“I’ll Eat Bette Last”- by Dana Craig

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So, here’s the thing. Bette Midler is completely satisfying. Her return to Broadway is very exciting for me, as Bette is a rather heavy-duty influence in my life. It passed the “unhealthy” stage about 10 years ago somewhere in high school. I have been known to cut a bitch who counters my steadfast belief that Bette Midler is performer perfection. Having said that, I must offer up a disclaimer for the statements that follow: What you are about to read is not a criticism of her new show, it is hope for the future- that there will be more of Bette hopping across the boards.

I’ve now seen Bette Midler in the heart-attack-inducing flesh thrice. Twice on tour as “The Divine Miss M” during her epic stage shows and the third being last week on Broadway where she is holding court in a one woman show written by Joe Logan where she “plays” another “Miss M” in I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers; the latter being a brassy CAA agent to the stars of yesteryear. To my delight, there is little difference between Midler and Mengers. The fact that Bette is essentially playing herself but with a different name, title, and life story did not bother me one bit. (Oh, and she declares at the top of the show that she’s not leaving the frickin couch.) Even better.

Now, I know what Bette Midler is capable of. Her range is well documented and the lasting effect she has on her audience is what makes her an irreplaceable force of nature. Her best roles in my opinion are lessons in the craft- leaving her entire soul out there in “The Rose” and her commitment to character in “Hocus Pocus.” Raise your hand if you’ve “ugly cried” during “Beaches” or can quote at least 5 classic lines in “The First Wives Club.” I can see you not raising your hand and I can see you lying. So can God. Remember- God is watching us… from a distance. Which reminds me, I haven’t even touched on her albums. “Broken Blossom,” her sophomore album “Bette Midler,” “Some People’s Lives,” “Bathhouse Betty.” Bette has already proven her brilliance a million times over. I was thrilled to even be in the same room, let alone in orchestra seats.

As the curtain goes up, we are immediately welcomed into Sue’s grandiose living room, complete with a palm tree shooting right through the roof. And good thing we came because she is in a MOOD. She is waiting for her biggest client, dearest friend, and “Super Jew” Barbra Streisand to call her back. What!?!? Bette Midler comes back to Broadway for the first time in 40 years to do couch-ography, chain smoke and talk shit about Barbra for 90 uninterrupted minutes? Did I die and go to gay heaven? (I’m assuming it’s like regular heaven but with a lengthy happy hour.) She was rapturous, delicious, and deserved every bit of her standing ovation. Meryl was there too. But this post is NOT ABOUT MERYL. Even though I’m tempted to make it a little about Meryl.

To make matters even more magical (damn you New York City with all your brilliance!), it was my birthday this night. After the show, my best friend and I jumped out of our seats and boogied on out to Shubert Alley where the stage door is. Side note: whoever decided to play Barbra’s “Stoney End” as the exit music is a genius. I’ve done the whole wait-for-the-celebrity-to-come-out thing a bunch of times, but I had never seen a crowd this big. I would be lucky if I even got a glimpse of her. Out came Meryl. Out came Candice Bergen. Out came Sienna Miller, Amy Irving, and Michael Kors. And then came Bette. Little tiny person Bette- with a red hipster knit hat and sunglasses. I had seriously never been so close to her and was damn near flop sweat. Promise not to laugh when I say “the crowd went wild,” but… the crowd went wild upon her arrival. Then I realize- OMG she’s signing Playbills! She signed about 20 total, and the crowd was about 200 people- just to give you an idea. I  pushed and shoved my way to the front and handed her mine. “Thank you,” says I. “You’re very welcome,” says she. And. Scene. Curtains. If anyone is reading this- make note: I want to be buried with that Playbill, ya hear?!

However, the most overwhelming feeling I had coming out of the Booth Theatre that night (and the actual point of this post) is that Bette Midler is back. Back on a New York City stage. Maybe not for long on this one since it’s a limited engagement, but she will be back in another Broadway show. To watch her live is one of my life’s greatest luxuries. And now I would like to share with you one of my wildest theatre-related fantasies. In my dream, Bette shall star in a musical written by Tom Waits, choreography by Toni Basil, costumes by Bob Mackie, and directed by me. Truth.

Bette, we realize that it’s a damn racket to do a Broadway show 7 days a week. We welcome you back, we want more of you, and thank you- which seems to be the only thing that I will ever need to say to you, given the opportunity.

Written by: Dana Craig

TV Production/ Anthro-Bette-ologist/ Mom Dancer

2 comments

  1. Mary Lynne Johnson

    Dana…this is brilliant! What a thrill for you. I remember seeing Bette once at Great Woods Performing Arts
    Center here in Mansfield, MA. years ago. Yes, Mansfield. She was phenomenal…especially when she came out on stage to perform in her mermaid outfit. She was in a wheelchair of course because she had no feet to stand on, but her arms were gesturing everywhere. What an incredible entertainer! Now I have to go and google her movies, because I’m trying to remember one of her early films. The one that first won me over;)

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