Bette Midler | Lady Gaga | Music

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Bette Midler Blasts Lady Gaga For Mermaid Wheelchair Bit

MidlerDelago Lady Gaga caused some controversy during a concert in Sydney last week, when she rolled onto stage as a mermaid in a wheelchair.

Differently-abled activists were upset by Gaga's antics, and some demanded an apology, and may have been behind Gaga nearly getting egged while coming out of a gay bar this weekend.

Singer Bette Midler, however, has a different bone to pick: she took to Twitter to remind Gaga that she originated the Mermaid wheelchair bit over three decades ago.

I’m not sure @ladygaga knows that I’ve performed my mermaid in a wheelchair for millions of people -- and many of them are still alive," The Divine Ms. M wrote. "Dear @ladygaga if you think a mermaid in a wheelchair seems familiar-it's because it is!You can see it on youtube 24/7-with ME performing it"

She also remarked, "I've been doing singing mermaid in a wheelchair since 1980-You can keep the meat dress and the firecracker tits - mermaid's mine."

Midler forgot to mention that Kurt Cobain also used a wheelchair during a 1992 performance.

Watch Midler's Mermaid character, Delores Delago, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. The response from the majority of Gaga fans, "Who's Bette Midler!"

    Posted by: Hunter | Jul 17, 2011 11:58:58 PM


  2. @Hunter

    You are right. Most of Gaga's fans don't know who Better Midler is. But, since most of Gaga's biggest supporters are gay, we all have to start asking ourselves whether or not we are any longer that cultural vanguards we've been since we've been identified as a group. Once upon a time, gays would know about all kind of music: theatre, opera, pop, rock and everything in between. We didn't just know it; we created it, too.

    The point I tried to make with an earlier comment is that Lady Gaga is doing her little monsters a disservice by misleading them into thinking (and believing) that her ideas are original. She isn't inspiring her legion of adoring gay fans to go out and learn more about the sorts of music, pop culture an performance art that existed before she came. She gladly refers to herself as being a groundbreaking artist, but she's not done a single thing that can be called original. In the future, some of these very fans most meet a mentor who will teach them about gay pop culture, but they'll have a hard time believing that it wasn't their idol who came up with these ideas, but a team of stylists and visionaries who, to stay aboard the Gaga express, stole them from other artists.

    If Gaga has done one original thing, I wouldn't be surprised, but I haven't seen it. I'd like to ask, then, if some people on here can point to such things. I bet I can counter anything and show that any individual thing has been done by others, usually with more style and a bit of artistic integrity. And I also bet that, people will say that "everybody steals from other artists" or how the artists whose works are being and have been appropriated by Gaga lack "relevance" and, therefore, it doesn't really matter.

    The sad part of all of this is that her biggest fans aren't willing to consider that, before she was famous, she was a very plain looking girl who could sing and play a little bit of piano, but was a good songwriter. To get where she is, she sold out all of that. And when there was nothing else to sell, she started stealing from others. That is not what artists do. The reason that her fans are buying it, though, is because they aren't educated enough about what constitutes "art" and/or who makes it.

    Lady Gaga has talent. There is no denying it. I can admit that a thousand times over, since I was a fan for two years. After realizing that she is a sort of Queen of Homage, I couldn't be as goo goo as I had been in the past. Once more and more people learn that she lacks what was and still is in so many of those who came before her (and doesn't bring anything new to the table), they are going to find it hard to be so invested in following her every move. Understanding this, it is clear that the reason why so many people are so defensive of her is because they don't want to admit to themselves that they've invested time and energy in someone who doesn't necessarily deserve it.

    terryjackson1nyc@aol.com

    Posted by: TerryJackson1NYC | Jul 18, 2011 12:48:47 AM


  3. Gaga worships Bette, as should we all. Bette has been paving the way and has been our very strong ally since the seventies. She helped shape our gay heritage. Gaga knows this. So should all gay people who are alive today. Take five minutes, research it, and see all that Bette has done for us....and she means it when she says...."all of the people she started out with in show business, are now dead, because of AIDS".....she has been our idol, warrior, ally, and savior, not to mention one of the greatest American entertainers who has ever lived. God Bless you Bette.....there are millions of us who know you and "get" you girl. Eternal love...xoxo

    Posted by: anthony | Jul 18, 2011 3:10:08 AM


  4. Welcome, Bette, to one of life's harshest lessons. THere will always be someone younger than you who will either copy or out-do you.

