Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bette Midler On Looking For Inspiration:

Bette Midler On Looking For Inspiration: “You have to remember that there are beautiful things coming out of individuals in the world and a lot of it is artists. You have to search those things out.” (The Free Lance-Star – Nov 8, 2004)

Bette Midler: Bootleg Betty's photo.
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Bette & Paul Simon singing Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen

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Bette Midler isn’t a helicopter mom

New York Post
Bette Midler isn’t a helicopter mom
By Dana Schuster February 10, 2016 | 7:00am

bette_midler_2008_09_09

Bette Midler’s daughter, Sophie von Haselberg, got the call of a fashionista’s lifetime last December when Marc Jacobs’ team rang late at night to see if she’d co-star with her crooner mom in his spring ad campaign.

“I was on the verge of going to bed and they called and asked if I would join the shoot the next morning with my mom,” says von Haselberg, who plays a hacker in the hotly anticipated Wall Street flick “Equity,” due out this year. “Initially, I was nervous and thought maybe I shouldn’t do it,” she tells Threads, explaining she’d only met the designer once before. “And then I was like, ‘Sophie, you’re being a total idiot.’ I love that Marc always picks such unique people. It’s not a matter of whether you’re a supermodel or how thin you are; it’s people who are actually fascinating to look at and fascinating humans. And I’m so proud to be one.”

While Midler and her mini-me are as close as can be, von Haselberg says her mother watches her budding career from a distance. “It’s good the way she’s been hands-off with everything,” says the Yale grad. “If you don’t figure out how to go at it alone, you’ll become too reliant on getting advice from parents and you won’t let yourself fail.” No hocus pocus (or stage moms) here, darlings.

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Bette Midler On Songs She Loves But Would Never Sing:

Bette Midler On Songs She Loves But Would Never Sing: “There’s so many songs that I love that I know I will never sing. I love all of Bob Dylan and I don’t think I’ve ever sung a Bob Dylan song (she’s sung several). There’s plenty of Joni Mitchell (she’s sung several). There’s plenty of Prince. There’s plenty of Carole King (she’s sung several). There’s plenty of Oasis.” (The Free Lance-Star – Nov 8, 2004)

Bette Midler: Bootleg Betty's photo.
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Bette Midler – Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy – Divine Intervention – 2015

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New Bette Midler Valentine’s Day E-Cards

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How Jaqueline Susann went from a reject to a 30-million best-seller

Telegraph
How Valley of the Dolls went from a reject to a 30-million best-seller
By Martin Chilton, culture editor
10 FEBRUARY 2016 • 8:50AM

Valley of the Dolls
Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann, is 50 years old in February 2016 CREDIT: REX FEATURES

Even by the standards of a cold rejection letter, the one Jacqueline Susann received from publishers Geis Associates in 1965 was brutal.

Her novel Valley of the Dolls was dismissed as “painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish”. So how did such a poor book go on to be registered in The Guinness Book of World Records in the late Sixties as the world’s most popular novel? The success of Valley of the Dolls – to date more than 30 million copies have been sold worldwide – is a tale of one of the most tenacious and sharp-eyed publishing campaigns of all time.

The novel, which is about the sex lives and addiction problems of four Hollywood “glamour girls”, is 50 years old on February 10, 2016. The “dolls” in the title are the “uppers” and “downers” Susann’s characters swallow to cope with their soap-opera lives.

Susann, the daughter of a portrait painter and teacher, was born in Philadelphia in 1918. She was at heart a pragmatist and told friends that, as she had spent 18 months writing the book, “the least I can do is spend three months promoting it”. In fact, her campaign to publicise Valley of the Dolls lasted more than a year, and was organised like a military campaign.

Susann and her husband – a television producer and born hustler called Irving Mansfield – posted 1,500 free copies, all containing personalised notes, to journalists, actors, TV presenters, publishers, advertisers and book shops. Susann also took on board the lessons she had learned from the failed, and somewhat desperate, campaign to promote her first novel Every Night, Josephine!, about her pet poodle.

Jacqueline Susann and her husband Irving Mansfield
Jacqueline Susann and her husband Irving Mansfield CREDIT: REX FEATURES

 

For that campaign, in 1963, she and the poodle had dressed in matching leopard-pattern pillbox hats and coats. Timing was against her, though, as the book’s publication coincided with the assassination of President Kennedy. Staff at the publishers remembered her stomping around the office shouting, “What’s going to happen to my bookings now?” as staff in tears watched television coverage of the dead President.

Susann, who had appeared in minor roles in 21 plays on Broadway and in numerous TV roles, remained unembarrassed by the hard sell, and the failure of her poodle novel only made her more determined that Valley of the Dolls would succeed. “A new book is like a new brand of detergent,” she said. “You have to let the public know about it. What’s wrong with that?”

She and her husband criss-crossed America, dropping in on bookstores in every one of the 250 cities they visited. Susann would ask the head sales clerks if they had read her novel. If they hadn’t, or did not have a copy, she would give them one and autograph it. “Salesmen don’t get books free, you know,” she told Life magazine. “I tell them ‘be my guest’ and then they can recommend it honestly to their customers.”

The flattered bookshop staff would often change their window display to give a prominent slot to her novel, with its slick cover, showing coloured pills scattered against a white background. The only time she lost her cool in a shop was when she found out that the books department of the Carson Pirie Scott department store in Chicago was selling Valley of the Dolls under the counter, as if it were pornography.

