like me go crazy

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# Over people like you. #

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They were really interesting, the Boswells.

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They were from New Orleans. One girl was the piano player

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and wrote all the arrangements, and they were sensational.

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They're completely forgotten now and I find that so interesting

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that they would have been, you know, complete... Everybody knew them

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and now no-one knows them.

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# It isn't the paddle It's not the canoe... #

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These early girl groups would provide her

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with a lifelong inspiration.

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# It isn't the love dreams that bring joy to you

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# It's the girl... #

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The Boswell Sisters was really the first record my parents ever had

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and, in fact, I recorded that,

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one side of that record, for this album.

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# It isn't the paddle, it's not the canoe

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# It isn't the river or skies that are blue

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# It isn't the love dreams that bring joy to you

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# It's the girl that makes you happy and the girl that makes you blue

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# You often doubt them... #

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Oh, that was so great.

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I've sang it every night of my life.

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So you knew what you wanted to do.

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-I did.

-But you weren't quite in the right place for it,

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but I'm kind of interested that this notion that, one year,

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you are in a pineapple factory...

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Please tell me about the pineapple factory.

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I worked - see, people say, "I'm not doing that."

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I worked like a little beaver from the time I was 13,

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but everybody did, that's what you did.

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You once worked, didn't you, when you were in Hawaii,

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in a canning factory, a pineapple canning factory?

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-A pineapple cannery.

-What did you do?

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I was the chief chunker! LAUGHTER

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# Pineapple princess

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# He calls me pineapple princess all day... #

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You worked in the pineapple factory,

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it was a dollar and a quarter an hour,

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until you made enough money to do what it is you needed to do.

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# Nowhere to run to, baby... #

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Bette was alone and just shy of 20 years old

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when she left Hawaii in 1965.

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For a young woman with aspirations

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of becoming a serious dramatic actress,

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New York was the place to be.

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She was very bright and she did very well in school,

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but I think she had something that she had to get out of her

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and she was never going to accomplish that in Hawaii,

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so I think she had to go someplace where you could do that.

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The need was so great to go and do that,

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do whatever it was that I felt I had the ability to do.

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And it's so interesting because I'm such a coward,

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I am one of the most frightened persons I've ever...

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In my life, I don't know anyone who is as scared as I am,

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and yet I didn't even...

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I never looked back - I got on the plane, I got there,

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I booked myself into a hotel,

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I started going on auditions like I knew what I was doing.

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And I never...

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It never occurred to me that I would get into any trouble.

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I did, but I...I was fearless.

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What kind of trouble did you get into?

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Oh, people always get into trouble -

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-you know, bad boyfriends, all that sort of thing.

-Yeah.

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# In the heart of little old New York

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# You'll find a thoroughfare

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# It's the part of little old New York

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# That runs into Times Square... #

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Bette wanted to live right in the middle of the theatre district

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and got a cheap hotel room near 42nd Street, just off Broadway.

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42nd Street was notorious for being a kind of a hotbed for the Beats

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and for people who were, you know, marginalised -

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you know, junkies, winos, poets.

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Weren't you, as a kid,

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weren't you quite attracted to that kind of low rent...?

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Well, who isn't? Oh, yeah, oh, yeah.

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The Honolulu of the '50s was always full of sailors hanging out

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in the red light district.

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Bette developed a fascination and an empathy

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for the freaks at the port and for all outsiders

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that would remain with her all her life.

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Yes, I really was fascinated, but I think everyone is to a degree.

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But that was when it was in the margins.

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Now it's mainstream, so there's no more fascination.

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I have no tattoos.

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You went to, I suppose, endless auditions,

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is that what happened?

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I did go to auditions, I didn't have much luck.

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I mean, I had to feel my way. I didn't know about headshots,

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and I didn't know about agents, and I didn't know about...

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I didn't know what the hierarchy of the auditions was,

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I didn't know that certain magazines

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would show you certain kinds of auditions, like porn,

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but they wouldn't show you other kinds of auditions, so I had to learn that.

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It didn't take me long, though.

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It was a very simple business in those days.

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# Sunrise, sunset

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# Sunrise, sunset... #

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After a year of bit parts,

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Bette Midler got her big break

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in 1966, when she landed a role

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in one of the hottest shows in town, Fiddler On The Roof.

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Is it true the casting director thought you weren't Jewish enough?

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No, the casting director thought I was too short and too fat.

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SHE CHUCKLES

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The girl, the oldest daughter,

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was supposed to be tall and lean,

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and I was very little and round.

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And it was interesting because the casting director called me up

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the morning of the audition

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and said, "I don't think you should take this audition

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"because, if Jerry Robbins sees you, he won't even let you in the chorus

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"cos you're the wrong type."

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So I said, "Well, I came to meet him, I just want to see him."

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And I hung up - I've got to take the audition -

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I hung up and, of course, I was in tears

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and then when I got to the audition, I was so distressed

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that during the scene when the character is supposed to cry,

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of course, I let loose floods of tears cos I was so stressed out

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and I got the job!

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And I cried every night for three years!

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# Dear Yente, see that he's gentle

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# Remember, you were also a bride

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# It's not that I'm sentimental

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# It's just that I'm terrified... #

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As the oldest daughter, I was there for about three years

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and that was very stressful, because I couldn't...

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You're supposed to go, you know,

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do the role for a certain amount of time,

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and then you are supposed to move on and, you know, move up.

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And I couldn't seem to move up,

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and I wanted to be, in my heart, a great dramatic actress,

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and I thought that I had the range for it.

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I wanted to be an Anna Magnani, a type like that,

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someone who had got those kinds of roles,

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and that did not come easily.

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And then, in the middle of all this

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was all that excitement about music and rock and roll.

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You just couldn't resist it, it was just wonderful.

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# Hot town, summer in the city

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# Back of my neck getting dirt and gritty... #

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The time Bette was in Fiddler On The Roof

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coincided exactly with the rock explosion of the mid '60s.

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Greenwich Village, just a couple of miles south,

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was the eye of the storm

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and, of course, there was also the Stonewall riots

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that sparked the gay rights movement in 1969

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and Vietnam.

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# I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound

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# Everybody look what's going down... #

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It was a real hotbed of all sorts of things.

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It was all happening on that bus,

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so I got off my bus and I moved over to the other bus.

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So, from Broadway to Greenwich Village.

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Yes, absolutely.

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There was a big party going on

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and I wanted to be part of that party.

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So, in 1969, Bette gave up the idea of making a living in the theatre

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and decided to reinvent herself as a new kind of torch singer.

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Part retro, part utterly contemporary.

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It was back to the bottom of the ladder, doing gigs for free,

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hanging out with the freaks and the music makers.

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You had your intellectuals,

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you had your...

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last vestiges of the Beatniks,

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and you had hippies and you had drag queens

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and you had the burgeoning gay culture

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that was coming out of that whole Stonewall thing.

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You would meet people that you would never have had

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the opportunity to meet.

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These were brand-new situations, people were mixing,

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people who would never have seen each other on the streets

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were suddenly, you know, getting high together and dancing

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and carrying on and exchanging ideas.

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It was quite a time.

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# They said, "Hey, Sugar

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# "Take a walk on the wild side..." #

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Bette took her move into music very seriously.

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She spent hours at the library listening to records

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and soaking up entire decades of musical history.

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I listened to the blues,

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I listened to Bessie Smith, I listened to Aretha.

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I listened to just about everybody.

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I went back and forth and I would go on,

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I would binge listen, you know,

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and I picked up a lot, I picked up a bunch.

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You know, I don't write, I don't write my own material

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and I didn't know a lot of songwriters, so, for me,

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it was hard. I had to freshen everything up all the time.

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And for me, it was hard,

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because I didn't know enough people whose material I could draw on.

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You know, people weren't just sitting down and writing songs for me,

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so it was really up to me to find the material.

0:16:080:16:10

# Drinking again

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# Thinking of when you loved me

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# I'm having a few

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# And wishing... #

0:16:390:16:42

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Miss Bette Midler!

0:16:420:16:46

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Fancy a pizza?

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No! No, no wheat. No wheat.

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This pizzeria was once the home of the legendary Improv comedy club.

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In the late '60s and early '70s, it was THE place in Manhattan

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to see future legends like Richard Pryor or Lily Tomlin.

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But to play here, Bette had to adapt her act

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and it was where she learned to mix Broadway,

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the blues and burlesque.

0:17:180:17:20

It was a comedy club and I was one of the very few singers here

0:17:220:17:24

and I realised, you know, these guys are having an awful lot of fun

0:17:240:17:27

and you really did have to entertain, you had to be amusing.

0:17:270:17:31

It was just the best place for her to develop an act because

0:17:310:17:37

it was primarily at that point a comics' room,

0:17:370:17:40

although we did have singers.

0:17:400:17:42

So, she, smart enough to blend in,

0:17:420:17:47

came up with the snappy dialogue.

0:17:470:17:49

Now...now here's a lady who was never blue.

0:17:490:17:54

Her material, maybe.

0:17:540:17:57

She used to say...

0:17:570:18:00

# I believe that everyone in life should have a mission

0:18:000:18:04

# Making people happy is the height of my ambition

0:18:040:18:07

# And when I get them happy, oh, they stay in that condition... #

0:18:070:18:13

I worked it up and I had little impersonations that I do,

0:18:130:18:16

I was taking cues from what other people were doing.

0:18:160:18:18

So was it...? Was this a sort of Sophie Tucker moment...?

0:18:180:18:21

Not really, no, no, no.

0:18:210:18:22

I was doing a Mae West impersonation, as a matter of fact.

0:18:220:18:28

You know, I met your kind before.

0:18:280:18:30

-Why don't you come up some time?

