So it turns out that the fabulous Bea Dazzler is going to try to get me booked to perform at some other clubs and drag shows while I’m in San Francisco. Honestly, I did not have the think twice to decide what I would do for my act. I’m desperate to perform a tap Bette Midler tribute! I love everything Bette, an obsession passed down to me from my mother. My mum is meeting me in New York in October and I’m sure you can imagine our disappointment that Bette Midler isn’t playing at the time. Awww Sad Face!
Anyway, a few years ago I was in a tap troupe and each year a different person picked the number for the annual show. When it was my turn I picked Bette Midler’s cover of the Andrews Sister’s Boogey Woogey Bugle Boy. Ummmm YAY! We made the cute little army outfits similar to what The Devine Miss M wore in For the Boys, with added sequins of course. We had fish net stockings and wigs and little hats and I loved every minute of this piece. The tempo was fierce and our feet maneuvered around the dance floor at rapid pace.
I want to reinvent this group piece as a solo Bette Midler tribute. I’ll wear my dance costume because it is already sewed and time is running short to make a new one. I may some sections of BWBB, maybe “Stuff Like that There” and “Big Noise from Winnetka”. I’m blonde and not much taller than Miss Midler, so I think that it will work out.
Why do I love Bette Midler? Many women do; her biggest followers are Middle American straight women and gay men. I think I love her because she is the first faux queen I ever came across. I may not have known it when I was younger, but she is an absolute drag queen! She performs just as drag queens do; and as we know her performance education began in New York’s Continental Bath Houses, where she catered to an almost nude and exclusively gay male audience.
Roberta Mock has said that, “Midler learned to be a ‘lady’ from gay men and their appreciation of ironic distancing, camp connoisseurship, and parodic appropriation of the notion of a stable gender identity”(Mock, 2003, p. 27). She describes her performances as “highly flamboyant and deliberately outrageous”.
There was always something different, something special and so desirable about Bette Midler for me when I was growing up. I adored her ‘roll me Swartzkofsky crystals and serve me to the queens” attitude. I always like the women who did things BIG, like Midler, Madonna and Dolly Parton.
Mock has written, “A performer like Bette Midler who uses the tropes of the drag queen becomes valued both as the bearer of a wonderful gift in the form of a non-oppressive model for gendered behaviour, and the foolish scapegoat whose gift is laughed at. The laughter is part of the gift. Of those who don’t laugh, the Divine Miss M says, ‘Fuck Em!’”(Mock, 2003, p. 28).