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Best Bette

BETTE MIDLER’S ANNUAL “Hulaween” fund-raiser for her New York’s Restoration Project Tuesday night was another triumph for Bette Midler who raised an incredible $2 million for the work that keeps New York City No. 1 in the world. Almost without exception, every person who crammed into the Waldorf’s ballroom was in costume. The “Hulaween” event is always kind of loosey-goosey, but this year it was a very “downtown” happening, as if Webster Hall had moved into the gilt and glitter of midtown. The costumes were fabulously inventive, colorful and some of them quite wicked. (There was one girl wearing a sequined T-shirt that said “Mrs. Ritchie.” She carried an African doll in a bundle slung across her arm. The photographers went wild for her.) Bette appeared as a goddess of nature with what seemed to be a large dangling fern headpiece. (But Bette later explained it was a faucet.) Joy Behar, her co-auctioneer, was Queen Elizabeth II. (Harvey Fierstein said she looked more like Golda Meir or Leona Helmsley.) The auction was fast, furious and fabulously vulgar. Bette did her level best to get those big bucks. And Bette is so persuasive talking about her wish to make the city a lovely, welcoming environment, not only of steel, glass and concrete, but of trees and grass — well, you want to go right out and plant a sapling. Bette says her own goal is to plant “a million trees” in New York. Costumed celebs included Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart, Michael Kors, Danny Aiello, Lee Daniels, Anne Hathaway. Willie Nelson was honored for his founding of Farm Aid. He and Bette sang an exquisite “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Then, Willie sang some more — perhaps more than expected. Stevie Nicks was waiting to take the stage. All I can say is it was worth the wait. The audience went berserk as she appeared, swelling voluptuously out of a black lace dress over four-inch black leather boots. Her voice, one of the most distinctive in rock’n’roll, was rich and full. As Nicks went into her famous trademark “twirl,” the crowd yelled loud enough to be heard out on Park Avenue. Forty minutes later when she finished, the room was on its feet and Bette herself was rocking out. It was funny, campy and thanks to Stevie, enjoyably sweaty.

P.S. ON Stevie Nicks. This iconic, somewhat mysterious performer, spends time these days visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reade Hospital. She gives presence, support and iPods filled with great music as well. Asked about this, she blushes and brushes it off: “They’re great guys — and gals. No matter what you think about the war, it’s the least anybody can do, right?” Right.

OVER COFFEE in her new Manhattan apartment, Angela Lansbury quipped: “I’ve been Mame Dennis, Mama Rose and Mrs. Lovett — why not Dorothy Parker?” And now she will be for one night only on Sunday. Angela, Boyd Gaines, Harriet Harris, Lisa Banes and Lynn Collins will be onstage at the Schoenfeld Theater reading “This is Me, An Evening of Dorothy Parker,” adapted by Tom Fontana, directed by Warner Shook. John Houseman, Ms. Lansbury’s longtime pal, founded the Acting Company in 1972, along with artistic director Margot Harley. The Company benefits from the evening and a supper after. Call 212-2396200 or 212-2583111. … This year’s Michael J. Fox Foundation gala at the Waldorf Astoria on Nov. 11 is presciently titled, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson’s…” I’ll say. Thanks to Michael’s stunningly effective campaign ad in the matter of stem cell research, and Rush Limbaugh’s crude mocking of same, Parkinson’s has a super-high profile now. This will be quite a night. Martin Scorsese and Muhammad Ali co-chair the event. Sheryl Crow and Rob Thomas perform. Call 212-245-6570 for tickets.

WENT TO a Saturday matinee of “The Drowsy Chaperone” thinking maybe it wasn’t as entertaining as I’d originally thought. Well, it is. I had forgotten how hilarious the “monkey” number is, the out-of-place Chinese extravaganza, the Liza Minnelli impersonation by the “chaperone” Beth Leavel — she took the Tony for this — the acrobatic dazzle of Sutton Foster. (Foster won a Tony for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” a few seasons back, and her energy remains a wonder.) There is also the musical number with leading man Troy Britton Johnson on roller skates, the love antics of “Aldolpho” — Danny Burstein, and also the charm of the narrator, played by the show’s co-creator Bob Martin. Don’t miss “Drowsy Chaperone.” Believe me, you won’t doze off.

(Email Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com)

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