-Well, I...

0:18:300:18:33

Don't be afraid, I won't tell.

0:18:330:18:35

-But...

-Come up, I'll tell your fortune.

0:18:350:18:38

And she was adorable, I loved her. I didn't know anything about her

0:18:380:18:41

except that she was hilarious and very sexy, but in the most

0:18:410:18:46

wonderfully funny way.

0:18:460:18:47

And she had in her world a kind of fascination for the underworld,

0:18:470:18:51

the same way that I did, so I really identified with her.

0:18:510:18:56

# Here's the key

0:18:560:18:57

# The room is 503

0:18:570:19:00

# It's not so far to climb

0:19:000:19:04

# Of course you are the spider's invitation to the fly

0:19:040:19:08

# Why don't you come up and see me sometime?

0:19:080:19:12

# Any time... #

0:19:150:19:17

LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE

0:19:170:19:19

# The sooner, the better. Oh. #

0:19:200:19:24

When you got your material, who was it...?

0:19:240:19:27

You were doing ballads, weren't you?

0:19:270:19:29

I was a torch singer.

0:19:290:19:31

I was interested in the blues and I was interested in torch songs.

0:19:310:19:34

Did that go down well?

0:19:340:19:36

Actually, surprisingly well

0:19:360:19:37

because I was, you know, highly emotional.

0:19:370:19:41

# It's not the way you smile

0:19:470:19:50

# That touched my heart

0:19:500:19:52

# Sha-la la la-la

0:19:540:19:57

# It's not the way you kiss that tears me apart

0:19:570:20:02

# Oh, oh, oh-oh

0:20:040:20:06

# Many, many, many nights roll by

0:20:060:20:11

# I sit alone at home and I cry... #

0:20:110:20:16

Bette Midler for me, more than anyone,

0:20:160:20:18

has the ability to, in a note, in one note,

0:20:180:20:22

convey more than an emotion, an entire place

0:20:220:20:27

that a person is singing -

0:20:270:20:29

what's happened to this person and what they're singing about.

0:20:290:20:32

# Baby, it's you

0:20:320:20:36

# Baby, it's you. #

0:20:360:20:41

So how do you combine the highly emotional with the extremely funny?

0:20:410:20:44

Oh, I turn on a dime -

0:20:440:20:46

also not very hard to do.

0:20:460:20:48

Well, quite hard to do, actually.

0:20:480:20:50

Not for me, not for me.

0:20:500:20:51

That's your thing, then? Being able to change the mood?

0:20:510:20:55

That was a kind of thing...

0:20:550:20:57

I actually didn't know I had that ability,

0:20:570:20:59

but I learned it in places like this, like the Improv.

0:20:590:21:02

Give a very warm welcome to this gal

0:21:020:21:04

because she is the first great superstar

0:21:040:21:06

at The Continental Baths.

0:21:060:21:08

So what more can you say? Here she is - Bette Midler!

0:21:080:21:13

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:21:130:21:14

So now, down here..

0:21:200:21:22

Below here in the basement was where the Continental Baths started.

0:21:220:21:25

Is it true that all the men wore white towels?

0:21:250:21:28

They wore white towels, yes, they did.

0:21:280:21:30

'It's very warm in here, it reminds me of Back to Bataan.

0:21:300:21:34

'Do you remember that movie? Oh, it was very steamy.

0:21:340:21:37

'Phew! I can't tell if the air conditioner is on,

0:21:370:21:40

'I hear something - "Ssssssss!"

0:21:400:21:42

'But I'm not sure that's the air conditioner, you know.'

0:21:420:21:45

I mean, you have people sitting in towels watching a show.

0:21:450:21:50

It's very weird. I mean, even the Romans really,

0:21:500:21:52

or maybe not since the Romans.

0:21:520:21:55

Nobody died, let me put it that way.

0:21:550:21:57

No Christians were harmed inside.

0:21:570:22:00

It was gay, gay, gay

0:22:000:22:02

and this was before there was any, like, big gay thing in the States.

0:22:020:22:07

They had like a...

0:22:070:22:08

They were all hiding their light in the closet, as it were.

0:22:080:22:12

And I was so completely obsessed with what I was doing,

0:22:120:22:16

I didn't even notice.

0:22:160:22:17

I mean, I could have been playing an old age home,

0:22:170:22:20

as long as I was... As long as I was killing, I didn't care.

0:22:200:22:24

And is that where the collection of work for the Divine Miss M came,

0:22:240:22:29

-the first album, which was such a spectacular success?

-Yes, yes.

0:22:290:22:32

And one of the great things about this venue

0:22:320:22:35

is that I did this material, I had to change this material up

0:22:350:22:39

every single time I worked, so I had to scramble.

0:22:390:22:42

I was always scrambling, but I had enough time

0:22:420:22:45

to learn the songs so well that they became second nature to me

0:22:450:22:48

and, after that, I never had the time.

0:22:480:22:50

And that took me a long time to realise,

0:22:500:22:53

that the rehearsal process was really important to me.

0:22:530:22:56

The actual working in front of a crowd was really, really important

0:22:560:23:00

to my own...what it is that I do.

0:23:000:23:02

# Yo ho

0:23:030:23:05

# Yo ho

0:23:050:23:07

# Boo whoo

0:23:070:23:09

# Boo whoo

0:23:090:23:11

# Boo whoo

0:23:110:23:13

# Boo whoo

0:23:130:23:15

# Pardon me, boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?

0:23:150:23:18

# Track 29, well, you can give me a shine

0:23:190:23:22

# Mmm

0:23:220:23:23

# I can afford to board a Chattanooga Choo Choo

0:23:230:23:27

# I got my fare with just a trifle to spare... #

0:23:270:23:30

I was doing a Broadway show but I would run down,

0:23:300:23:33

I would run up to 72nd Street to the Baths and see her.

0:23:330:23:36

If you were female, your name had to be on the list -

0:23:360:23:39

there was no other way you could get in.

0:23:390:23:42

So there was a lot of men in towels and very steamy,

0:23:420:23:44

and she tore up the joint.

0:23:440:23:47

# Chattanooga Choo Choo

0:23:470:23:49

# Chattanooga Choo Choo

0:23:490:23:51

# Chattanooga Choo Choo

0:23:510:23:53

# Are you good to me? Oh! #

0:23:530:23:56

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:23:560:23:58

An important guiding light around this time was Bill Hennessy,

0:24:000:24:04

a hairdresser from Fiddler On The Roof.

0:24:040:24:07

He wrote a lot of the bawdy jokes she told at the Baths

0:24:070:24:10

and was an invaluable source of advice in guiding the birth

0:24:100:24:14

of Bette's alter ego, the Divine Miss M.

0:24:140:24:18

Bill Hennessy, the late Bill Hennessy,

0:24:180:24:20

walked her through the tiny little dressing room onto the stage

0:24:200:24:24

and talked her into the Divine Miss M character,

0:24:240:24:26

talked, whispered in her ear and said,

0:24:260:24:29

"And this and this and this." "Uh-huh!"

0:24:290:24:32

That was all, you know, that was all that attitude.

0:24:320:24:34

"Uh-huh."

0:24:340:24:35

Is it true that this is where

0:24:350:24:37

the Divine Miss M came from, the name?

0:24:370:24:39

The name, yes, the first night I worked here,

0:24:390:24:41

the owner knocked on the door

0:24:410:24:43

and he said, "How shall I introduce you?"

0:24:430:24:44

And I said, "Tell them I'm divine."

0:24:440:24:47

And I had always been called Miss M, because my hairdresser

0:24:470:24:50

was one of my best friends, Mr G, Mr Gerard,

0:24:500:24:54

always called me Miss M.

0:24:540:24:55

I called him Mr G, he called me Miss M, so, "Tell them I'm divine!"

0:24:550:24:59

So when he got on the microphone and introduced me, he said,

0:24:590:25:02

"And now ladies and gentlemen, the Divine Miss M."

0:25:020:25:05

And there I was and, from that time on,

0:25:050:25:07

I was always the Divine Miss M.

0:25:070:25:09

Thank God!

0:25:090:25:11

I mean, what serendipity.

0:25:110:25:12

Welcome to another foul evening with the Divine Miss M.

0:25:140:25:18

After many a summer dies a swan,

0:25:190:25:21

but not when they're stuck in a turkey as big as this one.

0:25:210:25:24

The Divine Miss M was what she used to say

0:25:240:25:29

was the last of the truly trashy women.

0:25:290:25:32

Everything you were afraid your little girl would grow up to be,

0:25:320:25:34

and your little boy too.

0:25:340:25:36

I just couldn't stop myself from building layer upon layer

0:25:360:25:40

of this character

0:25:400:25:41

and it was a kind of a throwback character.

0:25:410:25:43

I would look around on 42nd Street, I would see the hookers,

0:25:430:25:46

I would see the drag queens, I would see people in,

0:25:460:25:48

you know, in flaming wigs, I would see people in tight clothes.

0:25:480:25:52

It was a very creative time in the city,

0:25:520:25:54

there was a lot of that going on, I wasn't the only one.

0:25:540:25:56

But I was very observant and I thought, "Ooh, I like that,

0:25:560:25:59

"I like that." I liked the trashiness of that.

0:25:590:26:02

I wanted to show you the good beneath the gaudy.

0:26:020:26:06

The saint beneath all this paint.

0:26:060:26:08

The sweet, pure, winsome little soul

0:26:080:26:11

that lurks beneath this lurid exterior.

0:26:110:26:14

It's kind of an explosion of one facet of her personality

0:26:140:26:18

and it works because it gives her freedom

0:26:180:26:22

and she gets to do what she wants to do on the stage

0:26:220:26:25

and she sets a tone with the audience of "This is...

