‘Rock and roll girl’ brings Bette to MECC

Published: 16 Jul 2019

Catherine Alcorn produced the Divine Miss Bette show while working as a personal assistant on Channel 9’s Wide World of Sport.

When it was complete, she planned a showcase event, invited every agent in town and gave it everything she had.

“Not a single one of them came,” Alcorn said.  “But the public did – and they kept coming.

“Ten years later, we’ve toured the United States three times and played in some of the world’s most exotic locations – the Sydney Opera House, New York City, Los Angeles and Mackay.

“It’s been a dream come true.”

Cr Englert said Mackay was lucky to have secured Catherine Alcorn and her Divine Miss Bette show for this year’s festival.

He said the Festival Club event Alcorn was hosting this Saturday night (July 20) was the official G&S Engineering Wine and Food Day afterparty.

“We are decking out the MECC Halls with cabaret-inspired décor, putting on an amazing tapas menu and stocking up the bar ready for those revellers who want to kick on,” he said.

Alcorn said the show was produced to make the audiences feel like they were seeing Bette Midler live during her early career in the 1970s.

“I’ve always been drawn to Bette Midler because we have a likeminded attitude towards performing – we want our audience to not only be entertained, we want them to feel something,” she said.

“Bette’s shows were amazing, she could have the audiences laughing hysterically one minute and then crying the next.

“And her early shows were really wild – she told rude jokes, belted out classics like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and was dirty and funny and had kickass content. That’s what this show is all about.”

And while Alcorn says being a “rock and roll girl at heart” has a lot to do with why she chose Midler as inspiration, she actually has a very real connection to the American superstar.

“My vocal coach, Steve Ostrow (now in his 80s), discovered Bette Midler when he managed the gay bathhouse, The Continental Baths in New York City,” she said.

“It was a time when it was actually illegal to be gay, so Steve came up with the idea of putting on an act to lift the mood and take his patron’s minds off the police raids.

(According to Ostrow, the baths were raided more than 200 times).

“Bette Midler was that act, along with a pianist named Barry Manilow.

“Steve trained me as a classical singer – not to sing like Bette – but the stories he told me about her and how she used to interact with her band have definitely inspired me.”

Like Midler, Alcorn is blessed to be supported on stage by brilliant musicians.

“My band is amazing.  My bass player actually studied in Mackay at the Conservatorium of Music, so it’s a bit of a homecoming for him, and I’ve got an amazing Aria-award-winning drummer who worked with Katie Noonan.”

Festival Club kicks off Saturday, July 20, at 6.30pm and runs till 10pm. Tickets are available from themecc.com.au or the Box Office.

A body-positive entertainer

A brief meeting with an audience member at a piano bar on a night out lead Catherine Alcorn to becoming an advocate for positive body image and self-belief.

“A woman came up to me and said, ‘Don’t wear your gold dress anymore. My friend and I saw you tonight and you look 20 pounds lighter than in your show,” Alcorn said.

“In the past I probably would have cried, but I’ve done a lot of work on myself since then and I know I’m never going to look like what we are told we should look like and I’m still successful, and I rock that gold dress.”

After that night, Alcorn penned a heartfelt essay on positive body image and it struck a chord with readers, including past colleague Lisa Wilkinson.

“After writing the piece, Lisa contacted me and did a story on it.  I went on The Project and was then invited to speak at an International Women’s Day event in Noosa.  It was really empowering,” she said.

“There is an epidemic these days of people who don’t like what they see in the mirror because they feel like they are not living up to the expectations of society.

“Life’s too short to not love yourself.”

You can read the essay Rock-on Gold Dress Woman here: catherinealcorn.com/single-post