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A Date With the

A Date With the


Winning front-row tickets to "The Showgirl Must Go On," Bette Midler's one-woman extravaganza at Caesars Palace, was just the beginning of a most thrilling evening for one Advocate correspondent.

According to Oprah Winfrey, my best friend, Luzanne, is Bette Midler's biggest admirer. The Divine Miss M was on the January 28 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show promoting her upcoming spectacle, "The Showgirl Must Go On," at the Caesars Palace Colosseum in Las Vegas when, midway through the interview, Oprah asked Luzanne to stand up in the audience and explain why she loves Bette. Luzanne, who is 27 and in law school, explained that in addition to adoring Bette's music, she had been so inspired by Bette's environmental activism that she made environmental law a focus of her studies. Bette looked pleased by Luzanne's adulation and announced that she wanted to fly her and a friend to Las Vegas, put them up at Caesars, and give them front-row tickets to her opening night. Luzanne screamed and clasped her hands over her face as if she had just been crowned Miss America.

After the Oprah taping, Luzanne asked if I'd be her guest since I was the one who sent her the "Are You Bette's Biggest Fan" link from Oprah's website. My boyfriend is obsessed with the Big O, and I've spent countless hours perusing her website trying to figure out a way for them to meet. Although I still haven't fulfilled my boyfriend's dreams, I was thrilled about the opportunity to see the Divine Miss M up close and personal.

My connection with Bette goes back to fifth grade, when our country was engaged in Desert Storm and Bette's "From a Distance" was the unofficial anthem for supporting the troops. Every Friday night during the war, when other Jewish families were lighting Shabbat candles, I made my parents stand in our darkened living room holding memorial candles while I sang an a cappella version of "From a Distance." I asserted to my uninterested family that patriotism was important, but the truth was that I just wanted an audience for the cabaret show I had been rehearsing in my bedroom. Eventually I got carried away, and when I tried to include a rendition of Bette's "Chapel of Love," my parents refused to participate in any more of my sham memorial services.

Three weeks after the Oprah taping, Luzanne and I arrived in Vegas on the day of Bette's opening show. While Luzanne spent the afternoon at the salon getting her hair and makeup done, I downed Red Bulls and ordered up a bottle of Dom Perignon for our pre-concert toast of gratitude to Ms. Winfrey.

When we arrived at the Colosseum an usher greeted us with a gift bag of Bette memorabilia and escorted us to our seats. As we walked toward the stage and I looked around the massive arena, I feared that our plane to Vegas had crashed and that I was in fact dead. While I'm no theologian, it seemed to me that when gay Jews die we surely will march through bronzed gates and be greeted by Bette Midler. After I made Luzanne pinch me, I decided I wasn't dead; I was incredibly lucky. Our seats were so remarkable that I if I stretched out my legs, the tips of my toes touched the stage. Additionally, seated a few rows behind us were Joey Fatone, Jennifer Coolidge, Christine Ebersole, Alan Thicke, Taye Diggs, and Idina Menzel. The celebrities actually had to look over our heads to see Bette.

The concert opened with "The Showgirl Must Go On" and featured rows of backup dancers and Bette is a shimmering suit that showcased her slim 62-year-old figure. From the opening note her voice wasn't just commanding; it was flawless. The crowd went wild, and I screamed and sang along as loud as anyone. In between songs she did some Borsht Belt-style comedy and quipped such memorable lines as "Thirty years ago my audiences were on drugs. Now they're on medication." She performed most of her classics, including "The Rose," "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," and my favorite, "Hello in There." She sang "When a Man Loves a Woman" with such impressive gusto that the crowd's standing ovation began before the song ended.

About an hour into the show, when Bette was dressed as Delores DeLago, her mermaid alter ego who zips around stage in an electric wheelchair, the champagne and Red Bulls hit my bladder. Although I didn't want to miss a moment of the performance, I was in such excruciating pain that I decided I had to run to the bathroom. During Bette's costume change I jumped out of my seat, and as I made my way to the aisle noticed that Taye Diggs was also heading to the restroom. Taye entered the men's room and went to the urinal closest to the door. The one next to him was unoccupied, and to my amusement, at the third urinal was Robin Leach from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Although there was a row of empty stalls behind me, I decided I had to pee in between Taye Diggs and Robin Leach. A better man in this situation would have fixed his eyes on the wall in front of him, but I am not that noble. Let me just say, Mazel tov, Idina Menzel. Your husband isn't just a pretty face!

When I returned to my seat, Bette was preparing for her final number. She ended the spectacular 90-minute show with "Wind Beneath My Wings," which not only brought the audience to its feet, it brought tears to the man seated next to me who had traveled by himself from Little Rock, Ark., to see Miss M on opening night. After the show ended a few of Bette's die-hard fans recognized Luzanne from Oprah and approached her for photographs. Luzanne and I, though, didn't want to get up from our seats; we weren't ready to accept that the magical experience was ending.

I've lived in Manhattan for the past five years and have seen countless impressive Broadway shows and concerts. Nothing I've experienced to date has been as extraordinary as Bette's Vegas performance. At 62 she can sing and dance live better than the pop stars I've seen 40 years her junior. Her show was powerful because it was evident that she was doing what she was born to do. Bette Midler is on this planet to sing, dance, and do some schmaltzy comedy, and that is what makes her utterly Divine.

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