0:26:250:26:29

"I'm free up here and so you are free out there."

0:26:290:26:33

And I think that was always, at the beginning,

0:26:330:26:35

what attracted people to her and especially gay people.

0:26:350:26:38

# But you got to have friends

0:26:380:26:43

# The feeling's oh so strong

0:26:440:26:47

# You got to have friends

0:26:470:26:51

# Yeah, to make that day last long... #

0:26:510:26:54

This song became the anthem.

0:26:540:26:57

This is the song that galvanised that audience,

0:26:570:27:01

brought them to tears,

0:27:010:27:03

because this was an audience that had been marginalised.

0:27:030:27:06

You know, it wasn't long after the Stonewall incident

0:27:060:27:11

and she recognised them and she said, "I am one of you."

0:27:110:27:15

You know, she was this Jewish girl in an all-Samoan neighbourhood,

0:27:150:27:20

her father didn't get what she did,

0:27:200:27:23

and so for her to shine her great big, loving, compassionate light

0:27:230:27:30

was such a magnificent gesture.

0:27:300:27:32

# Friends

0:27:320:27:34

# Yeah, you got to have friends

0:27:340:27:36

# Friends, friends, friends, friends

0:27:360:27:39

# Oh, friends, you got to have friends

0:27:390:27:42

# Oh, friends

0:27:420:27:46

# Oooh, friends... #

0:27:460:27:50

Bette's piano player in the Baths was the then-unknown Barry Manilow.

0:27:500:27:54

It would be the beginning of a long and fruitful musical collaboration.

0:27:540:27:58

She was the most talented woman I'd ever met, I'd ever played for.

0:27:590:28:03

The most, craziest lady that I've ever met in my life either.

0:28:030:28:07

I would guess, if you put crazy and talented together,

0:28:070:28:10

you get a superstar.

0:28:100:28:11

By the summer of 1970, the Improv's Budd Friedman

0:28:150:28:18

was now Bette's manager,

0:28:180:28:20

and despite not even having a record deal,

0:28:200:28:23

there was enough of a buzz around his new client

0:28:230:28:26

to get her an audition on The Tonight Show

0:28:260:28:28

with Johnny Carson.

0:28:280:28:30

In those days, Johnny could make a star overnight.

0:28:300:28:33

He got me an audition for The Tonight Show

0:28:330:28:36

and I was wearing my vintage clothes at the time

0:28:360:28:40

and when I got out of the town car to go to the audition,

0:28:400:28:44

which was at RCA, at Rockefeller Centre,

0:28:440:28:46

my dress ripped right across the back,

0:28:460:28:49

right across my butt.

0:28:490:28:51

And I said, "Oh, my God, Budd, Budd, give me your jacket,

0:28:510:28:53

"my dress has ripped, my ass is hanging out."

0:28:530:28:56

And I said, "Give you my jacket? What about my dignity?

0:28:560:28:59

She says, "What about my ass?!"

0:28:590:29:01

So we found some pins when we got to the Johnny Victor theatre

0:29:010:29:06

and they pinned her up and the rest, as they say, is history.

0:29:060:29:09

SHE SCATS

0:29:090:29:11

The Carson appearance was the first of many

0:29:110:29:14

and Bette Midler soon became one of his regulars.

0:29:140:29:17

# Oh, Chattanooga Choo Choo

0:29:170:29:19

# Oh, Chattanooga Choo Choo

0:29:190:29:21

# Oh, Chattanooga Choo Choo, won't you choo choo me?

0:29:210:29:23

# Chhss chhss chhss chhss

0:29:230:29:25

# Ch ch ch ch ch ch ch

0:29:250:29:26

# Chattanooga Choo Choo

0:29:260:29:28

# Oh, Chattanooga Choo Choo

0:29:280:29:30

# Chattanooga Choo Choo, won't you choo choo me?

0:29:300:29:32

# Home

0:29:320:29:34

# Oh oh oh - ba! #

0:29:340:29:36

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:29:360:29:37

You know, I said it before, when you were first on the show,

0:29:390:29:42

and I mean it. I said you are going to be something to contend with,

0:29:420:29:45

you're going to be a big star in this business

0:29:450:29:47

because you are unique and you're different.

0:29:470:29:49

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:29:490:29:51

-You will.

-Thank you.

-You will.

0:29:510:29:55

I'm going to keep trucking.

0:29:550:29:56

-When it all comes together, it'll happen.

-Oh, I can't wait.

0:29:560:29:59

All righty, well...

0:29:590:30:01

Johnny Carson was great to me - he loved me, he supported me,

0:30:010:30:06

he called me back again and again.

0:30:060:30:08

He thought I was hilarious.

0:30:080:30:10

That first Tonight Show appearance put her firmly on the map,

0:30:100:30:14

but Bette's father still didn't approve.

0:30:140:30:17

-He wasn't really interested in what you were up to?

-No, he thought it was a terrible idea.

0:30:170:30:20

He thought it was a highway to hell. He just didn't approve of it.

0:30:200:30:25

-So even when...

-He was a completely practical man.

0:30:250:30:28

-When you'd done the Johnny Carson show...

-He was disinterested.

0:30:280:30:31

He was not interested.

0:30:310:30:33

-He, like... He was not interested.

-Was that hurtful?

0:30:330:30:36

-What?

-Was it hurtful?

0:30:360:30:37

Very hurtful. It was very hurtful, but I've gotten over it.

0:30:370:30:41

He was what he was. If it hadn't been for him,

0:30:410:30:44

I wouldn't be what I am and I've certainly had a lot of fun.

0:30:440:30:48

I've had a good run.

0:30:480:30:50

I mean, I have a beautiful child, I have a wonderful husband,

0:30:500:30:54

I love what I do, for the most part,

0:30:540:30:57

and it's fine.

0:30:570:30:59

We came to a very nice accommodation at the end.

0:31:010:31:04

Yeah, I gathered that, that you made up, somehow.

0:31:050:31:10

Yes, yes, yes.

0:31:100:31:12

It's good when you do that. It's best to do that.

0:31:120:31:14

Back in 1972, Bette had now outgrown her old manager.

0:31:190:31:24

We had a year's contract, it was up, and she decided...

0:31:240:31:27

She was being bombarded by that time.

0:31:270:31:30

Everyone was after her.

0:31:300:31:31

Aaron Russo took over,

0:31:310:31:34

but very soon he was more than her manager.

0:31:340:31:36

He became her boyfriend.

0:31:360:31:39

# Now it's hey, mambo

0:31:390:31:41

# Mambo Italiano

0:31:410:31:42

# Hey, mambo

0:31:420:31:44

# Mambo Italiano... #

0:31:440:31:46

He was crazy about me, you know.

0:31:460:31:48

He was my boyfriend for a while and then I said, "This is getting...

0:31:480:31:52

"It's too... I can't breathe." You know, and he...

0:31:520:31:55

You know, we broke up and it was hard for him to work with me,

0:31:550:31:59

seeing me with other guys, and it was...

0:31:590:32:02

very stressful.

0:32:020:32:04

He loved her and worshipped her and he wanted to make her a star,

0:32:040:32:09

and he did.

0:32:090:32:10

This awkward situation of ex-boyfriend as manager

0:32:100:32:14

would continue for several years

0:32:140:32:16

and, meanwhile, Bette was becoming a local phenomenon in New York

0:32:160:32:20

and record companies were starting to get interested.

0:32:200:32:23

She had a regular gig and a loyal clientele

0:32:230:32:26

at a club up town, and one night there proved to be

0:32:260:32:29

even more important than a national TV appearance.

0:32:290:32:33

In late 1972,

0:32:330:32:35

I had the opportunity of hearing

0:32:350:32:36

a young lady who was making a lot of noise in a little club

0:32:360:32:40

called Downstairs At The Upstairs.

0:32:400:32:43

-OK.

-So this is it, then. This is...

-This was the site of a club

0:32:430:32:48

where I did some of my greatest shows.

0:32:480:32:50

It was called the Downstairs At The Upstairs and the Upstairs At The Downstairs.

0:32:500:32:53

When you climbed the stairs, there was the Upstairs At The Downstairs,

0:32:530:32:56

and, of course, on the ground floor was the Downstairs At The Upstairs, where the bar was,

0:32:560:33:00

and I played about there. It was a tiny room.

0:33:000:33:03

And I went in one evening

0:33:030:33:05

and was completely knocked out by Miss Bette Midler.

0:33:050:33:08

This was the big breakthrough, though, this place.

0:33:080:33:10

-It was really huge.

-So Ahmet Ertegun...

0:33:100:33:12

And this was the beginning

0:33:120:33:14

of The Divine Miss M album, which...

0:33:140:33:17

Yes, he signed me,

0:33:170:33:19

which was a big thrill for me because I didn't think that would happen,

0:33:190:33:22

and yet, you know, I put it out there and it happened.

0:33:220:33:24

# Do you want to dance?

0:33:240:33:27

# And hold my hand?

0:33:270:33:32

# Tell me you're my lover man... #

0:33:320:33:37

-This...

-This is Atlantic Studios.

0:33:380:33:40

This was where Ahmet had his offices and now it's a wig store.

0:33:400:33:46

So The Divine Miss M - you recorded that here?

0:33:460:33:48

I recorded my first album here, The Divine Miss M,

0:33:480:33:51

and I recorded Bette Midler here.

0:33:510:33:53

I made a lot of wonderful music here, as everybody did.

0:33:530:33:56

I mean, Wilson Pickett,

0:33:560:33:59

the Stones,

0:33:590:34:00

Aretha...

