One-on-one with Bette Midler
With her new album ''Bathhouse Betty'' out, the singer opens up to EW
The fall of ’98 has been divine for Miss M — Bette Midler, that is. The season not only brings Bathhouse Betty, her first album in three years, but a virtual costarring role (without the fuss of having to show up on the set) in Meryl Streep’s weepy One True Thing, which uses the 52-year-old singer’s heartfelt music to divine effect.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, a stalker actually named your new album?
Bette Midler: Yeah, he was outside my house [in the summer of ’97] screaming, ”Bathhouse Betty! Bathhouse Betty!” It’s funny — I’m the only person who’s ever been stalked who was listening. Now there’s going to be a million guys coming out of the woodwork saying, ”It was me! It was me!”
EW: On a less disturbing note, Bathhouse Betty is your most diverse album in more than a decade, a return to the campy fun of your early-’70s classics.
BM: With the last record [1995’s pop-oriented and ballad-heavy Bette of Roses], I had friends calling me up saying, ”There’s no variety.” Now they say there’s too much. The only thing I don’t do on this record is sing in Chinese. I want to do what I want to do. I don’t want to do what the demographics tell me to do. I’m too old for those games.
EW: Are you feeling demographically challenged?
BM: People past a certain age have been shut out of the business. I remember when rock came in, Benny Goodman and Frank Sinatra couldn’t get on the radio. It must’ve been painful. Now I know what it feels like.
EW: How do you keep up with current music?
BM: My hairdresser tells me what’s happening. He brought me [Betty‘s hip-hop-flavored track] ”I’m Beautiful.” I was determined to do it because I really liked the message. Did you know [the song samples] Zero Mostel saying ”Flaunt it, baby,” from The Producers?
EW: How very Puffy of you.
BM: Oh, isn’t it?
EW: How did a couple of your ’70s songs — ”Do You Wanna Dance?” and ”Friends” — find their way into the film One True Thing?
BM: Meryl Streep called me up and said, ”I’m doing this movie, and we want to use your songs.” What do you say to that? ”No”? ”I’ll get back to you”? ”My people will call your people”? You say, ”Of course, Meryl! How’re things? How’re the kids? Of course!”
EW: Will you tour behind this record?
BM: No…I don’t know. I could go, but it’s a big commitment. I have a little girl [Sophie, 11]. I don’t want to go without her. The only time I can go is in summer, and I don’t have that many summers left. What, they’re gonna wheel me out?
EW: Are you already planning the next album?
BM: Absolutely. I want to sing ”Moonlight in Vermont.” I’d like to sing some true Hawaiian music, and I would like to sing ”I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones.”
EW: Anyone you’d like to duet with?
BM: Missy Elliott. I like her a lot. She makes me laugh. She’s really musical and kinda sorta fearless. I like the way she looks. I like the way she carries herself.