Bette Shares Her Cultural Obsessions With Harpers Bazaar

Harpers Bazaar
Bette Midler shares her current cultural obsessions.
By As told to Charlotte Cowles on Nov 20, 201


“I must say, I’m astonished that I’ve never gotten tired of any of my own music,” says Bette Midler, whose hits like “The Rose” and “Wind Beneath My Wings” have topped charts for four decades. “Every time I set foot onstage, it’s like singing that song for the first time all over again.” For her latest album, It’s the Girls!, Midler mined classics of a different persuasion, tackling favorites from the girl group genre, like the Shirelles’ “Baby It’s You” and the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love”–all reprised with her exuberant touch. “It was hard to record because some of these songs are so deeply embedded in people’s DNA,” she says. “We really had to turn them on their heads to make them sound new.” Her favorite? “’Waterfalls,’ the old TLC song,” says Midler. “It’s got a fantastic beat, and it’s also a moving story.” Here, the Divine Miss M provides a peek inside her fabulous cultural life.

Music I listen to everything across the board–world music, Brahms chamber music, the blues, and even rap–but it has to have choruses. Gangsta rap is just too rough for me. We were listening to Cesária Évora, the singer from Cape Verde, the other night. And I always like to know what the young pop stars are doing. When I get a night in by myself, I’ll watch them on YouTube. I like Taylor Swift, and I adore Beyoncé–she’s beyond human, and strong, a real athlete. I don’t think any music is better than other music. As long as it’s an expression of who you are and what you’re going through, then it’s valid–and I don’t denigrate anybody’s effort.

Entertaining My ideal girls’ night would include margaritas, chips, and guacamole. We’d play Mexican music, preferably with mariachis, and I’d invite Hilary Clinton, Betty Friedan, Fran Lebowitz, and Madame Pompadour. Wouldn’t you want to be a fly on the wall in that room?

Literature I must read, or else I can’t live. Lately I’ve been reading Jackie as Editor, by Greg Lawrence, which is really interesting. Also The Sleepwalkers, by Christopher Clark, and Hack Attack: The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch, by Nick Davis. I love P.G. Wodehouse, and he wrote 99 books, so he keeps me busy. I read multiple books at once, but I’m not a speed-reader. In fact, sometimes I find myself reading the same paragraph over and over until it makes sense. Getting old–or getting older–is a bear! I also have Amy Alkon’s book Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck.

Food I have a favorite restaurant, but I’m not going to tell you what it is because, my God, then everyone will go! And then what’ll I eat? I love Milos–I’ll talk about Milos because it’s already packed night and day. They do the freshest tomato salad, and the feta cheese never disappoints.

Television With TV I’m old-school. I loved Sex and the City. That was a fun, fun show. If I had to be one character, I’d be Carrie, of course, because she’s the lead! And she gets to wear all the cute clothes. The Sopranos was brilliant too, and everybody on Big Love was absolutely top-drawer.

Fine Art My husband, Martin von Haselberg, is a painter, so we’re always curious about art. I’m a fan of Kim McCarty’s watercolors, and recently my husband gave me an August Sander photograph of a butcher. We really like food, and we keep a few chickens at our house, so it’s all part of a theme.

Bette Noirs Some of today’s TV shows are a little rough. I loved Homeland, but I must say I was devastated when they killed Brody. I was like, Oh, for Chrissakes! I was not amused! And, of course, the bloodbath in Downton Abbey–we were very upset. My daughter watched Breaking Bad, but I could only take it in small doses because I’m a very sensitive plant. And Game of Thrones is too much for me, with the guy having sex with his sister and all that, although I do love the girl with the dragons. I wish I had those goddamned dragons. I wish they were my pets. I love them.

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