Diva Variety

Naturally, a video followed, though Bassey was less than enthralled with the process. "Well, at first they mentioned it, but I didn't think anything would come of it," she quips. "So when I did do the video, my God, it was so hard. They are so long, and they take forever. I stood there from 1:00 p.m. until midnight in this dress that I couldn't lift up. I couldn't even go for a pee." But the black and white clip, featuring a sequined Bassey shimmying for the camera, launched the bombshell into a second career as an Yberdiva and gay icon, the latter of which, she's quick to downplay.

"Yes, everybody has been saying that I've taken over Judy Garland's role, but I don't like the way they go on about that." Bassey says her audiences are very mixed and doesn't want to dwell on stereotypical labels. "I'm not really complaining about it," she emphasizes. "I just think the press makes too much of it."

So now that audiences, gay and straight alike, have placed the singer in the diva category, how does Bassey greet such adulation? "Well, I'm really flattered by it. It's wonderful, because I always thought that divas were opera singers and temperamental and all that, which I am not. I don't go around demanding this and that." So never a Kathleen-battle with anyone? "No! No! No!" she answers tersely. "God no! I save that energy for my performances. I can't understand any of my contemporaries doing that, of the few that do, instead of concentrating on their performances."

In this day and age of envelope-pushing music making and blitzkrieg mass marketing, Bassey remains markedly unimpressed. "There's nobody I see on the horizon," she observes. "I don't know where [the industry] is going. It's disturbing." Like many industry veterans, Bassey believes there are too many Hansons and not enough Hoagy Carmichaels to choose from. "And the in-between," she adds. "This bothers me. Maybe things will come around again. Maybe there will be romantic singers again."

Shirley Bassey performs at 8:00 p.m. November 20, at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd, West Palm Beach; 561-832-7469. The show is sold out. She also appears at 8:00 p.m. November 23, at the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts, 1700 Washington Ave, Miami Beach; (305) 673-7300. Tickets are $35 and $50.

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