Bette Midler Interviewed By Whispering Bob Harris in 1973

Bette Midler Interviewed By Whispering Bob Harris in 1973
Bette Midler Interviewed By Whispering Bob Harris in 1973

Bette Midler Interviewed By Whispering Bob Harris in 1973

Hats off to presenter Whispering Bob Harris for another excellent interview from 50 years ago with then-unknown star 27-year-old Bette Midler. Having recorded her debut album The Divine Miss M just weeks before, she’d hit the charts with the Andrews Sister’s Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and never look back. Bette, all class from the get-go, talks about her recent rise to fame from theatre to a gay NY bathhouse.

Interview Transcript

Whispering Bob: It’s interesting for us in this country
that because we’re in a situation at the
the moment where we’ve heard a great deal
about what you do. There’s an album
released but don’t know really about you
as a person. How did you first get
involved in the music business music
business if you like?

Bette Midler: Yeah well it was uh
I didn’t know I was going to get
involved in the music business. If I had
I never would have gotten involved
because it’s full of Mad Men and
crazy people. Um I started I just was it was sort of
an extension of what I was doing in the
the theater. I wanted to be, always wanted to
be a great lady of the theater but
unfortunately, I reached the theater just as
it was kicking off. So music was really the only place left
where there was really some kind of
expression available to one so I took
that way out. You know as I’ve always
been fascinated by it but I never
considered it as a career because I like
the theater. I thought I liked the
theater much better so what I I’ve
actually done is taken my what I have
from the theater and added my Musical
my musical talents to it as it were and
I’ve come up with a sort of theatrical

Whispering Bob: I read somewhere not too
long ago that by somebody who’s sort of
considered you a female David Bowie in
many words, do you see that there’s a comparison? (Bette
gets the vapors)

Bette Midler: I haven’t seen him work. I’ve never seen
his work. I’m very curious to see him
work. I’ve heard his albums. I like his
albums, I’ve seen pictures of him, but
I’ve never seen him work live. I must I
I’d have to see him before I made that

Whispering Bob: You regard what you do very
much so as a okay yes oh yes very definitely for how
long were you involved in CSF?

Bette Midler: Well I was
in I’ve been heavily and I was heavily
involved in it from the time I was about 15
to uh to just about four years ago.
And uh I spent I I wanted to I really
was anxious to have a long career in the
theater you know where you went from
character to character you know from
role to role but uh it doesn’t work that
way in the professional theater. In the
States you get into a show. If you’re on
Broadway, you get into a show and then
you stay with the show until you get
another job and the other job. It’s hard
to find jobs because it’s pretty much of
a closed shop you know I mean? If you’re
not there they have a number of great
ladies already and they’re not looking
for too many others you know so um
so I spent three years in one show and
it was a the first two years was a great
experience. I learned a lot you know but
the third year I was I was ready for the booby hatch you know?
So I decided I had really felt a need to
express myself so I started singing
these little dumps and because…

Whispering Bob: The
interesting thing about the album is
there are so many different kinds of
things on there. Yeah and you were a long
time in making that album too by the way.

Bette Midler: Yes It was part of the reason I was so
long in making it was because we were
out on the road in between recording
sessions but it did take a while because
I really wanted it to be I wanted it to
be a musical adventure. And it was the first
time I had ever been in the studio. I was
pretty frightened you know. It took me
about three months before I got over my
initial Terror you know. I was just I was
just going oh what is going on you know
because it was a new medium and every
time you slip yourself every time you
get into a new medium you have to learn
what it’s about and sometimes it’s
really hard you know. Like television is
just really hard. I find it really
difficult but I’m learning about it you
know and and that’s what that’s…It’s the
same way in the studio. You have to learn
how to work in that particular closed situation
without a live audience, you know
and uh that’s what it took me a long
time to do it ,

Whispering Bob: Do you feed very much off
the audience oh very much?

