Author: MARSHALL HEYMAN
Date: May 2004
D: Thanks to Macaire for TYPING this article out for me!!! Who could
ask for more?!
cool thing is that this interview took place the same night I met
Bette. I was freaking out when I read this. I think I actually met
the camera man for this picture...who knows? And I surely met the
Doctor Divine that Ms. Midler loves so...
A Hit CD, a smash tour and a new movieÖeverythingís coming up roses
for the Divine Miss M.
member of the Hollywood elite not on hand at the Kodak Theatre in
Los Angeles tonight - Oscar night - is most likely glued to a plasma-screen
TV at home. But not Bette Midler. The artist usually known as the
Divine Miss M is at the Office Depot Center in Sunrise, Florida,
the home of the Florida Panthers, clad in a mermaid suit and zipping
around the stage in a motorized wheel chair as her alter ego, Delores
de Lago. Itís all part of Midlerís Coney Island-themed Kiss My Brass
tour, in which she enters from the rafters on the back of a carousel
horse, bawdily jokes that the generic name for Viagra should be
"Mycoxafloppin," performs "Keep on Rockin" in
front of a projection of her classic performance in 1979ís The Rose,
and belts out "Wind Beneath My Wings," from Beaches, for
the gazillionth time. And while starlets and moguls throng the Oscar
after-parties, an exhausted, post-performance Midler sits in the
lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami at 1am, wearing a
turquoise hoodie, a furry Kangol cap and pigtails, and nibbling
on a chicken Caesar.
"They asked me if I wanted to work on Oscar night," she
says. "First I thought, Whoís going to come? And then I thought,
They have Tivo." Though she has her first major movie role
in four years - as the best friend of Nicole Kidmanís character
in a remake of The Stepford Wives - for all intents and purposes,
Midler, 58, has extricated herself from the Hollywood scene. She
lives in New York City with her husband of nearly 20 years, Martin
von Haselberg, a commodities broker-turned performance artist, and
their college-bound daughter, and devotes much of her time to the
New York Restoration Project, a group that revitalizes Manhattan
parks, which she founded in 1995. Not only does she barely make
movies, she barely even sees them. "I canít waste my two hours,"
she says. "You used to go to the movies three or four times
a week and you knew every one was going to be a masterpiece. None
of us ever thought it would end, but it ended."
Instead, Midler reads prodigiously. She carries "bags and bags
of books" with her on tour, everything from Francoise Saganís
Bonjour Tristesse, which she bought used on Amazon.com (F---ing
A!" she shouts. "Two bucks, are you kidding me?")
to Philip Pullmanís His Dark Materials, a series of young adult
novels. "I couldnít wait to get off the stage to read them."
she says. "Sheís always reading anything she can get her hands
on," says Kidman, "and has an opinion about everything."
Midlerís biggest obsession right now is the South Beach Diet. Sheís
beside herself that Arthur Agatston M.D.,, the bookís author, came
to that eveningís show. "He love me!" she exclaims. "Heís
divine. He gave me his new cookbook and autographed it!" She
needs to maintain her fighting weight for when opportunity comes
knocking, because if thereís one thing Midler knows, itís how to
surf the crests and hollows of success in the entertainment business.
Despite a string of unmemorable misfires (Drowning Mona and Isnít
She Great among them) and her eponymous sitcom, which rapidly tanked
on CBS, Midlerís career is on an upswing. After feuding with Barry
Manilow, the accompanist with whom she got her start in the bathhouses
of New York, she re-teamed with him for the recent album, Bette
Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook, which scored a Grammy
The Kiss My Brass tour has been her most lucrative yet, in some
cases grossing more than a million dollars an evening. And then
thereís Stepford. "I was glad to have a job," Midler says
of her return to the big screen. "But a career isnít just one
thing. Iíve made records, dome concerts, Iíve done pictures, Iíve
done a little television - and I have to say, itís a good thing,
because otherwise I probably wouldnít have lasted as long as I have."
It doesnít hurt that Midler is admirably sanguine about her failures.
