I Look Good

Damn, I love, love, love, love, love Bette Midler...and have for years. I am proud to admit I was a Bette fan way back when the elastic in my neon hot pants was unstretched and my upper body parts were still located above my belly button...and yes, much of my Aging Disco Diva persona is based on the Divine Miss M.

There are very few performers I will spend my champagne and Godiva chocolate budget on to buy tickets to see. Bette is definitely at the top of my list...she is such a friggin' hoot and puts on a hell of a show (I have all her HBO concerts on Beta, VCR and now DVD) I was excited when I found out she was going to be performing in Vegas (replacing Celine Dion--a performer whose music I equate with enduring root canal without anesthetics...performed by a 400 pound gorilla...using a rusty industrial drill)

Well, it is no surprise that the Divine One is taking Vegas by storm:

USA Today

The production opens with a tune written for this endeavor, the titular The Showgirl Must Go On, which gives her chances, as many of her concert numbers do, to interject pithy comments that establish rapport with the audience. It would be inappropriate to describe the opening sequence in too much detail lest one of the most exciting moments of the production is disclosed, but suffice to say that Midler makes an entrance that — literally — blows Vegas away.

Midler pays homage to a variety of her fan constituencies, none less amusingly than her historically huge gay-male base. At one point she quips: "All the girls want to be showgirls. And so do a lot of the boys."

Alas, there are no boys on the stage aside from the band. Basil had 18 dancers — dubbed the "Caesar Salad Girls" — and Midler's backup trio known as the Harlettes to direct around the stage, using the video screen mostly for atmospherics. She does, however, manage to weave in uproarious sequences involving the real American Idol judges, Project Runway judge Michael Kors and even Cher, who will also be doing a 100-show-a-year gig at the Colosseum that starts in May.

(Speaking of Idol, fears that Midler's voice was shot after a much-criticized performance on the talent show's May finale were allayed by an intense version of When A Man Loves A Woman that led the audience to its feet and left Midler so physically spent she appeared near collapse.)

Indeed, Vegas humor is laced throughout "Showgirl," from a few digs at Cirque du Soleil that include noting defiantly that there's "not a French-Canadian circus performer" among Midler's dance troupe and the appearance of an encouraging Elvis and Wayne Newton on video when Delores Delago needs a lift.

At one point, when Midler's off-colored Soph character is tearing through a run of ever-dirtier jokes, the star offers an ode to a more innocent age at the Colosseum by cracking, "Come back, Celine! All is forgiven!"

In many ways, the show has a feel of a doctoral thesis in Midler Studies, especially given her recent hints that she might retire from live performing when this run is over in 2011. At a key nostalgia moment just before the Wind Beneath My Wings finale, vintage footage plays on screen of a twentysomething Midler bopping through Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy while on stage, she and her crew re-enact the dance steps.

At a different juncture earlier in "Showgirl," a then-shocking photo of a young Midler's bare backside is a pertinent reminder in an age when the tabloids are awash in Paris and Britney that Midler was the original scandal-sheet temptress.

"I was ahead of my time, as usual," she announced proudly.

If you are not familiar with the Divine Miss M, here are some of my favorite clips from her various concerts (and oh yeah...she is bawdy, so the easily offended need not click...):

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  1. She is divine! Now I have yet another reason to go to Vegas.

  2. I'm not gay and don't want to be a showgirl but Bette is wonderful.

  3. I have always found Bette to be pretty damn sexy. Cheers Diva!!