Bette Midler: Oh yes, absolutely that’s what is I
think that’s my main attraction because
I’m one I’m one of the few people… I have
the feeling that people are going to
start doing it much more now, I’m one of
the few women around who actually
relates to the audience you know
individually and as a unit you know.
That’s that’s my I think that’s my main
attraction my main charm because I
really like them you know I really enjoy
them. I like the fact that they actually
spent money to see me you know so I
always you know come out and try to give
them a giggle yeah you know maybe what
kind of things do you do in America well
I used to do like for the last year and
a half I’ve been doing um small clubs
and uh brothels but lately I have
clearly I’ve expanded to the concert
hall area you know I do concerts Now
sort of uh sort of theatrical shows in
in in concert Halls what do you mean by
brothels Ed well
places of ill refuse because I was
reading something in Rolling Stone not
too long ago talking about you doing
this at baths yes and I didn’t know
anything about that as well Ed McCormick
the man who wrote that article he’s very
much enamored of the decadent aspect of
the Divine and uh that’s me and
he I started I would I became very
popular at a place in Manhattan called
the Continental baths which was um
a steam bath for a homosexuals a health
club a home an exclusively homosexual
Health Club
when I started working there it was
really a dump you know it was the paint
was the place was falling off you know
and the steam was coming out of the room
but uh I worked there I caught on there
that’s really where I got my my big
boost and um
the place has become quite decorated
since uh
I spent a year there and it went through
a lot of transitions the man that owns
it he’s constantly changing he brings in
palm trees and birds and the birds of
course immediately die spent two weeks
in the Steam and they pass away I’m
sending out an injunction against him
because I’m reading this thing in
Rolling Stone I mean I’ve already read a
great deal about you there’s been an
interview in interview the Andy Warhol
oh yes yes the Rolling Stones in Richard
Williams in this country has written a
great deal about what you do I mean do
you do you feel there’s pressure on you
because of what people expect no I
ignore it I just ignore it because it’s
not what doesn’t mean a lot to me it’s
not what I’m after in the long run uh
what I’m really involved in is what I do
you know the the music and and the
presentation of uh my particular music
and art to the audience that’s that’s my
main concern I I don’t pay too much
attention to what they write you know
because if you do you could really go
mad you could really just lose your
cookies so I don’t do that you know I I
look at them I look at them and I look
at the pictures and I put them away and
uh because it’s interesting everybody
has something else to say about what I

(Mister D: I had to give up here because it was taking too long for me,
and as some of you may know, I have no PATIENCE!!!!! I know ya’ll
are smart and figure out who said what OR just listen to the dang video lol)

but that’s part of it too you know
you’re people only take what you take
from you what they what they can you
know what they’re capable of taking from
you what they they impose their own
their own ideas and their own
limitations on you you know it’s their
own um translation and I so it’s all
very personal and subjective so that’s
why I don’t pay any attention to it
because I have my own ideas about what I
do yeah you know you were saying just
earlier that had you known what the
music business was going to be like you
wouldn’t have involved yourself in it
why do you say that oh it’s the pits
isn’t it why well it’s just
I don’t know I I’m very lucky I have I’m
I’m I’m handled by some good people and
and uh I have a Wonder I’ve I’m with a
wonderful record label Atlantic it was
the company I really was
I really thought if I ever made records
that I would my dream would be to be on
the same label as Aretha Franklin was on
and then I got on she uh she left
she didn’t leave I don’t know if she’s
leaving or not but that was it’s
Atlantic and I was really thrilled to be
on it because I consider it a considered
an excellent label some some very some
of my favorite artists around the label
and they’ve been wonderful to me they’ve
just been great but uh I don’t know it’s
just it’s very competitive yeah and I
was not aware of that I was not aware of
how competitive it was and I was not
aware of the the kind of
drive and backbone that you have to have
in order to survive and and make a
career of it and these kids these these
men of these women who who don’t who are
still alive and who are still making
records and who are still having hits I
just give them a lot of credit you know
because they just they must be very
strong people
I mean I made that record and I was
almost I was almost broken down at the
end of it I wanted to die at when when
it was finally over really it took so
much out of me and some people they just
go go in and turn out hit after hit and
sustain themselves and have careers
Jagger I mean I just don’t know how he
does it I just go
take a lot of vitamins do you
at Midland thank you very much
amazing that was the Divine miss M

Bette Midler Interviewed By Whispering Bob Harris in 1973
Bette Midler Interviewed By Whispering Bob Harris in 1973

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