In 1980 director Mark Rydell’s The Rose launched Bette Midler’s career in earnest and garnered five Golden Globe nominations, including two Globes for Middler and a Best Song Award for Amanda McBroom’s titular song. Amanda was born in Burbank, August 9, 1947, the daughter of film star of the 1940s David Bruce and a drama teacher. She was destined to follow in the family footsteps and she began acting at the age of 3. Writing songs was always a hobby for her as she worked as an actress in films and many TV shows until her late ‘20s. The Rose was a miracle waiting to happen.
The Rose is now a classic, but it’s a song that has no bridge and no hook, how did you write it?
I was driving down the Ventura Freeway, I was driving home to Woodland Hills, and this wonderful song came on the radio. Do you remember a song that Leo Sayer sang called “Magdalena”? A great songwriter named Danny O’Keefe wrote it. And the line that said, your love is like a razor, my heart is just a scar, which I thought was just the sexiest lyric I’d ever heard in my life. And as I was just driving I said, that’s really cool, but I don’t think love is like a razor. What do I think love is? And literally, some hands came down and pulled open the top of my head and these words just started pouring into my brain. I don’t know where…
You got nominated for a Golden Globe and you won?
I got nominated and I won! … I have to backspace a little bit before then because I wasn’t a songwriter per se. I was and am an actress and I had been writing little songs as a hobby for a while. And “The Rose” just was one that sort of appeared at a certain point. And I have a dear friend, a girl named Michelle Brourman who is now my pianist. And she said, there’s this movie coming out called The Rose and they’re looking for outsourced material. She was a professional songwriter. She said, do you want me to submit your song? And I said yes. I didn’t know about submitting songs. I had this little el cheese-o cassette here. I said here, take the cassette, and I didn’t expect anything more to come of it. And when they decided it was going to be in the film I was absolutely astounded.
I remember that at the time, Paul Rothchild, who worked with the Doors and Janis Joplin was the music supervisor for the movie and he had 3000 songs to choose from?
Yes. There was so much great outsourced material. But they weren’t so sure they wanted to use my song because they considered it a hymn and everything in the movie was rock and roll. But Paul Rothchild, bless his heart, just said, listen to this one again. And they listened to it and they decided that…it was between that one and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” as to what song they were going to use. I remember when I finally got to see the screening of it, I’m sitting there and I’m all excited, my god, the song I wrote is going to be in a movie. And the movie goes on and my song is nowhere. And I go, ha! the song has been cut. Oh, what am I going to do? The movie’s over, she’s dead, the credits are rolling, my song’s been cut. And everybody’s getting up and rustling their popcorn and then the piano starts, the little ding, ding, ding. And I thought, wait, what? And everybody stopped, sat down, listened to the song and started to cry. And the hairs stood up on the back of my neck and I said, something just happened here and I don’t know what this is?
And here comes the Golden Globe nomination?
And then when it got nominated for the Golden Globes, I had no idea what the music industry was all about. I didn’t know from writing for anything. So it was like I was thrown head first into the biggest swimming pool in the world. And when I was nominated for the Golden Globe I was beside myself. And then they said, and you’re going to sing it at the ceremony.
What do you remember of the Golden Globe in January 1980?
I remember the Golden Globes being probably the most astounding evening of my life. My husband, we were newly married at that time, said, we’re going to get a limo. We took a limo when we went to the Golden Globe. I bought a gown at Trashy Lingerie. And Suzanne Somers, who was supposed to present my award was wearing exactly the same dress and filling it out really better than I did. (Laughs) I remember that the two of us were beside ourselves laughing. And I remember very clearly I was also hyperventilating, because “The Rose” is a really hard song to sing when you’re nervous because it’s really slow and the notes go on for a long time and they’re really quite…when your heart is pounding into your vocal chords. But Debbie Reynolds walked up to me and grabbed my hands and she said, are you scared? And I said, yes. And she said, ok, this is what you’re going to do. She gave me like Lamaze breathing exercises just standing in the wings. And she calmed me right down. And I walked right out and I looked in the audience, and there’s a table with Bette Midler and there’s a table with Paul Newman and there’s the table with Kirk Douglas. There wasn’t anybody who wasn’t a legend in my heart, surrounding me on all sides. And I thought I was going to die. It was just…and they listened, which was astounding…because I was sure that everybody was just going to drink their wine and have their martinis and eat their supper and pay no attention, but everybody listened to the song. And that was an amazing experience for me.