Bette Midler says TV was the only medium left for her to conquer.(Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service)
Article from:Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service Article date:October 2, 2000 Author: Lee, Luaine
The timing was just right, says Bette Midler, who has joined the ranks of big-name stars willing to gamble on the tiny tube.
Starring in her own CBS sitcom this season, Midler says, “I’ve had a good run in pictures … most of the women that I came up with don’t really have the kind of jobs that they once had … that thought has definitely crossed my mind. However, I’ve been a performer in many, many mediums. I’ve been a live stage performer. I’ve been on Broadway. I’ve made records. And this was really the only area that I had not done any work in. And I was tempted because I really, really, truly _ this is really the truth _ really wanted to stay home with my family while my daughter was in high school. I didn’t want to go on the road.”
Midler’s daughter, Sophie, is now 13. And life on the road is both tiring and time consuming, says Midler.
“But I have to be brutally frank _ I’m sure everyone’s going to say it anyway, `Well, it was time for her to move to the small screen because she couldn’t get those jobs.’ If you say that, that’s fine with me. I don’t care. I really don’t care. The truth is, I thought it was so much fun. I had such a great time on this pilot that it made everything else that I had done previously, strum und drang, the angst of pulling these movies out of your kishkes (innards). I mean, the development for 15 years, and then you have to wait for the 25-year-old to give you the green light. I mean, forget it. Life is too short.”
Midler has crammed a lot into her 54 years. She’s a singer, a stage performer, a movie actress. She says at 50 she took stock of her show-biz portfolio. “I just thought, `How did I do, what did I do? I realized I’d accomplished just about everything that I’d set out to do and that even if it was over in a week or two, it was fine, because I’d done what I wanted to do. I’d lived the life I’d dreamed of. And how many people can say that in this world? Here I was 50, what was I going to do the rest of the time? It doesn’t matter. The strain of getting there and making it is over. I have to say, it was worth it.”
So television, to Midler, is just another stratum to uncover. She says she read many scripts before she decided to do “Bette,” which is about a performer much like her. “A lot of people came in and pitched various ideas, but this was the one that we liked. This was the truest. The others were very typical sitcom situations. They were a divorced mother with a child, struggling, a woman whose husband runs out on her and leaves her holding the bag, it was a very sort of typical thing.”
Her character parallels herself, she admits. “I’m basically playing myself so I’m hoping I won’t be too far off the mark. It takes a little bit of a stretch to play myself, but it’s the role I’m most comfortable with,” she says.
Her colorful years as a performer started in the bathhouses of New York and led to recording contracts, Broadway and Hollywood. With films like “The Rose,” “For the Boys” “First Wives Club,” her hit records, Emmys, Grammys and even a special Tony, Midler has earned her sobriquet “The Divine Miss M.”
What’s divine to her? “I love things people take for granted,” she grins, “food, flowers, being in a room with fun people. That’s the stuff I love. The rest of it’s kind of a grind, I gotta say.”
Married for 16 years to Martin von Haselberg, Midler says she married for fun. “I read a magazine that said you should marry for fun; marry a person you have the most fun with. Those marriages are great. They stay together. I married for fun.”
Von Haselberg was a performance artist for 20 years and has been a stock trader in commodities, an actor, a director and recently a photographer.
Though they shoot “Bette” in Los Angeles, Midler is commuting from her home in New York. “I really wanted to do the show in New York because my daughter’s going into high school and I wanted to be at her side during those tumultuous teen years. But as it turned out, most of the people that we had done the pilot with, that we were really, really attached to, did not want to (move.) Most of them were people with small children who didn’t want to uproot their families. And it just seemed easier for me to make that leap, rather than have all those people pick up and movie, lock, stock and barrel, to the city.”
According to the arrangements, she won’t have to be away from her family for more than two weeks at a time, and a couple of episodes will be shot in New York. Plus, she’s agreed to commute for the first year. After that, who knows?
Midler thinks it was her determination and force of will that got her through life. “With a little sense of humor around the edge, mediated by my sense of humor, my ridiculous skew, my ridiculous take on things,” she says.