0:34:000:34:02

# Lookin' out on the morning rain

0:34:020:34:08

# I used to feel so uninspired... #

0:34:080:34:12

You know, the thing that's so peculiar about us taking this walk

0:34:140:34:17

is that my footprint, the footprint of my life, seems to be disappearing.

0:34:170:34:21

You know, I mean...

0:34:210:34:23

These memories that I have are, you know, all gone.

0:34:230:34:26

When I went back to Honolulu, went back to Hawaii,

0:34:260:34:29

I went to see my old house one year, and my house was, like...

0:34:290:34:33

What was my house, was, like, 200ft below me because they had made

0:34:330:34:37

a freeway right where my house was, so... You see that all the time.

0:34:370:34:40

Didn't they ask your permission?

0:34:400:34:42

No, they never asked. I was so heartbroken,

0:34:420:34:44

but, you know, my husband has a saying,

0:34:440:34:46

"Nothing is permanent."

0:34:460:34:48

MUSIC: Chapel Of Love by Bette Midler

0:34:480:34:51

For her debut album, Bette had brought

0:34:510:34:53

an eclectic mix of old and new songs into the studio.

0:34:530:34:58

# That's when I fell for the leader of the pack... #

0:34:580:35:02

# But old people, they just grow lonesome

0:35:030:35:09

# Waiting for someone to say

0:35:090:35:12

# Hello in there

0:35:140:35:17

# Hello... #

0:35:180:35:20

The men given the tricky task of making it a cohesive whole

0:35:200:35:24

were soul producer Joel Dorn and her friend Barry Manilow.

0:35:240:35:29

And we started to make the record. I made a record with Joel Dorn,

0:35:290:35:32

who had made records with Roberta Flack,

0:35:320:35:34

who I also adored, and we hit the skids really early on,

0:35:340:35:38

and Ahmet came in and Barry Manilow was at odds with the producer.

0:35:380:35:43

It was kind of a stressful time, but...

0:35:430:35:46

-But that combination...

-It worked.

0:35:460:35:48

-That combination of Joel and Barry...

-Yes, and Ahmet...

0:35:480:35:52

A lot of that first album is live.

0:35:520:35:54

They recorded an entire album and Ahmet listened to the record

0:35:540:35:59

and said, "I don't get from this record what I got."

0:35:590:36:03

And what they finally did was put people in here,

0:36:040:36:09

you know, inside the booth, so she had an audience,

0:36:090:36:13

and they recorded it live.

0:36:130:36:14

# Ooh-hoo

0:36:140:36:16

# Standing at the end of a really long road... #

0:36:160:36:20

To help recreate this atmosphere in the studio,

0:36:200:36:23

Bette brought in her newly formed backing singers from her live show,

0:36:230:36:27

the Harlettes.

0:36:270:36:29

# Oh, friends

0:36:290:36:32

# You got to have friends... #

0:36:320:36:36

I do remember the studio atmosphere being very lively.

0:36:360:36:41

We were all studio singers

0:36:410:36:43

and Barry was a studio singer.

0:36:430:36:45

We all had that...

0:36:450:36:47

We all were familiar with that kind of levity

0:36:470:36:50

and Bette I don't think quite as much

0:36:500:36:52

because she was not familiar with that milieu.

0:36:520:36:55

And thank goodness Atlantic Records said,

0:36:570:37:00

"Gee, that's a really good way to do it," and let her be.

0:37:000:37:04

# And I am all alone... #

0:37:040:37:09

The recording studio was a whole new medium for Bette.

0:37:090:37:13

# ..beside me

0:37:130:37:16

# And my problems have always... #

0:37:160:37:19

Bass drum microphone.

0:37:190:37:21

# ..have all gone... #

0:37:210:37:23

We're having notes. We're going to have notes.

0:37:230:37:25

We're not going to have notes downstairs. You want to come? Good.

0:37:250:37:29

Notes, that's what we do in this...

0:37:290:37:31

We give each other notes.

0:37:310:37:33

"That was terrible! You were the pits on that number."

0:37:330:37:37

Kill 'em? Well, if they don't kill me first.

0:37:370:37:40

The Harlettes were inspired by Bette's love of girl groups.

0:37:400:37:43

She'd always dreamed of having her own and now she had a female chorus.

0:37:430:37:48

Come on, girls.

0:37:480:37:50

But not only were we singing backgrounds for her,

0:37:520:37:54

she really incorporated us into the show.

0:37:540:37:57

Ladies and gentlemen, a rousing hand for the semi-classical Harlettes!

0:37:570:38:02

Ladies!

0:38:020:38:04

We were her Greek chorus.

0:38:040:38:06

We underscored her attitude.

0:38:060:38:07

I'll never forget the first time I found these girls,

0:38:080:38:11

selling their papayas on 42nd Street.

0:38:110:38:14

With the support of Bette's sultry Harlettes, her performances

0:38:140:38:18

became known for their show-stopping dance routines.

0:38:180:38:22

Not only are my girls fine singers and dancers,

0:38:220:38:24

not only are they gorgeous and talented,

0:38:240:38:26

but they also think I'm God!

0:38:260:38:27

It was very hard work, but we laughed.

0:38:270:38:31

We laughed an awful, awful lot.

0:38:310:38:33

# He was a famous trumpet man from out Chicago way

0:38:330:38:36

# He had a boogie style that no-one else could play

0:38:360:38:38

# He was the top man at his craft

0:38:380:38:40

# But then his number came up and he was gone with the draft

0:38:400:38:43

# He's in the army now a-blowin' Reveille

0:38:430:38:45

# He's the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B... #

0:38:450:38:47

So, in 1972, while the American charts

0:38:470:38:51

were full of British heavy rockers like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin,

0:38:510:38:55

The Divine Miss M album swam against the tide, hitting the top ten.

0:38:550:39:00

And Bette went on to win Best New Artist at the Grammys.

0:39:020:39:07

Bette Midler owned the second half of the '70s.

0:39:070:39:10

Her second album was also a smash and her increasingly ambitious tours

0:39:100:39:15

were sell-outs up and down the country.

0:39:150:39:18

# ..bugle boy of Company B, yeah, yeah, yeah! #

0:39:180:39:20

She became a regular face on TV and now had her own specials.

0:39:200:39:25

# Ohhhh-klahoma

0:39:250:39:27

# Where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain

0:39:270:39:31

# And the wavin' wheat

0:39:310:39:33

# Can sure smell sweet

0:39:330:39:34

# When the wind comes right behind the rain

0:39:340:39:38

# Ohhhh-klahoma Every night... #

0:39:380:39:42

Network television was so heavy on censorship

0:39:420:39:45

that they were afraid of her,

0:39:450:39:46

and she'd had a couple of deals to do specials before

0:39:460:39:49

and they all fell through

0:39:490:39:50

because they would say, "Oh, you can't do this and you can't do that

0:39:500:39:53

"and you can't do the other thing."

0:39:530:39:55

We just said, "Ah, to hell with it. Let's just not do it."

0:39:550:39:57

And then this one came along, and they said,

0:39:570:39:59

"Well, you can do some stuff."

0:39:590:40:02

They were, like, being a lit bit leaner.

0:40:020:40:06

# ..Oklahoma! #

0:40:060:40:08

APPLAUSE

0:40:080:40:10

And there's that sequence with Dustin in that...

0:40:100:40:12

How did that come about?

0:40:120:40:13

I think my manger ran into him and said,

0:40:130:40:16

"Would you like to be on Bette's show?" And he said, "Sure."

0:40:160:40:19

And so Dustin came in and they wrote a song together

0:40:190:40:22

and did a number together, and it was pretty great.

0:40:220:40:24

And we won the Emmy for that.

0:40:240:40:26

# Well, how you doing?

0:40:270:40:29

# Gee, you're looking good

0:40:290:40:32

# I heard you moved from the neighbourhood

0:40:320:40:37

# Your mom came by

0:40:370:40:40

# She was singing her blues

0:40:400:40:44

# I'm glad you called

0:40:440:40:47

# I got nothing to do... #

0:40:470:40:49

I was so, so lucky to have him on that show.

0:40:490:40:52

APPLAUSE

0:40:520:40:53

She was mixing with movie stars and then she became one.

0:40:550:41:00

Ladies and gentlemen, The Rose!

0:41:000:41:01

# It's midnight in Memphis

0:41:070:41:10

# And all the boys are out tonight... #

0:41:100:41:12

The Rose was loosely based on the tragic life of Janis Joplin

0:41:120:41:17

and Bette was given the title role of self-destructive singer

0:41:170:41:21

Mary Rose.

0:41:210:41:23

SHE SINGS DRUNKENLY

0:41:230:41:25

Where am I?

0:41:310:41:33

I never know where the fuck I am!

0:41:350:41:39

All these fucking clouds look just alike.

0:41:390:41:42

Welcome to rock and roll.

0:41:470:41:49

-I think The Rose is a quite exceptional film.

-Mm-hm.

0:41:490:41:54

What I found amazing was the way you took ownership of those songs,

0:41:540:41:58

which is not really your canon - it's something else.

0:41:580:42:01

It was my wannabe canon. It was my wannabe.

0:42:010:42:06

I always... That's what I wanted to do.

0:42:060:42:07

-I really wanted to do that.

-Really?

0:42:070:42:09

But I never got the material.

0:42:090:42:11

# Oh, stay with me, baby

0:42:110:42:16

# Why don't you, why don't you just stay with me, baby? #

0:42:160:42:22

Wow.

0:42:220:42:23

How extraordinary was she in The Rose, and how much pathos

0:42:230:42:27

and how about her singing?

0:42:270:42:28

# Remember

0:42:280:42:31

# You said you always gonna love me... #

0:42:310:42:34

But, you know, she didn't look like the average movie star,

0:42:340:42:37

so it was an unconventional kind of stardom.

