Bette Midler is born in Honolulu, Hawaii

By the time she appeared as the final guest of Johnny Carson’s 30-year career on The Tonight Show and brought tears to the unflappable host’s eyes with an emotional performance of “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road),” she was an established star of stage and screen—a Tony winner, an Oscar nominee, a Grammy winner and a multimillion-selling recording artist. It would be difficult, however, to imagine a more unorthodox path to mainstream stardom than the one followed by Bette Midler—”The Divine Miss M”—who was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on this day in 1945.

Equal parts Judy Garland and Ethel Merman, Bette Midler early on set her sights on making it in New York City. Arriving in New York in 1965, Midler soon tried out for the national touring company of Fiddler On The Roof only to land the role of Tzeitel (and the job of singing “Matchmaker” eight times a week) in the Broadway production instead. After several years of singing in various Manhattan nightclubs on the side, she got what would prove to be the most important gig of her career, singing poolside nightly at the fabled Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse/cabaret in the basement of the Ansonia building on West 72nd Street in Manhattan. It was there, in collaboration with a young pianist named Barry Manilow, that she fully developed her “Divine Miss M” stage persona—a brash, campy interpreter of numbers ranging from “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “Leader Of The Pack” to “Superstar” and “Delta Dawn.” It was at the Continental Baths that Atlantic Records chief Ahmet Ertegun discovered Midler and signed her to record the album that made her a star: The Divine Miss M (1972). That album, which made an unlikely pop hit out of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (Billboard #8, June 1973), earned Midler the Best New Artist award at the 1973 Grammy Awards.

Though she would remain a beloved favorite of a significant fan base over the next decade or so, her only pop hit during that period was the theme song from the 1979 movie The Rose. In 1986, however, her flagging Hollywood career was revived by a comic turn in Paul Mazursky’s Down And Out In Beverly Hills. Two years later, she would earn a Record of the Year Grammy and her first and only #1 pop hit with “Wing Beneath My Wings,” from the 1988 movie Beaches, in which Midler co-starred alongside Barbara Hershey.


Defense presents its case in Hamptons murder trial

On this day in 2004, the defense for Daniel Pelosi, an electrician on trial for the killing of his girlfriend’s estranged husband, R. Theodore “Ted” Ammon, a wealthy investment banker, begins presenting its case in a Riverhead, New York, courtroom. Less than two weeks later, a more

Sergey Kirov murdered

Sergey Kirov, a leader of the Russian Revolution and a high-ranking member of the Politburo, is shot to death at his Leningrad office by Communist Party member Leonid Nikolayev, likely at the instigation of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Whatever Stalin’s precise role in the more

Rosa Parks ignites bus boycott

In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks is jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, a violation of the city’s racial segregation laws. The successful Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., followed more

Chunnel makes breakthrough

Shortly after 11 a.m. on December 1, 1990, 132 feet below the English Channel, workers drill an opening the size of a car through a wall of rock. This was no ordinary hole–it connected the two ends of an underwater tunnel linking Great Britain with the European mainland for the more

New state declared in the Balkans

Three weeks after the armistice, and on the same day that Allied troops cross into Germany for the first time, a new state is proclaimed in Belgrade, Serbia. As the great Austrian and German empires were brought low in defeat, the new “Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes” more

Situation in Cambodia worsens

In Cambodia, communist fighters renew their assaults on government positions, forcing the retreat of Cambodian government forces from Kompong Thmar and nearby Ba Ray, six miles northeast of Phnom Penh. Premier Lon Nol and his troops had been locked in a desperate battle with the more

Lee Trevino is born

Golfing legend Lee Trevino is born on this day in 1939, in Dallas, Texas. Growing up in a poor Mexican-American family, Trevino and his two sisters were raised by his mother and his grandfather in a house without electricity or indoor plumbing. Their home was located near a golf more

Elfego Baca battles Anglo cowboys

Elfego Baca, legendary defender of southwestern Hispanos, manages to hold off a gang of 80 cowboys who are determined to kill him. The trouble began the previous day, when Baca arrested Charles McCarthy, a cowboy who fired five shots at him in a Frisco (now Reserve), New Mexico, more

Students die in Chicago school fire

A fire at a grade school in Chicago kills 90 students on this day in 1958. The Our Lady of Angels School was operated by the Sisters of Charity in Chicago. In 1958, there were well over 1,200 students enrolled at the school, which occupied a large, old building. Unfortunately, more

Antarctica made a military-free continent

Twelve nations, including the United States and the Soviet Union, sign the Antarctica Treaty, which bans military activity and weapons testing on that continent. It was the first arms control agreement signed in the Cold War period. Since the 1800s a number of nations, including more

Lincoln’s State of the Union address

On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln addresses the U.S. Congress and speaks some of his most memorable words as he discusses the Northern war effort. Lincoln used the address to present a moderate message concerning his policy towards slavery. Just10 weeks before, he more