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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Bette Midler

Aired November 26, 2003 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the legendary Bette Midler. The divine Miss M is never shy, and we're going to cover it all for the hour. We'll take your phone calls, too. The one, the only Bette Midler is next on LARRY KING LIVE.
She is an entertainment icon. She's an old friend. She's a terrific performer, the winner of four Grammys, three Emmys, a Tony, three Golden Globes, a two-time Oscar nominee. Her new and brilliant CD is "Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook." There you see its cover. Rosey Clooney -- what a singer she was, what a lady she was. And Bette Midler does all of her favorites. She's also about to embark on a great concert tour called "Kiss My Brass." I love that. Co-starring -- she co-stars with Nicole Kidman in the upcoming movie "The Stepford Wives." The concert tour begins December 10 in Chicago.

I've covered everything. Thanks for coming, Bette, and good night.

BETTE MIDLER: You sure did. Thanks. Can I go now?

KING: All right, before we get to the CD and everything else in the career, give me your thoughts on what everybody's talking about.

MIDLER: What is everybody talking about?

KING: The Jackson case.

MIDLER: Afghanistan? Iraq?

KING: What do you make of it?

MIDLER: The economy? What do I make of it? I think it's -- it makes me very sad because he is a great, great talent. You know, I was a big, by fan of his when I was a younger. I was a great, big fan of his all the way through. I'm still a fan, to tell you the truth. I think he has a wonderful voice. He has a great range. He has impeccable timing. He has -- he's a great dancer. He had it all -- has it all. And yet there's something that -- I feel that he's trapped in some sort of a fantasy that he has allowed to seduce him, to a point where he -- I think he thinks he can -- I don't know. It's taken precedence over his art. And that is -- that's the sadness because for the last 10 years that all these rumors dogged him, he could have been making...

KING: That's a bigger story than him... MIDLER: That's a bigger story than him as an artist, and that is -- that's a bigger -- that's the loss of all that music and all that great entertainment that we could have enjoyed. It's -- you know, you feel -- you feel...

KING: How great is the artistry?

MIDLER: To tell you the truth, I think he's tremendously, tremendously talented. I think he had it all. But I think he didn't cherish his gift.

KING: Why do you think we're fascinated with celebrity -- Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Robert Blake, Scott Peterson becomes a personality?

MIDLER: I think it's because -- you know, it didn't use to be like this. I remember when it wasn't like this. I mean, I remember when people -- I remember when scandal was confined to one or two rags. I remember...

KING: "Confidential"...

MIDLER: ... "Confidential" magazine...

KING: That was the -- that's how old we are.

MIDLER: It was the only one that was, you know, and you read that in the privacy of your own home. You never would let anybody know that you read it. It was such a rag.

KING: You hid it if you read it.

MIDLER: Yes because the things they inferred about people so, so scandalous. But you know, shame has gone missing from our lives, and that's a goddamn shame.

KING: Shame...

MIDLER: I mean, shame has gone missing from our lives, and that's a goddamn shame!

(LAUGHTER)

MIDLER: People used to be ashamed. Now there's -- people are not ashamed anymore! They just say any old thing...

KING: Anything goes!

MIDLER: ... do any old thing. I mean, they put porn stars in videos. I mean, can remember it was only a few years ago where people who were in porn were, you know, considered really fringe people. And now they're working so hard to move it into the mainstream. And I think it's a conspiracy, myself.

KING: Paris Hilton is -- she's a star now. What did she do?

MIDLER: Absolutely nothing!

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Nothing. You raised eyebrows when you called the Brittany Spears-Madonna kiss kind of tacky.

MIDLER: I raised eyebrows? Whose -- I didn't raise your eyebrows.

KING: No, not mine. I know you.

MIDLER: Whose eyebrows did I raise? I don't think I've ever -- oh, nobody cares what anybody says anymore. And nobody cares if they did it. I thought it was cheesy because I thought -- because there were -- that's a show that little ones watch, you know, the little ones, the 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds.

KING: You were -- I remember, because in October of 2000, if I have this right, in a "New York Times" story, you said you were horrified about the Clinton-Lewinsky thing because your teenage daughter had to learn about oral sex.

MIDLER: Well, you know, it wasn't just my teenage daughter, it was everybody. It was the 6-year-olds. And you know, to -- you had -- suddenly, a parent had -- a parent who thought they had a couple of years to figure out how to tell them this stuff was confronted when they were 7 and 8 years old. And all the barriers fell, too. You know, I mean, there were stories about boys getting -- you know, or serviced as a bar mitzvah gift. I mean...

KING: And not calling it sex.

MIDLER: And not calling it sex. It wasn't sex. It's not sex if it's not penetration. So I don't know.

KING: The world's changed, hey, Bette?

MIDLER: Well, the world has changed. But you know, people have always had sex, obviously, because...

KING: Really?

MIDLER: ... we're all still here. So what I -- sometimes what I get confused about is -- is the -- is what I -- is the embarrassment or the irritation that I feel something that society put on me or that my religious upbringing put on me? I mean, since there's always been sex and there's always been sort of lots of it, am I -- is what I feel something that was imposed upon me, or is it something I feel naturally? People do...

KING: You don't know the answer. What's the answer?

