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Bette at the Bathhouse

 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I came of age in the 90’s and always thought of Bette Midler as that middle-of-the-road star of Beaches who sang the movie’s treacly theme song, “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Sure, she had her brassy broad routine, but this pseudo-outrageous, semi-tough-talkin’ persona seemed tailor-made for Middle America. So imagine my surprise when, a couple of years ago while writing a master’s thesis on Glitter Rock, I found nestled in the discussions of Lou Reed and Alice Cooper a reference to Bette Midler. What could this mean? Digging a little further, I soon came across this contemporary quote from Lester Bangs (Creem, August, 1973) that places her squarely—though not “squarely”—in the midst of the Glitter scene:

Despite lingering questions about her ability to cope with stardom—and choose material—she is definitely the Queen of the Glitter Hop. Squares compare her to Garland and Streisand, and hip folk love her for her Shangri-Las, Crystals, and Chiffons remakes. The gay crowd (hip and square) love her because she came out of the Baths, because she shares their affection for camp and kitsch, and because, above all else, they found her first. She proved that every time you thought they were singing about love, they were actually singing about sex.

A Stah Is Born

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