    GET OVER IT !

    Posted by: Tre | Jul 18, 2011 3:43:07 AM


  5. Once in a while, some entertainers use other entertainers ideas, without giving credit to the originator. Lady Ga-Ga need not worry about her name. That happens to be the worst creative name in Showbiz! Sounds like a baby helped her.

    As for the Devine Miss Midler... She has more talent in her little toe or right tit then Lady Ga-Ga has in her repartee!

    Years ago, it was said of comedian Milton Berle,that when he was listening to a new comedian, that he laughed so hard, he dropped his pad of paper and pencil!

    Posted by: Jerry Pritikin aka The Bleacher Preacher | Jul 18, 2011 3:45:45 AM


  6. Yes, Bette 'did it first' (though I bet there were mermaids in wheelchairs of some ilk in vaudville or early Uncle Milty skits.. who knows.

    Would think BM would take it as a nice 'second coming' of her old stuff.. which has hit nice numbers on youtube now.

    Plus, worried about someone 'copying them'? Anyone paid attention to the music and movie industry... where they are remaking or re-booting or re-mixing stuff barely ten years old.. since the 'new fans' have not heard, seen, (or bought it) since it first came out.

    Get a life and stop bitching over the little things. Plenty of 'big things' to waste energy on.

    Posted by: NetsurferxQ | Jul 18, 2011 3:52:50 AM


  7. I always suspected Bette Midler was one of those legends that does not bow gracefully to the next generation and this just confirms it. It's really sad to this, especially when other legends like Cher have openly embraced the new generation of artists.

    I've never seen Lady Gaga bash another artist, young or old. Hell, this is a woman who wouldn't say an unkind word about Rebecca Black when prompted!

    Bette, your bit is 30 years old and Lady Gaga did something similar for the performance of ONE song during ONE concert in Australia. Get a grip.

    Posted by: Derrick | Jul 18, 2011 4:45:40 AM


  8. Re: "Disabled people protested because she was in a wheelchair"? I think they were disabled Mermaids who protested.

    Posted by: Rob West | Jul 18, 2011 7:49:40 AM


  9. I actually started the mermaid trend years ago after I found a mermaid costume in my local Salvation Army. I tried it on, it fit, and a friend brought me a wheelchair from the front of the store, and we wheeled around and had fun. Little did I know a certain Warhol Superstar was in audience looking for new rags. The rest is history.
    If that kid on glee with the wheel chair shows up in a mermaid outfit in an episode I'm really gonna be pissed!

    Posted by: kodiak | Jul 18, 2011 8:45:00 AM


  10. in other bland news...

    Posted by: jim morrissey | Jul 18, 2011 9:33:46 AM


  11. Who's Bette Midler?

    Posted by: Krypt0nian | Jul 18, 2011 9:35:31 AM


  12. What people seem to forget, is that if you were had acheieved fame of some sort , would you be happy to see someone using what you created w/o any nods to your creativity? If it's a 'homage' as some want to say, then why doesn't Lady Gaga say that when she comes out "Hey, Bette Midler orignally did this...."?

    She doesn't because then she wouldn't be called 'orignal', which she has proven, she is not.

    Posted by: JVG | Jul 18, 2011 9:52:49 AM


  13. Lady Gaga has/had her egg. Gee, I wonder where she got that idea? I wonder if she had seen Midler's 1977 television special:

    http://youtu.be/rolxQPogXqU

    It's all a tempest in a teapot. Everything old is new again... eventually. Both women are talented beyond my imagination. What they do off-stage has no bearing whatsoever on their stage performances.

    Posted by: Paul | Jul 18, 2011 10:11:12 AM


  14. I find it amusing when people comment on an article by suggesting the article isn't interesting. I couldn't imagine wasting my time commenting on something that isn't interesting. And I bet most of us feel that way.