MIDLER: I don't know the answer to that. I feel shame a lot of the time, and I feel embarrassed for people a lot of the time. But I don't know if it's natural to me or if it's something that I was taught. Do you know what I'm trying to say? KING: Yes.

MIDLER: Well, Margaret Mead -- Margaret Mead, when she went down to Samoa and all over -- she went all over the, you know, South Pacific...

KING: Yes, I knew Margaret well.

MIDLER: ... and people were out jumping out of bushes, having sex with each other and laughing. Nobody seemed to take it very seriously. So why am I taking it seriously?

KING: Mark Twain said the human is the only animal that blushes, or has to.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: You've always had -- now, how do you explain this? We've talked about this in the past, your following among gays. Why were you...

MIDLER: Oh, thank God!

KING: Why were you -- did the gay population love you?

MIDLER: You know, I think I was the first person to go on national television and sort of talk about them. I was working a gay bathhouse, and I was...

KING: On the way up?

MIDLER: I was on my way up. And I did not -- you know, to me, it was nothing. You know, I was so poor. I was working in the theater for $200 a week, and I was so poor. And when this man who owned a bathhouse called me up and said, I'll give you $300 a night, I said, You'll give me what? I mean, I was so stunned that there was this kind of the money in the world. And when he said, It's a gay bathhouse, is that a problem for you? And I had no idea what he was talking about, so I said, no. No, that's no problem! Where do I go?

(LAUGHTER)

MIDLER: So I went on Johnny Carson. He asked me what I was doing, and I said, I work in a bathhouse. I sing in a bathhouse. And I think people were stunned, and I think gay people were -- they sat up and said, Oh, my God. Someone is telling our tale.

KING: She understands us.

MIDLER: Not that she understands us, someone has been there. Someone from the straight world has been there and is sort of telling our tale. And it wasn't just that. It was also I was very noisy. You know, I was outrageous. I was having a lot of fun. I was...

KING: You let it out.

MIDLER: I let it out, and I sent everything up because...

KING: Yes, you sure did.

MIDLER: ... I really wanted to be funny. I loved to be funny and I loved to be amusing, and I was very -- I was -- I think I just have a queer eye. I didn't -- you know, I mean, since they have that show now, now I can say, Oh, yes, I have a queer eye, too. I just think what's funny -- what they think is funny, I think is funny and, you know, parodies and...

KING: You're an incredible talent.

MIDLER: Why, thank you.

KING: Yes. Too bad you...

MIDLER: I'm no Michael Jackson.

KING: Should they be allowed to marry?

MIDLER: Should gay people be allowed to marry? That's a really good question. I think -- I'm a really big believer in all the civil rights that everyone else has. I believe in gay people sharing the civil rights. I believe that they're entitled to them. I believe they're entitled to the insurances. I believe they're entitled to all those things...

KING: Visits in the hospital, make decisions...

MIDLER: All that stuff, yes. As far as marriage is concerned, I come from a -- you know, doesn't seem to be hurting anybody. You know, I'm of two minds. On the one hand, I'm a married woman. You know, I mean, I've -- I took vows. I took civil vows, though. I did not take religious vows. And so I...

KING: By choice?

MIDLER: Well, yes, by choice. So I -- you know, and when it comes to religion, I don't really know what to say because I'm -- I'm in my tribe, and I try to be a good Jew, but on the other hand, I don't know what the -- how people feel. My feeling is, Well, who's it really going to hurt? But then, if you're a religious person, you're get all knocked out because of the things that...

KING: By the way, I saw you in "Fiddler."

MIDLER: You did?

KING: (SINGING) Matchmaker, matchmaker...

MIDLER: Oh, my God!

KING: ... make me a match...

MIDLER: So Larry, I guess I didn't do so good on that last question, huh? (LAUGHTER)

KING: No!

MIDLER: Well, I'll tell you something. I...

KING: I understand. It's a dilemma to you.

MIDLER: It's a real dilemma, but I think it's a dilemma to a lot of people. I don't think it really hurts anybody. I think -- I think -- to tell you the truth, my -- my -- many, many, many of the homosexual men that I know -- I can't speak for the women because -- the way I feel -- the women, they can look at each other from across a crowded room, and suddenly, they're mates for life. You know, they -- you know, they'll go out for a Coke, and they'll just be, you know, move in, and that'll be the end of it. But gay men, they like to -- you know, they like to move around. They like to have -- you know, they're -- that's part of it. That's part of the fun of being a gay man. So if they're married, does that mean they're not going to cheat, they're only going to be with one...

KING: Well, that's what they say, they want to make the commitment.

MIDLER: They want to make the commitment...

KING: Why shouldn't society let them make the commitment?

MIDLER: Well, it's interesting.

KING: That's what they're saying.

MIDLER: It's very interesting. I'm really wondering how -- what that commitment is going to be about.

KING: Bette Midler's our guest. The Rosemary Clooney -- we're going to talk about what drew her to Rosey Clooney, who's been on this show and was a great lady. And as we go to break, a concert scene from the movie that made Bette Midler a star and landed her first Oscar nomination. This goes back to 1979. Do you believe it? "The Rose." Watch.

(VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE ROSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Bette Midler, about to embark on the "Kiss My Brass" concert tour, and "Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook."

