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Bette Midler on never performing again and the songs she regrets

The 75-year-old musical icon said her days of performing live on stage may be behind her after an illustrious, multi-decade long career.
/ Source: TODAY

Bette Midler has had an illustrious career with her live stage work spanning over five decades, but she may be ready to put that in the past. The 75-year-old icon recently opened up about her career, revealing her time performing on stage may be over.

In a new interview with Parade, Midler spoke of her career in the past tense, telling the magazine, “My time on the stage is basically up.”

Bette Midler in 2015.
Bette Midler in 2015.Dave Kotinsky / Getty Images

“I’m 75. I don’t have the impulse to prove myself anymore,” she said. “I feel like 'I did that.’ And I’ve done a lot. I’ve earned my rest. Am I going to make an announcement? No. I’m just going to fade away.”

She later touched on her legacy, adding, “I did the best I could to give people joy.”

“And I had a lot of fun myself,” she continued. “I overcame my circumstances, and I would like to help other people overcome theirs. I have high hopes for humanity.”

The 16th Annual Grammy Awards
Bette Midler, Grammy winner for best new artist, back stage at the 16th annual Grammy Awards on March 2, 1974.CBS Photo Archive / CBS via Getty Images

Midler first rose to prominence in the live-theater scene of New York City, starring in "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway from 1966 to 1969. From there, she began performing at the Continental Baths with her pianist at the time Barry Manilow. That gig and artistic relationship with Manilow led to the release of her debut album "The Divine Miss M" with Atlantic Records in 1972, a critically-acclaimed and commercial success for the budding diva.

“That’s the time I was the happiest because I got to do it all,” she said of her one-woman shows. “I got to be funny, to play characters, to sing and wear fancy clothes, to slap on makeup and wear silly wigs. And I was the boss. I didn’t have to be part of somebody else’s dream. I was doing my own dream.”

Since then, Midler has been honored with three Grammy awards and numerous nominations for her catalog of songs. The "First Wives Club" star took a trip down memory lane with Parade, recalling seven of her songs, including “The Rose” which won the singer a gilded gramophone for best female pop vocal.

When asked if there were any songs that she regrets, the Emmy-winner recognized that in everyone’s career, there are going to be “some stinkers.” For her, one of those was her song, “Married Men,” to which she joked, “Please, God, shoot me now!”

She called out another one of her songs, saying, "‘My Knight in Black Leather’ — save me! That was the label saying, ‘You have to record this.’” Both songs were from her overlooked, disco-inspired fifth studio album "Thighs and Whispers."

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Midler spoke of one of her biggest hits, “Wind Beneath My Wings,” calling the song “human.” She shared some behind-the-scenes details about the hit, including that it originally was a country song. Midler initially didn’t want to sing it because she believed it was too sentimental until one of her friends told her, ‘‘If you don’t sing this song, I’ll never speak to you again.’”

“So, I said, ‘OK,’” she said. “As the years have gone by, I revised my opinion because I could see how moving it was. That was my failure of imagination.”

Revisiting some of her old songs isn’t the only throwback Midler has had in recent years. In a recent appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” to promote her new children's book, the singer revealed that she and her husband, Martin von Haselberg, have been together for over 40 years but didn’t see photos from their wedding for decades.

"There were no cell phones in 1984. So we had no pictures," she explained.

Then, out of the blue around five years ago, an employee who worked at the chapel sent her photos from their wedding day.

Bette Midler on her wedding day in 1984.
Bette Midler on her wedding day in 1984.Courtesy Bette Midler

"Apparently, there was a photographer there,” Midler told Kimmel. ”When the Starlight Chapel closed its doors, which was about five years ago, they sent us the pictures. We had never seen the pictures!"

On their special day, Midler and von Haselberg were joined by an Elvis Presley impersonator who performed the couple’s ceremony. The performer also recalled making her then soon-to-be-husband change his outfit before walking down the aisle, telling him, “‘I’m not marrying you in that suit!’”