    Also... more "who's Bette Midler" comments? Srsly? I weep for our future when gay people don't know a living legend. Anyway, let me tell you who Bette Midler is, aside from all of the hit songs, films, tours, awards and nominations. Bette Midler is the artist who created the style of tour that Madonna later perfected with her Blond Ambition '90 Tour. Yes, Bette Midler created the four-act "show" that has now overtaken all of pop music. But she did them live, without lip-syncing. That's who Bette Midler is.

    So, when you're watching your wannabes on HBO or live in an arena or stadium, make sure you remember that you aren't seeing anything new and that it has all been done before... bigger and better... by a woman with a stronger voice who can make an artistic point without having to go overboard (read as: pretentious) in the name of "originality." Oh. She actually has a sense of humor about herself, too, and it shows in her brilliant comedic timing that isn't wrought with ridiculous cries for attention from her fans/rubes.

    terryjackson1nyc@aol.com

    Posted by: TerryJackson1NYC | Jul 18, 2011 11:37:54 AM


  15. Sorry, but I think Bette has plumb lost her sh*t!! Instead of being flattered that Gaga was paying homage to her (even if uncredited, fans would have recognized the bit in a heartbeat!) she's acting all offended. Bette is the one who decided to 'clean up' her act when Sophie was born. She hasn't done anything outrageous in YEARS, so she should be grateful that Gaga is bringing her to the consciousness of younger fans. And as to the offended disabled folks....STFU!! Damned PC BS!

    Posted by: mykey716 | Jul 18, 2011 12:25:16 PM


  16. Oh Pahleeeeez Bette. Honestly honey. Artist borrow from people all the the Miss ROSE JOPLIN DUHHH!!!! You mad a fortune and a career ripping off Janis so STFU!!!! Maybe it's an homage to you and kurt and all those in wheel chairs. Get over yourself girrrrrrrl!

    Posted by: Mr. West | Jul 18, 2011 1:01:50 PM


  17. Yep, us damn uber-PC people who don't get the "joke" when someone uses wheelchair. Just like how most people here don't get the "joke" when some athlete, performer, or tycoon goes off on a homophobic rant. Oh wait, they're not the same, right? Likely because you don't know any disabled people.

    Try getting around in a wheelchair for a couple months and see how funny you think it is then. She could have descended on a rope, been carried out by her backup dancers, gotten on stage sitting on a rising platform or---most novel of all---had a mermaid costume that allowed her to walk.

    By the way, I wouldn't get too upset by the "Who's Bette Midler (or so and so)?" comments. I would assume that 98% of the time they're intended to deflate the silly debates we sometimes get into on the site. Anyone who makes that comment has access to Google, Wikipedia, and myriad other sources.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jul 18, 2011 1:31:57 PM


  18. @Mr. West

    You are right that artists borrow from people all the time. And you might be right about your opinion that Midler has been borrowing from Janis Joplin, but I don't see how that is true. Midler starred in a movie loosely based on Joplin's life. There are two songs that are still well known, "Stay" and "The Rose." She performs these regularly, but only one of those is similar in any way to the sort of music Joplin made. Joplin would NEVER have done a song like "The Rose." At any rate, that was a film role created by someone else and played by Midler.

    Perhaps Midler does need to get over herself. I don't think that's true. And perhaps she needs to let go of this issue. There are still some important that that are important enough to consider before rolling your eyes at this.

    Midler is just calling out Gaga on a very specific incident. Many artists let things like this slide, but after months and months of watching a new artist pilfer the work of other artists without being called out on it, Midler might have felt it an obligation on her part. How far this goes depends on if and how Gaga responds. If Gaga comes out and admits that is was an homage, we can let it slide. But she should know that people are aware of what she's been doing and, if she cares about her career and long-term impact on pop culture, she's going to have to do things differently.

    As talented as Lady Gaga is, she isn't just stealing the work of one person. She is stealing the work of any and everybody who has come before her. This isn't even a pattern in the chaos. THIS IS THE CHAOS ITSELF. The only thing that Gaga has managed to do is find new ways to cover her less-than-average face. But she's FINDING those ways, not creating them.

