Bette Midler's Mondo Beyondo HBO/pay cable, Saturday 10-11 p.m.; repeated March 23, 27, 29, and April 1, 7; check local listings. Star: Bette Midler. Producer: Fred Berner. Director: Thomas Schlamme. Public-access TV may never recover from the trashing it receives from the Divine (but Trashy) Miss M in her new HBO special this weekend.
Impersonating the hostess of a local pay-your-own-way cable variety show, outrageous Bette Midler, in the character of Mme. Mondo Beyondo, plays MC to a wide variety of way-out performance artists who put on their own sensational display of innovative talents.
While Mondo Beyondo crassly babbles on, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas drum their way around New York City. And that's just for starters.
Bill Irwin creates some unexpected mime dances.
Paul Zaloom eats his way through a garbage dump.
Pat Oleszko dresses in everything she possesses and heads for Coney Island to escape nuclear warfare.
David Cale takes an eye-opening transatlantic plane journey.
La La La Human Steps make dancing in a swimming pool a fabulous adventure.
The Kipper Kids fight their private wars with shaving cream and Spaghetti-O's.
And it all happens on tape.
Meantime, telephones ring in the background, and Midler chats with her off-screen cameraman, who finds it difficult to keep her in focus and on screen.
She tells impossible stories, extols the virtues of wheat grass, presents a new musical talent, Eudora P. Quickly, who may be recognized as Bette Midler in her own version of drag.
The avant-garde vaudeville show Midler introduces is a superbly sophisticated mix of unique entertainment. But Midler/Beyondo is tasteless, vulgar, garish, irrepressible, shamelessly Midleresque - in short, hilarious.
``Mondo Beyondo'' is beyondo belief.
Arthur Unger is the Monitor's television critic.