0:42:370:42:42

Well, she knew she wasn't the glamorous movie-star-looking

0:42:420:42:46

person and, yes, it concerned her but once she sensed how much

0:42:460:42:53

I appreciated her and how all I wanted was the best for her,

0:42:530:42:59

she surrendered and became the actress that she should be.

0:42:590:43:05

She just fit it, you know - her life reflected

0:43:050:43:10

the circumstances of the picture.

0:43:100:43:14

You know that phone booth scene in The Rose when she calls her parents?

0:43:140:43:18

Daddy?

0:43:180:43:19

Daddy, is that you?

0:43:210:43:23

Hi. Are you on the phone upstairs?

0:43:230:43:25

I think the difficulties she had with her father

0:43:270:43:30

was a significant element in her...

0:43:300:43:35

..being able to access her talent.

0:43:370:43:41

I love you.

0:43:420:43:43

Bye.

0:43:450:43:46

But I sense your own struggles and your own experience

0:43:490:43:52

-are very much in that film.

-Very much.

0:43:520:43:55

Not least the relationship with the manager, played by Alan Bates,

0:43:550:43:58

but Aaron Russo - at that time, you were going through

0:43:580:44:01

quite a difficult period with him, weren't you?

0:44:010:44:03

It was tough behind... Backstage, it was very tough.

0:44:030:44:06

And I have to give credit where credit is due.

0:44:060:44:09

If it hadn't been for Aaron,

0:44:090:44:10

that movie never would have been made,

0:44:100:44:12

cos he gave it to me - they gave it to me years before and I said,

0:44:120:44:14

"Don't bring this to me. I don't want this."

0:44:140:44:17

And he was the one who finally brought me around and around,

0:44:170:44:20

and convinced me to do it, so...

0:44:200:44:22

I would like to have some time to myself before I kick off.

0:44:220:44:26

Have you come into an inheritance or something?

0:44:260:44:28

No, man, I just can't dredge up the sincerity any more.

0:44:280:44:31

-Oh, wrong.

-No, don't tell me wrong!

0:44:310:44:33

Wrong! I'm fucking running the Green Bay Packers here!

0:44:330:44:36

-I don't care.

-OK, OK, you want out, eh? All right.

0:44:360:44:39

Call in the dogs, then. Piss on the fire.

0:44:390:44:42

She had a manager, a thug, kind of a tough guy, you know.

0:44:420:44:47

I remember once, one of the first days of shooting,

0:44:470:44:50

I was with Alan Bates,

0:44:500:44:52

and I was going to shoot a scene with her

0:44:520:44:55

and all of a sudden, I felt an arm on my shoulder.

0:44:550:44:58

It was her manager, this thug, who's since passed away.

0:44:580:45:04

He said, "What are you doing?"

0:45:040:45:06

I said, "Well, I'm going to talk to Bette."

0:45:060:45:10

He says, "No, no, no. You talk to me and I talk to Bette."

0:45:100:45:13

I said, "Oh, really?"

0:45:140:45:16

So I called the police, who were there.

0:45:160:45:19

I said, "I want him out of here.

0:45:190:45:21

"I don't want to see him until we have an answer print."

0:45:210:45:24

The Rose would go on to earn her critical acclaim

0:45:260:45:29

and an Oscar nomination for Best Actress,

0:45:290:45:32

so, in 1978, with the film in the can,

0:45:320:45:35

Bette returned to the more familiar territory of the stage

0:45:350:45:39

with her next big project,

0:45:390:45:41

and it doesn't get much bigger than a world tour.

0:45:410:45:45

# I am the one they call the Big Noise

0:45:450:45:47

# I'm looking fine and feeling sharp

0:45:470:45:51

# I just flew in from Winnetka, don't you know?

0:45:510:45:53

# I'm gonna blow this joint apart... #

0:45:530:45:56

This was a kind of huge endeavour, wasn't it?

0:45:560:45:58

Yeah, yeah, and a lot of things happened.

0:45:580:46:02

We had, you know, fist fights, drunken...

0:46:020:46:05

People setting fires to rooms, all that sort of thing.

0:46:050:46:08

Um, and it was...

0:46:080:46:10

But the shows were great.

0:46:100:46:12

This tour saw a flowering of the characters and routines

0:46:150:46:18

that would come to define Bette Midler for the next 30 years.

0:46:180:46:22

It looked incredibly ambitious, that show.

0:46:240:46:27

They're all very ambitious and sometimes they're really awful,

0:46:270:46:30

but I do it anyway because I figure,

0:46:300:46:32

"Hey, they're paying, they want something original,

0:46:320:46:35

"they want something that they've never seen before.

0:46:350:46:37

"Let's try some things."

0:46:370:46:39

One of the goofiest ideas from that time

0:46:390:46:41

is surely Delores De Lago, the singing mermaid.

0:46:410:46:46

You know, one of my favourite characters in literature

0:46:460:46:49

is The Little Mermaid.

0:46:490:46:51

I was actually in Denmark and I saw the statue.

0:46:510:46:54

You know, I went to the harbour to see her,

0:46:540:46:56

and she was just so fabulous and so beautiful,

0:46:560:46:59

and kind of hot in a way.

0:46:590:47:01

She had... The first time I did her, she had no way of getting around -

0:47:010:47:04

she only hopped, and it looked kind of pathetic!

0:47:040:47:09

And then the conversation... "Well, what do we do with her?"

0:47:090:47:12

And then we said, "Well, how does she get around?"

0:47:120:47:14

"Well, put her in a wheelchair. It's the best mode of transportation

0:47:140:47:17

"How else is a mermaid going to get around?"

0:47:170:47:20

And we said, "Well, gee, won't that offend people?"

0:47:200:47:23

And that, of course, was all we had to hear cos we said,

0:47:230:47:25

"Well, yes, but they'd be fools.

0:47:250:47:27

"We're not making fun of anybody - we've got a goddamn mermaid!"

0:47:270:47:30

# Rolling

0:47:310:47:33

# Rolling

0:47:330:47:34

# Rolling on the river

0:47:340:47:37

# Rolling

0:47:370:47:39

# Rolling

0:47:390:47:40

# Rolling on the river... #

0:47:400:47:42

I remember the first day she sat down in that wheelchair,

0:47:420:47:47

and she started to work it

0:47:470:47:48

and it jerked around backwards and forwards.

0:47:480:47:51

She had us rolling all over the floor.

0:47:510:47:53

# With one burning thought

0:47:530:47:57

# With your arms open wide... #

0:47:570:48:00

That tour, she was the only one in the wheelchair.

0:48:000:48:02

Then the next tour, she and the Harlettes were in the wheelchair.

0:48:020:48:06

Delores proved a firm favourite with the public

0:48:070:48:10

and became more extravagant with every show.

0:48:100:48:13

# ..in old New York! #

0:48:130:48:16

I was in... One time, they had cranked my battery up,

0:48:160:48:19

the battery up on my chair, and they didn't tell me,

0:48:190:48:22

and I couldn't get it to stop, and when I finally braked it,

0:48:220:48:25

it flung me out into the audience

0:48:250:48:27

and I landed, fortunately, in an empty seat,

0:48:270:48:30

right in-between the two.

0:48:300:48:31

Right, like this...

0:48:310:48:33

# Delores!

0:48:330:48:34

# Delores!

0:48:340:48:36

# Delores!

0:48:360:48:37

# Delores!

0:48:370:48:39

# D-E-L-O-R-E-S

0:48:390:48:41

# It's Delores! #

0:48:410:48:46

I told them, everybody, "I'm not putting that fishtail on anymore."

0:48:460:48:50

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:48:500:48:52

Her comedy had to be over the top because she was a woman.

0:48:520:48:55

She needed all the props and all of the exaggeration

0:48:550:48:59

to simply create such a light that people would see her,

0:48:590:49:03

cos she would have otherwise been dismissed.

0:49:030:49:08

Would an evening be complete without a visit from Sophie Tucker?

0:49:080:49:14

I will never forget it, ya know!

0:49:140:49:16

What about Sophie Tucker?

0:49:160:49:18

Well, my friend Bruce Vilanch,

0:49:180:49:21

we used to trade barbs in the backstage,

0:49:210:49:23

and he always did Sophie Tucker,

0:49:230:49:25

not Sophie Tucker, but a character like Sophie Tucker,

0:49:250:49:28

and she told these terrible risque jokes

0:49:280:49:31

and I just picked it up.

0:49:310:49:32

I picked it up from him.

0:49:320:49:34

# Well, the man I love... #

0:49:340:49:37

Sophie Tucker was the American comedic actress

0:49:370:49:40

renowned for delivering risque songs in the 1930s.

0:49:400:49:43

# No-one but the right man

0:49:430:49:47

# Can do me wrong... #

0:49:470:49:50

I had seen Sophie Tucker as a child and I was a huge fan,

0:49:500:49:53

and her rhythms - Sophie Tucker's rhythms were just hilarious

0:49:530:49:57

because everything was very forceful - and so when she told you

0:49:570:49:59

this thing, you knew that she meant it, goddamn it.

0:49:590:50:02

I'll never forget it, ya know. I was terribly drunk the other night.

0:50:020:50:05

I woke up, there was an elephant in my bed.

0:50:050:50:07

I said, "Lord have mercy, I must have been tight last night."

0:50:070:50:09

"Well," said the elephant...

0:50:090:50:11

LAUGHTER

0:50:110:50:12

I think that she did that a lot for shock value, you know.

0:50:140:50:17

I think that... But there was always a cut-off point.

