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Time Out New York
Author: Mark Miller
Date: 09-18-1996

Shop therapy
Taking a cue from the wealthy divorceés they play on-screen, the stars of The First Wives Club sit down to ponder the big questions of our time. Barneys or Saks? Prada or Gucci? Acura or Ferrari?

They arrive looking, well, just like you'd expect: Goldie Hawn in tight black jeans, a black knit top and Gucci shoes with gold toenails peeking out, her blond hair tousled just so. Bette Midler, a tiny dynamo with an incongruously big voice, is in a black pleated skirt, dark blue blouse and black-and-white checked vest. And Diane Keaton is a kinetic force in all-white: long coat dress, pearls and pumps.

Meeting the three of them together is a little like witnessing the reunion of long-separated sorority sisters - from a very wacky sorority. It is, in fact, a reunion of sorts for Hawn, Keaton and Midler; they've come together in a swank suite at the Rihga Royal Hotel in midtown to promote their new movie, The First Wives Club, a comedy about three middle-aged New Yorkers whose husbands dump them for younger women. First Wives celebrates the women's crusade for redemption - and revenge - in a world that values beauty and youth above all else.

If that world sounds like Hollywood, it's a point not lost on these three actresses, all of whom turned 50 during filming. In the movie, they hilariously spoof their own industry, which is slowly coming to terms with the idea that a woman's life does not end at 40 - and neither should an actress's career. If there's a motto for the First Wives, it's expressed by Ivana Trump in a cameo appearance: "Don't get mad, get everything."

Here, the actresses discuss some of their favorite topics, all of which are addressed in the film: work, happiness, aging, the afterlife - and shopping, shopping, shopping.

Goldie Hawn: Bette! I love those shoes. Are they Varda? Varda is a great shoe.

TONY: Varda is actually having a sale.

Bette Midler: Where's the store?

Hawn: There's one in Soho and one on Madison Avenue. I bought two pairs of shoes and a great pair of boots there.

TONY: Diane, who designed your shoes?

Diane Keaton: [Giggles] I don't know what I'm wearing. They're not Varda. I know that, because I don't even know what Varda is. It makes me feel a little left out.

TONY: Now, you realize that shopping is a part of this interview. [All laugh.]

Midler: Well, you can talk to these two, because I read the magazines, but I spend very little money. They, on the other hand…

Keaton: Oh, spare me, babe! What a liar! This is the woman who just said she goes to Saks every month. Can you believe her lying like that?

Midler: I just look!

TONY: [Skeptically] Saks?

Midler: It's very good now. [Midler and Hawn giggle.] It's excellent now. And the studio services gal is fabulous.

Keaton: I think you are schizophrenic.

Midler: I've decided Saks is really fabulous. And the men's department? Gaultier? To die!

Hawn: Really?

Midler: To die! The men's clothes are prettier than the women's clothes. In fact, a lot of women shop there. They have the most beautiful lace shirts, and these cut-velvet things. Unbelievable.

Keaton: I think Gaultier is a great designer. I do think that.

Hawn: My problem is, I can't shop on this trip.

Keaton: Why not?

Hawn: We're in here. There's no time.

TONY: Where do you shop when you do have time?

Hawn: Bergdorf's, Barneys and Soho.

TONY: Not Saks? [Keaton laughs.]

Midler: [Petulantly] I like Saks! They've got a nice line. They have a petite department, and I'm little so I like to shop there.

TONY: What do we make of what's happening with Barneys?

Hawn: Barneys has gone downhill for me. I don't enjoy shopping there the way I used to.

Midler: Never say that about a shop. You never know when a shop is going to come up again.

Hawn: Well, that's true.

Midler: Never snub a retailer! [All laugh.]

TONY: Look at what happened to Maureen Dowd at the New York Times.

All: What?

TONY: They supposedly began releasing her purchase records and, allegedly, began spreading awful stories about her.

Hawn: You're kidding.

Midler: Who did?

TONY: Well, Barneys. But they deny it.

Keaton: Why?

TONY: Because she wrote a column cheering the fall of all those haughty people with too much attitude who work at Barneys. And Barneys retaliated.

Keaton: Oh my God!

Hawn: I think what happened to Barneys is just a lesson in business. They spread out too much.

TONY: I do like the L.A. store, though.

Hawn: The L.A. store is great. I love going in there, but I hardly ever shop in L.A.

TONY: Why not?

Hawn: It's where my life is. I don't shop at home. I shop when I'm out of town or when I have nothing to do.

TONY: Did you not shop in New York when you lived here?

Hawn: I bought shoes, basically.

TONY: Diane, do you shop in L.A.?

