Bette Midler (born December 1, 1945) is an American singer, songwriter, actress, comedian, and film producer. In a career spanning almost half a century, Midler has won three Grammy Awards, four Golden Globes, three Emmy Awards, and a special Tony Award. She has sold over 35 million records worldwide and along with that has also received four Gold, three Platinum and three Multiplatinum albums by RIAA.
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Midler began her professional career in several Off-Off-Broadway plays prior to her engagements in Fiddler on the Roof and Salvation on Broadway in the late 1960s. She came to prominence in 1970 when she began singing in the Continental Baths, a local gay bathhouse, where she managed to build up a core following. Since then, she has released 13 studio albums as a solo artist. Throughout her career, many of her songs became hits on the record charts, including her renditions of “The Rose”, “Wind Beneath My Wings”, “Do You Want to Dance”, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, and “From a Distance”. In 2008, she signed a contract with Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to perform a series of shows titled Bette Midler: The Showgirl Must Go On, which ended in January 2010.
Midler made her motion picture debut in 1979 with The Rose, which earned her a Golden Globe for Best Actress. In the following years she starred in a string of hit films that includes Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Outrageous Fortune, Beaches, The First Wives Club, and The Stepford Wives, as well as For the Boys and Gypsy, the latter two of which she won two further Golden Globes.
Midler was born in Honolulu, Hawaii where hers was one of the few Jewish families in a mostly Asian neighborhood. Her mother, Ruth (née Schindel; b. 1916, New Jersey), was a seamstress and housewife, and her father, Fred Midler (b. 1912, New Jersey), worked at a Navy base in Hawaii as a painter, and was also a housepainter. She was named after actress Bette Davis, though Davis pronounced her first name in two syllables, and Midler uses one, She was raised in Aiea and attended Radford High School, in Honolulu. She was voted “Most Talkative” in the 1961 school Hoss Election, and “Most Dramatic” in her senior year (class of 1963). Midler majored in drama at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, but left after three semesters. She earned money in the 1966 film Hawaii as an extra, playing an uncredited seasick passenger named Miss David Buff.
Midler married artist Martin von Haselberg on December 16, 1984, about six weeks after their first meeting. Their daughter, Sophie Frederica Alohilani Von Haselberg, was born on November 14, 1986.
In 1991, Midler was an early sponsor of the Adopt-a-Highway, paying $2,000 a month for a crew to clean up a 2-mile section of the Ventura Freeway in Burbank, California. Signs at both ends of the section read “Litter Removal Next 2 Miles, Bette Midler.” The location was so prominent, it became fodder for her 1993 guest appearance on the Simpsons episode “Krusty Gets Kancelled”, where she is seen picking up trash along a stretch of highway she has adopted, and causes car crashes for drivers who deliberately litter. In 1995, she carried the same idea to the east coast, adopting a section of the Long Island Expressway and Bronx River Parkway.
Midler founded the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) in 1995, a non-profit organization with the goal of revitalizing neglected neighborhood parks in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods of New York City. These include Highbridge Park, Fort Washington Park, and Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan and Roberto Clemente State Park and Bridge Park in the Bronx.
When the city planned in 1991 to auction 114 community gardens for commercial development, Midler led a coalition of greening organizations to save them. NYRP took ownership of 60 of the most neglected plots. Today, Midler and her organization work with local volunteers and community groups to ensure that these gardens are kept safe, clean and vibrant. In 2003, Midler opened Swindler Cove Park, a new 5-acre (20,000 m2) public park on the Harlem River shore featuring specially designed educational facilities and the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse, the first community rowing facility to be built on the Harlem River in more than 100 years. The organization offers free in-school and after-school environmental education programming to students from high-poverty Title I schools.