0:50:170:50:21

She pushed, pushed, pushed that envelope

0:50:210:50:23

but it never got into nasty-nasty.

0:50:230:50:27

It was just bawdy.

0:50:270:50:29

# Pretty legs

0:50:290:50:30

# Pretty legs

0:50:300:50:31

# Great big knockers

0:50:310:50:32

# Great big knockers

0:50:320:50:34

# But that's what sells them tickets at the door

0:50:340:50:37

# Yeah, yeah

0:50:370:50:38

# Pretty legs, great big knockers

0:50:380:50:40

# Honey, these are real show stoppers

0:50:400:50:42

# That's what keeps 'em comin' back for more... #

0:50:420:50:45

How did you lose what you say you had at the beginning,

0:50:450:50:48

which is this sort of fearfulness?

0:50:480:50:50

How did you lose it and become...? Gain the confidence?

0:50:500:50:52

I think the stage is where I live - that's my home.

0:50:520:50:56

THEY LAUGH

0:50:580:51:00

I was fearless on the stage.

0:51:000:51:02

I really was fearless, but, I mean, for me to cross the street

0:51:020:51:05

is like, "I can't do it. I can't do it."

0:51:050:51:07

I am just the biggest chicken in the whole world

0:51:070:51:09

until I get on the stage, and then I am in command.

0:51:090:51:12

It really is where I live.

0:51:120:51:14

It's my spiritual home, it's my physical home.

0:51:140:51:18

I understand it, I know it, I face the crowd as if they were just one

0:51:180:51:22

person, as if it were some old friend I hadn't seen in a long time.

0:51:220:51:26

Hi!

0:51:260:51:27

CHEERING

0:51:270:51:29

How ya doin'?

0:51:290:51:30

She's at home on stage and, by that, I mean you're at home with her.

0:51:310:51:35

She is a hostess of a great party and you are a guest

0:51:350:51:39

and she's entertaining you, and she comes out on stage

0:51:390:51:41

and, right away, you're pals.

0:51:410:51:43

I bet you didn't expect me to look...

0:51:430:51:46

quite...

0:51:460:51:48

this...

0:51:480:51:50

fabulous!

0:51:500:51:52

And how did you...?

0:51:540:51:55

I mean, what distinguishes you?

0:51:550:51:58

What made you stand out?

0:51:580:52:00

Partly because you were not afraid to be whoever you wanted to be...

0:52:000:52:03

-Yes.

-..but, secondly, because also you mixed genres.

0:52:030:52:07

-Yes.

-You know, so whether musically,

0:52:070:52:09

but also this rap that you had,

0:52:090:52:12

which it really kind of was.

0:52:120:52:13

I think it was all those things, which is maybe three things,

0:52:130:52:16

those things - the mixing of the genres and the talking

0:52:160:52:19

that I did incessantly,

0:52:190:52:21

which was fortunately amusing,

0:52:210:52:25

and the fearlessness, but more than anything

0:52:250:52:27

I think was the emotion.

0:52:270:52:29

More than anything. Over all of that was the fact

0:52:290:52:33

that I made people feel something.

0:52:330:52:36

They weren't sure what it was, but they felt.

0:52:360:52:39

They would come feeling... Getting ready to receive something,

0:52:390:52:45

and when they left they were wired.

0:52:450:52:48

Something had happened to them,

0:52:480:52:50

and that I think is what the main overriding thing is,

0:52:500:52:54

more than anything else.

0:52:540:52:56

# Some say love... #

0:52:560:52:58

This touching ballad won Bette a Grammy

0:52:580:53:01

for Best Female Performance.

0:53:010:53:04

# That drowns the tender reed

0:53:040:53:09

# Some say love

0:53:090:53:12

# It is a razor

0:53:120:53:16

# That leaves your soul to bleed... #

0:53:160:53:22

That's what you want - you want to make sure

0:53:220:53:24

the audience is fed and sated, and, when it's done, they're good.

0:53:240:53:31

They can move on and talk about that performance for the next week

0:53:310:53:35

cos something big happened,

0:53:350:53:37

and that's the truth of Bette's performances.

0:53:370:53:39

She transports the audiences because she insists

0:53:390:53:42

that they come along with her, because she shows up with so much.

0:53:420:53:45

# ..lies the seed

0:53:450:53:49

# That with the sun's love

0:53:490:53:53

# In the spring

0:53:530:53:57

# Becomes the rose. #

0:53:570:54:05

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:54:050:54:07

Back in 1979, the world tour had ended in triumph,

0:54:100:54:15

but behind the scenes, the situation with Aaron had become untenable.

0:54:150:54:21

And we'd be doing great, and then this person would come into the room

0:54:210:54:25

and all the air would get sucked out of the room,

0:54:250:54:28

and then immediately she would become defensive.

0:54:280:54:32

Unfortunately, we came to a parting of the ways,

0:54:320:54:35

and I had to swim upstream and I had to do it by myself.

0:54:350:54:38

It wasn't easy and it took me years to understand the way,

0:54:380:54:41

how much he had actually done for me.

0:54:410:54:43

# Papa loves mambo

0:54:430:54:45

# Papa loves mambo... #

0:54:450:54:46

Bette was now learning to make her own decisions

0:54:460:54:49

and the first project was her return to film.

0:54:490:54:53

# He goes to

0:54:530:54:54

# He goes to

0:54:540:54:55

# She goes fro

0:54:550:54:57

# She goes fro... #

0:54:570:54:58

Sadly, Jinxed lived up to its title.

0:54:580:55:01

Critics said Bette looked uncomfortable in the role

0:55:010:55:04

and the film bombed at the box office.

0:55:040:55:07

So after that, it was like... We were all very sad for ourselves.

0:55:070:55:10

Was that because, post-Aaron, you may have thought to yourself,

0:55:100:55:14

"I'm going to do what I want to do now"?

0:55:140:55:16

Is that partly it, and somehow...?

0:55:160:55:18

It was partly that and it was partly the fact

0:55:180:55:20

that I didn't understand how long it took.

0:55:200:55:22

There were writers to deal with and then the studio said,

0:55:220:55:25

"This is not good enough - you need another draft."

0:55:250:55:27

Then you'd have another draft, then the writer would quit,

0:55:270:55:30

then you'd have to get another writer, and people just got mad.

0:55:300:55:33

You don't love me anymore, do you?

0:55:330:55:34

-I'm sick and tired of being your dishrag!

-Yeah?

0:55:340:55:36

-And I'm going to get even!

-Yeah? That's a threat?

-That's a threat!

0:55:360:55:40

But I threw myself into the deep end, and that's when the doubt

0:55:400:55:43

started to creep in because, all of a sudden,

0:55:430:55:46

these things were happening to me that I didn't understand

0:55:460:55:49

and I made a lot of mistakes,

0:55:490:55:50

especially in those first three years, that left big scars.

0:55:500:55:55

After Jinxed, the early '80s were difficult.

0:55:580:56:01

The movie had given Bette Midler a bad name

0:56:010:56:04

and the film offers dried up.

0:56:040:56:07

Moving on a few years, you meet Harry, I know,

0:56:070:56:13

and you get married,

0:56:130:56:14

and somehow I sense it changed your whole life.

0:56:140:56:18

Yes, it did. It refocused me.

0:56:180:56:21

I saw another door to walk through and I walked through it.

0:56:210:56:26

Fearlessly, I might add, because I married my husband after six weeks

0:56:260:56:29

and we're still married. But it was time, you know?

0:56:290:56:32

It was time. Everything was shifting and it was time.

0:56:320:56:36

Now Bette's personal life was working

0:56:380:56:41

and then she was offered a film that would revitalise her career.

0:56:410:56:45

She discovered she could do screen comedy and do it well.

0:56:480:56:53

And, in fact, Paul Mazursky was the one who lifted me

0:56:530:56:55

from the Slough of Despond and put me in Down And Out In Beverly Hills.

0:56:550:57:00

SHE SCREAMS

0:57:000:57:02

-What happened to the poor guy?

-He's in the hot tub.

0:57:020:57:04

He's still here?!

0:57:040:57:05

I had a big hit with that and then Disney... Touchstone,

0:57:050:57:09

the adult arm of Disney... I had a good long run with them.

0:57:090:57:13

So after a series of hits in the late '80s,

0:57:130:57:16

Bette Midler was again a bankable commodity in Hollywood

0:57:160:57:20

and soon had the clout to form her own company,

0:57:200:57:23

All Girl Productions.

0:57:230:57:25

# Oh, the sun beats down and burns the tar up on the roof... #

0:57:250:57:30

The result was the most successful film of her entire career.

0:57:300:57:34

# And your shoes get so hot

0:57:340:57:36

# You wish your tired feet were fire-proof... #

0:57:360:57:41

It was even your Girls company who made that movie, of course.

0:57:410:57:44

-Yes, that was All Girls - All Girls.

-All Girls...

0:57:440:57:47

Our motto, "We hold a grudge."

0:57:470:57:49

Bonnie Bruckheimer said that, I didn't say that.

0:57:490:57:52

-She was your collaborator?

-She was my collaborator.

0:57:520:57:55

She was a producer in our company and that was the first thing we did.

0:57:550:57:59

Female stars learn very soon,

0:57:590:58:03

when you become a star,

0:58:030:58:04

you learn that you want to take control of your life

0:58:040:58:07

and it's not unusual for them to be the initiator of projects.

0:58:070:58:15

We were All Girls because we didn't want to take any guff.

0:58:150:58:19

You can be an honorary girl,

0:58:190:58:21

we'll listen, but we're going to make the decisions.

