Bette Midler gave an interview in which she said she didn't understand why Gay men would want to get married. She went on to explain that she thought the great thing about being gay was that you could just go from partner to partner with no strings attached.
At the time, I was shocked that such an icon of the community would say something so cutting and devoid of understanding. But then I thought back to her roots with the community and sort of understood. At the time I wrote a blog post about the incident where I said: "Bette, you left the baths and became a 'legit' star. Too bad you didn't realize that your fans have also left the baths behind too."
That went over the heads of some of my readers who didn't know Bette's roots. See, Bette's first gigs were at the Continental Baths in NYC. The baths of course were the scene of the decade long sex party in the 1970's. It was also the breeding ground of AIDS when it hit in the late 70's. By the time people of my age came along the baths were long gone. Unless you knew older gays you probably weren't too aware of them.
The Baths were more than just places to hang out in a towel and turn tricks. They offered entertainment too and Bette was the star of them all. It launched her career and made her an icon in the community. Bette's millions are built on her start singing to gay men in towels.
So, in honor of that start, I have found a clip of her singing one of my favorite songs she does back in the days of the Continental Baths.
Here's Bette in 1971 at the Continental Baths in NYC singing "I Shall Be Released" and giving it her all just as she would do throughout her career.
Bette, I didn't see you live when I had a chance 4 weeks after your remarks about marriage. I swore to my brother that if I ever got a chance to see you live, I would move Heaven and Earth to do it, but I refused because you didn't know that we had grown up too. So here's a reminder of where you started. Are you the same person today that you were then, sweating through a set in a bath house? No and neither are we.