Role Models & Heroes: Bette Midler (2013)

By June 23, 2013 November 15th, 2018 Bnei Mitzvah, Heroes & Role Models
The following essay on Bette Midler was written by Georgia Dahill-Fuchel, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project; an example of this can be seen below. The process  improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as his/her self confidence and overall maturity.

Georgia Dahill-Fuchel
June 9, 2013

“role model” n.
A person who serves as a model in a particular behavioral or social role for another person to emulate.” For me, Bette Midler is a role model. We share some of the same values and interests, and I admire her for her charity work and accomplishments. Bette Midler is a triple threat. She is an amazing singer and actress, and of course during those two journeys, she has also danced. She is not known for dancing, but she has dance experience. Me, I am a dancer. I dance six days a week and have performed a number of times. I relate to Bette Midler because we both love sharing our different gifts with the world.

Bette Midler grew up in Hawaii with her parents and her siblings. Bette Midler was named after Bette Davis, however her mother spelled Bette wrong so now we know her to be Bette Midler.
As a teenager she went to Radford High school. In 1961, she was voted most talkative! She attended The University of Hawaii and majored in Drama, but only for three semesters. She did not graduate.

In 1966, Bette played an extra on a movie called “Hawaii” in which she had to play someone who was seasick. She relocated to New York City with the money she made from “Hawaii”. Unfortunately, New York did not have a friendly greeting for Bette; while performing, her sister Judith came to see her and was hit and killed by a taxi. This was a hard time for Bette. She remained in New York and continued developing her career.

Bette Midler is Jewish. She felt that Hawaii was an anti-Semitic place. Their family was the only Jewish family in her neighborhood. Growing up there, feeling like an outsider must have been difficult. Despite that stress, Bette Midler still seemed to do pretty well for herself. She does a fabulous Sophie Tucker impression for which she is quite famous. In fact, her own daughter is named after Sophie Tucker. Her daughter’s name is Sophie Frederica Alohilani von Haselberg. Bette Midler married Martin Von Haselberg in December 1984, and Sophie was born in November 1986. Sophie graduated from Yale in 2008 with a degree in Sociology. Not too shabby, I might say.
Bette Midler has had an amazing career singing, in movies, and on Broadway. Interestingly, the gay community helped her get her start as a singer. She was known for singing at the Continental Baths in New York City. She got a nickname singing there: Bathhouse Bette. It was a bathhouse where gay men went. This is where Bette Midler was discovered for her singing talents.

Many, many people adore her voice. Some of my favorite songs are: Wind Beneath my Wings, From a Distance, and Friends. These songs are beautiful and have a lot of meanings. I interpret From a Distance to be about setting your goal, and seeing where you are now, and realizing how to get there. In the song, she sings, “From a distance, there is harmony.” To me, that is saying that in the present there is no harmony, however, if you press the zoom out button and step back for a second, you can see that in the future, harmony can exist. In Wind Beneath my Wings, she sings “It must have been cold there in my shadow, to never have sunlight on your face.” That is the first line in the song. To me, this means that even if you are treated better than someone else or you are recognized more than that other person, the person who is not being recognized may mean a lot to you.

The amazing thing about abstract songs is that they create an opportunity for anyone to digest the lyrics and express what the song means to them. Bette Midler’s work is meant not only to listen to but also to inspire. When I listen to Wind Beneath My Wings, I start relating the lyrics to my life. I think about who is my hero in my life, rather than “wow, this music is pretty.” I think about if I am the wind beneath someone else’s wings, or who I am supporting, or is there someone I barely talk to who I have made an impact on?

Bette Midler’s first breakthrough movie role was as Janice Joplin in The Rose. However, the first role she ever played was Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway in 1965. She has also been in lots of movies; some of my favorite movies are Outrageous Fortune and First Wives Club, which are hilarious. Bette Midler is the exotic plump person she is in these movies and I love watching her in them.

Bette is an amazing performer. She has similar characteristics that she brings to most roles she plays. For instance, she walks a certain kind of way. A little bit like a pretty poodle. She speaks a certain way, with a kind of freedom and wildness. These small things make a big difference in her characters. They make her funny. The best word I can think of for Bette Midler is “exotic”: a foreign animal ready to pounce on opportunity for greatness. People say that both my brother and I have great presence on stage. While watching Bette Midler, I can definitely say that she has lots of presence.

Bette Midler supports gay rights and marriage equality, just like I do. I think anyone should be able to love who they want and marry who they want without anyone breathing down their neck all the time about it. Bette Midler actually wrote a very powerful letter to George Bush about marriage that is available on the Internet if anyone would like to read it.

Bette has done lots of charity work. She is most famous for founding the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) in 1995, and she still leads that organization today. The NYRP helps revive parks and places that need to be restored, for instance low-income areas. This is a very successful and effective organization. Bette Midler actually said, “I was so upset; I didn’t sleep for weeks… People were throwing their garbage out the window, leaving their lunches on the ground. Finally, I realized I needed to actually do something – even if it meant picking up trash with my own two hands.” Bette saw an opportunity and seized it.

Bette Midler and I share lots of characteristics. We are both Jewish, we perform, and both support gay rights and marriage equality, and probably more that I don’t even know about yet. She is an amazing actress, singer, mom, and more. She has done important charity work with the NYRP; also she has done some valuable AIDS work. She is my personal role model for all of these accomplishments.