One other thing about -- why do we never see Marty -- your husband, Marty? Your...

MIDLER: My husband -- don't ever call him Marty! What are you...

KING: I'm sorry.

MIDLER: It's Larry.

KING: His name is...

MIDLER: He's European. His name is Martin.

KING: Martin von Hasselberg (ph).

MIDLER: Martin von Hasselberg.

KING: Did you marry one of the enemy?

MIDLER: Well, he's part Jewish.

KING: Oh.

MIDLER: Part Jewish. A quarter Jewish.

KING: But he likes background, huh?

MIDLER: He likes background. He's an artist. He's a fine artist. He's a -- now he's a photographer. He does a lot of -- he stays in the background. He's been raising my daughter, you know, with me.

KING: While you travel and...

MIDLER: While I travel. And he's a great guy. Been married 19 years.

KING: How did you make it work?

MIDLER: I left town.

(LAUGHTER)

MIDLER: Sometimes he just oozes me out the door. You know, he goes, I encourage you to...

KING: Go now!

MIDLER: It's time for you to go. It's time for you to go on the road. So...

KING: Speaking of that, tell me about the "Kiss My Brass" tour.

MIDLER: Oh, "Kiss My Brass."

KING: What's the concept and...

MIDLER: Well, the concept is horns. I've never traveled with a horn section before. It's my first one. I've had horn sections before. When I did "Clams on the Half Shell," I had Lionel Hampton's orchestra, which was great, but I've never actually been on the road with horns. And it turns out that all the music that I have lends itself to horns, whether it's rhythm and blues, whether it's '40s music, swing music. It doesn't matter. You know, the Rosemary Clooney and all that stuff, we reduced all those charts, and they sound great with this horn section. I'm really, really thrilled.

KING: And you start December 10th in Chicago.

MIDLER: Yes, we do.

KING: And how long a tour is it?

MIDLER: It's 36 cities.

KING: Do you like that?

MIDLER: You know what? I really enjoy touring. I really do.

KING: Because?

MIDLER: because I get to see the people. I get to see who they are. I get to see what they're wearing. I get to see their state. I'm a very curious person. I'm like an urban archaeologist. I like that. I like to see America. I like America.

KING: I do, too.

MIDLER: I really do. I like the people. I -- I -- the venues that -- it's hard to keep the venues apart because the venues in each town, every arena is pretty much the same. You know, you put your show up at one end, and you're in the locker room and it either stinks or it doesn't stink. You know, the food is pretty much the same. but once you're in the town, every town is very different.

KING: So you don't forget the town you're in. There are some performers...

MIDLER: I never forget the -- no, I never forget the town I'm in. I mean, and I can remember shows, like, I had a show in South Carolina the last time. I never had a show like that. I never faced an audience like that. They were so -- they were so beside themselves with joy. It was fantastic, you know? And...

KING: The audience revs you, don't they.

MIDLER: Yes, they do. They do. And they make me laugh and...

KING: Do you ever have nights where you have to rev them?

MIDLER: Actually, since I've been doing arenas, no, because people who want to come...

KING: Are there.

MIDLER: ... the people who really want to come, they're ready to have...

KING: So you got a head start going in. MIDLER: Yes. Yes.

KING: You have to be bad to disappoint them.

MIDLER: Yes. Well, yes. I've never been that bad.

KING: You ever have bad nights? You ever have a night where...

MIDLER: I have nights where I'm not satisfied with myself, yes. I do. I say, Oh, I missed that, I missed this. But on the whole, if it's a good show, it kind of keeps you up, you know?

KING: So you miss the road. It's been four years, right?.

MIDLER: Yes. Yes. Well, I can't say -- I'm not -- I wasn't exactly pining for it, but it was time. You know, it was time. You get that feeling, like, Oh, I want to see my band. I want to sing again. You know, I want to tell jokes.

KING: Before we talk about Rosey, give me a little advance about "The Stepford Wives." That was a movie.

MIDLER: It was a movie. It was a movie in the '70s. It was a big hit in the '70s.

KING: It's a great book. Ira Levin.

MIDLER: Ira Levin. Exactly. That's right.

KING: Love Ira Levin. "Rosemary's Baby" was...

MIDLER: Exactly. A really good picture in the '70s, kind of a cult favorite, actually, horror.

KING: About men who...

MIDLER: Men who turned their wives into robots because they're more -- you know, they can handle them better that way.

KING: And you're in it with Julia Roberts?

MIDLER: No, I'm in it with Nicole Kidman.

KING: Nicole Kidman.

MIDLER: Bite your tongue!

KING: OK.

MIDLER: Nicole Kidman. Oh, she's fabulous.

KING: They're not interchangeable.

MIDLER: No.

KING: Nicole Kidman's a great actress. MIDLER: Nicole Kidman is a fabulous actress. Nicole Kidman...

KING: And Julia's terrific.

MIDLER: They're both terrific. They're both Oscar winners. What can I say?

KING: So you're a Stepford...

MIDLER: I'm Oscar-less!

KING: Wait a minute. I can't picture this. You play a robotic wife?

MIDLER: That's a big surprise. I play the Paula Prentiss part. I have Paula Prentiss's old part. Of course, Paula Prentiss is, like, a foot taller than me, but -- and thinner. But still...

KING: Is the movie done?

