07/31/2013 03:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Bette Midler Hosts a Lunch for Twenty Feet from Stardom

Now prominent among music legends, Bette Midler reminisces about her stint as a Harlette back in the day in the much celebrated documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom. Along with Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, she acknowledges the mega talent of the backup singers--now famously Merry Clayton, Judith Hill-- who make the superstar performers look and sound even greater. Having made the twenty foot leap herself, Bette Midler was perfect for this job: in an inspired moment Peggy Siegal who has a genius for these connections, asked her, superb in her one-woman run as Sue Mengers on Broadway, to front, ah, host a special lunch on Monday, in celebration of this, perhaps the most successful documentary of the year. At the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, in a dining room overlooking Central Park, guests Bernadette Peters, Susan Sarandon, Julie Taymor, Celia Weston, Dan Hedaya, Albert Maysles chatted about the making of documentary films, meeting Prince for the first time, and Ava Gardner's memoirs.


Director Morgan Neville suggested that his film unexpectedly resonates for those who work passionately, whether or not they achieve fame: We're all back up singers. Then Lisa Fischer took the stage singing a soulful, "Breath of Heaven," followed by the core of the movie, Darlene Love, who gave up singing to clean houses for a living because her contract with Phil Spector allowed him to obscure her name on music that she made. ove was not credited for her vocals on a famed 1963 Christmas compilation album. Love told a story about Bette Midler calling her after her heart attack, mimicking her exhortation, what do mean you had a heart attack? She then took the roof down with the movie's signature "Lean on Me." Yeow! That's what friends are for.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.