Keaton: I buy everywhere. And I basically - I love swap meets. You know, like the one on 26th? It's really expanded and it's just fabulous.

Hawn: Where is this?

Keaton: The weekend swap meet. What do they call it here? The flea market.

Hawn: Yeah, but where?

Keaton: Here!

Midler: Sixth Avenue.

Hawn: I've never been there.

Keaton: You know what else? I love Barneys!

TONY: Oh, so you defend Barneys?

Keaton: Oh yeah, I defend Barneys. I just think it's really fun. I really like it.

Midler: I think it's fun, too. I always used to go to the 17th Street store. They have the most beautiful windows.

TONY: But half of it is a Loehmann's now!

Hawn: Oh, it is?

Keaton: Oh, you know another weird store? I'd like to talk about one other store.

Midler: Go ahead.

Keaton: Henri Bendel. Strangest store. You can find bizarre, like, dresses. They have dresses you never see anywhere else. I just have no idea where they get their merchandise. But I admire them for being them.

TONY: Do you buy there?

Keaton: Sure, you bet I buy there. Have you been there? It's strange, different, unusual.

TONY: A little more unusual than Saks.

Hawn: Why are you jumping on Saks? Saks has gotten better. You have to go back.

Midler: Saks is way better! I'm sorry, Saks has turned around. I'm standing up for Saks. I am standing up for Saks!

TONY: Okay, where do we all stand on the Prada vs. Gucci question?

Hawn: Oh, Gucci!

Midler: I think Prada makes the most beautiful jackets - I love her stuff. Those little jackets with the zipper? Fabulous.

TONY: Do we have any Prada bags?

Midler: You know, bags are really a problem. Bags are a problem.

Keaton: I never, ever, ever carry a bag. I can't take it. I hate bags. Hate them. They're encumbering. You can't move.

Hawn: You know what? You need pockets.

Keaton: Pockets! Pockets are all you need. Pockets. Pockets. Pockets to put your money and your credit cards in. That's all you need to go out.

TONY: What about backpacks?

Midler: You know what? They're so unappealing. You can't get your hand in them without scratching yourself on the zipper. Sometimes designers don't think about women when they design things. They make things so uncomfortable.

Keaton: I agree with you.

Hawn: I figure I'd rather spend money on something other than a bag.

Midler: No, I'll tell you something: There's nothing like a great bag. A beautiful Hermès bag is unbeatable. People carry them for 50 years, the same bag.

TONY: What about this new Christian Dior bag? I've heard there's a 3,000-person waiting list for that thing.

All: What?!

Midler: Well, Goldie will be on that waiting list.

Hawn: Oh, no, no, no. Let me tell you about my bag. I bought it for $12 - I got it in the Bahamas and I carried it all summer. They crocheted that mishegoss, and it has a nice lining. That's it. Bags, to me, are a waste of money. I bought a crocodile bag - one of those things that lasts a hundred years. It's really pretty, but it sits in my closet.

Midler: I carry a bag against my will. But I will tell you what I do that's very environmentally correct. I never take shopping bags out of a store.

Keaton: [Gasps] Good!

Midler: I carry a canvas bag from store to store to store. I'd like to have a project where everyone carries a string bag like they used to carry in Europe. Remember when we were shooting [First Wives], and I was so upset at all the plastic bags in the trees? There were a thousand plastic bags in the bare trees.

Keaton: I gotta tell you something. The other day, I fell. I fell down because I was wearing these bifocals and I hit my head on the wall…

TONY: Are you okay?

Keaton: Oh no, I'm fine. Well, I don't know, that's questionable. [Giggles] But the point is I had to have stitches in my head and I had to go to the emergency room. So they bring down a plastic surgeon because they had to try to make it not be a bad scar, blah, blah. But get this: He uses all these stainless steel utensils - they put them in a plastic container and they threw them away! [Hawn and Midler gasp.]

Keaton: I said, "What!?" He said, "It's cheaper to throw them away than to sterilize them." Can you imagine the stockpile of medical equipment?

Midler: Unbelievable. Shocking. Unacceptable.

Hawn: Where did you hit your head?

Keaton: I hit my head at my agency, William Morris.

Midler: [Laughs] Oh, that's perfect. You can say, "I bleed for you guys."

Hawn: I though you were going to say you tripped over a plastic bag. [All laugh.]

TONY: But how many stitches? Where?

Keaton: Right on my head.

TONY: Are you sure you're okay? Does it hurt?

Keaton: Oh, I'm fine. No, it doesn't hurt at all. It never hurt. That's another thing. [Laughs] I'm getting nervous, man, because nothing is hurting my head. I don't think there's anything in there. It's really sad. But I feel great. Whooooo!

TONY: Which is a good segue to an important comic element of The First Wives Club: plastic surgery.

