MIDLER, BETTE (1945– ), U.S. singer, entertainer, and actress. Born in Honolulu, Midler entered show business as a member of the Fiddler on the Roof cast on Broadway in 1964. She gained notoriety as a popular performer in the Continental Baths cabaret, a meeting place for homosexuals, and then scored a hit single with the frequently recorded "Do You Wanna Dance?" (1974). She followed this success with her top-selling album The Divine Miss M. and a popular film of her live act called Divine Madness (1979). Midler turned actress in a movie loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin, The Rose (1981), which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Midler, who was named after legendary film icon Bette Davis, starred in subsequent films such as Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), Ruthless People (1986), For the Boys (Oscar nomination for Best Actress, 1991), The First Wives Club (1996), Drowning Mona (2000), Isn't She Great (2000), and The Stepford Wives (2004).
Over the years, among other TV guest spots, Midler appeared on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show 24 times, starting in 1970 and including the final program in May 1992. She also appeared in the TV movie Gypsy (1993) and produced and starred in the sitcom Bette (2000–1).
On the Broadway stage, Midler appeared in Fiddler on the Roof (1964–72), Bette Midler Special Concert (1973), Bette Midler's Clams on the Half Shell Revue (1975), Bette! Divine Madness (1979), and Short Talks on the Universe (2002).
For her multiple talents as an actress, writer, singer, and performer, Midler won a host of awards. In 1974 she received a special Tony Award "for adding luster to the Broadway season." She won four Grammy awards, including the 1973 Best New Artist and the prestigious Record of the Year in 1989 for her rendition of her #1 hit "Wind Beneath My Wings" from the movie Beaches. She won three Emmy awards and was nominated for another four. In 1987 she received the American Comedy Awards' Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy, as well as the American Comedy Award in 1988, 1989, 1993, 1996, and 1998. Her writings include A View from a Broad (1980) and the fable The Saga of Baby Divine (1983).
M. Bego, Bette Midler: Still Divine (2003); A. Waldman, The Bette Midler Scrapbook (1997); G. Mair, Bette: An Intimate Biography of Bette Midler (1995); A. Collins, Bette Midler (1989); M. Bego, Bette Midler: Outrageously Divine (1987); J. Spada, The Divine Bette Midler (1984).
[Jonathan Licht /
Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.