Judy Gold, Bette Midler and Hugh Hildesley at Bette Midler's "Hulaween" charity auction gala

NEW YORK - Every Halloween, the Divine Miss M pulls together an extraordinary party to benefit her New York Restoration Project, whose purpose is to create “a greener, more sustainable New York City.” Partnering with the New York City Parks Department in the Million Trees NYC initiative, Bette and her adoring fans have helped plant, and maintain, nearly 800,000 trees since 2007. At the cost of $100 per tree, this year’s gala helped make significant progress towards achieving the million-tree goal.

How does Bette do it?

Bette Midler and Hugh Hildesley

Hugh Hildesley, the guest auctioneer for the evening

Her recipe is spectacular. First, create a startling mis-en-scѐne, which in her case involves Hawaii, New Orleans and New York City. Next, create a pot-pourri of 800 New Yorkers, from the divine to the decadent and everything in between. Next, enclose them in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria, wearing costumes of their choice, loosely inspired by the theme of Halloween and interpreted in some of the most outlandish, bizarre and in some cases outright necrophiliac, over-the-top expressions of morbidity.

Onstage with Hugh Hildesley and Judy Gold 

Follow this with a parody singing of the Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein classic from Show Boat, “Can’t help Lovin’ Dat Man,” being sure to insult every major donor present by name. Add a professional auctioneer, whose job is to extract every last penny from the audience, with pledges from $100 to $25,000, while rewarding the top donors with the opportunity to greet Ms Midler on stage and get “Lei’d” – pun intended. Finally, engage Harry Connick, Jr and his band to set the crowd on fire with Jazz chestnuts from New Orleans.

Guest auctioneer Hugh Hildesley

Costumes were judged by none other than Michael Kors, who also received the “Wind Beneath My Wings Award” from Bette, for simply being himself as Michael Kors. Judy Gold, “comedienne extraordinaire,” acted as Mistress of Ceremonies, clad in an orange prison jumpsuit, while Mayor Michael Bloomberg was present to be toasted for being Michael Bloomberg, dressed as Michael Bloomberg.

The end result was a weird, exotic and memorable event, all to benefit this unique city in its unending ability to maintain an appropriate sense of humor about itself.

Bette Midler and Hugh Hildesley