"Camp taste is, above all, a mode of enjoyment, of appreciation - not judgment. Camp is generous."
- Susan Sontag, "Notes on Camp"
Herewith a Very Special Edition of SSCE, an old familiar treasure I was lucky enough to stumble upon this morning. It's one I suspect will be familiar to many a Gentle Reader, but it remains as wonderful the thirty-oddth time as it was all those years ago back in the summer of 1984. It's Bette Midler's epochal Art or Bust tour, seen in its full version (rather than the sadly trimmed hour-long HBO special that omitted, if memory serves, the incredible medley of "Broken Bicycles," "Everyone's Gone to the Moon," and "Here Comes the Flood"). It's all here - her swaggering "Pink Cadillac," the great bits of video from the Continental Baths and her breakthrough appearance on the AJC telethon, her Dolores DeLago disco marathon (in which the Harlettes prove they are troupers in every way), and finally a breathtaking "Stay with Me." It holds up.
Art or Bust came out just as I turned 21, and watching after very nearly three decades (and many, many viewings in the interim), it struck me how much it was part of shaping my taste, shaking me out of the solemnity of studying Art History and showing me that it was possible to take things - funny, sad, loud, mad - right to the edge and then that little bit beyond. We may none of us have the unstoppable momentum, the half-crazed inspiration, of the Divine Miss M. (I didn't then, and heaven knows don't have it today), but how lucky we are to bask in her glow, to draw on her energy - her extraordinary generosity as a performer - even now. If you've got a spare hour-and-a-half this Decoration Day weekend (for all you Statesiders), enjoy.