Bette Midler

Bette Midler (born Dec. 1, 1945) is an American singer and actress from Honolulu who rose to prominence on New York’s cabaret scene during the early 1970s. After starring in several Broadway productions (Salvation, Fiddler On the Roof, Tommy), she launched her singing career at the Continental Baths. Between 1972 and 1995, she released 10 studio albums, four soundtracks, and a live double-album on Atlantic.

As an actress, Midler played the role of Mary Rose Foster in the 1979 musical drama The Rose, loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin. During the 1980s, she starred in the screwball comedies Ruthless People, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, and Outrageous Fortune.

Her biggest hits as a recording artist include “The Rose” (from the namesake motion picture), “Beat of Burden” (a Rolling Stones cover), and “Wind Beneath My Wings,” a Billboard #1 from the soundtrack to her 1988 comedy-drama Beaches.

Bette Midler was born to a Jewish family in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her parents, housepainter Fred Midler and seamstress Ruth (née Schindel), both hailed from New Jersey. Bette was named after actress Bette Davis, but used a monosyllabic pronunciation of her forename (leaving the second “e” silent, unlike Davis).

Midler attended Radford High School in Honolulu, where she was voted “most talkative” (junior year) and “most dramatic” (senior year, class of 1963). She enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she majored in drama but left after three semesters.

In the summer of 1965, Midler played an extra in the epic drama film Hawaii, released in 1966 and starring Julie Andrews and Richard Harris. Midler used her earnings from that role to fund her move to New York City.

In Manhattan, she studied theatre under German actress Uta Hagen. Within months, she landed a part in two off-Broadway plays by Tom Eyen, Miss Nefertiti Regrets and Cinderella Revisited. From 1966 to 1969, Midler played the role of Tzeitel in a Broadway production of Fiddler On the Roof. In 1969, she joined the original cast of the musical Salvation alongside (future Rocky Horror Picture Show) actor Barry Bostwick.

In 1970, Midler started singing at the Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse in the Ansonia Hotel at 2109 Broadway. She befriended another up-and-comer, singer and composer Barry Manilow, who she hired as her pianist and musical director. He accompanied her at the Continental, where she built her initial audience and earned the nickname Bathhouse Betty.

In 1971, Midler starred in the first theatrical production of the rock opera Tommy, based on the 1969 concept album by The Who. It was directed by Richard Pearlman with the Seattle Opera. During this run, she made her first of many appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.


  • The Divine Miss M (1972)
  • Bette Midler (1973)
  • Songs for the New Depression (1976)
  • Broken Blossom (1977)
  • Live at Last (1977)
  • Thighs and Whispers (1979)
  • The Rose (OST, 1979)
  • Bette Midler in Divine Madness (OST, 1980)
  • No Frills (1983)
  • Mud Will Be Flung Tonight (1985)
  • Beaches (OST, 1988)
  • Some People’s Lives (1990)


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