Hawn: It is a kind of device, really, for showing [my character's] unbelievable emptiness inside. She thinks this is going to buy her happiness, that she will keep herself looking young, that she will always be on top and people will always want her. She deludes herself.

TONY: But that's what we celebrate in this culture.

Hawn: That's delusion.

Midler: The truth is, this anxiety about aging comes from a bigger source. The media places a huge emphasis on youth and beauty and sex and drugs and rock & roll. It is incessant and it is completely overwhelming. [Keaton and Hawn nod in agreement.] And people can't fight against it. First of all, they don't even know it's happening to them; they're just victims of it. That is the culture. There's no literature. There's no art. There's not music to speak of. All there is is image.

Keaton: But I do think aging is a profound experience. Aging is terrifying because, of course, it is about death. It's an awesome, awesome thing that we don't know anything about. It's one of the most powerful, strange experiences - it is the most amazing experience.

Hawn: You're absolutely right. That's what it's about. But it doesn't have to be frightening. It has been made frightening.

Keaton: People are afraid to look at it.

Hawn: The bottom line is, we're all going to die. So back up from that concept. What are we hiding from? The inevitable truth is, I'm going to be under a tree or burned in a jar. And when you realize that life is impermanent, you begin to understand how to work your life better. Because you ain't going to stop the aging process. Plastic surgery is not going to keep you from getting older. It's not going to stop you from dying. So if you want to get your face done, you want to look better in the mirror, that's fine. But if you think it's going to make you happy, that's bullshit. Because ultimately, what makes you happy is coming to peace with the idea that you are going to die.

TONY: Well, once you're dead, why do we care?

Hawn: I care. I care very much.

Midler: You can't really say that, because you don't know what's on the other side.

TONY: Diane, what do you think is on the other side?

Keaton: Well, you know, I made a movie about heaven. It's just too terrifying for me. The fact is, it's probably nothing. Basically, I think it's over.

Midler: I don't. I don't think it's over.

Hawn: I don't either.

Midler: I think you come back. Or your spirit comes back and lives on or joins with something else and has a happy life somewhere else.

Keaton: I think that's a hopeful outlook.

TONY: Is it more difficult to get older in L.A. or New York?

Midler: In L.A., life is over when you turn 45. [All laugh.]

Midler: You're dead!

Hawn: I say, let's move to Spain! Or Italy, where they love women our age!

TONY: Now you each turned 50 during the filming of this movie.

Keaton: Yeah!

Hawn: Yeah!

Midler: Fifty is fabulous!

TONY: There's been a lot of discussion in the past few years about roles for women who are over 40. Does the fact that you're all starring in this big-budget, high-profile movie mean things are improving for older actresses? Bette, I heard you say that you think things are worse, but Diane and Goldie disagree.

Midler: Because I'm kind of a negative gal, and these two are so perky. [Laughs]

Hawn: I feel like we need to be.

Midler: They're so Orange-fucking-County. It's good to be upbeat, but you also have to have a [grounding] force, and I'm it.

Hawn: You do need to have that person who brings you down. [Laughs]

Midler: Yeah, well, that's me! But as far as the parts for women, it's slim pickings.

Hawn: Slim pickings compared to what?

Midler: Compared to the '80s?

Keaton: Yes.

Midler: Oh well, I worked a lot in the '80s.

Keaton: Well, Bette, you were just coming up and now, you're, you're…

Midler: Now I'm on the way down? [All laugh uproariously.]

Midler: No, I was thinking about the '40s or '50s, which I really see as the golden age for women actresses.

TONY: Did turning 50 frighten you at all?

Midler: I was totally thrilled. First of all, I couldn't believe I was still standing. [Looks at Keaton] Because you're always wondering if someone is going to come around the corner and run you over. [Laughs]

Keaton: I'm not!

Midler: You're not?

Keaton: [Laughs] I keep falling down and running into people in my car. I'd better not say that, because they'll sue me. But I ran into a woman the other day.

Hawn: You hit her?

Keaton: Yeah, I hit her.

TONY: In that big monster car of yours?

Keaton: In that big monster. I never saw her. I got out of the car, and I said, "Uh, who did what?" And she said, "You hit me!" "Oh, okay."

Midler: A pedestrian, or someone in a car?

Keaton: In a car. I never saw her car! I mean, that's a little scary.

TONY: What do you drive?

Keaton: I drive this old Land Rover. The old model.

TONY: That is much better than the new Land Rover design.

Keaton: I don't like the new Land Rover as much.

