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BetteBack October 23, 1983: Bette Midler At The CrossRoads

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Elyria Chronicle Telegram October 23, 1983
A subdued Bette Midler is facing a new crossroad


There’s but a mere puff of soft blond curls atop Bette Midler‘s head these days instead of the usual explosion of harlot red locks.

And tailored slacks and leather boots have replaced the boas and mules of her trashy-flash past.

Miss M., though still divine, is a little more sedate. She’s busy promoting a new book, “The Saga of Baby Divine,” and a new record album, “No Frills.” She’s also pensive.

“This book and this record are the end of a certain period in my life,” she says. “I want to take stock of myself. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but it will be something I want to do.”

IT WILL BE nothing like her last film, the appropriately titled “Jinxed,” which almost made moviegoers forget the excellent performance she gave in “The Rose” – a role that landed her an Academy Award nomination for best actress.

“Rose — that was one of the happiest times of my life,” she said. “She never let me down.

Afterwards, I went back on the road, went back to the studio and continued my life.”

She’d like to do more movies, but says “you have to be a robot or a Martian or a superman to get a role.” Hollywood and its prohibitive way of making movies frustrates her.

“MARTHA RAYE once said she had had some offers to do her life story and she said the only person she wanted to do it was me,” Miss Midler said. “It’s terribly frustrating — it’s like pulling teeth. By the time I get to play Martha Raye, I’ll be her age.”

She’s written a screenplay — “a comedy about a girl who doesn’t win an Oscar” — and is thinking about doing a documentary on a woman who won the lottery in England. She’s learned from the film business, though she’s slightly fed up.

“I’m a little tougher from it,” she said. “It’s made me more irritable and I’ve lost patience. I used to love the picture business and I wanted to do great work.”

NOW SHE casts her eyes on writing as a source for creative joy.

Her book, “The Saga of Baby Divine,” with pop art, airbrush illustrations by Todd Schorr, was published earlier this month by Crown Publishers Inc.

It’s the story of a red-haired babe who wears purple highheeled shoes, a feathered boa and a diamond-studded safety
pin in her Hawaiian print diaper.

As the tot’s mother gasps in the book: “If only she weren’t so flashy! I know this is odd for a Mother to say – but I find her — well — just a bit trashy!”

The story, written entirely in verse, originated from “the depths of my soul,” Miss Midler said.

“I was a great reader as a child. 1 loved the parts you had to memorize, you know, like, ‘Solomon Grundy, born on Monday, christened on Tuesday, married on Wednesday,'” she said.

“THE STORY came to me one day before I passed out — went to sleep. It sounded like a winner. I could see her in my
mind’s eye.”

She spent two years pulling the book together. “If you read it between the lines, it’s a fairly hopeful book.

There’s a comforting quality to it, too.”

In the early days, when she first landed in New York from Hawaii so she could pursue a career in THE THEATER, Miss Midler was a big hit at the Continental Baths and had a largely homosexual following.

By the time she did her “Clams on the Half Shell” Broadway show in 1974, she was a national cult figure.

“I set out to… I didn’t want to be anonymous. That was the basic thrust of it,” she said.

“Most people do. Some people walk through life without a single hello from a fellow human being.”

SHE’S 37 now, pondering motherhood as the biological clock ticks away and living out of a suitcase between New York
and California.

“I can’t sleep in either place,” she laments. “I don’t feel at home. I even drag things around, like my jammies and my pillow.”

Her older sister, Susan, and her younger brother, Daniel, live in New York. Her oldest sister, Judith, died in a car accident in New York in 1968. Her father, a former house painter, is still in Hawaii.

“We never had subscriptions to anything except ‘Readers’ Digest,'” she said. “One of my father’s biggest thrills was when they printed something in ‘Quotable Quotes’ that I had said. He thought I had finally made it.”

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