Bette Midler (December 1, 1945)
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Born into a poor family in Hawaii – before Hawaii was a state – Bette Midler discovered the glamour of entertainment and the arts through books. Every Saturday, she and her sister were dropped off at the Honolulu Public Library, where Midler would look at pictures and read books about opera, ballet, and theater. When she saw a picture of Ethel Barrymore, she wanted to be her. Midler would become one of the most successful, multi-talented performers in history, earning two Academy Award nominations, three Emmys, a Tony, and multiple Grammys and Golden Globe awards.
Midler's professional career began with a small role in the movie Hawaii, earning her enough money to move to New York City in 1965. She got her start in experimental theater and worked in the gay male bathhouse scene, with Barry Manilow as her accompanist. Midler has maintained a loyal following of gay fans throughout her career and used one of nicknames, Bathhouse Bette, as the title of her 1978 album. Her most famous nickname, the Divine Miss M, also comes from her years at the Continental Baths.
Her recording career began with the release of the album, the Divine Miss M
, in 1972. The album features several singles that have become Midler classics, including "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Friends," which Midler sings to close out all of her live shows. She won the Best New Artist Grammy award for 1973 and followed it up with an award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female in 1981 for "The Rose
." Her rendition of "The Wind Beneath My Wings
" won both Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1989.
Known as a flamboyant and hard-working performer, Midler has appeared both on Broadway and in film. Her Tony award came in 1974 for her performance in Clams on a Half Shell Revue. The award was a special Tony given for "adding luster to the Broadway season." In 2010, Midler produced the Broadway musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and loves the musical so much that she said, "I'd be starring in it – if I were a gay man." She did several long-running tours and in 2010, at the age of 65, she completed her two-year run of The Showgirl Must Go On at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. When her stint in Las Vegas was over, she said she was glad to see it come to an end because the country's economic difficulties hit the city so hard, it was like performing on the Titanic.
In one of her most memorable roles, Midler earned an Academy Award nomination and won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Mary Rose Foster in the 1978 film, The Rose. Many believe that the movie is about the life of Janis Joplin, although Midler said in an NPR interview in 2008 that she had experienced enough as a female performer in her own life that she drew more from her own career than Joplin's. Midler starred in several other movies after that, earning Golden Globe nominations for her roles in Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Outrageous Fortune, and For the Boys, for which she also received her second Oscar nomination. Midler won an Emmy in 1977 for her television special, Ol' Red Hair is Back, and her third Emmy was in 1997 for her HBO special, Diva Las Vegas. Her second Emmy came after her 1992 performance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, in which she had the honor of being Carson's final guest and serenaded him with an emotional rendition of "One For My Baby."
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