Magazine Feature

Bette Midler Talks Trump, Her 'Voice' Role & Why Blake Shelton Is the Next John Wayne

Bette Midler
Jonathan Pushnik

Bette Midler

At 70, Bette Midler keeps her schedule packed and the wisecracks flying. In October alone, she is appearing as Blake Shelton’s mentor on NBC’s The Voice; reissuing her platinum-certified debut album, The Divine Miss M; and starting rehearsals for her starring role in Jerry Zaks’ upcoming revival of Hello, Dolly!, which bows in March 2017 and broke Broadway’s single-day sales record with more than $9 million in advance tickets. The three-time Grammy Award winner talks all of the above -- and whether the 1993 Halloween movie Hocus Pocus will get a long-awaited sequel.

How are you ­enjoying your debut experience on The Voice?
It’s so much fun. I wasn’t going to do it. I was with a bunch of people and I said to a very well-known singer, “I don’t want to do The Voice, because what have I got to say to those kids?” And he said, “You don’t have to tell them what notes to sing. You tell them what it means to be a performer.” The singers on the show have some of the most beautiful voices I’ve heard in public. This show has a real sweetness at its core. It’s not mean-spirited. And of course, Blake is a hoot! He is on the small screen, but I personally think -- if I were his agent -- I would get him on a big screen as quick as possible. I think he probably can act. He’s so photogenic, like a John Wayne type.

You’re also knee-deep in workshops for Hello, Dolly! How’s it going so far?
I’m having a great time. I’ve gotten thin! Which I can’t believe happened. I’ve never had a part this big on Broadway. I’ve learned a little bit of the ­dancing -- I mean, I’ve always danced, but I’d never done ­choreography where you have to be in time with 10 or 12 other people. It’s a very steep learning curve. But I must say it’s great. I love to dance. Everyone should dance. The weight just falls right off you!

Your 1972 debut album, The Divine Miss M, was reissued Oct. 21 with some unreleased tracks. Whose idea was the rerelease?
They’ve been asking me for years to put this record out again. I figured everybody still had it, but with all the different technology and people throwing their LPs away -- why, why? -- they said people will love it, that they didn’t have it anymore. There are barely even CDs! I said, “Please do not remaster this so that it’s incomprehensible. I want the same warm analog sound it had when we first put it out.” I really love this record. I was so young -- barely 28 years old -- and I think you hear it in my voice. This young spirit and real joy at finding myself in such a fantastic situation.

Buena Vista/Everett Collection
Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker in Hocus Pocus in 1993.

It’s nearly Halloween. Why do you think, 23 years later, Hocus Pocus remains such a holiday classic?
You don’t get to see women doing slapstick too much, and in the movie you can see that we’re having a blast. For the life of me, I can’t understand why there’s not a sequel. All the shackles were off, as Donald Trump likes to say, and we were allowed to be as wild as we wanted to be. It was a perfect storm of fun.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 5 issue of Billboard.