Bette Midler still divine at 74
By: Janet Nepales
June 17, 2020
Los Angeles — There is something magical about being in the presence of Bette Midler.
Even though our interview was conducted virtually, the magic and charm of The Divine Miss M shone through.
Bette, who looks great at 75, teases us she is only 35.
Young at heart, vibrant, frank and funny, Bette never fails to sweep you off your feet with her charisma and candidness.
We recently interviewed the award-winning actress-singer for her new TV show, “The Politician,” where she officially becomes part of the Ryan Murphy universe. She portrays one of Ryan’s delicious and daring mature women who are not afraid to be themselves and to have sex.
How does turning 75 at the end of this year feel? What does she fear?
“Well I fear fascism,” she revealed. “I fear civil war. Do I fear this pandemic? I do, but I am following the rules. On the other hand, I’ve never, my generation has never experienced this, all these things together. We have seen SARS, we have seen MERS and in other countries we have seen EBOLA, but we have never seen a pandemic of this size and we have never seen marches against a whole other thing all at once, simultaneous.
“And the ruination of our civility and the ruination of our government, we have never experienced this. This is like four pandemics in one. So it’s terrifying. We have to stay calm and hopeful. We have to stay strong. I’m personally following the health rules because I am of a certain age and if I don’t, it’s all over for me. But I support the marches and I support people trying to find their way and I support people taking down institutional racism, I do. I do because it’s unfair and it’s un-American ultimately.”
Learning to play guitar
Bette shared how she is coping with the coronavirus times and the lockdown.
“Well, I picked up the guitar again,” she disclosed. “I play badly but it’s a great hobby. Mostly, I have been trying to learn things. My husband has been learning to bake bread. I am telling you, when this pandemic is over, there are going to be bakers and bakeries. There’s going to be a bakery on every corner instead of a bank. Everyone has been learning to bake bread.
“I have been playing the guitar. I have been reading, catching up on my reading. I have been trying to teach myself things about things. I have been trying to learn about things that have been on my mind forever. And the funny thing about the internet is that the internet is this gigantic library, so whatever you want to learn, you can learn. My daughter learned how to cut hair the other day.
“My daughter (Sophie von Haselberg) got married over the holiday last weekend. It was a pandemic wedding, a very small wedding, and her husband, her new husband, hasn’t had a haircut in three months. So she looked online on how to cut hair and she gave him a pretty good haircut. I mean, that is the world we are living in now. But I am trying to learn to make soap and I am trying to learn stuff, which is what I am doing. I am an autodidact. I love to learn.”
So what is the most fulfilling thing in her work and personal life now? What makes her happy?
“Well so many things,” she admitted. “I must say nature is a primary source of joy and my family, decent food, decent glass of wine at the end of the day. I am just like everybody else. Sometimes I like to stretch my artistic muscles like I was saying, I am learning to play the guitar which I love beyond belief.
“My daughter brings me so much happiness. My husband brings me so much happiness. And I have my organization, my greening organization and we have community gardens where people grow their own food. We teach children environmental science. We are partnering with certain groups around town to distribute food during this terrible time. So there’s a lot in my life that brings me great joy. To create a character, if the character is right, if it is absolutely perfect, it brings me great joy.
“I am very, very lucky. But I do find that in life, it’s nature. It’s being near a tree, it’s walking and seeing beautiful flowers. It’s seeing people in parks enjoying the outdoors. That is what gives me the most joy.”
Hope for daughter
Married for 36 years to one of the performing artists’ duo known as The Kipper Kids, Martin von Haselberg, Bette shared that “it’s kind of cute, very sweet, and very nice to be a mother-in-law. All four of us are together during this lockdown for the past three months and we haven’t had any serious disagreements and it’s lovely.”
So what does she hope for her daughter in her marriage?
“I think my daughter is going to have a great time,” she said. “She laughs incessantly, she sings, she dances. They both do and they are very joyful together. So it gives me a lot of happiness, tremendous happiness. And I think the best thing to do if you are a mother-in-law is to back off and let them have their lives and realize that you are not living their life and you don’t have all the answers and it’s up to them to find their own life and the answers.”
Words of wisdom
And her advice to the younger generation of women?
“Keep your eyes on the prize,” she stressed. “And don’t let it get you down, don’t let setbacks define you. Realize that obstacles are something to go around or to go through or to go above, every human being on this planet has to go around obstacles. And once you realize that everyone is in the same boat navigating the same waters, it gives you courage. And character does define you, work on your character, don’t be pulled in, take the right path.
“The Buddhists always talk about the right path, the eightfold path. There are paths to take that will lead you to contentment, because life is dissatisfaction, all of life is dissatisfaction. And every human being for some reason, other animals, they are not dissatisfied. A lot of times they are just going through their instinctive motions. And they serve their Queen or whatever it is. Human beings aren’t like that. Human beings are dissatisfied and that is something that is inbred into us. So if you realize that that is what life is, then it is a little easier to navigate the water and say oh it’s just a wave, it will pass, or this is an obstacle that I have to find a way around. Just don’t let the obstacles define you.”