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Bette Midler and the Meanest Man in Showbiz

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Never in my life did I think I’d get to talk to Bette Midler, only admire her from afar. And while I can’t say the decorated performer is just like us, what I can say is that Bette was more than happy to sit down and talk to me about things that have gone wrong in her life. Tune in to hear about workplace horrors, how being self-deprecating doesn’t make me special, and what it really means to know thyself. All hail The Divine Miss M.

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Bette Midler, David Duchovny

David Duchovny  00:06

So, I’m going to meet John McNamara Mac for lunch. We shot Aquarius together, very sharp dresser, very picky eater too, so we got to choose the right place we got to this place that I like that I used to. I used to always stop at this place on the way back home from shooting Californication and I’d memorize the next day’s lines over my tuna burger. So here I am back at this place, and I think I see Bette Midler and I say to Mac is that Bette Midler? And he says, yeah, that’s, that looks like Midler to me. And I have something I want to tell her. I but I don’t like going up to celebrities, because once I went up as the flight attendant, if I can say hi to Ringo, the radio thing didn’t go so well. And I jumped out of a cab to say hello to Muhammad Ali. I did that a long, long time ago so I don’t want to bother Bette Midler at her lunch. But I really want to tell the story because I think it’s something that she might like to hear and experience I had watching her that was really revelatory way way long time ago when I when I used to cater. So anyway, I finished lunch Bette still there and I go over to say hi to her. She couldn’t be nicer. I said, hi, Bette Midler, I’m David Duchovny, and this has Fail Better. A show where failure not success shape, so we are now not only that, I asked Bette Midler to be on my podcast, but but it’s weird, it’s a weird ask because you’re saying I want you to be on a podcast called Fail Better and naturally, somebody’s gonna get their back up and go, I don’t want to talk about my failures, what kind of fucked up ask is that? And incredibly, she said yes. Bette was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii created the alter ego of the Divine Miss M in New York City’s gay bathhouses in the early 70s. You know, she’s part of the fabric of my city that I grew up in, you know, and I know it I know, I know where she came from. She became a Grammy winning singer and the star of stage and screen as they say, but not everything was hocus pocus and beaches, how can it be? Not everything can be hocus pocus and beaches. Her 1982 movie Jinxed! was Jinxed! a disaster, or sitcom Bette, unfortunately, it didn’t last the full season. And at the start of this interview, was another technological failure. And like, the 15 minutes, we’re trying to get everything perfect. And between me and Bette, we couldn’t know less about how to work these things. Connect the microphone, get the headphones to work all of that shit, but, you know, we took deep breaths, we cursed all things technological and we soldiered on. And this is this is the Zoom call that came after that. Technology, it’s the worst. Oh, yeah.


Bette Midler  02:55

Well, you know, I tell you, I tell you something, if, if if I had, if I had grown up with it, it would have been different. But I think the the fact that I came in so late, it’s this really steep learning curve. So so I resent it.


David Duchovny  03:08



Bette Midler  03:09

The I resent so much of my day being spent trying to keep up with it. You know, because I’m, it’s so I mean, it’s been 15 or 20 years, and I’m still not used to it. And I find that it makes me it agitates me terribly.


David Duchovny  03:25

What does it do to your creativity?


Bette Midler  03:27

It’s, it’s ruined my life, it has ruined my life, it has ruined my life, my creativity, what creativity? I can’t even crack a joke anymore, I mean, really, truly.


David Duchovny  03:37

It’s kind of like when you when you learn a language as a kid, you get it, right? I mean, you just know how to speak it, but I don’t think we’re gonna sound like terrible people, but I don’t see I don’t see any.


Bette Midler  03:49

Superannuated. We’re just gonna call it old.


David Duchovny  03:52

Superannuated at least there’s something super about it. But I want to thank you for for talking to me today. It’s really kind of you to do it, and when I first saw you, and I told you this, we’ve only met once we met at lunch a couple months ago, and I came and I profess my admiration for you. And I was a bartender at Radio City Music Hall in 1983. And all these great acts came Marvin Gaye and Prince and Bryan Ferry and Peter Allen and you and I got to see after I broke down the bar at intermission, I got to see the axe and I didn’t you know, I was into yes, I wasn’t the stones. I I wasn’t in to Bette Midler, you know, and I went and I walked in to watch Bette Midler and oh, my God. I mean, I got emotional when I was telling you is this. I’ve never seen a performer go from sentiment to irony. And somehow do both at the same time. And I was like, how the hell is this happening? How is she doing this? And I’ve never forgotten it. And I just jumped at the chance of telling you the other day. And what I wanted to ask was, you know, where did you get those balls?


