Bette Midler on playing a Hollywood institution

(CBS News) Fans who love Bette Midler for her singing may be in for a surprise if they go to see Bette on Broadway -- she sings not a note, yet somehow manages to hit all the right ones, just the same. Here's Mo Rocca:


Audiences know Bette Midler for playing brash and outrageous, in comedies like "Ruthless People"; tugging at heartstrings in dramas like "Beaches"; and for the stage performances that long ago earned her the moniker "The Divine Miss M."

Now Midler is on Broadway charming audiences in a one-woman show.

And she does it without taking a single step.

Rocca asked, is it strange for her not to be singing?

"No, it's a relief in a way," Midler said. "I do love my bands, and I do love my girls, and I love everyone who's on the stage. But I really wanted to do something very, very different.

So when this came in, I liked the script immediately."

Midler stars in "I'll Eat You Last," playing the part of legendary talent agent Sue Mengers, a real-life Hollywood institution who died two years ago at age 79.

Midler as Mengers: "Clients always say, 'Oh come on, Sue, give it to me straight. Don't sugarcoat it.' Jesus God, not one of them could survive a single phone call that wasn't coated in enough sugar to make Tony the Tiger puke!"

"I knew her, and I really adored her, even though I'm not sure she was crazy about me!" Midler laughed. "I liked her! So I thought it was a great idea. I thought it was a hilarious idea, a real American story -- you know, all those things about, I came from nothing, I was an immigrant, blah blah. Fantastic story!"

Mo Rocca with Better Midler, discussing Sue Mengers and "I'll Eat You Last."
CBS News

"Do you think there are a lot of similarities in your personalities?" Rocca asked.

"Well, you know, she was kind of tough. She was pretty brash. She made herself. She created Sue Mengers."

In her heyday, Sue Mengers was the ultimate Hollywood insider. She represented Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, Ali McGraw, Candice Bergen, Tony Perkins, Tuesday Weld and Mick Jagger. She became SO famous in 1975 she got the "60 Minutes" treatment from none other than Mike Wallace:

Wallace: "How do you get clients?"
Mengers: "Well, I thought you'd never ask. Well, in the beginning it was through aggression. Now it's through reputation -- and a little aggression."

Back then Mengers had everyone's ear. As Wallace explained it, "Studio heads, production chiefs don't turn down Mengers' telephone calls, not just because they want her clients. They like to talk to her. They like her gamey humor, the gossip that she trades, her street smarts."

It's a side of Mengers that Broadway audiences like, too.

Midler as Mengers: "That's what we do here, we dish -- who's in, who's out, who's on top, who's on the bottom, who's on top but really wants to be on the bottom. It's the most delicious gossip you've ever heard. I love gossip, don't you?"

Farrah Fawcett, Ryan O'Neal and agent Sue Mengers at a party for Palomo Picasso at Studio 54 in New York in September 1981.
Richard Corkery/NY Daily News via Getty
"It was a very small world," Midler said. "And she was at the top of the pyramid. And she had climbed that pyramid herself."

To Robert Evans, Paramount's production chief in the '70s, Sue Mengers was a friend, though he told Wallace she was a tenacious one, who refused to take "no" for an answer:

"Three years ago, four years ago, Sue Mengers would call me six times a day and say, 'Ryan O'Neal for "The Godfather." Ryan O'Neal for "The Godfather,"' " said Evans. "And I'd say, 'Are you crazy, Sue? I mean, Ryan O'Neal's blond, he's blue-eyed. We want an Italian.'

"The next morning there would be flowers at the door: 'Ryan O'Neal for "The Godfather."'"

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