BootLeg Betty

The Full Interview: Bette Midler Opens Up About Her Life


UK Music
Woman and Home Magazine
Bette Midler
by Louise Gannon
The ultimate showgirl talks to woman and home about her amazing life

Mister D: Thanks to Hales for typing this whole thing up. Forgive her if there are some typos and whatnots cause I think she might have been crying…. 🙂 Thank you Hales!!!

I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy.

I feel all those dreams I had as a kid were actually a real plan because everything has turned out as I dreamt it. I’m 63 years old and I’m doing the greatest show in Las Vegas. It’s really fantastic. On top of this, my daughter, Sophie has just graduated, she’s well and happy. My husband is happy and I feel secure, which is the most wonderful feeling any woman can have. Everyday I knock on wood because I think I am the lucky one, a really lucky one.


I’m not retiring and you can’t make me.

I’ve always known I’m not the most beautiful and I haven’t got the greatest voice, but I know the one thing I can do is entertain. I’ve always called myself “divine”. To me, that’s word means a lot of things, from fabulous to the spiritual divine. But the real meaning is joy and that’s what I love to do, spread a little joy. There’s no age limit on that. I’m going to carry on because I want to and love to.

As a kid, I was driven by a sense of entitlement and a huge amount of anger.

I look back and don’t know where all that came from. I was this little kid, growing up in a pretty poor family in Hawaii, but I always felt that I belonged on a stage. I was seven when I sang Silent Night onstage and everyone suddenly looked at me in a different way, like I had some power. I was fourteen when I decided this is what I was going to do. I had that combination of huge self belief and terrible insecurity. I think it was the insecurity that translated as anger and that was like my rocket fuel. Part of me would worry that I wouldn’t fit in and that people wouldn’t like me. Then I’d get angry and just feel I was going to bust down every door until I got what I was looking for. It’s only now that I wonder where that sense of entitlement came from. I guess I was just born with it. I had this vision of myself and it was so strong, and I also had parents who told me I could be anything I wanted to be. I had one goal, I was fierce, I was resourceful, I was unstoppable and I had a lot of luck.

I had pretty wild times in my youth, but I never took my eye off the ball.

I lived through the 60’s and 70’s, I was performing in clubs in New York and yes, it was pretty wild. There were drugs, there were drink, there were orgies and all those things, but I never got so dragged in that I forgot what I was doing. I never lost focus. It makes me mad when young girls go off the rails with drugs and parties, like Amy Winehouse and Lindsay Lohan. I want to shout at Amy and tell her she has an incredible talent and she has to look after that. For me, it always came first and I’m so glad it did.

Barry Manilow is still one of my greatest friends.

We started out together. He was my pianist in the Continental Baths in New York. It was a tiny place with all these gay guys sitting around in towels, bit it was fabulous. Barry is a genius and we just clicked on stage. He’s a generous, caring, sweet, sweet man and I love him.

I finally gave Cher back a dress I borrowed from her in 1978.

In Las Vegas, I share a stage with Elton John and Cher. I’ve known Cher for years. She comes in and out of my life. On my first visit to London in 1978, I arrived and I was in a panic. I had nothing to wear and I called Cher and she sent over two gorgeous dresses. I wore them both. I sent one back and the other was so fabulous that I kept it and hoped she wouldn’t notice. Then a few months ago, Cher was going to be on the stage in Vegas. We spoke and she told me she was a little nervous, and I thought maybe now was the time to send back the dress. I wrapped it up and sent it to her and it still fitted like a glove. Now, if that’s not a confidence boost, then tell me what is!

I’m too old for movies.

I spent a lot of time in the 80’s banging my head against Hollywood walls. You think because you have a name, they will want you, but of you are the wrong side of 40, it suddenly becomes a different story. Beaches was a huge hit, but to get another job I’d have to fight again just as hard. I stopped fighting it and just adapted. I went back to my albums, my shows and I’m happier for it. The only older woman who gets hired in Hollywood these days is Meryl Streep. Meryl gets all the jobs and good luck to her.

I don’t wish I was younger. I think I look fabulous as I am.

I think I look better these days than I ever did. I don’t know how it happened. It’s not all natural. I have the best beauty squad in the business looking after my hair, my face. I don’t look like this first thing on a morning. But I do have great legs, I had the famous Midler pins. It’s nothing to do with anything except good genes. On my new album cover, they blasted the airbrushes at my face, but my legs are totally untouched.

The biggest thing that changed me was my marriage.

I was 37 when I met Martin in a bar. He called me up out of the blue two years later and six weeks later we got married in Las Vegas. It sounds very romantic and in a way it was, but I wasn’t as much in love with him then as I am now. Getting married for me was like joining the grown-ups – accepting responsibility, and I knew this man absolutely adored me. Marriage was a big shock to me. A huge shock. I’d always been this single woman with a big career and I was happy being on my own. I still am happy in my own company. But all of a sudden, I discovered the word compromise. We did years of all these compromises and then I woke up and realized that the two of us were on the same track, and my life was better and happier and more joyful than ever before.

My husband has sacrificed his career for mine.