0:58:210:58:26

# Under the boardwalk

0:58:260:58:31

# Down by the sea... #

0:58:310:58:34

Iris Rainer Dart wrote the original book

0:58:340:58:37

about two friends who met on the beach

0:58:370:58:39

and the story was developed with Bette the singer in mind.

0:58:390:58:43

I was the inspiration for Iris to write that character,

0:58:450:58:47

which was great because you always hope that if you have

0:58:470:58:50

a personality that's a strong public personality, you always imagine,

0:58:500:58:54

like in the old days, that they would write something for... Like Mae.

0:58:540:58:58

She wrote her own stuff because she tailor-made it to herself,

0:58:580:59:01

to her own abilities.

0:59:010:59:03

And so Iris basically did that for me, and I was really glad.

0:59:030:59:06

It roamed between, obviously, an area which could allow

0:59:060:59:10

-sentimentality to creep in...

-Yes.

0:59:100:59:12

..and yet there was quite a lot of edge in it as well.

0:59:120:59:14

Yeah. Yeah, I think so.

0:59:140:59:16

For a commercial film, it had a certain amount of bite.

0:59:160:59:21

-What the hell is going on here?

-Would you please lower your voice?

0:59:230:59:26

No, I won't. I want to know what's eating you. You have been

0:59:260:59:28

a total bitch ever since you came to New York.

0:59:280:59:30

I could say the same thing about you.

0:59:300:59:31

I've simply been reacting to you.

0:59:310:59:33

You know, give her a great role

0:59:330:59:35

and she'll explode right in front of your eyes.

0:59:350:59:38

You can be confident that that's going to happen

0:59:380:59:41

cos she's got the equipment.

0:59:410:59:44

# It must have been cold there in my shadow

0:59:440:59:51

# To never have sunlight on your face... #

0:59:510:59:56

And, of course, Beaches gave Bette her best ever selling song.

0:59:561:00:01

# You were content to let me shine

1:00:011:00:03

# That's your way

1:00:031:00:06

# You always walked a step behind... #

1:00:061:00:12

But she would kill a ballad, honey. She'd wear you down.

1:00:121:00:15

You'd wonder what happened. It's time for drinks.

1:00:151:00:19

It's time for major libation!

1:00:191:00:20

# Did you ever know that you're my hero?

1:00:231:00:30

# You're everything I would like to be... #

1:00:301:00:37

But remember the time you brought me Wind Beneath My Wings?

1:00:371:00:40

And I said, "I'm not singing that song. Are you kidding?"

1:00:401:00:44

And he said to me,

1:00:441:00:45

"If you don't sing that song, I'll never speak to you again."

1:00:451:00:47

# ..high against the sky... #

1:00:471:00:50

Beaches, with its theme of friendships lost,

1:00:501:00:53

touched a nerve around the world

1:00:531:00:55

and now Bette began to lose her friends,

1:00:551:00:58

and her most loyal fans, when AIDS took hold in America.

1:00:581:01:02

# ..the wind beneath my wings. #

1:01:021:01:08

To see all those aspirations, suddenly gay liberation happens

1:01:101:01:14

-and then, somehow, something terrible follows it.

-Yes.

1:01:141:01:18

I did my share. I did my part. I did what I had to do.

1:01:181:01:22

I buried a lot of people.

1:01:221:01:24

# I had some friends but they're gone

1:01:251:01:33

# Somethin' came and took them away

1:01:331:01:37

# And from the dusk till the dawn

1:01:381:01:43

# Here is where I stay... #

1:01:461:01:52

I fundraised and I did...

1:01:521:01:55

I did the best I could.

1:01:551:01:56

It was pretty wrenching. It was a pretty wrenching time.

1:01:561:01:59

Then, in 1992, there was another goodbye.

1:02:021:02:06

Johnny Carson was retiring and all of America was watching.

1:02:061:02:11

His last show, that Johnny did, at the end of his career,

1:02:111:02:15

he had Bette on.

1:02:151:02:16

Ah, gee, Mr Carson.

1:02:161:02:19

I don't want to bother you, it's just that when I heard

1:02:191:02:21

that you were leaving, well, it kind of broke my heart.

1:02:211:02:24

I mean, I can't tell you how many nights I've laid in bed,

1:02:241:02:27

watching you, thinking to myself,

1:02:271:02:29

"Should I change the colour of my toenail polish?"

1:02:291:02:32

She said, you know,

1:02:321:02:33

"They asked me to be the last guest. What should I sing?"

1:02:331:02:36

So I was thinking about it, and I remember I was in the shower,

1:02:361:02:39

and I thought, "One For My Baby, One For The Road."

1:02:391:02:42

I mean, I just knew. Bingo!

1:02:421:02:44

Light bulb! I called her, still dripping wet.

1:02:441:02:48

I said, "I got it - One For My Baby, One For The Road."

1:02:481:02:51

And for the next three weeks, it was nothing but,

1:02:511:02:53

"I can't sing this song. I don't want to sing this song.

1:02:531:02:55

"I'll sound horrible on this song. I don't have the chops to sing this song."

1:02:551:02:58

I was like, "Bette, please, just trust me on this one."

1:02:581:03:02

# We're drinking, my friend

1:03:021:03:05

# To the end of a sweet episode

1:03:051:03:14

# Make it one for my baby

1:03:141:03:18

# And one more for the road... #

1:03:181:03:23

I was in the back with my wife

1:03:231:03:25

and I was just crying, I was just sobbing.

1:03:251:03:29

# So drop another nickel in the machine... #

1:03:291:03:34

So then they found that incredible angle that they'd never done,

1:03:341:03:38

where you could see her sing and him watching,

1:03:381:03:40

and I'm getting chills just thinking about it now.

1:03:401:03:43

# For all of the years

1:03:431:03:46

# For the laughs, for the tears

1:03:461:03:50

# For the class that you showed

1:03:501:03:57

# Make it one for my baby

1:03:591:04:04

# And one more for the road. #

1:04:041:04:11

It was amazing to experience

1:04:131:04:15

and I tried not to get it...

1:04:151:04:17

allow it to overwhelm me,

1:04:171:04:18

because it could have very easily, but I was really honoured.

1:04:181:04:23

Now that Bette had conquered Hollywood,

1:04:241:04:26

she returned to New York

1:04:261:04:28

and decided to give something back to the city she loved.

1:04:281:04:32

In 1995, she founded the New York Restoration Project -

1:04:321:04:36

an organisation dedicated to raising funds

1:04:361:04:39

to regenerate disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

1:04:391:04:42

# I'm beautiful I'm beautiful

1:04:421:04:44

# I'm beautiful, damn it... #

1:04:441:04:47

We've built parks, we've renovated parks,

1:04:471:04:49

we've built a boathouse,

1:04:491:04:51

the first boathouse on the Harlem River in over 100 years

1:04:511:04:54

for community rowing.

1:04:541:04:56

We teach, we educate, we own 52 community gardens.

1:04:561:05:00

I'm really big into community gardens.

1:05:001:05:02

It's great, a great programme.

1:05:021:05:04

So is it true when you came back to New York from LA

1:05:041:05:07

and you saw people dropping litter

1:05:071:05:09

-and you looked at the place...

-Oh, my God, I flip out.

1:05:091:05:11

-You flipped out?

-I flip out

1:05:111:05:13

because, you know, we only have one planet.

1:05:131:05:15

You've always been someone very engaged with the world

1:05:171:05:21

and the things that you think matter.

1:05:211:05:24

I actually became engaged with the world after I had my daughter.

1:05:241:05:28

Really, that's when I sat up and said, "Well, my daughter's here,

1:05:281:05:31

"can we spruce this up a little bit? Can we fix this?"

1:05:311:05:35

That's because I got the sense

1:05:351:05:37

that it wasn't the world that I had grown up in,

1:05:371:05:39

which was a really sunny and bright and beautiful world.

1:05:391:05:42

So coming to, sort of, the recent present,

1:05:421:05:46

-to take on Vegas...

-Mm-hm.

1:05:461:05:49

That's quite something.

1:05:491:05:50

The biggest stage you could possibly take on,

1:05:501:05:52

night after night, doing it for two years.

1:05:521:05:55

I took it on because I wanted to see what that was like.

1:05:551:05:58

I knew everybody else was doing it and I wanted to do it, too.

1:05:581:06:01

You know, I'm very competitive that way, "I want to do that!"

1:06:011:06:03

So I did it and I was like, "Why is everyone doing this?

1:06:031:06:06

"This is so hard!" You know? It's so hard!

1:06:061:06:10

So I don't think I'll be doing that again.

1:06:101:06:13

Even though I had some wonderful, memorable evenings,

1:06:131:06:15

I don't think I'm going to do that again.

1:06:151:06:17

I think that was the toughest thing I ever did.

1:06:171:06:20

# Here I am, no need to search

1:06:251:06:27

# Up here on my feathered perch

1:06:271:06:30

# Sweating like a whore in church

1:06:301:06:32

# Boy, it's hot in here. #

1:06:321:06:35

Running back and forth, singing live for two hours and dancing -

1:06:351:06:39

everything she does is extremely physical

1:06:391:06:41

and she works at it,

1:06:411:06:43

whether it's at the treadmill or gymnasium, vocalising.

1:06:431:06:47

I mean, she can vocalise on the treadmill.

1:06:471:06:50

# Cos you know I'm on a mission of seduction

1:06:501:06:52

# I confess

1:06:521:06:54

# As the room gets hotter, we'll be wearing even less

1:06:541:06:58

# All the doors are bolted

1:06:581:06:59

# You might be here till dawn

1:06:591:07:02

# You can't stop the showgirl

1:07:021:07:04

# You can't stop the showgirl

1:07:041:07:06

# You can't stop the showgirl

1:07:061:07:08

# The showgirl must go on. #

1:07:081:07:12

I get the impression that although it seems effortless on stage,

1:07:161:07:19

the amount of preparation you put into things...