    If artists don't defend the work they do, then they mustn't consider the work important. Someone like Madonna can let go of Gaga's on-again/off-again references to her work because she creates many a new persona for each album and/or tour. Midler, however, plays Doris DeLago in every show she does. This is her thing. She is, of course, protective of this character. And since so many people are just letting these things go, Midler is being proactive, making sure that, in the future, should somebody come across one of her performances as a mermaid in a wheelchair, those people don't think that she's taken it from Gaga's growing list of one-off personas. She doesn't need Gaga cheapening what she's been doing for years. And nobody else who is a serious artist would, either.

    If you're ok with the world's most popular pop star du jour being called original without ever having created a single artistic presentation on her own, that's fine. But gay people used to demand something big, powerful and meaningful; why isn't that so anymore? Have we become so simple-minded that we believe an artist's PR?

    terryjackson1nyc@aol.com

    Posted by: TerryJackson1NYC | Jul 18, 2011 1:41:53 PM


  19. If GaGa means it to be a homage then she needs to give a shout out to Bette Midler during the act. GaGa is touted as being original and unique, but its looking more like she is just recycling other performers songs/bits.

    Posted by: lah | Jul 18, 2011 2:08:25 PM


  20. I don't read Bette as being bitter, but as someone setting the record straight about her iconic act (Delores Delago, the toast of Chicago!) and the fact that GaGa rips it off without acknowledging that another star did it first (and better).

    I like GaGa and love the hats, really. But we keep excusing her blatant "borrowing" from other artists as "homage." I'm not buying it.

    Mark S. King
    MyFabulousDisease.com

    Posted by: Mark S. King | Jul 18, 2011 3:41:30 PM


  21. Dunno why Midler is accusing Lady Gaga of "stealing" her mermaid in a wheelchair idea from her when Midler "stole" the mermaid in a wheelchair idea from the 1948 mermaid movie "Miranda".

    Posted by: C Nault | Jul 19, 2011 1:18:02 PM


  22. @C Nault

    The idea of a mermaid in a wheelchair might not have been new when Bette first did it. However, what Bette did was to take a bit and make it into something bigger and grander. Bette was playing a character (from the mid-late '70s, not just starting in 1980, as one of her tweets suggested), Doloris DeLago. This woman was a mermaid, but she was also a cabaret artist who had back-up mermaid performers in wheelchairs doing choreography fit to a specific four or five-song theme, which varied in each and every tour for almost four decades. That's longer than Gaga has been alive.

    The question of whether or not Bette was original when she worked on this idea is neither here nor there. What Bette did was to define and refine this character, which is something Gaga knows nothing about, since she constantly moves from one image to another, barely making an impression on an audience. You see, there is no such thing as refinement where Gaga is concerned. And this can be proven by the fact that the very least-defined character in Gaga's oeuvre is Staphanie Germanotta, about whom most people know nothing (including her having grown up privileged and having been pre-fabricated in the months prior to her debut album release).

    Again, Bette Midler isn't so concerned that someone would borrow something of hers. What Better Midler is most likely concerned about is that she has been making Dolores DeLago a more and more thoroughly constructed character over the course of an entire career. What she seems most concerned about is not that it was "stolen," but that is was cheapened in a one-off performance by someone who has no intention of giving Bette credit or enlightening her audience as to where her inspiration came from.

    terryjackson1nyc@aol.com

    Posted by: TerryJackson1NYC | Jul 20, 2011 12:34:04 PM


  23. Whatever happened to "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"? Paying props to the ones that came before you is recognition of greatness. Some old bitches just need to STFU, and get a clue. "There's nothing you can do that can't done."-John Lennon-All You Need Is Love

    Posted by: BEAU | Aug 3, 2011 12:00:51 PM


  24. Gaga stealing others material!

    Posted by: Enginer | Nov 12, 2011 5:40:14 AM


  25. :)

    Posted by: Enginer | Nov 12, 2011 5:45:52 AM


  26. « | 1 2 3 4 »

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