Bette Midler  05:19

Well, I think I was born with a lot of confidence. And I never really had anyone squash that confidence in a public way. If my father said, you’ll never amount to a role pins that only made me angry or, oh, that they’d be more determined to show him. So you had all that I’ll show you feeling from a very, very early age, even though I mean, I worship my dad. He was that kind of a guy. He was not appraiser. He was not appraiser. And my mom was so overwhelmed that she didn’t even she didn’t have the time. She was barely keeping it together. So I had that, I’ll show you thing from an early age and it just grew. And when I saw the greats, I used to see the greats. These two people used to take take me to see, you know, whoever was in I was in Honolulu, whoever was in town. I saw Sophie Tucker once I really didn’t get it. And when I got to New York, you know, rock’n’roll was at its height, you know, you would see Janis Joplin, you would see Tina Turner. And when I saw them, I said, oh, my God, I know what that is. I know what that is, that’s what I do.


David Duchovny  06:37

What what is it?


Bette Midler  06:39

It was confidence. It was this innate confidence. And it’s a kind of energy that is absolutely overwhelming. This kind of energy. I always thought everybody has this kind of energy. I didn’t know that most people don’t. And it took years for me to realize, oh, most people can’t do this, years. But when I saw other people doing it, using their energy or allowing their energy out to towards pushing their energy towards another group of people, I realized, oh, that’s a thing. But I didn’t know that most people couldn’t do it. I have always had that energy. I walk fast, I talk fast, I talk loud, I this I that. So it’s always I, so I harnessed it, I allowed it to come out, I allowed this power, which I identified the energy is what I identified as power. Once I identified it, I never let it go, and that’s why it’s part of the it’s part of the reason that I’m practically unrecognizable on the street, because when people think of me, especially on the stage, they think of this gigantic person, but I’m really quite small, and I’m, you know, I’m like a mouse, but on the stage, I’m like a lion. And it’s very easy for me to turn the switch on and off. Very easy, in real life, it’s kind of painful, because I’ll go to dinner with a whole group of people that thinks they’re coming to dinner with the lion. And they’re sitting at the table with, you know, with a chickadee, so it’s a little bit sometimes there’s a disconnect there. And it’s it can be quite sad sometimes for me.


David Duchovny  08:22

If I think about your, your character, the Divine Miss M, you know, and I think about her force, and her energy. You know, I’m just, I just want you to take me back to here you are, you’re in New York, you’re you have a small part on Broadway. You feeling like you’re doing okay, on fiddler, right? You probably going up on a distance and not getting anything right is that?


Bette Midler  08:51

That’s right, that’s exactly right.


David Duchovny  08:52

And you’re hearing what what are you hearing? Are you getting feedback? You know.


Bette Midler  08:56

Too short, too fat, too tall, too thin, too, too big, too small. I mean, the same old thing. Very close, you got close, but no, no cigar. You know, that’s the same old thing.


David Duchovny  09:06

Does this hurt? Or you’re just like, you know what, I’m going to become the Divine Miss M right now.


Bette Midler  09:12

No, no, no, no, no.


David Duchovny  09:14

Out of that pain of rejection, you became this thing? How does it happen?


Bette Midler  09:20

How did it happen? Well, I got tough I toughened up. And I sort of decided that this was not working out this theater thing was not really working out. And I looked for another avenue. And I always tell people who say how can I get started in your industry […]


David Duchovny  09:44

Hello showbusiness.


Bette Midler  09:46

I always say look for loopholes. Because you might not get you might not be the biggest star on Broadway, but if you can do this or that or the other thing, try writing for other people try try stand up.


David Duchovny  10:00

That’s an amazing thing to say. But to actually go and do it.


Bette Midler  10:04

I mean, why not? What do you got to lose?


David Duchovny  10:08

I don’t know.


