Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bette Midler's First TV Appearance

If you're lucky, there are a few times during a career in this business when you get to see a real star emerge for the first time. I've been lucky a couple of times.

The first time for me was late March 1970.

I saw and heard Bette Midler in the back of the Little Theatre with Budd Friedman, Karen Prettyman, Bob Carman audition for The David Frost Show.

Her accompanist was a skinny kid named Barry Manilow and she was there because Karen had seen her a few nights before singing at the Continental Baths on 10th Avenue

When the audition was over, we all sat in the back of the theatre eating french fries from Nathans. The date was set, April 7, 1970. Bette Midler was one step closer to becoming a star.

That was when she made her first national television appearance on The David Frost Show.

She was nervous. Although it's hard to imagine now, but she stood like a statue next to the piano and sang Chapel of Love. He voice was powerful, and the audience rose to their feet. It was an amazing debut.

She made three more appearances on the show on May 7th, June 1st and June 5th. Sometime after her first appearance, Bob Carman called The Tonight Show.

Bob was the dean of NY television talent producers, and had worked closely with Johnny Carson for years. Carson had actually worked much earlier in his career at The Little Theatre taping a show called Earn Your Vacation. No doubt that Bette Midler's talent got her on The Tonight Show, but it was Bob's call and a copy of her performance on The David Frost Show that sealed the deal.

While it's true that Johnny Carson and The Tonight Show launched her career, it always annoyed me a bit that I never heard her publicly give credit to Karen Prettyman and Bob Carman who gave her that first opportunity.

But I am glad I was in the studio that day to be among the first to see Bette Midler live.