BetteBack July 24, 1993: Bette no longer down and out

Medicine Hat News
Bette no longer down and out
July 24, 1993


LOS ANGELESBette Midler has been one tough cookie over the years. And she’s never afraid to say exactly what’s on her mind.

In fact, her candor was particularly refreshing as she encountered TV critics gathered in Los Angeles this week to preview network programming for the fall season.

For one thing, Midler’s new big screen movie. Hocus Pocus, has just opened in theatres and seems on its way to becoming a box-office success. And that’s enough to make her forget about some of her less than-successfül movie efforts of the past.

“I’m not disappointed anymore,” Midler bubbles inside a ballroom at the Universal City Hilton. “Because, you know, I saw my box-office grosses, and I’m just swimming along. Yes, I have a new hit – so f– the past! I don’t have to think about For The Boys anymore, so there!”

Midler has another good reason to be so exuberant She has just finished shooting Gypsy, a three-hour TV version of the famed Broadway musical. It will hit the airwaves as a CBS holiday special in December.

The production, which marks Midlers’ TV-movie debut, boasts a star-studded cast list, including Peter Riegert, Cynthia Gibb, Edward Asner, Andrea Martin, and Michael Jeter. And according to the show’s producers, the TV rendition is using the original script from the stage musical in its entirety.

CBS gave critics a peek at a rough cut of one of the early scenes of the production. And if that scene is any indication, Midler will likely have a big TV hit on her hands as well.

“It’s a great part,” Midler says of her role as Mama Rose, the quintessential stage mother whose daughter went on to become legendary striptease dancer Gypsy Rose Lee.

’This was treated like a feature film. It was a big-budget film that had the full complement of actors and the füll complement of studio musicians.

Nothing was skimped on – except my salary!”

Midler’s sense of humor and energy are quite infectious, as viewers of Johnny Carson’s final week on The Tonight Show can attest Her appearance on that show, and her memorable serenading of Carson, garnered her an Emmy Award last year.

“That was probably the happiest night of my whole life,” Midler says as she recalls the Tonight Show appearance. “It was completely enchanting. In my whole life, in all I’ve ever done, IVe never received such an outpouring of love and goodwill from vast numbers of
people as I did after that show. People were so thrilled by that evening, and they were so glad because they felt that I had given him something he deserved. I said ’thank you’ to him in the way they wanted someone to say ’thank you’ to him.”

Strangely enough, though, Midler never watched that particular show when it aired. In fact, she has made a point of not watching it.

“I did it and I walked away, and I think he did, too,” says Midler. “We’ll always have the memory. That’s why I don’t have to watch it, because I have this wonderful little memory, this golden memory of it I just wanted to keep my memory of it the way it is for me. I want to remember it the way I remember it, so I have no need to watch it ”

Midler has had a colorful career over the years as both a singer and an actress. Born and raised in Hawaii, she made her New York stage debut in a production of Miss Nefertiti Regrets and then went on to join the cast of Fiddler On The Roof on Broadway.

Her early singing career was notorious for its ribald bawdiness at times. She won the first of her four Grammy Awards back in 1975, as best new artist for an album called The Divine Miss M. Her most recent Grammy came courtesy of Wind Beneath My Wings, the hit song from the movie, Beaches. Bette got her movie start portraying the boozy, self destructive rock star in “The Rose” and was nominated for an Oscar.

Since then, her list of credits has included Down And Out In Beverly Hills, Ruthless People, Outrageous Fortune, Big Business, Stella, Scenes From A Mall and, of course, her 1991 stint opposite James Caan as a wartime entertainer in the critically-acclaimed but box office-challenged production of For The Boys.

Midler is now set to embark on the concert circuit again, starting off with an appearance at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. In addition to singing songs from her past three albums, her act will include songs from Gypsy.

“Singing show tunes is something I’ve avoided doing throughout my career,” says Midler. “But I like show tunes. They’re such a peculiar thing in American life, because those people who are interested in rock ’n’ roll or popular music or rhythm ’n’ blues, they don’t want anyone to know they’re closet show-tune listeners.”

Althoguh she concedes that show business is a life that is “very enchanting” and “full of magic,” Midler insists that she is anything but the type of stage mother that Mama Rose was. In fact, Midler says would do everything she could to discourage her own young daughter, Sophie, from ever pursuing a show-business career.

“I think it’s a very hard life, especially if you’re not in the big, big, big, big, big, big, big time,” says Midler. “If you meander along, it’s hard. It’s really, really hard. And I don’t want her to suffer the rejection – ’Oh, you’re too tall, you’re too short, you’re too thin, you’re too fat, you’re too dark, you’re too light, you don’t sing high enough, you don’t sing low enough’ – all of that. It wears away at your soul after a while. I’d like to put a lot of other choices in her path.”

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