Sunday Mirror (London, England)
BETTE: MY FIRST FOR REVENGE; BETTE MIDLER KNOWS EXACTLY HOW TO GET EVEN WITH A CHEATING MAN . . BUT TELLS PAULINE McLEOD WHY SHE’LL NEVER JOIN THE FIRST WIVES CLUB
November 3, 1996 | McLeod, Pauline
It’s late at night. Bette Midler’s jaw is clenched. Her knuckles whiten around the steering wheel of her Jaguar, and she’s revving the engine hard – her sights fixed firmly on an Oldsmobile in front of her.
Then she drops the clutch, and Crash! Her Jag ploughs straight into her target – the car owned by the man who had two-timed her.
A revenge scene from her new smash-hit movie The First Wives Club? No – this was the Divine Miss M herself, steaming with rage and out to get her own back on the man who had broken her heart.
“He’d cheated on me,” says Bette of the incident years ago when she was single. “It was my Jaguar and I think it was his mother’s Oldsmobile. I remember feeling pretty good about doing it. He was upset because he didn’t have any money to pay for the damage, but I had plenty of insurance.”
She laughs that wicked laugh, her eyes twinkling at the memory: “Oh, revenge is very healthy. I like it. If I didn’t believe that what goes around comes around, I would have to kill myself. It is the cornerstone of my life.” It’s also theÂ cornerstone of the girls’ movie to end all girls’ movies, The First Wives Club. Bette stars alongside Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton in a blisteringly funny tale of three wives who enact perfect revenge on the husbands who trade them in for younger, sexier, models.
Ivana Trump, who has a cameo role in the film, defines its philosophy in a smart one-liner: “Don’t get mad – get everything.”
“I just hope men find the whole thing funny too,” says Bette. “We laughed so hard while we were making it some people had to leave the set.”
Bette, now 50, didn’t get everything her own way on the movie, to be released in Britain next week. She had hoped for the more glamorous role of Elise, the alcoholic fading movie star married to her former limo driver who then trades her in for a younger starlet. But that went to Goldie Hawn.
“Of course, I wanted to play Goldie’s part.” she says. “Dressing up in all those biker-chick clothes and strutting around in high heels. Are you kidding?”
Despite her own proven ability for hands-on revenge, Bette’s life these days is a long way from that of Brenda, the dumpy, frumpy, sour character she ended up portraying.
For a start, she’s tiny – a perfect size 10 compared to the size 16 and extra 15 pounds she was carrying to play Brenda. The real Bette comes shrink-wrapped in slinky black leggings and wasp-waisted turquoise silk. Her hair is blonde and chic. And more importantly, she has a blissfully happy marriage.
The daughter of a Honolulu house painter, Bette’s glitzy showbiz life was completely turned around at 39 years old, when she finally fell in love.
Not for her the dismal route travelled by lots of Hollywood friends whose lives have been taken over by the haggle for alimony.
“We both very much wanted to get married,” she says. “My career has had its ups and downs but nothing compares to my family. They are my top priority and for the first time in my life I’m completely happy.
“My husband’s a great guy. He has an artist’s soul, ability and drive. He’s working on his first feature film, and yes, I could have a part in it but I don’t know if I want it. He accepts my help when I give it to him, but he doesn’t expect it.”
Bette is clearly happy, and her daughter Sophie, now 10, has changed her life.
“She’s a great actress. She has a great ear. She can do all the personalities I’ve done on stage. Any of them. Probably better than me.” It’s still hard to believe thatÂ she, Goldie and co-star Diane Keaton all turned 50 while filming.
“Inside I feel much younger,” says Bette. “Someone once said to me that you reach an age and then you never get any older inside, so I guess I’m about 22. Although I don’t feel any older I’d like to think I’m getting wiser in certain respects.”
“I used to get really upset about certain things but I’m learning to let go. Life really is too short.
“I used to be interested only in the showbiz things that made my own world go round.
But I would have to say that having Sophie has calmed me down. I’ve learned that I can turn my face to another arena.”
Bette has a very opinionated head on her shoulders and has never been afraid to shoot off at the mouth. Has the success of The First Wives Club – a monster hit in America – enabled her to stick two elegantly manicured fingers at the Hollywood grey men who initially shied away from a movie starring (Shock! Horror!) three strong women?
“It didn’t start out as that at all,” she confesses. “In fact, Goldie, Diane and I have been pretty lucky. There are a lot of women our age who have started out on the same path and haven’t had the good luck we have. But what can you do?
“I’m too old to have an axe to grind any more. I can’t go tilting at windmills for the rest of my life and all the yelling and venom in the world isn’t going to help anyone. As far as Hollywood is concerned, the bottom line is the dollar. That’s the only thing that’s going to change them.
“I would love to get my revenge on the system and believe me if I had a chance I would. But you can’t spend your entire life in that mould.
“But you know what?” she says, her smile breaking into the biggest grin you’ve ever seen. “A hit is always the best revenge!”