October 6, 2022 - 8:17 am
Updated October 7, 2022 - 12:38 pm
“Here she is … the lovely Bette Midler,” a publicist says.
You almost expect a drumroll and stage lights. Instead, all you hear is a voice.
“Bette Midler, still standing,” the Divine Miss M says on a fall day in New York City, her hometown for the past seven decades.
Thriving is a better way to describe it. The screen and music icon is chic and ageless in a hot pink floor-length skirt and a red, gold and pink striped silk shirt. Her hair is the perfect metallic silver white.
The smile is wide, theatrically (and mischievously) broad for good reason. Her movie “Hocus Pocus 2,” now a hit on Disney+, adds upon the rabid following of the 1993 original. The sequel reunites Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as the sisters Sanderson, a trio of Salem witches who are child-hungry as they plan to wreak havoc on the world.
Midler had been itching for another outing for years.
“This was a dream come true,” she says in a Zoom interview. “I won’t say I was agitating for this to happen. I realized the first movie was a phenomenon, so I started asking my agent, ‘Don’t you think they would be interested in a sequel?’
“I do love a franchise. I’m a little old for it, but I’ll take it!” she adds.
At 76, Midler isn’t stopping now. The actor/singer/comedian/author known for “Beaches,” “The First Wives Club” and “Ruthless People” refuses to even slow down. Upcoming films include “A Childhood History Plan,” which reunites her with Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton.
How does Midler — married for 38 years to artist Martin von Haselberg and mom to actress daughter Sophie, 35 — live the good life?
■ Lean on your female friends: “When women are together and have a bond or a sisterhood, it is very important and crucial for mental health,” Midler says. “Women know how to lean on each other. We count on each other. We’re seriously funny, which women aren’t supposed to be. We’re decisive. We’re intensely loyal to each other, too. These are all positives.”
■ Add a major dose of fun: “I think it’s really important to make sure to add some fun into each day.” “Hocus Pocus 2” was filmed during the pandemic. “It was just the three of us in a makeup trailer telling stories and laughing during what was an extremely hard time for the world,” she says. “Laughter is quite therapeutic and healing. You should surround yourself with people who make you laugh from that deep spot in your belly.”
■ Move it or lose it: “The main thing is you have to move,” says Midler, who loves to walk, dance and do Pilates. “Dancing is one of my favorite ways to move. You can do it anywhere. You don’t need to leave the house. Just put on your favorite music. Dancing really breaks a sweat, plus it’s fun.”
■ Accept the real you: “At the same time, you have to accept your body and learn to actually like your body,” Midler says. “Once you decide to like your body, you stop putting stuff in it that will turn against you or that throws you out of whack. It’s all about balance.”
■ Stop trying to conform: “Why didn’t someone tell me years ago that red hair is aging! I should have been a blonde all those years ago!” It’s funny when you look back at your old beauty routines. If you’re like me without the perfect hair, you’ve spent a lifetime beating your hair into submission! Just stop. Treat your hair kindly from now on. Don’t make it into something it’s not. Live with what you got.”
■ Learn to let go of a dream: “A dream is exactly that … a dream. Sometimes, they’re just a fantasy, but you commit to making it come true,” Midler says. “Sometimes they’re even hormonal. When the hormones fade, then the dream might not mean the same thing to you. That’s when it’s OK to realize that it’s time to get yourself a new dream.”
■ Retire on your terms: Will she ever call it a career? “I’m not finished,” Midler says. “There is always more.”
■ Get involved: “I’m very involved in projects that help clean up New York parks,” she says. “It makes me feel young and feel good to give back to the next generation. They deserve a clean, beautiful park to dream their dreams. Getting involved at every age is helpful because it’s a way to stay engaged in the world.”
■ Look inside for the answers: “Use your basic common sense, which gets the short shrift these days. That’s too bad. Most of us know the answers,” Midler says.
■ Realize life is not just about you: I figure, “Well, there are 7 billion people in the world — it doesn’t have to be about me! It took me about 70 years to come to this conclusion!”