If she had the time, Bette Midler would love to be a hippie. She admires the flower children and digs their philosophy, but she’s too busy working her way up in theater to practice it.
“Besides,” says Bette, “I can’t stand living in rundown slums with roaches and rodents and giving them names asÂ though they actually were household pets. I had enough of that when I lived down in the East Village.”
Two years ago Bette arrived from Honolulu and stayed a spell in hippie land before moving upward and westward to a somewhat more middle class locale about a block from Central Park.
Her thoughts remain with the flower children and she argues their case. “Actually, it’s more like the idea of lovingÂ one’s neighbor as oneself, which is really the only way to live,” she says.
Some of her friends still are hippies and occasionally she visits them. She misses the warmth of her former neighbors. “If there were hippies in this neighborhood,” she sighed, as she sipped cugarladen tea, “I’d have it made.”
She landed the role of Tzeitel, the hero’s eldest daughter, six months ago, after being turned down flat for a small part in the chorus of the show’s touring company. Sometimes
f a i l u re pays.
Since she was in her early teens. Bette wanted to go into show business and she entered the University of Hawaii’s drama program with that thought in mind. Luck came her way and she was cast as a comedy relief character in “Surf-a-Go-Go,” an undistinguished beach flick which never has been released.
“They gave me a big red wig, a tiny bikini and a few stupid lines,” she recalls. “Some beginning.”
Next time out, she landed a bit part in “Hawaii ,” which she hasn’t yet seen, but which paid her enough to enableÂ her to leave home for New York.
In New York, she continued her studies with the highly respected drama coach, Herbert Berghof, and made her debut in the title role of an off -off -off Broadway production in Cafe La Mama called Miss Nefertiti Regrets.” Her next role was the lead in “Cinderella Revisited” on the just plain off-Broadway circuit.
And, in an unexpected preview of her “Fiddler” role, she toured the borscht circuit one summer with a troupe ofÂ strolling players which dramatized the tale of Sholom Aleichem.
LIKE MOST STRUGGLING young actresses, she has little time for a n y t h i ng else. She used to be a confirmed beach bug and sailing addict, but she hasn’t seen a beach since coming east.
She plays eight performances of “Fiddler” a week and in her time off, makes the rounds of agents’ offices. With aÂ Broadway role to her credit, she is looking for parts in television dramas, the few still made in New York. Or in commercials which may not be esthetically satisfying to an actress but are especially satisfying to the pocketbook.
“Don’t mention commercials to me, though ,” she groaned. “Everyone keeps telling me I’m the perfect type. But you don’t see me in any, do you? I’ve been to so many agencies and been so close, yet so far.
“When 1 finally do one, the agency people probably will say, with a face like mine, why didn’t I think of doing them earlier in my career.”
Meanwhile, despite her success in “Fiddler,” Bette is looking. She’d like to sink her teeth into a very special role.
“A musical with a good, solid role for a comedienne – a Nancy Walker role–only they don’t write too many roles like that anymore.”
Her dark brown eyes and hair, sensually broad mouth and slightly off-center nose give her face an aura of Everywomaness which, she hopes, will make her ideal for commercials.
BETTE MIDLER (Tzeitel)
Miss Midler is a Hawaiian born and bred lass who calls Honolulu home. After participating in high school dramatics and attending the University of Hawaii, she came to New York to study acting with Herbert Berghof. Her professional acting debut began in films in Honolulu where she portrayed a surf bunny in a bikini beach movie called Surf-a-Go-Go. Her first New York engagement was off-off Broadway at CafÃ© La Mama where she played the lead in Miss Nefertiti Regrets. She also played in Cinderella Revisited down on Second Avenue and appeared in a Catskill revue called An Evening of Tradition, an adaptation of Sholom Aleichem and Paddy Chayefsky stories.