BetteBack: “Delores is running for president…”

Millennial Miss M; Bette Midler goes over the top (even more than usual) in her biggest show ever.(VARIETY)
Article from:Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) Article date:November 16, 1999 Author: Bream, Jon

1/3 It’s the end of the millennium, so Bette Midler, like other forward thinkers, is contemplating some big, meaningful changes.

There’s been talk that after her Divine Miss Millennium Tour ends on New Year’s Eve, she’s going to retire her beloved stage characters, Delores DeLago, the mermaid in a wheelchair, and Soph the spinster.

Midler said by phone. “She has her eye on the prize. She’s not a quitter. She’ll go forward and make some waves, so to speak.”


“I think she’s a little long in the tooth. People really love to see those characters. I shouldn’t sound the death knell for them so quickly.

“But I think I’m going to retire Bette Midler.”

She’s kidding, of course.

She then explained the millennium show that she’s bringing to Target Center Thursday.

“It’s a look forward, a look backward, a look up and down and sideways – trying to make a little narrative for the audience of what we’ve lived through and what we have to look forward to. It’s hard to make sense of it because it doesn’t really make sense.”

Thanks for clarifying that.

Midler promises that it’s a really big show – the biggest one she’s ever mounted.

“We’ve never had so much equipment and so many trucks. It’s kind of intimidating. For me, it’s too much. We’ve always done things in a more low-tech and theatrical way. The fact that there’s so many elevators and treadmills and stuff, so many Varilites and so many screens. It’s very bewildering to me. I’m a very low-key, low-tech kind of person.”

Midler sighed, and then said: “It’s sometimes easier to reach the crowd in an unplugged way.”

The Divine One unplugged? No way.

Her current show is louder than Limp Bizkit – and more potent, judging by some of the reviews. At one point, she does a sendup of Celine Dion’s over-the-railing “Titanic” tune “My Heart Will Go On.” Midler herself has had success with big ballads, but she said they are “hard to write and harder to find.”

What did she think the first time she heard “The Rose,” her first hit ballad from 1980?

“I loved it. I thought it was so specific, so well constructed. It was almost as if it was organic, like this very old song that had always existed.”

And how ’bout “Wind Beneath My Wings,” her No. 1 hit in 1989?

“That was a little more problematic because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to hear it. Marc Shaiman [then her arranger] played it for me. We have an odd and wonderful relationship; it’s very prickly. I was like annoyed that day. I wasn’t that keen on it. He insisted. I’m glad he insisted. Sometimes you have to be ready to receive what the message is, and I just wasn’t that day. I sort of tossed it aside.

“And he said, `If you don’t do this song, I’ll never speak to you again.’ So I said, `Very well, then.’ Of course, it became my biggest song. I’m so glad he forced me to sing it.”

And 1990’s “From a Distance”?

“I loved it. It’s so universal. Why didn’t someone say it earlier? It’s a very simple song, quite close to a folk song. I have a tremendous affinity for folk music.”

Ah, Miss M, it was a folk song, recorded by Nanci Griffith a few years earlier.


More movies

Midler, who turns 54 in two weeks, is very happy with her latest CD, last year’s “Bathhouse Betty,” her most varied and riotous offering since her 1972 debut, “The Divine Miss M.” It’s gone gold (sold 500,000 copies) but it hasn’t exactly reignited her recording career.

“I always say, `Ah, I’m going to go to England and find myself a different kind of producer,’ and I never do. I’m always in a time crunch between the pictures and the tours and everything.”

She has two movies on the way. The first is “Isn’t She Great,” a bio of romance novelist Jacqueline Susann, with Nathan Lane and Sarah Jessica Parker.

“It’s going to be out on Super Bowl weekend. I don’t know football. It’s a whole weekend, right? You start on Friday, you’re loaded. Saturday you crawl out of bed. When is the game? Sunday? You have three days to kill. The ladies are invited to my movie.”

Midler sings in the film, but she said she sang badly.

“Jackie Susann was irrepressible. She couldn’t stop singing even though she couldn’t sing. I have a song with Steve and Eydie. Actually, it was Steve Lawrence’s son, who’s a dead ringer for Steve, and one of his friends who’s a dead ringer for Eydie Gorme. We do a song together. You can’t exactly call it a trio, because I grab the mike and hog the stage. It’s `This Could Be the Start of Something Big.’ It’s hilarious.”

Will it be released as a single?

“I don’t think so,” she said, pausing between each word. “That song could never get airplay. In these days? I haven’t heard that song in 35 years.”

Last summer, Midler shot “Drowning Mona,” a whodunit comedy with Danny DeVito, Neve Campbell and Jamie Lee Curtis that’s expected to be in theaters early next year. And she has a deal with Sony for a CBS-TV series; she’s awaiting scripts for the pilot.

“I like to stay in New York. If I work, great. If I don’t, that’s OK, too.”

Midler wants to be around her daughter, Sophie, who turned 13 Sunday, “for those thrilling teenage years.”

Mom frets that her daughter watches MTV. (Mom approves of TLC but she has reservations about Limp Bizkit.) But then Sophie, Mom is sorry to say, has seen the Divine Miss Millennium Show many times. She loved it, Mom reported, “and I’m worried.”

Now that the New Jersey-born, Hawaii-bred Midler is back in New York City, she’s taken interest in cleaning up parks and other public spaces with her New York Restoration Project. Among the three-year-old organization’s accomplishments are reclaiming 119 abandoned acres and removing 3,000 tons of refuse from project sites.

At this point in her life, Midler said she is motivated by working on causes – the environment, education, mental health – outside of show business.

“I spend an awful lot of time thinking about it and working on it and making phone calls trying to influence the way people think about certain things. What I’d like to be able to do is to have enough money to do the things I wanted to do for the ideas that I have as far as environment is concerned and education.

“I mean, how many sweaters can you have? How big does your apartment have to be? How much furniture do you have to own? And how many cars do you have to have before you say, `I just don’t want any more. I just want to turn around and see what else there is to do with my life’ ”

Gee, is she going to run for U.S. senator from New York to implement all these ideas?

“No, I’m not going to run for Senate.”

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