It’s been a quarter of a century (!) since she starred in the tearjerker Beaches, yet Bette Midler is still an entertainer of the first order. While many stars flash and quickly burn, some like the Divine Ms. M are with us to stay. The indefatigable Midler, who is appearing as outrageous Hollywood agent Sue Mengers on Broadway in the solo comedy I’ll Eat You Last, thinks she knows the reason for her longevity.
“I think that the main thing that I have going for me that a lot of people never got the memo on, is that I did my own work,” Midler tells NPR. “I made my own work, I made my own shows, I put them together in a way that made people want to see them. And I wasn’t dependent on other people calling and saying, ‘We want you for this.’ And I mean, I think in the real world there, once you get to a certain age, it starts to shrink, you know. The number of roles starts to shrink.”
The entertainer, who became a favorite with gay audiences while performing an act in New York’s Continental Baths in the early 1970s, also credits taking control of her career and having often created her own projects.
“I think that that’s what saved me, because being in the public eye — love the public, but gotta say — you know it’s not these indelible events in their lives,” Midler offers. “They fade over time, and so if you don’t come back and refresh their memories … they move on, you know? And so I’ve always been able to go back to them to say, ‘Remember me? Hi! I’m back! Nice to see you! Gee, you got so tall!’ So that’s been my saving grace.”