When Brilliant Met Divine: A Healthy Conversation with Bette Midler

Bette Midler
Bette Midler
Photo by Jonathan Pushnik

She sings. She dances. She acts. She jokes. She cleans up decrepit, crumbling urban properties. She wins awards for all those things. And she also, simply, talks.

In a bit of a departure from her standard high-production fare, on April 29, Bette Midler, the aptly monikered Divine Miss M, addresses the equal-parts anticipatory/participatory audience of the Brilliant Lecture Series.

"I'm happy to be doing this event. I've been doing them for a couple of years now, I kind of enjoy them," Bette Midler remarked on her upcoming Q-and-A appearance with the series which this year has also welcomed luminaries Betty Buckley, Robert Duvall, and Diane Keaton. "I've been to Minneapolis, I went to Niagara Falls, I mean, I've been around.

"They are always different, you know," Midler continued in that inimitably vocal cadence, describing her lecture experience. "Sometimes I talk about women's health, sometimes I talk about my career, sometimes I talk about the New York Restoration Project," the organic architectural organization she's been working with for the last 20 years.

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"I'm sure it's going to be a good crowd and is going to be full of interesting questions," Midler speculated. "I hope that some of them will be funny!"

Chances are, if the questions aren't funny in their presentation, Midler will twist a punch line out of them, nonetheless: For years, her signature mantra was "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke!"

Today, after spending nearly 50 years dominating the top rung of the show business ladder, Midler's softer, more introspective mantra is "Adapt or die."

When Midler chatted with us, health was on her mind, and she shared her take on how she maintains her divinity in both body and soul.

This story continues on the next page.  

Don't Look At Yourself From A Distance "I have my theory that there are not enough full-length mirrors in the world. Seems to me, if there were more full length mirrors--or even those mirrors that fold out so that you can see three sides of yourself--once you get to a certain point, you say 'Oops! Gotta stop!'"

You Are The Wind Beneath Your Own Damn Wings "It's a matter of being physical. It's a matter of staying active, it really is. You just have to move it. That gets the blood going -- the blood in your face. That gets things growing. It's great! It's good for you! Exercise is the main thing. If you're going to eat more than you burn, you're going to get fat. Period. And I tell you, you cannot blame it on everybody else. You have to take personal responsibility. So it's really up to you."

Some Say Love, It Is A Hunger--An Endless, Aching, Crunchy Need "I mean, people get fat (if) they're sitting around eating Cheetos and Doritos and Fritos. How come they all end in -os?"

Whoa Baby, Whose Side Are You On? "The food companies do make it very hard on you with this constant marketing and this constant in-your-face. But I must say, the other side wages big battles, too. You know, the side for health. These new health magazines, the Oprah's of the world, the Dr. Oz's of the world. They're out there and they're vocal, too. So there's just as much noise coming from the other side. You can choose which side you're going to listen to." C'mon A-My House "It's like your house. If you don't fix your roof, and clean the gutters, and wash the windows, pretty soon you're going to be living in a dump. So it's maintenance. And you know what they say: after 40, it's patch, patch, patch!"

You're Going To Fall In Love With (Old Cape) Cod Liver Oil I must say, cod liver oil is the bomb. Cod liver oil is THE BOMB! So I kind of swear by it, and I never get sick. I haven't had a cold in maybe 12 or 15 years. It has all these great omega's--the good omegas--and it doesn't smell bad anymore. It's either flavorless or is orange flavored or lemon flavored, so it's not such a chore to drink it. You don't have to take it straight from the jar. You can mix it with a teaspoon of molasses, for iron. "In the old days--I'm talking old, old, old, in the Civil War, when I was a young girl--that was the go-to thing, you know. Your mother always dosed you with cod liver oil."

From The Dusk Until The Dawn "And in the old days, women had to do everything. I mean, you worked from dawn 'til dusk, and you never had a chance to think about, 'Oh, is my sex life good?' They never thought about that! They were too busy, trying to stay alive. Can you imagine what life would have been like in 1810? Would your kids have been clean? Would you have had an education? Would they have had worms, like tapeworms? I mean, it's so fascinating! "So I will be doing 'Pioneer Living by Bette Midler.'"

Brilliant Lecture Series, with Tenenbaum & Co. Classic Jeweler and Lynn Wyatt, presents A Conversation with Bette Midler. Tuesday, April 29, 7 p.m. Wortham Center's Brown Theater, 501 Texas Avenue. For information call 832-487-7041 or visit brilliantlectures.org.

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