The gay interview: Bette Midler

More than 30 years have passed since Bette Midler made her screen debut as a rocker with a self-destructive drug habit. The film, 1979’s The Rose, turned the Hawaii native’s dreams, and her nights performing for half-naked gay men at a New York City bathhouse, into a legendary and undeniably influential career in music — the title song is one of her biggest hits — and in film.

Later roles would include parts in Beaches, Hocus Pocus and The First Wives Club, all of which go down as gay cult classics. A star of the stage, screen and recording studio, with numerous Grammys, Golden Globes and Emmys to her name — even the moniker “The Divine Miss M” doesn’t quite do her justice.

But now that the curtain’s closed on her two-year Las Vegas spectacle (The Showgirl Must Go On wrapped in 2010) she returned recently as a leading lady in her first major picture in more than a decade.  In Parental Guidance, the 67-year-old plays a grandparent alongside Billy Crystal, who both try to navigate modern-day parenting conundrums when they’re stuck watching their daughter’s three kids.

Just in time for our Hollywood Issue, Midler chats about Parental Guidance (including the film’s stance on bullying) and the “bittersweet” beginning of her career.

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: You share some similarities with your character, Diane Decker, in Parental Guidance. One thing I’d like to believe you don’t have in common with her, though, is when one of the kids dresses up as a girl. You would have let that boy wear those high heels, wouldn’t you have?  Midler: What are you trying to get at?

That you’re a gay icon. I could see you being OK with him in heels.  I sort of try to avoid encouraging kids to be hustlers.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones