Bette Midler

Bette Midler won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, for her starring role as Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly!. Midler, who is Jewish and first performed on Broadway in 1966 as Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof, has had many Jewish connections in her life and career. Which of the following is true?

Bette Midler concert - Chicago by Alan Light  is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AMidler, who was born and raised in Aiea, Hawaii, won a singing contest in 1st grade, but she was afraid to tell her parents, as she knew her father would be angry about the winning song that she sang, Silent Night

B. Bette’s family would celebrate seders with the few other Jewish families that lived in her hometown of Aiea. Her mother always made gefilte fish from fresh carp, which was available in Hawaii. Inspired by this annual ritual, when Bette was 8 years old, as the guests sat down for seder, she wheeled herself into the room on an office chair, with her legs wrapped in a blanket. “I’m the Divine Miss Gefilte,” she sang, provoking much laughter among her siblings and the other children, but anger from her father, who chastised her for disrespecting the holiday and embarrassing him in front of their guests. Many years later, he forgave her, as she garnered great success in the personas of the Divine Miss M, and Delores DeLago, the kicklining mermaid in a wheelchair. 

C. In junior high school, Bette went to a luau with friends, and when she came home she told her mother how delicious the dinner was. When asked what she ate, Bette said, “I don't really know. It was something called kalua pua’a.” Her mother was very upset as she explained to Bette that this dish was the traditional (and very unkosher) Hawaiian roast pork.

DIn one of her comedic sketches, Midler said that she was going to make a sequel to the erotic movie Emmanuelle. Said Midler, “I call it Temple Emmanuelle. Actually, it’s not dirty at all, it’s just a lot of kissing of mezzuzas.”

EIn 1974, Bette starred in a show on Broadway called Bette Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Revue, for which she won a special Tony award “for adding lustre to the Broadway season.” Der Tzeitung, a Chassidic newspaper, listed the special Tony Award as going to Bette Midler’s Lox on a Bagel Revue. (This is the same paper that later gained publicity when it ran a photograph of President Obama and his staff in the White House Situation Room watching the Bin Laden raid, from which Hillary Clinton had been “Photoshopped” out because she was female).

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