"What are you going to do?" she muses. "Pretend it
didnít happen? Itís like the elephant in the room. They know you
made a boo-boo, theyíre just waiting to see what youíre going to
say about it," And indeed, in her stage show, Midler apologizes
for her mistakes, albeit all in the name of getting a laugh. A short
film has Judge Judy sentencing her to hell for her terrible sitcom,
"not to mention that Jackie Susann movie." Afterward,
Midler comes out in a devil costume to sing Brenda Leeís "Iím
Sorry." In the hotel lobby, as Midler sips from a glass of
Evian, she speaks more seriously about the ill-fated sitcom saying
she "would never do it again." "Iíve never done anything
that hard in my life," she explains. The pace was simply too
grueling. "If itís not funny on Monday, youíre in trouble because
Fridayís going to come before you blink your eye and thereís just
no time to fix it. I was in over my head. I was afraid to butt heads
and scream and carry on and have s--t fits and I probably should
As tough as touring with a live show can be, she adds, "itís
like duck soup compared to being on a sitcom." When Bette premiered,
Midler said that, "movies are over for me." But once television
was no longer an option, well, she had to earn a paycheck somewhere.
So, when Joan Cusack dropped out of The Stepford Wives, Midler was
called in to fill her shoes. Despite tales of tumult on the set
- it was reported that Midler didnít get along with costars Glenn
Close and Christopher Walken, and that the shoot went eight weeks
over - Midler speaks positively about the experience, particularly
about working with Kidman.
"Nicole is adorable," she says. "Sheís hilarious
and a broadís broad, and you know, loves her wine." "Did
she say that?" asks Kidman, with a laugh. "That I was
always asking for wine? She didnít sell me out did she?" Kidman
admits to hosting an Australian wine tasting for the cast, and raves
about the glorious dinner party at Midlerís house with Walken and
Close, as well as the on-set sing-alongs with Faith Hill. "Weíve
got the same sense of dry humor," Kidman says of Midler. "But
I suppose most people have the same sense of humor she does. Thatís
kind of what sheís famous for, on top of everything else."
Notwithstanding the recent good fortune, Midler isnít expecting
the movie offers to come pouring in, let alone a resurgence like
she had in the late Eighties. (in 1987 her box office success landed
her on the cover of Time.) "I donít count on anything,"
she says. "I thought after The Rose I would get jobs, but I
didnít. And after The First Wives Club, all the girls [costars Goldie
Hawn and Diane Keaton] were so sure that it was the beginning. I
knew it would never happen.
"I was disappointed that I never got a really great dramatic
role," she continues, "but what can you do?" Besides,
sheís grounded enough to know there are more important things in
life to worry about. The recent death of First Wives Club author
Olivia Goldsmith during a facelift was a sobering moment. "All
she wanted was to have a double chin removed," Midler notes
with disbelief, "and she died! What can you say?" So Midler
focuses on what makes her happy: her philanthropic work and the
stage shows. "Iíve achieved what it was I set out to do, which
was to move people, to give them a transcendent experience,"
she says. "Either with a good voice or a bad voice, with good
jokes or bad jokes, a great set or a s--ty set." Screenwriter
Paul Rudnick, who wrote Stepford Wives, considers her concerts incomparable
"There are about three people at any given time in world history
who can hold an arena all by themselves and make it seem exuberant
and personal," he says. "Who else is an event just by
showing up?" "Itís hard work," Midler maintains.
"Getting into a gown and walking down a red carpet is one thing,
but there are the sleepless nights, the early mornings, the makeup
and hair. Whoever makes it and manages to stay alive and not fall
under the spell of their own press or, you know, drugs, you have
to give them credit."
But the efforts have their rewards. Midler describes performing
with a kind of spiritual reverence and even grows misty-eyed about
the emotional connection she can make with an audience. "When
Iím up there, sometimes I feel as if Iím looking into the face of
God," she says. "There are times when you utterly forget
yourself, and those moments are so great. Because theyíre not the
only ones who get moved - I get moved too."