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Sunday
Jul152012

Donna Maxon: Bette & Barry Back to the Bathhouse Interview

Donna Maxon as "Bette Midler", Photo Credit: Kelly WilliamsDonna Maxon has been known for over 20 years as one of the world's foremost Bette Midler tribute artists.Donna has appeared on numerous television shows including "Saturday Night Live," The Wayne Brady Show," "Celebrity Apprentice,"and "One Life to Live" and continues to perform in such celebrated venues as the Borgata, Trump's, Harrah's, and Foxwoods. In addition to her work as a performer Donna is an author and activist, and is currently serving as president of the Council on the Arts and Humanities of Staten Island.

Now, Donna revisits the glorious 70's with her new cabaret show BETTE & BARRY: BACK TO THE BATHHOUSE co-written by Donna and director Michael Schiralli. Donna stars as "The Divine Miss M," performing a hilariously bawdy act of tunes, monologues, and jokes. The show co-stars musical director Fonda Feingold as "Barry Manilow," and the duo proudly pays homage to the partnership that Midler and Manilow began at New York's Continental Baths in 1970.

BETTE & BARRY: BACK TO THE BATHHOUSE runs Wednesdays, August 1 and 15 at 7:30 PM at the Laurie Beechman Theatre inside West Bank Cafe (407 West 42 Street at 9th Avenue). Tickets are $20 witha $15 per person food/drink minimum. To purchase tickets call 212-352-3101 or visit www.SpinCycleNYC.com.

For more on Donna be sure to visit http://www.donnamaxon.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My uncanny resemblance to the Divine Miss M. Show biz happened to me and it has been a wonderful surprise career! If you told me that I would be doing this work, I would never have believed you. Life deals you cards and its best to play the hand you're dealt. Being born looking just like Bette Midler is a Royal Flush!

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Jenny Craig! I've been on the Jenny Craig weight loss program and have had much success. I hope to meet Jenny and thank her. And hopefully help motivate other people to have success. See the film:

3. For the past 20 years, you have been known as one of the world's foremost Bette Midler tribute artists. What do you identify most with about Ms. Midler that made you want to create a career paying tribute to her? I identify and admire Ms. Midler's passion as an advocate for the environment. And I have, and will continue to support her organization, the New York Restoration Project.

I am an advocate for many causes too. I am the Board President of the Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island, I volunteer as the Parent Advocate for the Human Rights Committee of Eden 2, I am on the Advisory Board of the Staten Island Business People and serve on the Special Needs Committee for the JCC. I speak out for people with disabilities, like my own 20 year old son who is autistic. My most important accomplishment was co-founding the NY Child Learning Institute, a school that services children with autism. Community and family is very important to me, as it is to Bette Midler.

4. What did it mean to you to have the opportunity to meet Ms.Midler in person? Meeting Bette Midler has been a wonderful gift. The first time I met her was on the set of, "Outrageous Fortune," in 1987. She remarked to me, "Girl, you have a career!" And with those words, she predicted my future. At that time, I was a manager for Citibank and had no idea that this sort of career was possible. Since then, I've met her a variety of charity events that I've attended as a guest or volunteered a performance for. I'm proud to call myself a Bettehead, meaning I am one of Ms. Midler's devoted fans...I think she is very beautiful and amazingly talented and feel so lucky to have been given this gift!

Donna Maxon as "Bette Midler", Photo Credit: Kelly Williams5. You are bringing your show "Bette & Barry: Back To The Bathhouse"(co-written with Michael Schirall and co-starring Fonda Feingold as "Barry Manilow") to the Laurie Beechman Theatre this August. What made you want to create a show that reunites Bette Midler and Barry Manilow for "one more show, for old times sake" at the legendary Continental Bathhouse? What was the best part about creating this show? What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I am not the first Bette Midler tribute artist to explore the theme of Bette and Barry. But I believe I am the first to set the scene in the Bathhouse, which is the period I find most interesting. I can't help myself; I love dirty jokes! And the bathhouse, gives me the ability to do all the Sophie Tucker stuff and all the old tunes, that I love the best.