Midler: [To TONY] God! You just know everything about everything. What is your story? [All laugh.] My daughter knows everything, too. And I wonder where she gets that stuff. And then I realize that that is what the culture has become, and I find it so terribly upsetting. I don't know what to do about it. My husband is a car man. He really loves cars and watches and lighters and pens. I said, "Fuck you - you don't even smoke!" [All laugh.] Now he smokes! He started to smoke because he likes lighters so much! Okay? And my daughter can talk about cars. My daughter is nine. I said, "You're not supposed to be talking about cars!" And then my husband said, "You're not supposed to be talking about what we're supposed to be talking about!" And then I realized I'm full of shit, too. But there is that thing…

Hawn: What thing?

Midler: The idea of which car is better.

Hawn: Materialism.

Keaton: But I appreciate beautiful design.

Midler: I'm looking at the air because of cars. I'm looking at brown air! [All laugh.] Ed Begley's car is clean. Ed Begley's car is electric.

Hawn: I saw Ed's car at a party and it was stalled. [All laugh.] And I said, "Ed, is there anything I can do?"

Midler: Ed is a fabulous guy!

Hawn: Oh, I love him.

TONY: Did his battery die?

Midler: It has 12 batteries. It's an electric car.

Hawn: And all 12 batteries died! [All scream with laughter.]

Hawn: But at any rate, Bette is right.

Keaton: Don't you admire swap meets? Because people are recycling old things? You can furnish your entire house!

Hawn: Maybe that's where I should go. Enough already. Portico! Feh!

TONY: Don't you love Portico Bath?

Midler: I don't know what Portico Bath is!

Hawn: Portico in Soho.

Keaton: Oh, I know Portico.

Hawn: The furniture store has this fabulous sofa that is made in Indonesia that is mahogany and has the rolled arms. It's really beautiful, and I want to get it for my apartment.

Keaton: Oh, I saw that!

TONY: Okay, so what do you drive, Bette?

Midler: A Volvo.

Keaton: You know what? I'm going to buy a car soon. You know what I'm thinking of buying? A Toyota Land Cruiser.

Hawn: I like the Toyota Land Cruiser.

Midler: Buy American!

Keaton: Bette, you say to buy American, but you have a Volvo!

Milder: I used Volvo. That's American. [Laughs]

TONY: What about the Land Rover?

Keaton: They're not making my style anymore.

TONY: Oh, you're right, they've switched to that new bland design.

Keaton: What do you think of the Acura [SLX]?

TONY: No, no, no! Didn't you see Consumer Reports?

All: No!

TONY: The Isuzu Trooper and the Acura SLX…

Keaton: …roll over!

Midler: Don't look at me. I would never have one of those.

Hawn: Well, this is a good conversation!

TONY: Goldie, what do you drive?

Hawn: [Giggles] A Ferrari. [All laugh.] A read Ferrari convertible, okay? I love my car.
Keaton: You're a sporty type!

Midler: I'm sort of surprised at you, Diane. I thought you would have been more sporty, too.
Keaton: No, you can't haul anything [in a sporty car].

TONY: Hers is a serious car.

Keaton: Yeah, serious driving and serious hauling.

Hawn: Well, no wonder your brain is scrambled. I think that will scramble your brain! I really do!
Keaton: It's hideous. It's uncomfortable and everybody hates it. But I love it.

TONY: It's like a tank. But you want protection driving in L.A.

Keaton: Oh, I do! I want to be high. I want to see. And run over people! [All laugh.]

TONY: A Ferrari convertible would seem to be prime carjacking material.

Midler: Goldie has a very short drive. She won't go east of the 405. [All laugh.]

Hawn: And I run red lights if it's after midnight.

Keaton: Are you kidding?

Hawn: Oh, I don't stop. They can come pick me up if they want. [Laughs]

TONY: Now, before we finish, can we get back to plastic surgery for a moment?

Midler: How'd we get from cars to plastic surgery?

TONY: It's all about materialism. Do you find the pressure for plastic surgery is greater in L.A. or in New York?

Midler: Absolutely L.A. No question. The town is full of people who are trying to make it and will do anything.

Hawn: There is a lot of materialism on the West Coast. I love L.A. I've been there a long time. I love my house. I love the beach. I love Santa Monica. I love my friends. But if you stand aside and look at it, on the outside it looks pretty superficial.

TONY: What about you, Diane?

Midler: She just bought a new house and she doesn't want to talk about it.

Keaton: It's true. I had to leave the [Frank Lloyd Wright] house. It's just very impractical for the life I have now. [Midler makes loud baby noises.]

TONY: That reminds me… Baby clothes! Where do we buy?

All: Gap!

Hawn: Gap clothes are great. All our kids wear Gap.

Keaton: I love all those chains. I even like Baby Guess. It's just practical. You know, I can't stand fancy stuff.