For more than four decades, Bette Midler has entertained audiences on screen, stage, and even in those famous bathhouses. Her career really took off after she starred in “The Rose,” followed by her first world tour.
She wrote about the trip in her book, “A View From a Broad.” It’s being re-released today by Simon and Schuster, a division of CBS.
“CBS This Morning” co-host sat down with Midler to talk all things divine.
King: Glenn Close says you’re a national treasure. Barry Manilow says “hurricane of talent,” one of the smartest people he knows. Johnny Carson says “You’re going to be a star because you’re unique and different.”
King: What did that mean to you coming from Johnny Carson? And did you believe him? Did you believe him?
Midler: Well, you know, I– I wanted to.
Midler: I did. I wanted to. But, you know, in certain circumstances, when you are brought up a certain way, it’s very, very hard to get that, to absorb that and think of it as the truth. It’s hard.
King: Were you teased in school?
Midler: Oh, mercilessly.
King: What did they tease you about?
Midler: They called us, called me “Haole Crab.”
King: “Haole Crab?”
Midler: “Haole Crab,” which is something that–
King: I don’t know what that means.
Midler: Hawaii. Haole is the word for white.
King: Oh, okay.
Midler: Or foreigner.
King: You’re in Hawaii. You’re poor and you’re white.
King: And you’re unpopular in school. That must’ve been really tough for you growing up.
Midler: Triple threat.
King: Yeah, yeah, triple threat.
Midler would grow to be a true triple threat; part singer, part actor and part comedienne. She’s won Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes and a Tony. The only major award missing from her mantle is the Oscar — though she’s been nominated twice including for her breakout performance as a self-destructive rock and roll singer in “The Rose.”
Midler: You do start to care about it because it’s like a popularity contest. And you think, “Gee, doesn’t anybody like me?” And then you think, “Well, why don’t they like me?” And then you think, “Well.” And then you start making excuses. And then it’s like, “Well, the hell with it.” That’s what you come to eventually.
King: And– and what did that mean to you, being on the Oscars stage? Were you nervous?
Midler: I was nervous for my singing. I only wanted to sound good. I must say, to do the Oscars is kind of a big deal. And I went through the steps without trying to get immersed in how big a deal it was. I went through the steps. I was spray tanned. Which I — which I had never been before.
King: Do you normally get spray tanned?
Midler: I’ve never been spray tanned in my life. Like, a girl came and spray tanned me. I said, “Why are you doing this?” And the nail lady came and you had to color your hair and blah, blah, blah. And so it was every day, it was something else to wrangle.
King: I’m just picturing you getting spray tanned.
King: And you’re like, “What the heck is hap-”
Midler: Come on, let’s–
King: In a bathing suit?
Midler: No, no, no. They make you take all your clothes off and she powers the machine. I thought I was gonna die laughing. It was so funny and so silly. So, I mean, they call it “skin finishing.”
Off stage, Midler has one daughter and has been married to her husband Martin for nearly 30 years.
King: Is it hard being married to you or hard being married to him?
Midler: You know that when I first got married, this guy I knew … was introduced to my husband, he said, “The man who tamed the beast.” And I never forgot that. And indeed, I think it– really it was like that. Because I was a handful. And I’ve learned a lot and I’ve grown a lot and I’ve given up a lot. And it’s been a negotiation, a 30-year negotiation. But it’s been really interesting. I wouldn’t trade him in a fort.
King: No, he’s so mellow and yet so confident and yet so smart all at the same time.
King: What do you think you’ve given up?
Midler: Well, I’ve given up a lot of independence. You know … I make decisions really– well, I can’t say I make them quickly, but I do make decisions. And I do– and I’m quick. I go – I’ll take this, this, this, and this, I’ll do this, this, this, and this. And sometimes people don’t wanna do what you wanna do.
King: Yeah, I know.
Midler: So then you, you have to say, “Well, what do you wanna do?”
At 68, Midler still has the energy of youth and she’s not ready to go anywhere particularly quietly.
Midler: Do I like getting older? You know, I fight it tooth and nail, I really do.
King: Not like it, but do you accept it, or you know, there are some people that are like, “Oh my God…”
Midler: Oh yeah. I’m in the mirror looking too. And I’m not– I mean, I love life, I do love life. And if this life is the best life, then that’s fine with me.
King: Your life’s been pretty good, Bette Midler.
Midler: It’s been a wonderful life.