VIP Bette Midler

Bette Midler (b. December 1, 1945)

Bette Midler was performing on Broadway in Fiddler on the Roof when her sister died, sending the young performer into a more self-expressive career. She honed her beautifully ranchy "Divine Miss M" persona at gay baths in New York, and soon was a hit with her "Clams on the Half Shell" revue (pictured).

Taking her show on the road, Midler performed her cover of the 1934 Arthur Johnston/Sam Coslow tune "[Sweet] Marihuana," feigning hallucinations as she danced with two "Doobie Brothers." (The song is on her "Songs for the New Depression" album). "In the '70s, Midler's self-professed fondness for marijuana was legendary and unashamed, as was her objection to its criminalised status," wrote Australia's The Age.

Midler famously planned to put a joint underneath every seat of the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in Los Angeles for her New Year's Eve show in 1975/76, to celebrate California's pending decriminalization law. Her staff had purportedly rolled 1800 joints before word leaked out and she was talked out of the magic moment by her lawyers and the LA district attorney. Instead she dropped her top at midnight. (California did enact decrim on January 1, 1976, saving the state $1 billion in the next decade.)

On February 15, 1976 Midler bailed seven members of her touring entourage out of jail after they were arrested on cocaine and marijuana possession charges. Two days later, she accepted the Harvard Hasty Pudding award before opening for five nights at Boston’s Orpheum on a tour that ended wth a five-day run at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. (She was recently back in Vegas in "The Showgirl Must Go On.")

In advance of her Emmy-winning TV special 1977, TV Guide wrote a feature article on a toned-down Midler that ended, "Even her dad ought to be able to watch her perform this time." A career in Disney films followed, as well as the tragically overlooked "For the Boys" (1991) where Midler shows some of her indomitable spirit. Admired for her witty performances and appearances on the Grammys (with a gold record in her hair) and the Golden Globes ("I'll show you a pair..."), in 1992 Midler seranaded Johnny Carson on his last Tonight Show.

Though she said in 2005 that she hasn't smoked pot in 25 years, Bette shamanically imbibes cannabis on film as Mel Gibson's psychotherapist in "What Women Want" (2000)--but you won't see that part of the scene on TNT, where it is censored. In 2008's "The Women," Meg Ryan discovers her husband is cheating on her, and goes to a yoga retreat where she encounters Midler -- who has procured a joint. Though Meg does imbibe in the movie proper, you'll have to go to the deleted scenes on the DVD to hear her saying "I'm really stoned." After this scene, her character finds her way to her own center.

"The Women" is a re-make of a play by Clare Booth Luce, wife of Time Inc. founder Henry Luce. The Luces admittedly tried LSD, and thought it was great, but wasn't for the masses. In the 1939 movie based on the play, one character, played by Marjorie Main, often exclaims, "Smokin' Oakum!" Oakum is made of the small fibers of the hemp plant and used to plug holes in the planks of ships.

In 2013, Midler was a hit in her one-woman show "I'll Eat You Last" playing the pot-loving superagent Sue Mengers. After a successful run on broadway, she played Mengers to sold-out shows in Los Angeles and regaled Jay Leno with tales of her past pot use and Sue's too. Bette has been tweeting about marijuana, too.

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