MIDLER: It is not quite done. They have until -- I think, the first week in December, they're going to finish. But it's a comedy this time.

KING: Oh!

MIDLER: It's a big, broad comedy, big lavish comedy.

KING: Oh! That was not a comedy.

MIDLER: No, no, no. It was deadly serious.

KING: It was murder!

MIDLER: Well, there's a little murder in this, too, but it's of a comedic sort.

KING: We'll take a break, and when we come back, we'll talk about Rosey Clooney, and then we'll go to your phone calls with the divine Miss M, one of the greats, Bette Midler. Don't go away.

MIDLER: Thank you, Larry.

(VIDEO FROM "RUTHLESS PEOPLE")

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Wow. "You'll Never Know." That's the first song on this terrific CD, Bette Midler singing the Rosemary Clooney songbook -- "This Old House," "On a Slow Boat to China," duetting with Barry Manilow, who used to conduct her orchestra, "Hey, There," "Tenderly," "Come on-a My House," "Mambo Italiano," "Sisters" -- you have to duet that one, she did it with Linda Ronstadt -- "Memories of You," "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" -- she recorded that with Bing Crosby...

MIDLER: Yes.

KING: ... and "White Christmas."

MIDLER: "White Christmas."

KING: From the most famous Christmas movie.

MIDLER: Oh, boy, was I scared!

KING: Why the Rosey Clooney songbook?

MIDLER: Barry Manilow, who had -- who I hadn't talked to in a long time, called me up out of the clear blue, and he said, I had a dream that you and I made an album of -- that was a tribute to Rosemary Clooney. We both loved her. And in fact, one of the last times I saw him was at her -- a dinner honoring her at the Society of Singers (ph). And we had -- right after that, we did a television show. We did -- I had to do the "Roseanne" show, and that was the "Roseanne" show where we had our last falling out. So he was in there with me and Rosey. I mean, I had -- the night before we had that falling out...

KING: The last falling out with whom?

MIDLER: I had a falling out with Barry because I had gone -- he had -- I had to do this Roseanne Barr show, and I said -- my associate at the time said to Roseanne's people, Don't give her any surprise. She doesn't do well with surprise. Don't surprise her. So Roseanne, of course, had a surprise, and it was Barry, with all my old girls, all my old harlots (ph) singing. And I was so stunned because I realized this was going to be -- I was going to have to sing, and she had told me that I didn't have to sing, and I wasn't prepared.

So I was very upset. And he was -- when he saw me get upset, he got -- he got angry at me, and he said, You know, in life you have a -- you have choices to make. You can either choose to be happy or you can choose to be angry, and you made the wrong choice, and I don't want to see you anymore, words to that effect. And I was, like, Oh, my goodness! I was devastated. And I called him several times, and I said, I really do apologize and I'm...

KING: But they told you you weren't going to sing.

MIDLER: I know that. But you know -- but he was right. He was right. This is -- you know, this is the hand you've been dealt. Deal with it. What's the point of getting mad about it? So he didn't -- he was -- you know, he was very sort of gruff with me, and I didn't see him for a long time. Then he called me out and said, I had this dream. And I thought, Oh, Barry's calling me! He remembered me! He's not mad at me anymore! And I was so glad that he was -- I didn't care what he said.

KING: Why Rosey...

MIDLER: If he'd said, We're going to sing the Genghis Khan songbook... KING: Why Rosey Clooney? Why not Billie Holiday? Why not Dinah Washington?

MIDLER: Well, because, you know, that -- we both adored her, and we had -- the last -- one of the last times I saw him was at that Society Singers' dinner honoring her. So we were all kind of interconnected. We would talk about her. He and I would talk about her. We shared reminiscences. We...

KING: One singer to another, what was her greatness?

MIDLER: She had tremendous interpretive skills. She had a wicked sense of humor.

KING: Oh, yes.

MIDLER: She had a tremendous spirit. She had an indomitable spirit. She also was -- she was kindness personified. I mean, she was truly kind. And this is a relatively cutthroat...

KING: It hurt her.

MIDLER: Yes.

KING: Being nice.

MIDLER: Yes. She was still kind. She had not lost her humanity. But one of the greatest things she had of all was that instrument. You cannot deny that that was one of the great instruments...

KING: And it didn't leave her.

MIDLER: Never, never, never. And I mean, even at the end, she was still swinging. She was still singing beautifully. She was still interpreting great, great classic songs.

KING: No voice like it, right?

MIDLER: Really none.

KING: She had that throaty sound.

MIDLER: Really none. Really none. It had so much promise, and you know, it promises sex and it promised love, but it also promised comfort and maternal -- it really was quite an instrument.

KING: How about the arrangements? They were -- were they Manilow's or...

MIDLER: He -- those were -- well, he did all the sketches. He's quite a computer whiz. He's a genius on the computer, and he loves it. I mean, I can't do anything on the computer except get my e-mail. And he sits down at this computer, and he did all the sketches for all the charts. And he came to town, to my house in New York, and he said, I want to play these for you. And played them for me, and I -- I would say, Oh, I like this, or That's too long or I can't hold that note that long or this -- That's the wrong key.

