BootLeg Betty

BetteBack: No Middle Road With Bette Midler

stripes magazine
Bette Midler Profile
By MARY CAMPBELL
august 9,1984

NEW YORK — Has singer B e t te Midler, who brought new meaning to the word outrageous, deserted “trash with flash” and climbed f r om camp to c u l t u r e?

Tune in to ” B e t te Midler: Art or Bust!” and see, she s a y s, coyly ducking the question. ” B e t te Midler: Art or Bust!” is a Home Box Of f ice special, cut to an hour f r om the f inal concert on her 1983 tour — named, since all pop music t o u rs have names these days — De Tour. A c t u a l l y, the last two c o n c e r ts on De Tour, in Minneapolis, we re filmed for the special which will be shown sometime in August. Midler hadn’t run out of her high-gear energy a f t er 10 months of De Tour. Au contra/re, as Miss Piggy, who grooms herself a bit in the Midler manner, would say.

“It was a t e r r i f ic time to shoot it,” s a ys the Divine Miss M. “We finally got it right. I’d been fussing w i th the show. I get ideas as I go along. I a lwa ys change horses in the middle of the s t r e am. So it was good we did it the last nights.

“The TV set is full of color. We used a lot of colors, shapes and forms that aren’t usually used. It’s all live. I’ll bet a lot of people think some of it was done in a studio, some of it’s so beautiful.

“In its way it’s a little bit about a r t. I’m interested in art and the way t h at it changes our lives and our perceptions. I’m f a s c i n a t ed by the way a r t i s ts have an idea and put it into act ion and have it come out the way they imagined it.

“The show is kind of baby s t e ps in the direction of a r t. I try not to be too pretent ious. I’m not a scholar. I comment on it. I’ve always commented on all my own actions. I’ve always wanted to burst my own balloons before anybody else does.

“Paintings, music and dance are put out there to ref lect a cer tain kind of human struggle. I think that sounds pompous. But I think you have to have something to say. Otherwise, it is purely mercenary and doesn’t count for anything. I’m way past that at my time of life.”

You can also drown f e a rs that i t ‘s too highbrow, Midler says. “It’s got Delores de Lago on for a good 15 minutes. She’s always a scream.”

Delores de Lago looks a lot like B e t te Midler in a fishtail. Miss Midler and director Thomas Schlamme cut the show to an hour for TV, leaving out most of her talking. She expects to add some of that to the “Bette Midler: Art or Bust!” cassette,
which she says will be longer than the TV version.”In its way it’s a little bit about a r t. I’m interested in art and the way t h at it changes our lives and our perceptions. I’m f a s c i n a t ed by the way a r t i s ts have an idea and put it into act ion and have it come out the way they imagined it.

Just after De Tour ended last year, Midler’s second book, “The Saga of Baby Divine/’ came out, with illustrations of a red-haired tot in high heels and garish diaper. Her “A View f rom a Broad,” was published in 1981, after her f i r st world concert tour. She’s working on a third, “a book of little stuff — essays, poetry, short stories, crossword puzzles. I want it to be fun.”

Her last record album, “No Frills,” which included one song she wrote, came out last October. Now, the singer whose f i rst hits were oldies like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” is writing lyrics with guitarist-composer Barry Reynolds for an album which will be entirely her own compositions. She’s currently reading everything she can find about the Victorians, novels, biographies, costume books. “I must say they were a sleazy lot. But they certainly could write; the women were terrific. The Brontes just slay me.”

She never has been of fered a TV series but she might do another movie. “I’m one for one,” she says, meaning that she found making “The Rose” a wonderful experience and making “Jinxed” a horror. “I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time,” she says.

“I’m living in New York, pret ty much on my own.” Walking around, she’s recognized sometimes, when she turns on the sparkle. “It depends on my spirit. I can pretty much turn it on or off.”

She dresses, she says, in ripped jeans, loafers and a T-shirt with Bauhaus written on it. So is Midler moving toward the mainstream? “I AM the mainstream. Are you mad?”

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