He knew how important it was and was always there to pick up the slack. He never gave up on me and was always there for me. If I was on location, he’d come over with our daughter. He did everything he could to make my life easier. The one song I had never sung to him was Wind Beneath My Wings – but a few years ago I did because I realized every word in it is about him. That song could be written by me to him. I got all gooey about it because he means so much to me. Martin, of course, just laughs at me.

My favourite time and place is being in bed with Martin and Sophie.

We all climb into our bed, under the heavy duvet, close the curtains, and watch a black and white movie. Three weeks ago, we all sat and watched Of Human Bondage, The old Bette Davis movie. It was brilliant and Bette Davis had the worst English accent that just made us all laugh so much. Talking about it makes me so sad because my daughter is in China now and I miss her so much it actually hurts. As a family we are incredibly close. I think Sophie deliberately learnt Chinese so she could be in a county as far away as possible from me. Otherwise she’d turn around and I’d be there waving at her. I’m not doing too well at the leaving-nest stage. It’s too hard.

I always knew I’d love motherhood.

I’m a typical Jewish mother. I’m horribly nosey and always want to know everyone’s business. When Sophie was at school, if there was any tiny problem I’d be rushing around wanting to fix it myself. I’d drive my husband nuts. I can’t help myself. I want to sort out every problem – I give advice before they’ve even finished speaking. He screams at me to listen, so now I have to learn to listen first, but I’m bursting with the advice. Having Sophie didn’t change me in any way. It just felt so natural. I loved having this wonderful little child, this little girl that looked so much like me. Of all the music I’ve heard, it’s the sound of my daughter’s laughter that I carry around in my head. I always want to make her laugh. She’s the most incredible girl in the world.

I told my daughter if she went into show business, I’d kill her.

I was always terrified of her getting hurt in any way and this business is so tough, you have to get a few bruises along the way. She has no idea what she wants to do, but I have a feeling she will want her moment in the spotlight. I’m coming round to that. As they get older, you realize you have to let your children do what they what they want to do and be what they want to be.

Women put themselves down too much.

Michelle Pfieffer thinks she looks like a duck. She’s beautiful and she should be thankful for that. If someone gives you a compliment, take it. There’s enough bad stuff going on around us that we don’t need to ladle more all over ourselves. I look in the mirror and tell myself I look fabulous and I mean it. We should all do that. It puts a smile on your face. A smile is a much better look than a miserable face.

I have discovered the secret to happiness – Move your ass!

It’s true, exercise does make you happy. I’m absolutely mad on research and archives, I spend time researching lives of actresses and there was one actress called Laurette Taylor, who was the most terrible drinker but a wonderful actress. In every interview she gave, she said “Always look after your figure.” She used to put on a black rubber head-to-toe suit and run. I run, I do yoga, I do exercise that will build up a sweat. I feel better for it and I look better. I don’t battle with my weight. I exercise. When I don’t exercise, I don’t look so good and I don’t feel so great. Get the blood pumping, stretch, feel good about yourself.

I would love to be a real diva even for just one day.

I heard the Christian Bale tape and I thought “My, How amazing it would be to be like that for a day!” I can’t do that. I can’t be a diva and scream and shout, even though I’d secretly love too. I’m too boringly insecure, which makes me ridiculously down to earth. I’m very aware of my behaviour. I don’t ever let myself get out of hand. Nor does my husband.

I love the movie Beaches, but I can’t look at it anymore because of my hair.

What was I thinking? I looked a complete fright in that terrible red wig and that awful hairstyle. People love that movie, but when I watch it all I see is my terrible hair. Some people have bad hair days, but when you have bad movie hair, it’s there forever.

I don’t take anything for granted

I love staying in beautiful hotels and eating wonderful food, but I don’t take it for granted. I count my blessings and I appreciate all of it, from the comfortable beds to the running water, the laundry, the air, the soil. We’re living in times when we have to stop taking all this stuff for granted. I am passionate abut doing what I can, which is why I started my New York Restoration Project, putting something back into the earth, letting people know this is what helps them to breathe. We all need to put back what we can, look after what we have and try and make the world a better place.

Barack Obama has given us all hope.

I did what I could to support him. I think he’s an incredible man and, like me, he comes from Hawaii, so there’s something in that too. I think of anyone can save America he can, though the poor guy has his work cut out.

My greatest Achievement in life are my marriage and my daughter.

I could live without a lot of things, but I could live without them. There would be no me without them. Life can’t be all work, all career – there has to be something else, something more important. I’m a happy woman because of them.

Share A little Divinity
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9 thoughts on “The Full Interview: Bette Midler Opens Up About Her Life

  1. we do LOL, and she is a cover girl, That mag wasn’t cheap either, I spent £3.40 on a mag i didn’t even know existed, just coz Bette was on the front and there was an interview LOL and i cried when she mentioned Martin and WBMW and missing Sophie and that she left on purpose LOL im a wuss and i know i am haha

  2. Oh yeah the UK gets everyhting expect Bette in Concert!
    (Im not complaining Ive seen her! Im the lucky one)

    Its such a touching interview- I love it.

    P.S. Im lucky as we have a singer in the resturant i work in and she sang WBMW just for me!

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