1:07:191:07:23

You question things all the time,

1:07:231:07:25

so that must be quite consuming offstage.

1:07:251:07:29

You know, it is, it really is.

1:07:291:07:32

You can have natural gifts,

1:07:321:07:33

but you do have to hone them and keep them in shape.

1:07:331:07:38

An actor, a singer, a dancer -

1:07:381:07:41

these kinds of gifts are really ephemeral.

1:07:411:07:43

They're like muscles and, if you don't keep them up,

1:07:431:07:45

they will atrophy, they'll disappear.

1:07:451:07:48

So the artist is, you know, often off by themselves,

1:07:481:07:53

taking care of their instrument.

1:07:531:07:56

And it's not something that people often talk about,

1:07:561:07:59

because it's not particularly glamorous.

1:07:591:08:01

It's the grunt work, but you really do have to keep it up.

1:08:011:08:05

Over the years, voices will darken,

1:08:051:08:08

you can't hit the high notes,

1:08:081:08:09

you drank too much last night, your face is puffy,

1:08:091:08:11

you can't do the step.

1:08:111:08:13

I mean, it's all a package.

1:08:131:08:15

You never let them see you sweat, that old thing.

1:08:151:08:19

You do your work, what you need to do,

1:08:191:08:21

so that what you present to them is glorious.

1:08:211:08:25

To me, it has to be excellent, it just has to be.

1:08:251:08:28

Holy Moley, I tell you,

1:08:351:08:37

when I'm creating a number for her...

1:08:371:08:39

Don't tell her I told you this!

1:08:401:08:43

..I have to finish the number completely.

1:08:431:08:46

It needs to be spick and span.

1:08:461:08:48

If the girls aren't cleaned up or something

1:08:481:08:51

isn't quite still finished, she throws it out.

1:08:511:08:53

But she is involved in every morsel.

1:08:531:08:57

Morsel!

1:08:571:08:59

# Do you wanna dance

1:08:591:09:02

# Under the moonlight?

1:09:021:09:06

# Hug me, baby, kiss me

1:09:061:09:08

# Kiss me all through the night

1:09:081:09:12

# Oh, baby, baby, baby, baby

1:09:121:09:15

# Baby, tell me, tell me

1:09:151:09:17

# Do you wanna

1:09:171:09:19

# Do you wanna dance?

1:09:191:09:20

# Do you wanna, do you wanna?

1:09:201:09:22

# Oh... #

1:09:221:09:24

-It was a long stretch, so big...

-Two years?

1:09:241:09:27

It was two years and it was so big - I couldn't take it any more.

1:09:271:09:30

I really had to lie down.

1:09:301:09:32

And I decided, "You know what? I need to strip this down."

1:09:321:09:34

He always used to say, "What are you doing that for?"

1:09:341:09:37

Yeah, me and my partner Scott, we always used to say,

1:09:371:09:39

"Bette, a stool, a microphone and a spotlight...

1:09:391:09:43

-"and an orchestra." But that's all you need.

-I didn't have that.

1:09:431:09:46

I always find it odd how Bette wants to give the audience a big show.

1:09:461:09:49

-Yeah...well, they pay.

-It's a great thing to respect.

1:09:491:09:52

On the other hand, she's the last person on earth

1:09:521:09:55

who needs anything but just the microphone.

1:09:551:09:57

Well, that's nice of you.

1:09:571:09:58

Bette's new album, It's The Girls,

1:10:011:10:03

is dedicated to all those girl groups she grew up with.

1:10:031:10:07

# Mr Sandman

1:10:071:10:09

# Bring me a dream... #

1:10:091:10:12

It's a recurring theme that has influenced her stage performances,

1:10:121:10:16

her Hollywood career,

1:10:161:10:17

and of course her music, for over 50 years -

1:10:171:10:20

girl power.

1:10:201:10:23

# Mr Sandman

1:10:231:10:26

# I'm so alone

1:10:261:10:28

# Don't have nobody to call my own... #

1:10:281:10:31

This was a magical experience,

1:10:311:10:33

this last record that I made with Marc,

1:10:331:10:35

which is a girl groups record,

1:10:351:10:37

and it's funny because that music is really the basis of my life.

1:10:371:10:43

It's where you started, listening to The Andrews Sisters.

1:10:431:10:47

The Boswell Sisters,

1:10:471:10:49

The Supremes, The Marvelettes,

1:10:491:10:51

you know, The Exciters.

1:10:511:10:53

All those groups that were my age,

1:10:531:10:56

you know, at the time that they were most popular.

1:10:561:10:59

-# Mr Sandman... #

-Yes?

1:10:591:11:02

# Bring me a dream

1:11:021:11:04

# Give him a pair of eyes with a come hither gleam... #

1:11:041:11:07

Harmony is something that is so infectious

1:11:071:11:10

and so inspirational, I think.

1:11:101:11:12

I mean, solo voices are beautiful, but when they sing in harmony,

1:11:121:11:16

it's like that chord, that chord!

1:11:161:11:18

It's otherworldly and I've always loved it,

1:11:181:11:20

and I've always been a slave to it.

1:11:201:11:22

So, I mean, I picked the best songs we could find that suited me.

1:11:221:11:26

# Shooby-dooby dooby-dooby doo-wa-ah

1:11:261:11:29

# Shooby-dooby dooby-dooby doo-wa-ah

1:11:291:11:32

# One fine day

1:11:321:11:35

# You'll look at me

1:11:351:11:38

# And you will know our love was

1:11:381:11:41

-# Meant to be

-Shooby-dooby dooby-dooby doo-wa-ah

1:11:411:11:44

# One fine day

1:11:441:11:46

# You're gonna want me for your girl

1:11:461:11:49

# Shooby-dooby dooby-dooby doo-wa-ah

1:11:491:11:52

-# Shooby-dooby dooby-dooby doo-wa-ah

-Oh, yeah... #

1:11:521:11:55

We have shorthand now, we've known each other for so long,

1:11:551:11:58

and I have total trust in him.

1:11:581:12:00

There's a certain kind of music that, if I want that,

1:12:001:12:02

I go to him because he always delivers on that.

1:12:021:12:05

He has a big heart, his heart is always in his chords

1:12:051:12:07

and he's a terrific accompanist.

1:12:071:12:09

He's also a great arranger.

1:12:091:12:10

-I mean, he hears my...

-Are you recording this?!

1:12:101:12:13

He hears me breathe and a lot of people don't hear you breathe.

1:12:131:12:16

You know, they're listening to something else.

1:12:161:12:18

So he's been great.

1:12:181:12:20

# Tell him that you're never gonna leave him

1:12:201:12:22

# Tell him that you're always gonna love him

1:12:221:12:25

# Tell him, tell him, tell him

1:12:251:12:27

# Tell him right now... #

1:12:271:12:29

And this record was really a lot of fun because all this music

1:12:291:12:31

on this record is familiar.

1:12:311:12:33

His idea of taking something that is familiar

1:12:331:12:36

and turning it into something that is unfamiliar and brand-new is...

1:12:361:12:39

We have the same sensibilities, so that's a great thing.

1:12:391:12:41

-I learned that from listening to Bette Midler records.

-Sure.

1:12:411:12:44

Se here you are, we're a perfect team.

1:12:441:12:47

# I know something about love

1:12:471:12:51

# You've gotta show it

1:12:511:12:52

# And make him see the moon up above

1:12:521:12:56

# Go out and get him... #

1:12:561:12:58

-The album's coming out very shortly.

-Mm-hm.

1:12:581:13:01

What's in your horizons?

1:13:011:13:03

I'm going to put the album out and we're going to see what happens,

1:13:031:13:06

and I think I'll probably take it on the road a little bit.

1:13:061:13:10

I'd like to take it on the road in not the gigantic way.

1:13:101:13:13

Or if I do take it on the road in a gigantic way,

1:13:131:13:16

to be able to mix and match some theatres and some smaller rooms

1:13:161:13:19

with the big rooms...

1:13:191:13:20

only because I kind of miss that...

1:13:201:13:23

because I do see the horizon looming up before me.

1:13:231:13:26

What's looming up?

1:13:261:13:27

Well, I... I may...

1:13:271:13:30

Ugh!

1:13:301:13:32

Ugh! It!

1:13:321:13:34

It's coming and I know it's coming!

1:13:341:13:36

And it's almost as if I almost would like to experience the world

1:13:361:13:41

in a different way,

1:13:411:13:42

not from the inside of a limo, not from a stage,

1:13:421:13:47

but the way people experience the world.

1:13:471:13:52

I want to see it.

1:13:521:13:54

I want to be in it.

1:13:541:13:55

Oh, God!

1:13:561:13:58

Yes, well, that's what she said.

1:13:591:14:01

Turns out Bette couldn't resist.

1:14:011:14:04

Her Broadway run in Hello, Dolly! starts tomorrow night,

1:14:041:14:09

so it seems the Divine Miss M

1:14:091:14:11

will be experiencing life from the stage a little longer.

1:14:111:14:15

As she is about to begin a run on Broadway in Hello Dolly, imagine... revisits Miss M in New York in a programme first shown in 2014 when she was about to release her girl band-inspired album.

For five decades the woman they call the Divine Miss M has forged a path which has taken her from a pineapple-canning factory in Honolulu to becoming a Hollywood legend. Alan Yentob joins Bette Midler on a journey through the chorus lines of Broadway and the bathhouses and nightclubs of the 1970s to the very top of the film industry. Her combination of a soulful voice and the raucous wit of Mae West has made her name as an outrageous, but always captivating, all-round entertainer.