Forty years ago, Bette Midler made her proper film debut in the Janis Joplin-inspired classic The Rose, letting the world know her indelible ferocity extended well past the microphone and translated beautifully into the realm of 35mm. Though the powerhouse performer lost the Academy Award to Sally Field for Norma Rae, in the spring of 2019, she earned something arguably better (and certainly more alive) -- her own damn flower.
“I didn’t win the Oscar for [The Rose],” Midler mused at a Wednesday (June 19) night charity gala at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. “Of course, I never think about it. But I do want to say right now, there’s no Norma Rae rose.”
Yes, The Divine Miss M is no longer simply the name of her stage persona and one of the greatest debut albums of the 20th century -- it’s a real, living, breathing rose created specifically in honor of Midler. Who needs Oscar gold when you have your own yellow rose, right?
The Hawaii-born performer moved to NYC in the ‘60s and went on to start the New York Restoration Project in 1995, a nonprofit that renovates and restores neglected NYC parks -- and last night, it raised nearly $1 million to ensure green space for all New Yorkers.
The flower -- which you can see in the Botanical Garden’s rose garden, and which will go on sale to the public in 2020, with proceeds going to the New York Restoration Project in perpetuity -- is robust, sharp and stands out in a crowd... sound familiar?
When she took the stage to address the honor of someone splicing two different roses together to create her own hybrid flower, Midler told the intimate group of donors and supporters she felt “thrilled and embarrassed all at the same time.” At least, until the mastermind behind the Divine Miss M Rose took the stage and revealed her flower was propagated by combining the John Paul II rose (the father flower) and the Sunny Sky rose (the mother flower).
“John Paul II?” Midler retched to the audience. “I quit.”
At the very least, she signed off on her floral mama: “She sounds like a pisser,” Midler said of Sunny Sky, wondering what led to the flower bed becoming a marriage bed: “Do they go on dates? Did they go for drinks?”
Midler, who clarified she “really [was] unbelievably honored” to get her own rose (“I knew Dolly had one,” she deadpanned to the crowd), lead the audience in a sing-along of rose-related standards before the dinner gala was over. Opening with a rewrite of Lynn Anderson’s 1970 hit “Rose Garden,” Midler segued into one of her signature songs, “The Rose,” before wrapping with “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” which found Bette shimmying around the stage while the audience belted along to the Gypsy tune with gusto.
Prior to Midler’s crowd-pleasing sing-along, Candice Bergen (or “Candy,” which you can call her if you’re Midler) read a cheeky poem that shouted-out the various donors who support NYRP, and comedian Bonnie McFarlane riffed on the occasional hypocrisy of the socially-minded set with jokes about wondering how to help the planet while enjoying hour-long showers and earning the right to litter by avoiding plastic straws.
You can see Midler’s floral glory at the New York Botanical Garden and check out the New York Restoration Project to, in Midler’s words, “lift spirits, bring down crime and show communities they matter.”