born on december 1st, 1945, in honolulu, hawaii, bette midler was destined to become star; her parents, fred and ruth midler, named her after actress bette davis, with a slight change in the pronunciation. bette's singularity did not escape her classmates; the only white, jewish girl, she quickly learned that making her peers laugh was the best was to detract from her differences and escape ridicule. ambitious from an early age, bette studied drama at the university of hawaii where, after a year, she was cast as an extra in george roy hill's hawaii. she moved to new york in 1965 and quickly landed her debut stage role in tom eyn's miss nefertiti regrets. from there, midler took over the role of tzeitel in the broadway musical fiddler on the roof before beginning her notorious engagement at new york's continental baths. midler claims that, at the time, she had no idea what was going on in other rooms of the popular gay men's meeting place, insisting that she just performed her act and went on about her business. be that as it may, the baths transformed bette midler into "the divine miss m" (a name bestowed upon her by her makeup artist) and established her a queer following whose loyalty has endured throughout her career.
the 1970s saw bette signed with atlantic records, producing her 1972 platinum debut, the divine miss m. winning a grammy for her album and a tony award for her performance at broadway's palace theater, bette's star was definitely on the rise. a string of successful albums÷bette midler, songs for the new depression, live at last, broken blossom and thighs and whispers÷established midler as a solid recording artist before the 1979 film the rose launched what would become a stellar acting career. her film acting debut in the rose won bette an oscar nomination and two golden globe awards÷one for best actress and another for newcomer of the year÷while the film's soundtrack earned her platinum status and a grammy. that same year, divine madness opened on broadway and bette starred in the movie jinxed. jinxed began a four year hiatus from filmmaking, during which midler recorded divine madness and no frills. in 1984, bette signed a deal with disney studios which produced a flood of hit comedy films, such as down and out in beverly hills, ruthless people, outrageous fortune and big business. in response to what bette considered to be a shortage of quality films with strong female characters, she created all-girl productions, along with business partner bonnie bruckheimer. the company's first film, 1988's beaches, was a huge success, paving the way for future films stella, for the boys and hocus pocus, as well as the cbs production of gypsy. the latter earned midler a golden globe award, along with another from the national board of review for outstanding television performance.
in 1990, bette released the album some people's lives, which contained the grammy award-winning song "from a distance". to u.s. families from coast to coast, suffering from the pains of missing loved ones involved in the persian gulf war, "from a distance" helped heal the hurt by providing a ray of hope in an otherwise dark time. in 1993, midler released a collection of hits called experience the divine. an extensive tour, in support of the album, included a six-week engagement at radio city music hall. bette's latest release, bette of roses, has sold well and produced a #1 dance hit (the remix of "to deserve you"), in spite of criticism that many of the songs contain a self-depricating, co-dependent bent that is out of line with midler's public image. most recently, bette has appeared in get shorty, for which she won an american comedy award, the first wives club and the hbo special diva, las vegas.
as an actress/singer/comedian/entreprenuer/wife/mother, bette midler is an excellent example, not only to her daughter sophie, but to women of all ages, of what a woman can accomplish. she is poised yet baudy, strong yet sensitive·a true renaissance woman who has taken up the cause of environmental awareness in hopes of providing for future generations. for her talent and her spirit, bette midler has earned the title of diva.