BootLeg Betty

BetteBack: Will maternity mellow The Divine Miss M?

The Orange County Register
Will maternity mellow Divine Miss M?
Thursday, June 26, 1986


The sponsor ing s t u d i o, Wa lt Disney Pi c tur e s, hopes both ” R u t h l e ss • People” and “Outrageous Fortune“ w i ll d u p l i c a te the success it has a l r e a dy enjoyed w i th “Down and Out in Beve r ly Hi l l s .” The Paul M a x u r s ky comedy was Disney’s f i r st R-rated movie t h r o u gh the s tudio’s adul t -or i ent ed Touchstone Fi lms d i v i s i o n, and its t a ke of more t h an S60 m i l l i on makes it the year’s biggest box-of f i ce h i t.

Popular since the e a r ly 1970s for her f ew-holds -ba r r ed records and concerts of song, dance and comedy, Midl er surprised critics in 1978 — and won a best-actress Oscar • nomina t ion — w i th her f i lm debut in “The Rose,” a serious portrayal of a s e l f -de s t ruc t ive rock singer, modeled on J a n is Jopl in.

But the a c c l a im did not, to her di smay, lead to other d r ama t ic roles. “When I was w i th Aaron (Rus so, her manager and boyf r i e nd d u r i ng most of the 1970s), he d i d n ‘t w a nt me to do comedy,” • Midl er r e c a l l ed.

“He want ed me to start out as a great d r a m a t ic actress. I t h o u g ht t h at was a t e r r i f ic career move, except that I could never follow it ( ‘ T he Rose’) up. Nothing came a long for years.”

Un t il “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” her only Hollywood work was the 1980 concert f i lm of her Broadway stage show, “Divine Madness,” and her role as a Las Vegas lounge singer in 1982’s aptly t i t l ed ” J inxed,” w h i ch proved memor able only for Midler‘s m u c h – p u b – l i c i z ed ba t t l es wi th her di r e c tor, Don Siegel, and co-star, Ken Wa h l.

“I was in a very v u l n e r a b le posit ion then,” she said, “because I had l e ft Aa r o n, who had looked after me for seven years. So I thr ew mys e lf i n to a project t h at I never should have gotten mixed up wi th.

” ‘ J i n x e d ‘ w as a t r a u m a t ic experience,” she said, “but I d o n ‘t t h i nk it was t h at bad a pi c tur e. He (Siege l) a c t u a l ly cut it q u i te sensitively. Even t h o u gh he d i d n ‘t l i ke me, he d i d n ‘t make me look bad.”

Mi d l er c r edi ts her re-emergence t h is year as a f i lm comedian to Ma zur sky, whom she did not know before he cast her opposite Richard Dr e y f u ss and N i ck Nolte in “Down and Out in Beverly Hills.”

“I t h o u g ht I was going to meet some s i lve r -ha i r ed Hollywood type, but P a ul turned out to be an ex- s t andup comic, a guy wi th whom I had i n s t a nt rapport. He runs a very che e r ful set, j o l l y, in f a c t, to the point of mani a. And t h a t ‘s the way to make a picture.”

Al t h o u gh her t r a d e m a rk stage persona occasionally flashes in conversation ( s he beamed when a visitor noted her garish, greenand-yellow painted f i n g e r n a i l s ), Mi d l er acknowledged she is essent i a l ly serious by n a t u re and more t h an a l i t t le shy.

“That’s why ‘Down and Out’ was such a relief for me. Paul wants everyone to get in the spi r it of the silliness. I can gene r a te t h at k i nd of s i l l ine ss my s e l f, in my shows, but at home I don’t because I’m too beat. So i t ‘s nice when somebody else is the clown and the host for a change.”

Her baby wi ll slow, though not h a l t, Midler’s f i lm work. “We d i d n ‘t pl an it,” she said, speaking of herself and her husband, Ma r t in Von Haselberg, a German photogr aphe r, performance artist and commodities trader. “Because I’m 40, i t ‘s unde r – the -wi re time. I expect to be very, t i r ed, very worn out and at my wits’ end. So I expect not to be doing a whole lot.”

That does not preclude starting preproduction work on a new f i lm he will produce for Disney with her two women partner’s in a company called “All-Girl Productions” ( “Our motto,” she laughed, “is •We Hold a Grudge’ “); She plans to star in the f i l m, a musical about the big-band leader Ina Rae Hutton, who led an all-women ensemble d u r i ng the 1930s and ’40s. She would l ike to cast the f i lm wi th well-known women musicians, such as the singers Bonnie Raitt and Rickie Lee Jones., An d, for MGM, she plans to make’a murder mys t e ry comedy a b o u t ‘a woman detective who becomes a
s t andup comic.

Midl er was asked if m a t e r n i ty is l ike ly to mellow her notoriously suggestive s t andup comedy routines or her f i lm characters, who t a lk l i ke stevedores.

“Do you mean am I going to remain vul-gahh and crass?” she retorted, wi th leering mock indignation. “Well, I’m going to put my baby in boarding school as soon as possible, in a far corner of England, no, Scotland, near the heather and the Highlands, so my baby will never hear any of this.

“I don’t know,” she sighed. “I am going to have to keep doing something, because that’s my livelihood. Joan Rivers‘ child seems to be developing OK, ha sn’t turned into a serial killer or anything. And Joan’s much more abrasive than I.”

Which means there will be no cheap motherhood jokes in years to come? “Oh, my goodness, no, I c an’ t. Oh no, no, no,” she declared, the innocence in her voice swelling. “No, e v e r y t h i ng is not to be put to commerce. Some things are precious.”

Midler paused the requisite two beats, then turned wi th that familiar gleam in her eye. “Gee, do you t h i nk I should?

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