We Know Her By Heart: Bette Midler in the '80s

Bette Midler in 'Beaches'
Photo Credit
Touchstone/Getty Images

At 75 years old, Bette Midler is pretty timeless. In a career that's stretched across seven decades, she's made quite a name for herself. Perhaps you know her as The Divine Miss M, interpreting multiple eras of pop and rock over the radio - or the quirky, comedic movie star in everything from Hocus Pocus to The First Wives Club.

There's no denying her unique talents and lovable charm - and the '80s were certainly a killer decade for her work on screen and in the studio. Come take a trip down memory lane with us to see what made Bette's '80s so extraordinary.

Rose Gold

Bette got her start as an actress, moving from Off-Off-Broadway shows to Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway. Even her breakthrough performances at the Continental Baths had a little comedy and drama to them. Her big break as an actress came with 1979's The Rose, the tale of a late '60s self-destructive rock starlet who bore a passing resemblance to Janis Joplin. Midler was lauded for her no-holds-barred performance, winning her first Golden Globe and earning an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in 1980; her version of the title track reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 later that year.

No Frills

Bette ended a four-year hiatus from releasing studio albums with 1983's No Frills. After tackling everything from vocal standards to disco in her body of work, her sixth album was a rock and roll affair, featuring covers of Marshall Crenshaw's "You're My Favorite Waste of Time" and The Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden," the latter of which became a Top 10 hit across Europe. The accompanying video, which featured Mick Jagger, picked up three nominations at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards, which Bette co-hosted.

Ruthless Success

In the mid-'80s, Bette really established herself as a modern queen of screwball comedies, thanks to the one-two punch of Down and Out in Beverly Hills and Ruthless People, the latter of which was directed by the parody team of the Zucker brothers and David Abrahams (Airplane!, The Naked Gun). In Ruthless People, Bette played a woman whose husband (Danny DeVito) can't stand her and decides to have her killed - a difficult plot once she ends up getting kidnapped by another couple. Gene Siskel was one of many critics who adored the film, saying it "contains some of the biggest laughs of 1986."

Perfect Isn't Easy

In 1988, Bette's charm expanded from live-action to animation, when she voiced the privileged poodle Bernadette in the Disney film Oliver & Company. Working alongside a voice cast that included Billy Joel and Dom DeLuise, Bette-as-Bernadette stole the show with her number "Perfect Isn't Easy" - a tune that reunited her with singer-songwriter Barry Manilow, her longtime musical director and the co-producer of The Divine Miss M.

Wind Beneath Our Wings

Arguably Bette's most iconic role was in 1988's Beaches, where she portrayed a renowned singer reflecting on the complicated relationship with her childhood best friend (played by Barbara Hershey). Audiences were moved by the sweetness and tragedy of the story - and Midler's rendition of the film's theme song, "Wind Beneath My Wings," was a radio anthem in 1989, topping the Billboard chart, becoming one of the year's top 10 singles and taking home Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

Read More: June 1989: Bette Midler Hits #1 with "Wind Beneath My Wings"

Artist Name

Read More

(Jo Hale/Redferns)
The '80s alt-rock legends and "120 Minutes" faves are back with a new album and everything.
Bill Tompkins/Getty Images
44 new dates, a new album and Simon Gallup's return.
Independent News and Media/Getty Images
We'll give you a hint: think of a color.

Facebook Comments