Bette Midler  10:08

I mean, it’s just, what are they going to do? What are they going to do to you, they’re not going to murder you. They’ll make you feel bad for 20 minutes, but maybe you’ll find out that you really love this. I know people who have who’ve been, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. And then they do, and they say, I love that, I love that. That’s what happened to me. I was languishing in the theater world. And I was in a show for three years, I asked for a $25 raise. They refused it to me. They refused to give me the $25 raise, I thought we got out of here. And I just said there’s got to be something better than this other woman who was very kind to me and was in the show with me, Marta Heflin. very kind and very beautiful, it’s a great singer. She said, well, I’m going down to this club downtown. Why don’t you come with me. So I took my little bag of music which and I’ve had this bag that I have carried in my life for six years I have carried a bag of music. I sometimes the bag gets better. You know sometimes it’s cloth, sometimes it’s loosely tall. Sometimes it’s you know, rubber up.


David Duchovny  11:10

The same bag.


Bette Midler  11:10

Not the same bag, but the music is basically the same. So I carried a bag of music, I carry my little bag with my my my audition songs, and I went down to Hilly’s, which was on Ninth Street no longer there may he rest. And I the piano player was a genius. And I had my little bag of music and I sang something some ballad I don’t know, I never entered my mind or something like that. And then I the third song you’re allowed three song was God Bless the Child, which I had learned after I saw the Clara Ward singers in a dump in Honolulu, where all the sailors went, but I frequented. I saw Clara Ward, the Clara Ward singers, and the girl the lead girls saying, God Bless the Child that’s got his own. And I connected with that song immediately. And I made it part of I still I’m gonna sing that song. So I and that was the song I sang that night at Haley’s. And I had this out of body experience. I mean, I didn’t even know who was singing, some buddy took over my body. And these waves of sorrow when, you know, revenge came out. And there I was. And I it was an experience that was so transformative, that I knew that I had turned a corner. And that this was a way out. This is my exit from the theater.


David Duchovny  12:37

I’m hearing that it just felt completely authentic to yourself at that moment, you were.


Bette Midler  12:42



David Duchovny  12:43

Present on the earth. This was what you were supposed to be doing.


Bette Midler  12:46



David Duchovny  12:47

What a beautiful moment to have.


Bette Midler  12:49

And I never forgot it, of course, I never forgot it. Because it was so different from anything that I had ever experienced in my body before. And I loved it. I mean, it was an actual physical experience. The heartbeat, and this energy coming out of me it was just. And I wanted it again.


David Duchovny  13:10

Yes, well, that’s that this is what I was gonna say, did you chase that? And did you ever really? Did you find it again? Or get close enough? You know, performing, performing, performing?


Bette Midler  13:20

Every single night. Once I found that I went for it every single night.


David Duchovny  13:28

That is amazing to me, that’s amazing, that’s amazing to me. That’s your that’s your energy then because that takes that takes a hell of a lot of energy to do that every time.


Bette Midler  13:38

Yeah, but I knew what’s just the the thing is that I knew what I knew how to tap into that energy. I don’t know how it wasn’t surreal. It wasn’t something I thought of. It was just something that happened that I allowed to happen.


David Duchovny  13:51

And you never felt it with empty either. You never felt that would go never limit.


Bette Midler  13:55

Never, I didn’t care what end of it I was in. I mean, I just loved it. I love performing, I love music, and I love dance. And I love the I love sets and lights and costumes and wigs and oh, I loved all of it, I love the artifice of it. And I just gave myself over to that. And I pursued that diligently for I would say 55 or 60 years. And now, now that I’m nearing, wending my way towards the wings. I often wonder whether I mean I haven’t really performed it over five years, and I haven’t really sung in five years, the need and the desire and all the things that you have when you’re young and I do think a lot of it is hormonal, and I’m sorry to say that because I know people are disappointed, in a way but I feel like a lot of things are hormonal that are just in your body. And in the phases of life that you go through. They change because you change every single cell in your body is different every single day. So I don’t have the need. And when you have need, you do things that other people don’t want to be bothered with or are afraid to do. Sometimes the need is so gigantic, that you, you can’t stop yourself. And I think that I must have had that need. I was incredibly needy in the day, but I’m not so needy now, and I’m glad.