The best part of creating the show is working with Michael Schiralli, who co-wrote and directs the show and Fonda Feingold, who plays "Barry Manilow" and is the musical director, too.

Regarding the audience, I'm surprised to learn how many people are unaware of the partnership that has existed between Bette and Barry over the decades. I include original monologues that tells some of the story of their work together. I have been receiving a lot of positive feedback from audience members regarding the historic information that is provided in the show.

6. What made you want to bring the show to The Laurie Beechman Theatre? I've seen so many great shows at the Laurie Beechman Theater, "Boylesque" and David Drake's recent show, "My Tawny Valentine" to name a couple. I'm honored to be invited to perform there. I also am thrilled to be working through SpinCycleNYC, which brings so many connections and positive energy. Chip and Ron have been great to work with and I look forward to doing many projects with them. I'm a lucky diva!

7. What has been the best part about working with Michael and Fonda? Michael and Fonda are both tremendously talented and are old friends. I've been working with Michael for several years on other cabaret shows. He is my coach, co-writer, director, advisor and friend. More recently I met Fonda, at the local dog park. Fonda and I both have rescue dogs and the dogs became good friends. The dogs introduced us! (Another reason to adopt a shelter dog; you meet nice people!!) When Fonda and I got to chatting, we realized that we both are in the entertainment industry. I downloaded some of her music and was so amazed by her talent that I mentioned her name to Michael. Michael told me that he and Fonda were old friends! And thus our threesome was born! The world is a small place...

8. In addition to being a performer, you dedicate much of your time to various causes. One of them being autism. You and your husband are one of the founders of the NY Child Learning Institute, a school for children with autism. What made you want to start this school? What has it meant to you to have this school be such a success? My most important achievement was co-founding the NY Child Learning Institute, NY state's premiere school for children with autism. My husband and I and seven families opened this school in 1994. At that time, my younger son, Donald, was just two years old and had been recently diagnosed with autism. I remain active with the Institute as well as volunteer as parent advocate for the Human Rights Committee of Eden 2. The NY Child Learning Institute has helped so many children and their families and will live on long after I'm gone. I'm very proud to have been a part of making it happen.

I also serve as Board President of the Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island. Being a parent of a disabled child, I have tremendous compassion for people and find it hard to say no when I'm asked to help out. I'll be emceeing a Bachelor Auction in October for Gilda's Club, which works with cancer patients. I did a benefit over Memorial Day for the Children's Miracle Network, which helps terminally ill children and their families.

9. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? I've learned that persistence and desire are the most important traits...more important then natural talent. This career came late in life to me. I was a Human Resources Manager for a bank, with a degree in Psychology; I was not on this path and I wasnt born a singer, I didn't study acting...but through persistence and desire, I have been able to accomplish so much. Also, having wonderful teachers and coaches who inspired me!

10. What's the best advice you've ever received? Become your own entertainment center! Have a sense of humor and laugh every day....and try to make others laugh because when you make some else smile, you feel good too. And thats what my work is about....spreading joy. I'm not interested in being perfect; I'm interested in reaching and connecting with my audience to take them away from their troubles and daily life and transport them into my world of music and fun...

11. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? My dad, Donald Maxon, who passed away when I was nine months pregnant with my son, Donald. My father would be so proud to see me performing at this level. My dad was handsome, successful...and loved a good joke! He'd be proud to see that I am a devoted mother, wife, daughter and human being...I miss him everyday.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

12. Favorite way to stay in shape? Walking with my dogs in the park or at the beach.

13. Favorite skin care product? As a hair model for Loreal, I have gotten turn onto Lancome's line of skin care products. They have some great anti-aging creams and serums.

14. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The power to heal...especially those with autism...especially my son, Donald, who cannot speak. I'm here to speak for him and those like him, that have no voice.

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    "Call Me Adam" chats with Bette Midler tribute artist Donna Maxon about her new show "Bette & Barry: Back to the Bathouse" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC on August 1 and 15, what The Divine Miss M means to her, autism and other charities close to her heart, as well as other details of her life and career!
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