New York Post
Bette Midler: ‘I Owe My Fans Everything’
July 13, 2009 Î¹ Jarett Wieselman
While it seems that political and ecological activism is the only thing more omnipresent than Botox in Hollywood these days, there are a few trailblazers who embraced the environment before Al Gore confronted us with “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Bette Midler was one of the chief celebs digging her heels into the soil more than a decade ago when she founded the New York Restoration Project, a non-profit organization that aimed to revitalize the city by planting trees and creating more clean, green neighborhoods.
Now, as she prepares to host the 8th Annual Spring Picnic and auction, Bette — who has dubbed the event “recession chic” — took some time out of her incredibly busy schedule to chat with me about her organization, her new attitude (“Yes, we can!”) and why she won’t be returning to the big screen any time soon.
PopWrap: Has the economy affected how you run your auction?
Bette Midler: No, we don’t do the kind of auction where people go to Las Vegas on a high roller trip, we auction off trees. We’ve planted over 500 cherry and crab apple trees all over the city, so our centerpieces are trees and people can buy those and we plant them.
PW: But there is an online auction featuring celeb-endorsed items, right?
Bette: Yes, it’s amazing. CharityBuzz.com runs it and they call up stars who have time to give and package “celeb experiences.”
PW: Which item would make you pull out the checkbook?
Bette: I’d wear one of Scarlett’s [Johansson] dresses while meeting Hugh Jackman on the set of his movie!
PW: I know this is your eighth year hosting the event, does it ever get easier to organize?
Bette: Oh sure, we don’t have any trouble now — we’re the most tight-fisted group in town! The donors stay with us because we keep the cost very low and wring as much out of each dollar as we can! I remember one year for my birthday someone told me that turkey was cheaper than beef, so I decided it was Thanksgiving! I felt I had plenty to be thankful for, so why not do a second Thanksgiving and save a lot of money?
PW: I was surprised to see that 50 Cent was one of the Spring Picnic’s co-chairs, who knew he was so environmentally conscious?
Bette: I did! He loves his hood and they’re crazy about him! We had the grand opening of a garden up there and I don’t think anyone from the neighborhood missed it. It was a stunning event, moved me to tears. He was thrilled to be a part of the Picnic because 50’s a real give-back kind of guy. It might surprise others, but not me!
PW: President Obama has done a lot in terms of environmental legislation since January. What are your thoughts on his green initiatives?
Bette: Well for the last eight years we had no movement — in fact, we had anti-movement! So I think his heart is in the right place and we’re already moving forward because the will of the people is there. Otherwise the anti-forces would have won [the election], and they didn’t. I feel like we really have a shot now to fix our world. I’ve been so beleaguered for the last eight years, I’ve had to replace half a dozen TV’s because I broke so many throwing things at them. Now I’m calm.
PW: Everyone does seem rather zen about our future now.
Bette: And I think there is a lot of goodwill toward him and his administration. People are giving him a chance, they’re not starting to scream right away. Now it’s up to us to keep out end of the deal up — we’ve created environmental curriculums in 100 schools and planted 180,000 trees last year.
PW: Would you ever consider entering politics?
Bette: I really don’t have the talent for it. I can make a speech, get my hair blown out and wear a suit. I know what a good policy is, but to implement it without having people taking bribes … I don’t know how to do that. It’s hard to keep all those balls in the air. I can focus on my world — music and sequins — because I understand that.
PW: Speaking of, your Las Vegas extravaganza, “The Showgirl Must Go On,” is getting rave reviews — has it been fun or exhausting?
Bette: A little bit of both. The first couple of weeks reminds me what a joy performing live can be but by the third week it’s like, “Oh my god, call someone! Rescue me!” And then the fourth week I’m back in the game. But it’s hard. You live a monks life because you’re out there and can’t really do anything — you have to focus on maintaining your instrument and what your job is. It’s pretty hard.
PW: Would you ever consider returning to Broadway?
Bette: I don’t know if I have the stamina. I’m doing five shows a week now and it’s OK, but Broadway is eight shows a week and I’m a person of a certain age — I don’t know if I have it in me. But never say never!
PW: What about returning to the big screen, it’s been almost nine years since you had a lead role.
Bette: I know … the roles just aren’t coming down the way they used to. But that’s true for women in general, they’re just not. I’m so old I can remember when women ruled the screen, and it’s kind of terrible now. But there are a lot of women on TV and they’re behaving very badly, if I do say so! I’m just happy they haven’t been able to upload me as a human being yet and I can still work live. That seems to be my saving grace
PW: Plus, with the show you can kind of write your own ticket.
Bette: Absolutely. I have all the freedoms I want and don’t have to answer to anybody. I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to create and as long as I have an idea and the will to see it through, I seem capable of doing it.
PW: It’s been rumored that Britney Spears will take up residency in Vegas after her tour. What advice would you give her?
Bette: Don’t drink, keep you body up, do vocal warm-ups and warm-downs, get the humidification system working really well in your room and be happy to see the people. They’re not a burden, they’re really happy to see you, so be happy to see them.
PW: Because that’s what it’s all about!
Bette: Absolutely. And they don’t expect a lot these days because they don’t know what real entertainment is anymore. The one thing they want is for you to have a good time on stage, because then they have a good time in the audience. I’m always happy to see them because they’ve given me a great life and I am so grateful to my fans