David Duchovny  19:17

It seems like many people have this one failure that kind of sticks and burns and hopefully teaches, but it’s really that moment of teaching and liberation and resilience that I’m, I’m looking to talk about with people that have been been through it. And I’m curious if you have something like that?


Bette Midler  20:27

Well, I’ve had, I’ve had that happen many times, many times in my life. I can remember one example that I’ve actually spoken about before. And that’s when I landed in movie jail. Now, a lot of people don’t know about movie jail is when, you know, you upset the powers that be the powers that run the town. And because someone has put out that you’re disagreeable, or you’re a pain in the ass to work with, I had left my manager who had been very protective of me for many, many years temp about 10 years. And I had embarked on this career of my on my own. And I was I didn’t really know what I was doing. And I managed to get this movie called Jinxed! And I was sort of in charge, and my my writer friend and I were the, you know, we were kind of like heading the production. And we made the mistake of hiring caught possibly the meanest man and show business, who was Don Segal as the director. Now Don Segal was kind of notorious in the business


David Duchovny  21:33

Dirty Harry director?


Bette Midler  21:35

He was, he was, he was Clint Eastwood’s director of choice. And he also made the the invasion of the Body Snatchers. And the story that I heard about him on the Invasion of the Body Snatchers was that he was so unpleasant. There was one scene where he was supposed to be in a, he was going to shoot, I forgot the guy’s name Kennedy, Arthur Kennedy, Arthur Kennedy in the in a kind of a, like a hole of the manhole cover over it. And Arthur Kennedy said, what Don, why don’t you just show us what you want. And they put on Don Segal in the hall, and they clamped the manhole cover on top of them. And they locked it and they went to lunch. That’s how much they hated him.


David Duchovny  22:14

You said I gotta hire that guy, to yourself.


Bette Midler  22:17

No, I didn’t.


David Duchovny  22:19

Know that story.


Bette Midler  22:20

No, and that was the takeaway from that experience, because he made my life completely miserable. And it was my turn to pick the co star, I interview the co star, the first thing that co star said to me was something, you know, incredibly, kind of racist and homophobic. And I didn’t, my mouth just fell open. But I didn’t listen to myself, I let let it go.


David Duchovny  22:47



Bette Midler  22:47

So here I was with this really miserable co star, and this really miserable director, and eventually, they out it was kind of they kind of ganged up on me, they did ganging up on me. And when the picture came out, and it was a dud, they blamed me, of course, and in the press, they blamed me. And I wound up in movie jail for years.


David Duchovny  23:08

That I blamed you, in what sense.


Bette Midler  23:10

All the useful things that I was too demanding that I was arrogant that I was riding roughshod over people, really, I was just trying to do my job. But I couldn’t make myself understood. And they didn’t bother to make themselves understood. There was not collegial. It wasn’t collaborative. But there came a point where we were doing a musical number, and I kind of do know a little bit about musical numbers, where the director just absolutely lost it. And he slugged me. He hit me and his girlfriend, or maybe it was his wife at the time held me back, he held me by my elbows and let him hit me. And I mean, I tried to hit him back, but she was holding me so I couldn’t hit him. That’s not really fair. You know, I mean, that’s the that’s charges, you bring people up on charges for slugging other people. So I went to movie jail for a couple of years. And it was devastating to me because I, I heard about all this kind of behavior. I had heard that they didn’t like women telling them what to do, I had heard that, but I had always been in charge of my own shows, I built my own shows, I hired my own people, I paid their you know, I was charged the payroll. So I was I was the boss. And in this case, I was the boss, but I wasn’t the boss. And I didn’t know that I wasn’t the boss. So it was a constant push and pull about who was going to be the boss. And I didn’t realize until afterwards that that’s what the conflict was about. So that was a big lesson. Do your homework. Know who you’re getting in bed with? Call people who have worked with these people and find out just who you’re dealing with.


David Duchovny  24:55

And maybe have a manhole cover handy as well.


Bette Midler  24:59

That’s exactly right.


David Duchovny  25:00

I had read a quote somewhere. And I bet you’re referring to this where you were accused of grandstanding and that really hurt your feelings.


Bette Midler  25:08

Oh, yes.