And he took it away. He took the sketches away, and he brought -- gave them -- he parceled them out to Ray Ellis (ph), who arranged my favorite album ever, the greatest album ever made, for my money, which was called "Lady in Satin," a Billy Holiday record with songs...

KING: So he arranged...

MIDLER: So he gave -- he gave -- George Calendrelli (ph), Patrick Williams and -- and Ray Ellis. And then Barry did a -- had his hand in a couple, and Robbie Buchanan (ph).

KING: And you got Linda Ronstadt to sing "Sisters" with you.

MIDLER: Yes. But I have to tell you, it was such a lovely project because, you know, it was -- it had stardust all over it from the beginning. You know, there was him. I got to be his friend again. There was her. I got to honor her. I got to have these beautiful arrangements from -- arrangements that I didn't -- you know, that -- I mean, I always, my whole life, wanted to meet Ray Ellis, and then I got to, you know? And Linda Ronstadt -- to sing with Linda Ronstadt -- it was really a lovely...

KING: This is a true labor of love.

MIDLER: I have to say so. And it was, like, two days. I mean, it was, like, two days. I came in, I sang all the tracks and I went home. So it was, like, Oh, my goodness. Not only stardust, but also...

KING: It's a great listen. "Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook." And Bette's our special guest. And when we come back, we're going to take your phone calls. Bette Midler and co-star Shelley Long duke it out in the morgue over a body that's supposed to be the boyfriend they shared. Then again, maybe it's not him after all. Here's a scene from "Outrageous Fortune."

MIDLER: I haven't seen this in years.

(CLIP FROM "OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE")

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

KING: We're back with Bette Midler, the winner of four Grammys, three Emmys, a Tony, three Golden Globes, two-time Oscar nominee.

MIDLER: And never, never a winner.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Bette Midler sings the Rosemary Clooney songbook. She starts the "Kiss my Brass" concert tour December 10 in Chicago. You'll be seeing her in her next movie, "The Stepford Wives," with Nicole Kidman, now done as a comedy. We now go calls for Bette Midler. Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: Hi. It's such a honor to talk to you and to Ms. Midler.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: I want to wish you both a very happy Thanksgiving.

KING: Same to you.

CALLER: My question for Ms. Midler is, I was very excited to hear about your "Kiss my Brass" tour and I was wondering, will it be coming over here to Europe? And if not, when will we be able to see your wonderful self over here on our shores?

MIDLER: Well, I just want to get through these 36 dates. But I would like to come to Europe. I haven't been to Europe, I haven't traveled the world since 1980. So I think ...

KING: Did you tour Europe?

MIDLER: I did. In 1980, I went all around, I did the whole world tour. That was my last world tour. I didn't like the world. No, actually, I loved the world, but I never got -- I never got around to going out again.

KING: Do you think it's time to go back?

MIDLER: It absolutely is. It really is. It really, really is. I mean, before my whole constituency has passed on (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I really would like to go back.

KING: Yeah, they're dying. Albuquerque, New Mexico, hello.

CALLER: Hi, good evening. Thank you for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: I was wanting to ask Ms. Midler, I haven't seen her in the movies lately, if she was going to be doing any more comedies.

MIDLER: I just finished a comedy with Nicole Kidman, called "The Stepford Wives," and I think it's coming out in the spring or the summer of 2004.

KING: Are you going to do more movies?

MIDLER: I love movies.

KING: You were great in movies. You got two Academy Awards. Why don't you do more?

MIDLER: Because I'm... KING: What?

MIDLER: Don't ask me. Ask the executives at the studio, babe. My bags are packed. I'm ready to go.

KING: In fact, one of the movies you made that didn't do well, with James Caan, one of my favorite movies. That movie about World War II...

MIDLER: You know, that was a great movie. That was a pretty good movie. But you know, you know, I'll never forget...

KING: What was the name of it?

MIDLER: It was called "For the Boys."

KING: "For the Boys."

MIDLER: And it came out -- I think -- I guess it came out in '92, and it was -- it came out around this time, and the -- I'll never forget this as long as I live. I had to do a junket. I had to do a junket, a worldwide junket. A junket is where you sit in a room and they satellite you, you take questions from all over the globe. And it was an eight-hour thing. And on my way to the junket in the car, someone gave me "The New York Times" review, which said "the first turkey of the holiday season."

And I started to cry. And I cried for eight hours straight. I was talking to -- talking like -- this. Talking to Australia like that. Oh, it was horrible. It was so horrible.

KING: I loved that movie. I loved the music, I liked the story.

MIDLER: And you know, it's such a beautiful production. It was such a beautiful production.

KING: What didn't it make it? You know, boggles me.

MIDLER: You know -- I wasn't -- they were afraid of it. They were -- they had -- you know, it's a long story. I don't want to badmouth anybody, but it deserved a second chance.

KING: Atlanta, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Bette, I just want to tell you I love all your work.

MIDLER: Thank you.

CALLER: And Larry, I just want to have a quick question followed by a quick comment.

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: Bette, how do you take care of yourself and look so great? And would you ever consider having any plastic surgery? My comment is, Larry, I'm the person that called and asked Sonny Bono if Cher thought Mount Rushmore was a natural rock formation.

KING: That was a great -- one of the great calls of all time.

MIDLER: You know -- and what did she say? What did Cher say?

KING: I don't remember.

