Multitalented Bette Midler has all kinds of plans for the future
Bette Midler headlines the Brilliant Lecture series, where she will discuss her career ups and downs.
By Joey Guerra
April 28, 2014 | Updated: April 28, 2014 9:37pm
There’s plenty to choose from.
The multitasking entertainer has written books, starred in her own sitcom and is heralded as a world-class touring act. She’s sold million of records, and hits “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “From a Distance” are pop classics. She earned an Oscar nomination for “The Rose” and most recently scored a box-office hit with 2012’s “Parental Guidance.”
And there’s still plenty left to do. She talked with the Houston Chronicle about plans for the future and the changing face of show business.
Q: What’s unique about these speaking events versus what you normally do onstage?
A: We hope that it’ll be amusing. We hope that it’ll be funny. This group, I think, they wanna hear a little bit about my show-business life, but I think they’re very interested in what makes someone like me sort of put the show-business thing aside for a while and decide to do something for others. I’ve had this nonprofit organization (New York Restoration Project) for close to 20 years. There are many, many groups of people who really wanna make a difference in their town or their city or their community. They like to hear about other people doing the same thing because it inspires them, shores them up and gives them the confidence to go on. It’s an old American tradition. It’s so ancient. The Chautauqua Circuit – people would always get into their stagecoaches and ride into the Wild West and tell them about what’s going on in the cities.
Q: You haven’t released a studio album since 2006’s “Cool Yule.” Is there one on the horizon?
A: It’s interesting that you ask me that because I have been in the studio since the end of January. I’m making a record. I’m not really gonna talk about what it’s about yet, but I’m having a great time. You can say that. It’s a forward look at a look back. I think when people hear it, they’re gonna have fun. I think we should have it out by the end of the year.
Q: How do you weather the changes in music – and in entertainment in general?
A: Everything is so different now: the making of records, the selling of records, the buying of records. It’s completely upended. It’s really hard to get your arms around. We talk about it every day. It’s very curious and very distressing. But it is what it is, and you have to adapt or die. Almost every arena that I’ve had my hand in is so completely different. But real contact, a human being standing up communicating with another human being, that has not changed. I’m so grateful that I have that, that I’m able to do that. I wouldn’t have anything if I didn’t have that. I think my real gift is that people feel as if I’m talking only to them. I really am grateful for my own gifts, and I try to use them as often as I can. I try to keep them in tune, and I try to keep them alive.
Q: Will you head out on the road again?
A: I would like to do a tour again, but I don’t want it to be one of those huge, 50-truck extravaganzas. You know I’m an environmentalist, so I don’t like to spew that much garbage into the air. And you know what else? When I did “I’ll Eat You Last” on Broadway last year, I was in a very beautiful house that sat about 750. I just had the most marvelous time. It was just big enough that I could reach the back of the house. They could see me really well, and I could see them. In the huge, huge stadiums, you don’t get that. I really do love playing the arenas, but I like to play every size in between that. Whether I succumb to the big numbers or whether I just walk around the block a couple of times and stick my head in basements, I don’t know. I think I overthink stuff.
Q: Is the Mae West HBO movie you were attached to still happening?
A: Yes, it’s going on. We think we found a writer. They’re making all these sorts of phone calls. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about her and watching old Mae West movies. She really was quite a phenomenon. There’s no script, but they are moving forward with it at the glacial pace that is the only pace that’s possible.
Q: What comes to mind when you think of Texas?
A: Well, you know, Ann Richards was the governor of Texas for many years. We have a garden that my organization and I are planting in her honor, actually spurred on by Liz Smith, who canvassed all Ann’s friends to contribute to the effort.
It’s quite beautiful. We’re very proud of it. We adored her. She was a real firebrand.