David Duchovny  25:08

That this.


Bette Midler  25:09



David Duchovny  25:10

So that word, that word grandstanding, really? I was curious about that, but obviously, it’s very painful for you. And if you could tell me what that means with respect to this?


Bette Midler  25:21

Well, I think it’s, you know, when a man does it, it’s being effective. And it’s been, you know, it’s been a man, it’s been taken here to being the boss, but when a woman does it, it’s somehow a negative. And it’s unfair, you know, it’s actually, it’s, there’s no no other word to explain it. It’s unfair, and I was brought up with, you know, my most of my high school life. No one spoke to me, people didn’t speak to me. They know, I have no memory of anyone saying good morning to me, or goodbye to me at school. So I was a reader, I was reader, I was I was a geek, and I had other friends who were also sort of, like, on the fringes. And I was okay with that. I mean, but because I recognized early on what my status was, and it didn’t really bother me, because I always had my books. You know, I always had my imaginative life, which is kind of what leads me to my next big flop, which was, which was my television show. I did a television show.


David Duchovny  26:35

Yes, Bette.


Bette Midler  26:36

Yes, Bette does it get any more generic than that? Bet? A big a big, big mistake. It was, well, I think for several reasons, it was the wrong motivation. It was a form of a part of the media, I simply did not understand. I watched it. I appreciated it. I enjoyed it. But I didn’t know what it meant to make it. I had made theatrical live events. I had made films, I had made a variety television shows I had been on talk shows, but I had never done a situation comedy. And I didn’t realize what the pace was. And I didn’t understand what the hierarchy was. And no one bothered to tell me.


David Duchovny  27:24

Well, the hierarchy should have been since Bette is the name of the show, you should have been number one on the hierarchy.


Bette Midler  27:29

When I was kicked to the curb immediately. And I didn’t know what to do about it. I mean, it was obvious all the signs were there. But because I was such a so green, I didn’t understand what what my choice what my options were, what choices I could have made to to improve my situation. I didn’t know that I could have taken charge that I could have asserted my because I think because I was so terrified of being branded, you know, a grandstander again.


David Duchovny  27:59

That stuck with you and alienated you from your own power and knowledge in a way.


Bette Midler  28:04

Yes, yes.


David Duchovny  28:06

So what was the vision of the show? If you had been able to execute it in a way?


Bette Midler  28:13

Well, I thought that it would be entertaining because it’s common. I mean, it’s every day, it’s like an everyday life, it’s, uh, you know, I do go to the store, I do sit down and iron, you know, darn my clothes, I do make the bed sometimes. You know, I occasionally I lower myself to sweep the floor. I mean, I do it, I do all that stuff, and I thought that was a riot, because your core business, a phrase I almost never used, but I’ve taken to using recently. My core business is this kind of creature that I’ve made.


David Duchovny  28:45



Bette Midler  28:46

That I’ve built, and she is the public facing person. But this little, you know, the little The Wizard of Oz is behind here pulling the strength. So I thought it would be fun to show the wizard in everyday circumstances. But the fact is, that it would, I believe it would have worked if I had been working. If I had had a team that was on my side. I things happened that were so astonishing. I didn’t know those things could happen. For instance, Lindsay Lohan was cast as my daughter in the pilot. Well, after the pilot, Lindsay Lohan decided she didn’t want to do it, so she had other fish to fry. So Lindsay Lohan left the building. And what about what did you do? And no one’s Kate, the studio didn’t help me and.


David Duchovny  29:35

You have to adapt. You have to adapt.


Bette Midler  29:37

Adopt or adapt […]  so. And it was all it was very chaotic. It was extremely chaotic. And I have […]


David Duchovny  29:47

Contracts, you’re not supposed to be allowed to do that a contract you’re not supposed to be allowed to leave a show.


Bette Midler  29:52

I know that I know that and if I had been if I had been in my right mind or if I had known that my my part of my duties were to stand up and say this absolutely will not do. I’m going to sue that I would have done that, but I seem to have been costed in some way that I couldn’t get to the writers room. I couldn’t speak to the showrunner I couldn’t make myself clear. And there was so many competing personalities. And I have to say, the main thing that was so shocking to me was the pace of it. I didn’t understand how fast you had to go, you know? Can you speak to that?