MIDLER: Well, I saw Jay Leno last night and he told me that he went out and asked -- he heard that from Cher, that she thought it was caused by natural erosion, and she took that question and he went out and...

KING: She might have said, yeah.

MIDLER: She's such a great girl, though.

KING: She could have been putting us on.

MIDLER: I'm sure. Great sense of humor.

KING: OK. How do you keep so well?

MIDLER: Well, I started the South Beach diet.

KING: The South -- number one book in the world.

MIDLER: I am telling you, and I'll tell you something, it's simple and it makes so much sense. I have seen the same information but packaged in a much harder to understand way, and this book is written so simply and so -- I've been following it for the last six weeks and I lost a whole bunch of weight, and I feel great.

KING: And plastic surgery?

MIDLER: Plastic surgery is definitely an option.

KING: Have you ever had it?

MIDLER: Have I ever had it?

KING: The answer is yes if you pause, because I would say no immediately. I would be scared...

MIDLER: No. I've never had plastic surgery.

KING: Sucked me in.

MIDLER: What can a person say? You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. If you say, I don't, you say, what are you doing? And if you say -- I don't let the magic in on my illusion.

KING: Well, how does your complexion stay so beautiful?

MIDLER: I have a fabulous facialist.

KING: A facialist? MIDLER: That's what they're called nowadays. I have a fabulous facialist...

KING: You mean the lady who does faces?

MIDLER: No, it's a gentleman.

KING: A gentleman?

MIDLER: A gentleman. And I could tell you the name of, but I'm afraid that I won't get my appointments anymore.

KING: What is his name?

MIDLER: His name is Tony. His name is Tony.

KING: Oh, Tony, that'll help.

MIDLER: Tony at the Face Place. He'll love it.

KING: Tony at the Face Place.

MIDLER: Tony at the Face Place. Santa Monica Boulevard. It's the best.

KING: Westchester, Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. I just want to wish you a belated happy birthday.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: And a happy Thanksgiving to you and Bette's family.

KING: Thank you.

MIDLER: Thank you.

CALLER: I wanted to ask Ms. Midler, I followed your career for the last, I guess, 22 years, and you have accomplished so much in your career. Is there one thing that you haven't done that you'd like to do before you pass away, before you leave this Earth?

KING: She's crying already. What do you want to do? Passover services? What?

MIDLER: Oh, there's so many things to do. There's so many things I'd love to do.

KING: Like?

MIDLER: There's so many things I'd love to do. I'd love to have a great dramatic part in a movie. I'd also love...

KING: You did in that movie with the -- what was that with the beautiful song came out of that movie? MIDLER: Which one, "The Rose?"

KING: You and your daughter. No.

MIDLER: Oh, "Beaches."

KING: "Beaches."

MIDLER: Oh, that was a comedy. Well, that was a tragic -- actually, that was a tragic comedy.

I'd love to have another great -- another great dramatic part before I go. I'd love to have -- I'd love learn a little bit more about the way cities work. I really like living in a city and seeing the way it works. I love...

KING: You live in L.A. now?

MIDLER: I live in New York now, and I do a lot of work in New York. I do -- you know, I have my cleanup group, and we have parks and gardens. And we do...

KING: You name streets?

MIDLER: Well, no. They've never named a street after me.

KING: Well, no, I mean, you help highways.

MIDLER: I do. I help highways. I do all that kind of thing. And I don't know. I like the charity work. I love entertaining. I love...

KING: Why do you like New York?

MIDLER: I like New York because it's alive. It's vibrant. You know? It's full of people bumping up against each other and things happening. It's never dull, not for a second. And sometimes you -- in fact, you have to go find a place that's quiet, because it's so alive, it's so buzzing with energy.

KING: Where did you grow up?

MIDLER: I grew up in Hawaii. I grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii. Actually, not Honolulu. In Iaea (ph), which is like a two-horse town in -- about 15 miles outside of Honolulu.

KING: What did your dad do?

MIDLER: My dad was a house painter for the -- for the Navy.

KING: No kidding?

MIDLER: So I was always surrounded by sailors and always surrounded by the military.

KING: It wasn't a state, was it? MIDLER: It was not a state. I was there when it was a territory. And I will never forget this, and this really made me -- this was really upsetting. When the -- they tried to become a state for years and years and they kept getting turned down. Then Alaska became the 49th state, and then suddenly they were the 50th state, and the day after they became the 50th state, the cranes came in. And it was -- it was not the same. The cranes came in. The skyscrapers went up. And it was over. It was over. Because before that, when it was a territory, you were not allowed to build anything higher than six stories. Nothing was allowed to be higher than the Aloha Tower. And that was like a law. It was a law. And then, the day after, the cranes, boom, it was all over.

KING: Brooklyn, New York, hello.

CALLER: Yes. Hi, Larry. Hi, Bette.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Besides the NYRP, Ms. Midler, what other charities do you work with or other charitable causes do you endure?

MIDLER: I like all of them.

KING: She gets involved.

MIDLER: I like them all. I like the AIDS charities. I do AIDS charities. I do AIDS in Africa. I do -- I did Bridges for Community for a long time, which is low income housing -- low-income housing in South America. I do habitat -- I give to Habitat for Humanity. I give to -- I give -- I'll give them just -- you know what I've been doing? I have been working with the schools in New York City. I've been working with Midori (ph), who has -- Midori (ph) is a very -- world-famous violinist, she is a child prodigy, and she has a music program in New York City, and she puts music programs because you know music programs and art programs have been decimated.

