KMB II: Detroit Interview (Thanks Tiffany!)

November 5, 2004
Oakland Press, Oakland County, Michigan.
On Bette Midler’s large-scale tour, the ‘full meal’ is offering brass and sass

Bette Midler is back on the road this fall for one simple reason – to stay out of her daughter’s hair.

Sophie, Midler’s only child with husband Martin von Haselberg, is a freshman at college this year. Given her maternal druthers, says the Divine Miss M, “I just want to rush in there. I’m one of those helicopter parents that’s hovering, you know? She’s in a little tiny room in the top bunk with one little window and a lot of noise outside. It’s hard for her to sleep. I just feel like I should be there …

“Fortunately, I took the crew out on the road, so I can’t rush up there and mix in. You really do have to step back; it’s their time. But it’s hard.”

Midler’s motherly pain is her fan’s gain, however. Her Kiss My Brass tour, the three-time Grammy winner’s first tour with a full horn section, played to an estimated half-million people in late 2003 and early 2004.

And practice, Midler says, makes perfect – or something closer to it – on the tour’s latest leg.

“We did lot of tightening,” Midler says of the vaudevillian spectacle that includes familiar characters such as the comically libidinous spinster Soph and the wheelchair-jockeying mermaid Delores De Lago. “We want it to be really quick and furious and fast and bright and all those things now. It’s really come a long way.”

‘It’s a real show’

At the same time, Midler adds, Kiss My Brass continues to meet the expectations she feels her audience has of her performances.

“It’s a real show,” the 58-year-old explains. “It’s not just a production; it has a theme and it has an idea behind it. A lot of times, you go to a concert and you say, ‘I don’t know what it’s about. It’s just a whole bunch of songs strewn together.’

“This is a full meal – an appetizer and an entree and dessert and coffee. It’s not about self-aggrandizement, although there’s a little bit of that, too. It’s really about a world view, my particular take on what life and entertainment is all about.”

And, of course, there are torchy moments via hits such as “The Rose” and “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

“I also like to tug at the heartstrings, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, because people like that,” says the New Jersey-born, Hawaiian-raised Midler, who won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1973.

“They want to be inspired and they want to be reminded that they’re human beings. It’s what I set out to do, and the idea that I’ve made something beautiful after such a struggle is really fantastic for me.”

Hopes for ‘fair’ America

One thing that will likely change tonight at the Palace are Midler’s political jokes. Topical humor has always been part of her oeuvre, with neither side spared. But with Election Day past, Midler isn’t quite sure what direction her comments might take, although she’s still appalled at how caustic the rhetoric was in this year’s campaign.

“It’s so shocking,” she says. “People seem to have lost their minds, the idea of balance and the idea of listening and the idea of treating people in a civil way. It’s like barbarianism. I feel we’ve been overcome by people who really don’t think, and it’s really upsetting.

“I’m an American. I just want America to thrive and be well. I want equal opportunities for everybody. I want a job for everybody who wants to work. I just want it to be fair.”

Meanwhile, she is eyeballing her own future work load. She says long-time friend and collaborator Barry Manilow, who produced both her first album, “The Divine Miss M,” and last year’s Grammy-nominated “Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney,” “calls me from time to time and wants to know what I’m up to. I would love to make another album with him.”

She also duets with Rod Stewart on his new “Stardust … The Great American Songbook: Volume III.”

But after what she calls a “difficult” experience on her last film, the remake of “The Stepford Wives,” Midler says she’s not sure what her next acting endeavor might be.

“It’s strange times in pictures,” she notes. “They’re all fragmented. A lot of the studios are being taken over. My husband and I sometimes talk about doing pictures together, but teeny weeny cheap little pictures just for our own amusement.

“But to make a $100 million picture, a $200 million picture, I just can’t. I don’t know if it’s really for me anymore. It’s too hard.”

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