Oral History: Bette Midler and the Perils of Fame

by Jack Tewksbury October 25, 2018
Actress and singer Bette Midler, Golden Globe winner

In 1980, with her Golden Globes for her performance in The Rose and New Star of the Year.

hfpa archives

For over 40 years the HFPA has recorded famous and celebrated actors, actresses and filmmakers. The world's largest collection of its kind - over 10,000  items- is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts &  Sciences Margaret Herrick Library.

In this excerpt from our archives,  multiple Golden Globe winner Bette Midler talks about the illusions of stardom.


“Few people wake up one morning and find they're famous. Most wake up and find they're late for work. Then there are those who, for whatever reasons, attract the attention of local television. They think they're famous when, in fact, it's just a slow day for hard news.

 Everyone who's been in a movie five minutes thinks they're famous. I went into a restaurant where a waitress kept staring at me. She finally came over to me and asked, "Haven't I seen you before?" I said, "You might have seen me in the movies." "Maybe," she replied. "Where do  you  usually  sit?" When I told her who I was, she asked me what's it like to be on the top.  Exactly, I said, like before. Except I have to be in hair and makeup longer. You still have to pay your taxes, sweep the floor, clean the dishes, wash your underwear. Sure, you have more help, but you have to order the maid to mop the floor. Maybe it's worse. You don't have any privacy, and you can't go out without hair and makeup, which is really boring.

The studios manufacture this idea that there's paradise here in Hollywood.  People come streaming in here because they believe it.  Actually, the work is mostly drudgery,  but they never talk about that. I'm  sitting  in  a  trailer  for  two  hours  saying,  "This is so  boring, I think I'm gonna kill myself," and then I come  out and have to eat the same  wilted, tired lettuce sandwich."

When you're a star people are nice to you. But you can't escape rudeness. I remember growing up in the Forties and  Fifties. It was so polite. There was so much politeness.

Then suddenly in the Sixties, there was no politeness, a complete breakdown in civility. People questioned all kinds of authority.  I was fascinated by that.   "