KING: You work with Caroline Kennedy?

MIDLER: You know, I have met her on a couple of occasions, because she came to one of the high schools that I support.

KING: She's very...

MIDLER: She's very -- she's a real asset to the city.

KING: We'll go to break. Our two Bettes, even funnier than one. You judge for yourself, because as we go to break, she plays twins separated at birth in 1988's "Big Business."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: One of my favorite songs. One of my favorite guys. And one of my favorite girls.

MIDLER: Thank you.

KING: Back to the calls. We go to Augusta, Georgia -- Augusta, Kentucky, hello.

NICK CLOONEY, ROSEMARY CLOONEY'S BROTHER: Hi. This is Nick Clooney. How are you, Larry?

KING: Rosy's brother, George's father, who going to run for Congress, right?

CLOONEY: Well, forget that. It's not about me. I want to talk about Bette. I've got to tell you. I haven't had a chance to talk to you, Bette, since the album came out. All of us in the family are so thrilled...

MIDLER: I am so...

CLOONEY: What you did. You are astounding. You know, you surprise me. I knew you would do well with all of this, but the balance that Rosemary sort of owned. You know? You did a wonderful, wonderful job with and we love it.

MIDLER: I'm so happy to hear that. That's really fabulous. That's such good news, because I was so frightened.

KING: You're crying, Bette.

MIDLER: It's very moving, because I was so terrified what the family would think.

CLOONEY: Well, we are thrilled. You and Barry and Linda, of course, all great friends of Rosemary. What could be better as kind of a -- as a monument of this stage? I must -- of her memory. And you've just done wonders, all of Rosemary's kids. I don't speak for anybody generally, especially not my wife of 44 years, but I do speak for all of the family when I tell you that we're very proud of what you've done and we're very greatful for what you've done.

KING: Nick, how great of you to call in. I was telling Bette how I knew your sister, Betty.

CLOONEY: You bet. I know.

KING: Knew the Clooneys back...

CLOONEY: All those years. Betty and Rosemary and I thought Betty was the best of us. And when you did "Sisters" with Linda I must say that that set me down for a few moments.

MIDLER: Oh my god. Thank you so much.

CLOONEY: Don't want to take all of your time. I just wanted you to know that the Clooneys all love you.

KING: One quick think, how's George doing?

CLOONEY: Why that rascal is still taking my calls.

KING: Going to get him married ever?

CLOONEY: You know, I can't get grand kids out of him. I got them out of my daughter Adith (ph), 2 of them, who are the world's only 2 grandchildren of course. And I'm now working on George. But you know? He seems to be doing fine without my advice.

KING: And good luck with the Congress thing.

CLOONEY: Bless you.

MIDLER: Bye. That's sweet.

KING: No special number, just called in.

MIDLER: That's great. I'm sorry. I'm really moved.

KING: It's ok. I understand. When the family -- hey. It's the brother.

MIDLER: Yes. That means a lot to me.

KING: Tampa, Florida, wow -- only on live television, folks. Tampa, Florida for Bette Midler. Hello?

CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question for Bette Midler is, what are your thoughts about the controversial file swapping of downloading music. And do you see a time where artists like yourself, and perhaps those voice that haven't been heard, can actually benefit from this technology?

MIDLER: What was the last part of that? That was too hard for me.

KING: I got the first part.

MIDLER: That was too hard. Do you download? Well, is that what you're asking me? What do I think about it? I think it's pretty rough. It's pretty rough on the music business and it's pretty rough for the song writer, because the song writer, the artist doesn't get paid. It's not really fair. But the technology's here and not going to go away. And there has to be -- but you know?

I think the labels made a mistake in not confronting it right away. You know? By thinking that they would -- it wasn't going to bring them down and this is -- as the years have gone on, it's gotten worse and worse and really has eaten into their business.

On the other hand, on the other hand, there you go again, are they selling the CDs for too much for kids to pay, you know? Was it worth it, was it worth it? Was there something else that they could have done? Was there another way for them to do? it's a big problem. But I think the years will -- they'll think of something. They always do.

KING: Brunswick, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Bette Midler. It's Samantha in Ohio. I was just asking you how many times do you call your family in New York when you're on tour?

KING: How old are you?

CALLER: 12.

KING: Are you a boy or girl? I can't tell.

CALLER: Girl.

MIDLER: Hello.

CALLER: Hi.

MIDLER: I try to call my family every night or they call me every night.

KING: Tell me about your family.

MIDLER: My daughter is 17. She's in her last year of high school and going to college next year.

KING: She also wants to know if you're coming to Ohio.

MIDLER: Am I coming to Ohio? Yes. We coming all over Ohio. We're going to com to Cincinnati, we coming to...

KING: Cleveland?

MIDLER: Cleveland, Cincinnati. Is there anyplace else? Of course there are.

KING: Columbus.

MIDLER: That's it, Columbus, Ohio. How did you know?

KING: Because my producer comes from Ohio and he said there are other cities.

(SINGING)

KING: Not Johnny Carson.

