Bette Midler talks ”˜Divine Intervention,’ driving in Atlanta and covering TLC
May 8, 2015
BY MELISSA RUGGIERI
After Bette Midler wrapped her two-year residency in Las Vegas in 2010, she bopped from the movie screen (2012’s Atlanta-filmed “Parental Guidance) to the Broadway stage (2013’s one-woman show, “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers“) and then back to the studio for her 2014 girl group homage album, “It’s the Girls!”
It’s enough to make anyone drop from exhaustion.
But the indefatigable Midler, who turns 70 at the end of the year, just launched an international tour that will keep her racking up frequent flier miles through July.
Midler rolls her “Divine Intervention” spectacle into Atlanta on Thursday (a day later than originally scheduled because of the Atlanta Hawks playoffs).
She’ll be joined by more than a dozen musicians (yes, those Harlettes will be there). The band contains what she jokingly calls her “Atlanta rhythm section” – which includes local natives Morris “Mo” Pleasure (multi-instrumentalist), Darrell Smith (keyboards), Sam Sims (bass) and her “sunbeam,” drummer Sonny Emory.
LAS VEGAS – JANUARY 31: Entertainer Bette Midler performs during the final performance of her show, “The Showgirl Must Go On” at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace January 31, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for AEG Live)
Midler will say goodbye to iconic character Delores Delago. Photo: Getty Images.
For the tour ”“ her first major outing in a decade ”“Midler promises costumes, hits, selections from “It’s the Girls!”, and, sadly, the retirement of Delores Delago, the kooky mermaid-in-a-wheelchair prone to spouting Broadway medleys.
“She is no longer with us. She was hooked and let’s not go any further,” Midler said with mock somberness. “We’ll be giving her a proper sendoff.”
So why say goodbye to an iconic stage character?
“I just couldn’t face climbing into that fishtail again,” Midler said with a laugh. “Those pieces are very hard to put together. I’ve been doing it since the early ”˜80s and to crank that machine up and write the parodies ”“ it’s fun, but it’s a gigantic amount of work.”
In a phone conversation last month as she began rehearsals for the tour, the refreshingly candid and engaging powerhouse singer talked about staying in shape, getting lost in Atlanta, covering a TLC song and putting Tyler Perry to work.
Q: As environmentally conscious as you are, what are the challenges of doing a major production but still keeping it somewhat green?
A: A lot of people go with hundreds of trucks. I’m going to try to keep it down to a few. We try to recycle things and catering keeps plastic to a minimum. I try to have refillable gallons of water. I do the best I can, but it’s a balancing act. I really do try”¦at least I make the effort. That’s one of the reasons I stayed in Vegas because I didn’t have to go anywhere.
Q: You’re in fabulous shape, but I imagine doing an arena tour requires an even higher level of endurance. What is your routine to prepare and once you’re on the road?
A: My routine is pretty simple. I have to run a couple of miles every day or the gear box seizes up. I don’t drink any kind of caffeinated soda or drinks. I do watch what I eat. I won’t eat processed food ”“ I won’t even eat a pretzel. I do drink alcohol, not a lot, a couple of drinks a night because you’re so wired (after a show) and it takes a drink to come down.
Q: Are you a wine fan?
A: I don’t like wine, I like spirits, I like champagne. On this tour we’re doing meet and greets, which we’ve never done before. We’re going to shake hands ”“ I will be wearing gloves ”“ and maybe have some drinks.
Q: Do you enjoy touring? At this point, when you get to an Atlanta or a Boston, do you try to spend any time in the city or do you just hole up in the hotel until show time?
A: Absolutely. I try to go to a good restaurant. I try to go to something historical and call up old friends, go to antique stores. I love the cities. I’m interested in all the city life. I meet plenty of mayors. We made “Parental Guidance” there, so I know a little about Atlanta. The roads are, pardon my French, the [expletive] worst. It’s so frightening trying to drive there ”“ Peachtree Road, Peachtree Lane, Peachtree Gully, Peachtree Fairway. One time I tried to get to a market out there because we’re all very grow your own (food), so I went to one of those markets I had read about and I didn’t have a GPS. I think I had to be rescued.
Q: I saw you on Broadway in “I’ll Eat You Last.” Would you ever do a show like that again?
A: That was a lot of fun. That was a script that was so brilliant, (and since it was a one-woman show) I didn’t have to be afraid that the other actors wouldn’t enjoy me. I think I would do it again. I like to act, but I didn’t enjoy the eight shows a week and getting to the theater every night is so frightening. Times Square is unholy. A couple of times I had to get out and run to the theater. If I could live in the theater, I would do it!
Q: Do you think you’ll ever do something like your Vegas residency again?
A: You know, I did it and I know what it feels like and I wouldn’t do it again. People came but you didn’t know if it was really your tour base. When the (financial) crash came and people stopped coming to Vegas, there was really nothing to do. But they gave me the perfect attendance award ”“ I never missed a single show. I’m old-school, and I had to, but it was hard. The summers are so hot. I loved the restaurants, but there’s not a whole lot to do in Vegas. It wasn’t for me.
Q: TLC’s “Waterfalls.” What about the song spoke to you?
A: I remember hearing it the first time in the ”˜90s and and being able to hear past the bass drums in the front of the track and hearing this incredibly sad song, almost in code, about the mother’s plight about trying to reach a child and not being able to and having to suffer the consequences. I cried the first time I heard it. I do love those sad songs. When this (album) came up and they said how about this ”“ and I said I did start my life singing girl group songs because they were so much fun ”“ and then I thought about “Waterfalls.” The (TLC) girls reached out to me and they love it. I stuck my two cents into their Kickstarter campaign (to record a new album). I love the life, the drama, of girl groups. I had a girl group pilot for TV and I always thought that is such an interesting world and I was surprised they never did it. Tell Tyler Perry I said to get going on that!
Bette Midler. 8 p.m. May 14. $46-$211. Philips Arena, 1 Philips Drive, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.