BootLeg Betty

BetteBack April 6, 1997: The ‘M’ in Divine Miss M doesn’t stand for movies after all

Colorado Springs Gazette
April 6, 1997

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There is only one thing that Bette Midler truly regrets about her movie career — her movie career. Midler, fresh off the biggest movie triumph of her career with “The First Wives Club” and starring in a film comedy called “That Old Feeling,” dropped the bombshell at the end of a long day of interviews for the new film.

Dwarfed by a long, high-backed sofa in her luxury suite at the Four Seasons hotel in Los Angeles, the petite performer spoke quietly and with apparent relief, finally admitting what she says she has suspected for years.

The Divine Miss M said she never should have gone into movies. She should have remained a live stage performer.

“When I watched my HBO special (taped in Las Vegas and shown in February on the cable network), I realized I’ve been a fool,” she said.

“I realized that I should have been doing my own stage work all these years; I never should have bought into this movie business. I realized that I have been doing work that didn’t require me to use any of D«**^ luirfior “^y skills. They (the Bette Midler businesi never knew what to do with me. And I couldn’t help them because they didn’t want my help.”

Midler, whose own production company produced the new film, in which she and Dennis Farina play ex-spouses who hate each other so much they can’t keep their hands off each other at their daughter’s wedding, said it was simply a career strategy that got her started in the film business.

She was partnered with manager Aaron Russo at the time, and the pair decided that film was the next logical step in a celebrated career that began at one end of the New York City entertainment experience — the gay bathhouses — and ran to the other: Broadway,
where the rest of the world discovered her and made her a superstar.

“When Aaron and I made up our grand plan, movies seemed the natural place to go next. Movies were the top of the line; it was as far as someone could go,” she said.

“But I was naive. The kind of movies I wanted to make, the kind of movies I loved as a child, were no longer being made.”

Midler, 51, was with Russo when she made “The Rose,” for which she won an Oscar nomination. But then came “Jinxed!” and a string of films that clearly did not showcase her talents.

Her career was resurrected in 1986 with the Disney hit “Down and Out in Beverly Hills.”

That began a new phase of her movie career that included some modest hits — “Ruthless People,” “Outrageous Fortune” and “Beaches” — and some duds — “Scenes From a Mall,” “For the Boys” and “Hocus Pocus.”

But she was working steadily, and her film career had another resurrection last year when she teamed with Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton to make “The First Wives Club,” which struck a chord among women and took in more than $100 million in this country alone.

“As for what that success meant to me, it was very nice. It was a blast. But it meant nothing in the long run. The good scripts still don’t come, and I still have a hard time finding a director.”

As down as she is about her movie career, however, that’s how upbeat she is about her revitalized stage career.

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