David Duchovny  30:26

Oh, yeah, yeah, I know.


Bette Midler  30:28

I had no idea how fast people make it. Really, you have to give people so much credit, when it’s great, because the speed of it is so taxing. And if you didn’t keep up, you just couldn’t, you were in big trouble. So I went, I was booked on David Letterman, and says, said to me, how do you like it so far? I said, it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me in my entire life. I said, it’s like, being a dung beetle, and pushing a pile of shit up a hill every day. And, of course, the next day I was fired. My lawyer called called me, you know, like nine o’clock in the morning and said, you’re fired. I said, oh, isn’t that fantastic? I mean, I was we were on the 18th episode out of 22. And I was so thrilled not to have to continue, because I could not gather by self enough to make it work. I didn’t know how to make it work for so many reasons, not least of which was that it was a completely different situation than I thought it was going to be. And I couldn’t, the mad scramble to keep up was just too intense. So I was glad I was glad to be fired.


David Duchovny  31:49

But the heart must hurt a little bit. And then the ego as well.


Bette Midler  31:55

Well, you know, after that heart was broken on that first picture, I got a little scarred I, the scars were pretty, pretty deep, and they were pretty thick. So I had developed a kind of an armor by that time. It did however, up in my, my business life, because my partner of many, many years, my business partner many, many, many years, and I parted company, and I left my production company, which I loved. And which all those I mean, it was a thriving entity, not as thriving as some but still we made pictures. And I closed it, and I, I my business partner and I parted company. And you know, she was not not just my business partner, she was also a very dear friend. So that was very, very, very rough. But I had to go on, I felt that I had to go on, I felt that I had made so many mistakes that were so obvious. My biggest failure is haste. And acting on impulse, I have never actually been able to control my sense of haste. I’m, I’m very speedy, I walk fast. I talk fast. I used to think fast. I don’t think at all anymore.


David Duchovny  33:20

But let me push that another way. Because I, I see that you’ve talked about the power of spontaneity, you know that nothing is more powerful than the power of spontaneity so I feel like, you know, you could call it haste. I might call it spontaneity. I think it’s a hell of hard work to look spontaneous. And I think that’s what you’re getting at is like you didn’t have time to prepare enough to look like you were just making it up as you went along because.


Bette Midler  33:53

Exactly right, that is exactly right.


David Duchovny  33:56

And I suffer from the same thing, because I’m like, you know, I don’t even want to rehearse half the time. I just want to, I just want I just want to let’s do it, I got it, I got a feeling, I got a feeling. I just want to go with the feeling, let’s do it. And it’s the phrase in Latin is Festina Lente, which is called Make haste slowly, do you know it?


Bette Midler  34:14

Yeah, I’ve heard it. I’ve heard it.


David Duchovny  34:16

And that’s what we have to learn. That’s what we have to learn.


Bette Midler  34:19

Well, I’m 78 years old, and if I don’t learn it tomorrow, it’s gonna be too damn bad.


David Duchovny  37:50

It’s interesting to me because what I saw on Radio City Music on ’83 And what I see in your in your career is not the need for like being hip or, or approved of in the moment. Because your bag, your song bag and your comedian bag. And even your performance bag is not made for it wasn’t even made for 83, you know it was you put all that shit together from odds and ends that I would think that your mother steered your way or you found in a library in Honolulu or whatever you completely collaged and act together. And the need wasn’t to fit in. What I was impressed by when I saw him in 83 was like, this woman does not give a fuck about being hip. You know, she’s doing some old stuff there. She’s doing some of her own stuff over here. And somehow it’s all of a piece and I just I don’t it wasn’t the need for love me it was a need to.


Bette Midler  39:20

It was a need to express certain things that people ignore or sweep under the rug or don’t want to be bothered with or put in the back of their minds because it’s too painful to deal with. So these were like I always used to say these were like, I’m a bit of a magpie. I think many many people are and I’m also I’m a I never like to throw stuff out that if it can be useful. Some I used to find things that were beautiful that other people didn’t find beautiful. And I would I mean it’s like restoring an old house. Just because you love the idea. You love the way this old yes aesthetic of this old house you just love it and you don’t want the wrecking ball to come and throw it down because it’s too beautiful and it gives people joy to see so much beauty and.