MIDLER: Boy are we old.

KING: You remember that song.

MIDLER: That was one of the first shows I ever saw. I never recovered from it. KING: What was it?

MIDLER: It was "A Wonderful Town."

KING: They revived it now.

MIDLER: I know. And it got a great review. That girl Donna Murphy.

KING: As we go to break, this was Bette's final appearance on the "Tonight Show With Johnny Carson" in 1992. A farewell performance. It won her an Emmy. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP "BEACHES")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I waited for you.

MIDLER: I'm here now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go. I don't Victoria them to see me here.

MIDLER: Are you sure?

Are you really sure?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

MIDLER: OK. OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Some more calls for Bette Midler. The album is "Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook."

Tomorrow night, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. A good booking for Thanksgiving night.

MIDLER: That's great.

KING: And Friday night, Tom Cruise. How are we doing this week?

San Bernardino, California, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Bette, I wanted to ask you about that...

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: I wanted to ask you about the last night with Johnny Carson and your reminiscent about it and if you're in touch with him?

MIDLER: No, I'm not still in touch with him. He's a very private man.

KING: Very. What was that night?

MIDLER: It was one of the loveliest nights of my life.

KING: Eleven years.

MIDLER: Yes, I can't believe it was that long ago. Seems like it was yesterday. It was so intense. And the fallout from it was so intense and the -- and in people's memories.

KING: You know why you were selected?

MIDLER: No, I don't.

KING: What a honor.

MIDLER: It was. It was. And you know, it was such a -- I knew in the back -- I didn't want to think about it. In the back of my mind, I knew it was a very big deal, but I didn't want to think about it. Because I thought, if I think about it I would probably get ill, and I won't be able to do it.

KING: Lake Forest, California, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Bette. My question is, if your career in entertainment had not worked out what career would you have chosen?

And my roommate and I love you.

KING: She would have been a parks commissioner.

MIDLER: Oh, that's a good job. That's a good job. Then I wouldn't have...

KING: Sky scrapper architect.

MIDLER: No, I can't add.

KING: City planner.

MIDLER: City planner. Exactly. Urban planner. Something. I don't know, sanitation engineer. I don't know. You know what, I can't -- I'm not very -- I have no skills and my daughter suggests I have no skills.

KING: Can you type?

MIDLER: Barely. Barely. My daughter keeps suggesting to me I'm a flibberty-jibbit.

KING: A what? Flibberty-jibbit. You know, it's an old fashion word that means I flip from subject to subject. That, I know a lot about almost -- a little tiny thing about -- a little about many, many things and indepth knowledge, almost none.

KING: Granada Hills, California, for Bette Midler, hello.

CALLER: Hello there, Bette. I just love listening to all of your stories. And I just wondered if you ever thought of maybe putting any of that, you know, down in print some day. Because I just love the stories of back in the bath houses and the back in the early Vegas days and have you every thought about that?

KING: How about a book?

Come on.

MIDLER: I don't know. I don't know. I'm not quite ready for it. I wrote two books. I wrote a children's book. And I wrote a book called "A View From Abroad," they're out of print. But they were both terrific. And I had a good time writing them. It's just, you know, that's a big effort, isn't it?

KING: Yes, it is.

Seattle, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, thank you. And my question and comment is for the divine Miss M. I've seen your first and your last appearance on "The Tonight Show." Oh, you're just so wonderful, Bette.

KING: What is your question, dear? We have a minute left.

CALLER: When are you coming to Seattle?

MIDLER: I am coming on this tour. I will be -- I will be in Seattle on this tour. I'm playing Seattle. I am playing Portland. I'm playing, you know, San Francisco. I'm playing the Northwest. I love the Northwest.

KING: Playing L.A.?

MIDLER: Yes. Yes.

KING: Playing New York?

MIDLER: Playing New York. Playing Las Vegas, Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, Cincinnati, help me out here, Dallas.

KING: They'll be ads in the papers, of course. Tickets probably selling already.

MIDLER: Yes. Tickets are on sale in a lot of places. And it's a big bright beautiful show. It's going to be a knockout. You are going to love it.

KING: And knowing Bette Midler, she gives her all.

MIDLER: I do, I do. I'm an entertainer.

KING: No performances ever thrown away.

MIDLER: I try not.

KING: And we will always remember that call from Nick Clooney, won't we.

MIDLER: Yes, I will. I really will.

(CROSSTALK)

MIDLER: Really was.

KING: Thank you, Bette.

MIDLER: My pleasure. Thank you, Larry.

KING: You're a doll. Bette Midler, sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook. "You'll Never Know," "This Old House," "On a Slow Boat to China" Barry Manilow sings that with her. "Hey There," "Tenderly," "Come On-A My House" "Mambo Italiano" "Sisters," she duets with Linda Ronstadt. And "Memories of you" and "The Cool Cool, Cool of the Evening" and "White Christmas."

Bette Midler sings the "Rosey Clooney Songbook" and the Kiss My Brass Tour starts December 10th in Chicago. I'll be back to tell you about tomorrow right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving. Andy Griffith and Don Knotts tomorrow. Tom Cruise on Friday. We'll repeat the birthday party on Saturday night. And Jermaine Jackson, Sunday.

Right now "NEWSNIGHT."

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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