Q&A With Bette Midler
DECEMBER 27, 2010
What can we expect from your appearance at SmartTalk–what will be the theme?
I am so looking forward to my maiden voyage as a speaker; I’ve been singing for years with a bevy of musicians and dancers, so it will be a real challenge to see if I can be interesting for an hour without singing or telling hoary old jokes . . .
I just finished my sojourn in Las Vegas a few months ago, and that really was a career highlight. The crowds were fantastic, and we got to eat in every restaurant in town. My favorite was Bradley Ogden, where they treated us like royalty, and who doesn’t love that??
Meanwhile, the stage was huge, and the speed of the costume changes nearly killed us all. So even though it was great, it was also a real workout every night, and I am glad I got through it in one piece.
I am really looking forward to this evening speaking on a range of subjects, mostly ME!! Seriously, I will probably talk about my life in the Biz, and about my passion for the last 20 years, improving the environment, especially in New York City, with my non-profit organization, New York Restoration Project. We have been at the forefront of the greening movement here for the last 15 years, and I am very proud of what we have done. And just in case things slow down, I have some hoary old jokes, too!!
Who or what inspires you right now?
I am a big reader, and I have been taking inspiration from all sorts of biographies and autobiographies, new and old. The Keith Richards book is fantastic if you are a musician–the gossipy bits are fun, but he really speaks as passionately as anyone I have ever read about what music means to him, and the actual process of producing sounds and songs; something you are not often privy to.
When looking for inspiration for my work, I always try to hear and see things that are not taken up by huge armies of fans. I keep up, but I like the craftspeople who fall through the cracks or are not widely known, as they are the most committed; their rewards are not great, but they keep on going anyway! That in itself is inspirational!! I recently heard music from Mauritania, played on something called the ngaoui, a four-string bass that is plucked, strummed, and beaten; it was amazing . . . I wonder if I could get that good on the uke!!
What do you hope to achieve with your new album Memories of You?
I have never done an “American Songbook” album, but I guess this one comes pretty close. I still owe the fans that one. It was odd and wonderful to look back and realize how many great arrangers I worked with and how many Johnny Mercer songs I recorded!! My next record should be “I heart Johnny”!!
What’s your favorite song (s) to perform and why?
I love so many songwriters, and contemporary ones too. The truth is that I love music and everyone that makes it: Tom Waits is an old favorite, and his “Shiver Me Timbers” is probably the song I enjoy performing the most . . . it’s such a heartbreaker. The last time I sang it, I rode away on a carousel horse–not a dry eye in the house, including my own.
How has Facebook and Twitter changed the way you connect to your fans?
I do some social media, but I have to say, it takes up a lot of time!!! I love reaching the fans, but I find it hard to just post stuff that’s not fun or entertaining, so I am kind of on the fence about it; who wants to be boring?? For instance, we were in Paris last week, and got food poisoning on Thanksgiving Day. The picture of me cooling my forehead on the bathroom floor is not pretty. Is that a proper tweet?? Do I really want folks to know that? But, of course, now they do!!
See Bette Midler speak at Smart Talk 7:30 p.m., January 18 at the Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave., Mpls. Purchase tickets.