By Meredith Berkman
Updated June 30, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

It’s really a shame that George Mair’s Bette is virtually unreadable. Bette Midler, the subject of this poorly written biography, is, in fact, a fairly compelling woman who has balanced a colorful life with a very strong (though uneven) career. Growing up in Hawaii in the 1950s, Midler — born into one of the area’s few Jewish families — believed she was a social and cultural outcast, feelings that led her to show business. In the 1970s, she fell under the spell of Svengali-like manager Aaron Russo, who was a factor in her brush with emotional destruction. In the ’80s, she married Martin von Haselberg, an avant-garde performance artist with whom she had a daughter, Sophie. In each era, Midler, now 49, remained fiercely protective of her remarkably distinctive and potent talent. To its credit, Bette is crammed with anecdotes and quotes from some of Midler’s old friends and colleagues (some of the reporting is culled from previously published books and profiles). But the book feels much more like an unsophisticated high school project than a subtly crafted celebrity biography; the Divine Miss M deserves much better. D


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