On Bette Midler: An Opinionated Guide

Oxford Univ. May 2024. 228p. ISBN 9780197668320. $29.99. BIOG
After arriving in New York City by way of Hawai‘i in 1965, Bette Midler got her start performing in experimental theater productions and bathhouses. She became known for her campy “Divine Miss M” stage persona and found many of her fans in the gay community throughout the 1970s. Her career has since spanned nearly 60 years on stage, with studio albums, television, and film included in her body of work. Still, her road to stardom is sometimes lesser known to younger generations who recognize her primarily from film roles such as Hocus Pocus. Winkler (Everything Is Choreography: The Musical Theatre of Tommy Tune) illuminates Midler’s story from his perspective as a longtime fan. The preface clarifies that this book does not contain interviews with Midler or with people who worked with her, as a traditional biography would, but Winkler’s well-researched and organized guide provides all the facts with plenty of juicy tidbits sprinkled in. Notes for each chapter and a selected bibliography are included.
VERDICT A fascinating and personal portrait of a singular performer. Winkler succeeds at capturing Midler’s distinctive and memorable personality, which is somehow equal parts bawdy showgirl and sensitive chanteuse.
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