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Best Bette (Hulaween)

By Liz Smith
New York Daily News
Wednesday, November 1, 2006

BETTE MIDLER’S ANNUAL “Hulaween” fund-raiser for her New York’s Restoration Project Tuesday night was another triumph for Bette Midler who raised an incredible $2 million for the work that keeps New York City No. 1 in the world. Almost without exception, every person who crammed into the Waldorf’s ballroom was in costume. The “Hulaween” event is always kind of loosey-goosey, but this year it was a very “downtown” happening, as if Webster Hall had moved into the gilt and glitter of midtown. The costumes were fabulously inventive, colorful and some of them quite wicked. (There was one girl wearing a sequined T-shirt that said “Mrs. Ritchie.” She carried an African doll in a bundle slung across her arm. The photographers went wild for her.) Bette appeared as a goddess of nature with what seemed to be a large dangling fern headpiece. (But Bette later explained it was a faucet.) Joy Behar, her co-auctioneer, was Queen Elizabeth II. (Harvey Fierstein said she looked more like Golda Meir or Leona Helmsley.) The auction was fast, furious and fabulously vulgar. Bette did her level best to get those big bucks. And Bette is so persuasive talking about her wish to make the city a lovely, welcoming environment, not only of steel, glass and concrete, but of trees and grass — well, you want to go right out and plant a sapling. Bette says her own goal is to plant “a million trees” in New York. Costumed celebs included Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart, Michael Kors, Danny Aiello, Lee Daniels, Anne Hathaway. Willie Nelson was honored for his founding of Farm Aid. He and Bette sang an exquisite “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Then, Willie sang some more — perhaps more than expected. Stevie Nicks was waiting to take the stage. All I can say is it was worth the wait. The audience went berserk as she appeared, swelling voluptuously out of a black lace dress over four-inch black leather boots. Her voice, one of the most distinctive in rock’n’roll, was rich and full. As Nicks went into her famous trademark “twirl,” the crowd yelled loud enough to be heard out on Park Avenue. Forty minutes later when she finished, the room was on its feet and Bette herself was rocking out. It was funny, campy and thanks to Stevie, enjoyably sweaty.

P.S. ON Stevie Nicks. This iconic, somewhat mysterious performer, spends time these days visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reade Hospital. She gives presence, support and iPods filled with great music as well. Asked about this, she blushes and brushes it off: “They’re great guys — and gals. No matter what you think about the war, it’s the least anybody can do, right?” Right.

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