Bette Midler: “I Have Nothing Left To Prove”

Daily Mail
”˜I don’t like the extremes we’ve gone to with sexual exploitation. It’s like women are taking part in their own degradation.’: Bette Midler on surviving in show business
PUBLISHED: 08:53 EST, 4 November 2014 | UPDATED: 09:38 EST, 4 November 2014


Film flops? Bette Midler’s had a couple. Producers obsessed with a ‘young flesh’? More than a fair share. But is the Hollwood diva downhearted? No! And does the divine Miss M still have what it takes at 68? You Bette!
In the elegant quiet of a discreet New York hotel room, Bette Midler is recalling a sketch from a Seventies TV show.

”˜So it was me, Cher and Elton John,’ she says in that breathy, broad twang. ”˜We were all in our 20s. And we had to dress up in grey wigs and hang on to these walkers and clomp about, moaning and talking about being performers in the old days.

”˜And now,’ she pauses for dramatic effect and holds her hands in the air, ”˜We are the old guys. We turned into our own sketch! I never thought I’d live to see that day.’ She slaps her thigh.

The irony is, at 68 (Bette and Cher) and 67 (Elton) all are going strong. Elton has a three-year extension to his The Million Dollar Piano show at Caesar’s Palace, Cher’s Dressed To Kill tour runs into 2015 and Midler is about to release her 14th studio album, It’s The Girls.

She hasn’t ruled out another tour (it would be her 20th) but these days she has broken through to that state ”“ beyond celebrity and riches ”“ of not feeling the need to prove herself. ”˜It’s the most liberating place. I do what I do because I love it. If people like it, wonderful, if they don’t it’s not going to destroy me. I have a life outside of this.’

Midler doesn’t look like you expect, the Brassy Bette from Outrageous Fortune, Beaches or Ruthless People. The hair is white blonde, the jewellery and make up minimal, the bag Hermès; she looks well groomed, and expensive. She works hard to look like this ”“ 5/2 diet, daily dance routines, strict avoidance of all things processed.

But then Midler always worked hard. She has what on The X Factor is called ”˜the right attitude’ and in real life a ”˜work ethic.’ She also has a keen sense of humour so when she gets a slap in the face (”˜so many I can’t count’) she can laugh.

She grew up poor in Hawaii (”˜a tiny island in the Pacific’ as she dubs it), in the only Jewish family, the only girl at school with big curls and big ambitions to become a star. At 19 she left for New York. ”˜I didn’t think about how I would get mugged, robbed, dumped on ”“ never occurred to me. And then all those things happened. Terrible boyfriends, I got ripped off lots of times, but for some reason it never crushed me ”“ I took it in my stride and got on with it because I never expected it to be easy.’
As to whether the album sells or not”¦ Midler doesn’t care. ”˜I have nothing left to prove,’ she says simply.

As to whether the album sells or not”¦ Midler doesn’t care. ”˜I have nothing left to prove,’ she says simply.
And Midler was used to not fitting in. Not at school, nor on Hawaii. So when she rocked up in New York and wasn’t the archetypal cool, slim Sixties songstress, she created her own niche, singing in a gay club. Rowdy raucous nights accompanied both by her natural wit and a young Barry Manilow on piano.

She did, she reveals, hang out, partying with Doors singer Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. ”˜I did my share. I tried to be a team player but I hated waking up feeling terrible with my nose running and this overwhelming feeling I’d debased myself. People were falling by the wayside ”“ Janis fell, the two Jimmies fell [Morrison and Hendrix].’
Then, her Manilow-produced first album, in 1972, The Divine Miss M, won her a Grammy and an entrée to Broadway. Two years later she won a Tony Award for her Clams On The Half Shell Revue. In 1977, her first TV special, Ol’ Red Hair Is Back, won her an Emmy and two years later her movie debut, The Rose, won her an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe for Best Actress.

So after that start the rest of her life must have been easy? She responds with a whiplash of laughter. ”˜I discovered people in this business will hurt you. It’s tough being a woman in this business, particularly 20, 30 years ago. A lot of people can’t stand a woman with power and it was left for me to learn in my 30s that you have to stand on your own two feet and deal with it.’

Her first movie role after The Rose was Jinxed!. It flopped and for four years she was shunned by Hollywood. ”˜I went back to music. I was lucky. I started off as a girl wanting to be an actress but I wasn’t the obvious choice so I focused on the singing.’

In 1985 she signed a deal with Disney and reinvented herself as a comedy actress in Down And Out In Beverly Hills, Ruthless People and Big Business. Then came Beaches in 1989, which gave her another Grammy-winning song ”“ Wind Beneath My Wings, one of the highest-grossing songs ever made.
She has continued to make films (The Stepford Wives, The First Wives Club, Scenes From A Mall) and albums but makes no bones about the fact that she’s not on any Hollywood producer’s direct-dial. ”˜When I hear about a film involving a woman of a certain age, I put my hat in the ring. I went for August: Osage County. But Meryl [Streep] got it.

”˜It’s hard to get a job in movies over 40. Glenn Close put it in perspective. She said: “Bette, the only way you get hired is if the head of the studio wants to f*** you.” They want young flesh.’

It’s not like she’s hard work. The diva tag is more to do with her screen persona than the real Midler, who does her own shopping and digs community gardens with children for her New York Restoration Projects. Her one rider is herbal tea. She would, she says, like to be more of a diva but ”˜I’m too boringly insecure, which makes me ridiculously down to earth. I’m very much aware of my behaviour. I don’t ever let myself get out of hand. Nor does my husband!’

Midler is a woman of strong (and often unrepeatable) opinions. That’s one reason her gloriously filthy and politically incorrect Twitter account has 639,000 followers. She’s also a woman’s woman. Her new album is a tribute to ladies who, like her, made it against the odds. ”˜The voices that inspired me were women’s voices. I loved girl groups [it has covers of The Supremes’ You Can’t Hurry Love, The Ronettes’ Be My Baby, The Boswell Sisters’ It’s The Girl]. I’d play those to death. There’s something special about the voice of a woman.’
And no, she does not twerk. ”˜I don’t like the extremes we’ve gone to with sexual exploitation. It’s like women are taking part in their own degradation.’

As to whether the album sells or not”¦ Midler doesn’t care. ”˜I have nothing left to prove,’ she says simply.

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One thought on “Bette Midler: “I Have Nothing Left To Prove”

  1. Love this picture, especially the 2nd man from the right…………….Love the old days……………

    Loving the new CD. Thank you Bette!!!!

    Can’t wait for May. Bette in Concert in Los Angeles. Just like the old days. If I were only 20 again!!!!

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