David Duchovny  40:14

As you were putting this thing together we’re not afraid of rejection because like you because you must have gone out inside you know the stones are filling up Madison Square Garden and I’m going out there singing boogie woogie bugle boy.


Bette Midler  40:28

I didn’t give a fuck.


David Duchovny  40:30

I want to bottle that. I want to bottle your I don’t give a fuck.


Bette Midler  40:35

I believed in it. I believed in it, and I used this and I think that I have I believed in it. And I believe that I’m such a snob. I’m such a terrible snob. I mean, I really am. As far as writing is concerned or movies is concerned or, you know, different kinds of performance is concerned. I’m a terrible snob because it because I really trust my taste. I trust my own taste. And I think of it if this makes me laugh. A lot of people are going to get a kick out of this. If people if I sing this and it’s, it’s well done, it’s well executed. People will enjoy this. I mean, I just trusted my own tastes. And I think a lot of I think the the times when I fail most, most egregiously, were the times when I didn’t trust my own taste. I didn’t trust myself, live with this show that that show and it’s certain records that I’ve made where I allowed A&R to push me around. Why would I let a&r push me around? They know me, you know, oh, you have to sing disco? Why do I have to sing disco? Oh, you have to sing disco. They won’t play you if you don’t play, sing disco, so I sit beside disco. I mean, it’s the worst garbage. Not the worst, because there’s so much garbage out there now. I mean, it’s garbage, but this was, this was bicep share of the garbage. And I went, sometimes I hear that stuff, and I like, oh, my God, I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I didn’t stand up for myself. But the thing is that you can be intimidated. One can be intimidated, especially by people who have.


David Duchovny  42:13



Bette Midler  42:14

Yeah, money and power over you. So I’m really happy about Taylor Swift. Because Taylor Swift has kind of rewritten the playbook. And she’s, she’s very beautiful. And she’s lovely. And she’s, she doesn’t have to raise her voice. But she’s makes herself understood. And, you know, for a long time I didn’t, I refuse to recognize the fact that there were these power structures. In retrospect, there were power structures, but in the now that I’m so old, I recognize them. But when I was in it, there was no language for it. You didn’t say oh, so and so, you know, has power over me because he owns the company of course, he has power over you. He owns the company, you idiot. So of course, you would go along to get along. And there are a few things that I regret. But honestly, I might. I’m pretty good natured about that. Ah, didn’t work out. Next, thank you next.


David Duchovny  43:15

Well, because you still have your, your voice voice inside. You know that to me, that’s the lesson that you were born knowing your confidence to me is exemplary, you know, and, and I’m envious of it in many ways, because I could get knocked down and it would take me a while to get back up.


Bette Midler  43:36

Oh, you know, every day is different. And every set of challenges brings a different response. The thing to do is not to beat yourself up.


David Duchovny  43:46

Oh, but I’m really good at that. I’m really good at that.


Bette Midler  43:48

You’re good at that? Everyone in the whole world is good at that. And it’s good sometimes to separate. I’m just learning this now. It’s good sometimes to separate the thinker. From from yourself. I mean, the thinker seems to have its own its own life.


David Duchovny  44:05

Do you mean it’s not like the ego? You mean, the thinker is the ego.


Bette Midler  44:09

I know that I have never been able to identify which one it is. But I will say this.


David Duchovny  44:14

It’s my mother, it’s my mother in your head is what it is. Thank you thank her as my mother.


Bette Midler  44:21

It’s you can get yourself a vacation from the thought from your thoughts. If you realize that this this thinker, the one that keeps denigrating you and you know grinding you to bits if you can, if you can say oh well it’s just doing its thing. I don’t have to listen. Or you can say you know, be quiet for a while. I have this work to do just leaving the fuck alone. And and it does stop. If you push it back. It does stop it does give you a few you know, an hour or two respite.


David Duchovny  44:53

Yeah, there’s there’s that or you go like hey, you know, I understand that you are there because you make me I work hard because I think that I’m nothing and therefore I’ve got to, and so I need to do one point in my life when I needed to do that, but I don’t need anymore so so you can go and take a vacation. But I think I want to I want to leave you with. You’ve been really generous with your time. I just want to say one thing to you have enthusiasm, and I just wanted to because I’m an overeducated, idiot. I will tell you that enthusiasm means in Greek to have God in you, and actually.


