BETTE by George Mair


An Intimate Biography of Bette Midler
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 A third-rate biography of a second-rate talent. Even a fading camp icon like Midler deserves better than Mair's (Oprah Winfrey, 1994, not reviewed, etc.) breathless yet strangely feeble account. Despite its subtitle, this book, which has all the intimacy of a handshake, seems more of a testament to the NEXIS database than anything approaching original authorial research. Mair manages the remarkable feat of simultaneously telling us both more and less than we ever wanted to know as he traces Midler's rise from a lonely Jewish girl growing up in Hawaii to her mild accomplishments as chanteuse, actress, and occasional author. Every wonderful and fabulous and sensational twitch of an achievement by Midler is catalogued, with just a grudging iota of elbow room set aside for her less than wonderful, fabulous, and sensational moments. So she has a reputation for being incredibly difficult to work with? Tra-la-la. So she fired her entire musical troupe after a concert tour? Tiddley pom. Mair makes few attempts to understand Midler, to subject her and her talents to the kind of considered critical or psychological analysis usually found in biographies. In fact, Mair seems perfectly content to luxuriate in the reflected glow of his subject's general stupendousness. As he writes, ``We love her because she is us and we are her.'' Almost in spite of himself, Mair occasionally stumbles across something interesting. His brief analysis of the difficulties older actresses have finding roles (women over 40 get only 9 percent of all roles) borders on the trenchant. He also manages a reasonable understanding of Midler's resonant appeal to gay audiences. Not so much a tell-all biography as a fawning and amateurish show-and-tell. (24 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-55972-272-X
Page count: 368pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1995