Bette Midler  44:55

Oh, really? Fabulous. You know Greek.


David Duchovny  45:16

No, I just know that.


Bette Midler  45:38

Just doesn’t work. You just know the meaning of enthusiasm to have God in you, fantastic, fantastic. I, I have a I sometimes feel that enthusiasm and optimism are very close, you know, are very, very close to each other.


David Duchovny  45:54

Jesus, I hope not. I hope not.


Bette Midler  45:56

No one loves, but I think like when you wake up in the morning, you feel like, I feel like this is going to be a good day. That’s the kind of enthusiasm.


David Duchovny  46:04



Bette Midler  46:04

It’s like, I think they’re and I want to think that I’m Sunny, that I’m a sunny person, that I’m optimistic.


David Duchovny  46:14

I want to think that you could be an enthusiastic pessimist. I think that’s what I am. I think that’s what I am. I want to think I can wake up with enthusiasm and say, not so great out there today, but fuck it, you know?


Bette Midler  46:27

There you go. You know what it is, this too shall pass.


David Duchovny  46:34

Going Bible on me.


Bette Midler  46:35

Yeah, this too shall pass and everything fades. So, you know, the gigantic thing that is the most terrifying and horrible, if they will, it will diminish with time. And also the greatest thing that the greatest accolades, the greatest thrill, the greatest success you’ve ever had will also fade. You know? It just that’s just the way of the world.


David Duchovny  47:03

Bette, thank you for for coming on. And I hope to see you around campus.


Bette Midler  47:11

I look forward to that, that Burger Joint.


David Duchovny  47:15

Right, thanks, Bette, bye.


David Duchovny  47:29

Just some random Voice Memo thoughts. Got the Bette Midler interview, because I’m still afraid of the technology over there on the table. Just kind of hold my phone near my mouth. I can trust that. You can hear some street noises. For free. Yeah, the thing like to me. She was, she just has, like, in sports, like you talk about somebody’s motor. And it’s just like somebody who who never seems to get tired. You know, they can just play all day. They got a big motor. And that to me has she’s got a big motor, you know, and just, it’s still firing, you know, now. And I feel like I understood what she was saying about always knowing she had a knowing that, that she was had something to say something to express some talent to share. And I think talking to Bette I was put in touch with that in myself again, you know, that young part of myself where I quit graduate school, when I was in my late 20s and didn’t have a career and all of a sudden I was acting a fairly soft spoken, shy seeming person. People very confused, especially my family. Why, why is David doing this and yet I had this knowing. So I’m talking about me after Bette, but what I what I feel that I missed, and again, and I feel bad about this was the hurt of whatever our parents did to us. You know, she clearly touched on her father is not giving approval and her mother is almost like a fantasy just you know, living in a Hollywood world way out there in Honolulu. So very interesting place that she came from, created her mind. Fascinating I find and I guess I wanted to ask, you know, how did that affect your parents like if you grew up with a father who didn’t easily give approval or applause? What kind of a mother were you? You know, even saying that out loud right now I don’t like myself what kind of a mother were you? But this is where sometimes we have to go or allow I needed to allow her to go there.


CREDITS  49:46

There’s more Fail Better with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content like more of my behind the scenes thoughts on this episode. Subscribe now and Apple podcasts. Fail Better as a production of Lemonada media in coordination with King Baby. It is produced by Kegan Zema, Aria Bracci, and Dani Matias  . Our engineer is Brian Castillo. Our SVP of weekly is Steve Nelson. Our VP of new content is Rachel Neil. Special thanks to Carl Ackerman, Tom Karpinski and Kate D. Lewis, the show’s executive produced by Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova, Kramer and me, David Duchovny, I mean, the company dammit. The music is also by me and my band. Lovely Colin Lee. Pat McCusker, Mitch Stewart, Davis Rowan and Sebastian […]. Special thanks to Brad Davidson. You can find us online at @LemonadaMedia and you can find me @DavidDuchovny, you know what it means when I say at David Duchovny. Follow Fail Better wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

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