I took amphetamine pills when I was on tour. I felt that I owed it to people to be bright

Another factor in her favour was that she understood the power of television and made great efforts to appear on national and local stations during her PR tours. The former actress knew how to play the fame game. As the blurb on Valley of the Dolls proudly stated: “Miss Susann has been stabbed, strangled, and shot on every major dramatic show on the airwaves”. She was a canny guest star, giving around 30 televised interviews a week. “No matter what an interviewer asks, I can work the conversation back to the book,” she said.

And she wasn’t afraid of using any means possible, including her little “dolls”, to keep her energy levels up, “I took amphetamine pills when I was on tour,” she told Pageant magazine in 1967. “I felt that I owed it to people to be bright, rather than droop on television. I was suddenly awake, and could give my best.”

Even all this micro-managing would not on its own have been enough to make Valley of the Dolls a mass seller. What did the trick was strategic book buying at the shops which provided the sales information that made up the New York Times best-sellers list. Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Geis’s director of publicity, said that at the time Valley of the Dolls was published the whereabouts of the 125 stores providing information to the paper was “common knowledge”.

Jacqueline Sussan arrives at London Airport in 1969
Jacqueline Sussan arrives at London Airport in 1969 CREDIT: REX FEATURES

 

“The biggest thing is being No1 on that list, being on top of that list that is in every bookstore,” Susann said. “People just look at that list and buy the book and when a book hits a hundred thousand, you’re off and running.” She organised book buying and re-ordering campaigns at the 125 stores and pretty soon Valley of the Dolls began shooting up the New York Times list.

As it rose up the chart, the publicity snowballed and a book that had been selling a few hundred copies per week was soon selling nearly nine thousand copies a week. Her competitive instincts were relentless. “I didn’t smell blood until the book was number two on the best-sellers list and number two was not enough,” she said.

Geis had sold paperback rights to Bantam for $200,000 and the publishers, knowing they had backed a winner, upped their own publicity campaign, sending out mail shots that were written on a prescription pad, saying: “Take 3 yellow dolls before bedtime for a broken love affair; take 2 red dolls and a shot of scotch for a shattered career; take Valley of the Dolls in heavy doses for the truth about the glamour set on the pill kick.”

Jacqueline Susann in 1960
Jacqueline Susann in 1960 CREDIT: REX FEATURES

The book finally reached the No1 slot in May 1966 and it stayed there for an unprecedented 28 weeks. Valley of the Dolls spent 65 weeks on the list in all, and made Susann rich. For each $5.95 book sold, she received $1.35. It was translated into 12 language including Russian, and it was even reviewed in Pravda. Her astonishing sales figures bred envy. “She doesn’t write, she types,” remarked the novelist Gore Vidal.

A copy sent to Norman Mailer was returned with a terse note from his secretary saying that Mailer “won’t have time to read Valley of the Dolls”. Susann had her revenge later, creating a character based on him called Tom Colt, a drunken and pugnacious writer with a child-size penis.

Success bred success, including a film adaptation of the novel, in which Judy Garland was originally cast. Susann told the film critic Roger Ebert in July 1967: “It’ll be a fantastic movie. It’s too bad about Judy Garland. Everybody keeps asking me why she was fired from the movie, as if it was my fault or something. She was raised in the great tradition of the studio stars, where they make 30 takes of every scene to get it right, and the other girls in the picture were all raised as television actresses. So they’re used to doing it right the first time. Judy just got rattled, that’s all. It was so pitiful, Judy called me and said she thought she was doing very well. She said she was there every day. She said, ‘Where did everyone go? I can’t get anybody on the phone'”.

 

The 1967 movie ended up starring Sharon Tate (the wife of Roman Polanski who was later murdered by Charles Manson followers), along with Oscar winner Patty Duke, but Susann did not consider the final result to be “fantastic”, even though it took $50million at the box office. Susann, who made a cameo appearance as a journalist, confronted the director Mark Robson to tell him “This picture is a piece of sh-t.”

Sharon Tate in the 1967 film version of Valley of the Dolls
Sharon Tate in the 1967 film version of Valley of the Dolls CREDIT: REX FEATURES

 

Tate, incidentally, received a Golden Globe nomination for most promising newcomer and the film was nominated for an Academy Award for its John Williams score.  The theme song was written by André Previn and sung by Dionne Warwick, who stood in for Garland as the singer. The film even spawned a parody in Russ Meyer’s 1970 comedy Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Despite her new-found wealth and condominium near New York’s Central Park, Susann remained a grafter and she went back to working eight hours a day on a new novel, following her routine of writing five drafts of a book, first on yellow paper, then on pink and blue and green, then finally on white. Although The Love Machine (1969), about a power-mad and randy TV executive called Robin Stone, would not have appealed to feminists – the character Ethel is described as “an ugly but stacked broad” – it was loved by the American public, remaining the No1 best-seller for five months.

Susann had her revenge on Norman Mailer, creating a character based on him called Tom Colt, a drunken and pugnacious writer with a child-size penis

This was followed by her final novel, Once is Not Enough (1973), a lurid thriller featuring incest and a lesbian called January Wayne. It also had the memorably grotesque character of a magazine editor who saves her lovers’ ejaculations in sample pots to use as protein-rich face packs. The denouement involved abduction by aliens.

When the critics scoffed, Susann laughed all the way to the bank. “A good writer,” she said, “is one who produces books that people read – who communicates. So if I’m selling millions, I’m good.” Her swansong book also went to the top of the New York Times charts, making her the first author to have three consecutive number one American best-sellers.

A 2000 biopic called Isn’t She Great featured Bette Midler as Susann and that film tried to capture the essence of a curious character, who at times was precious and at others benign. For example, she never held against Geis editor Don Preston his damning initial rejection of Valley of the Dolls, nor the fact that he had told her to her face that the novel was full of “every terrible showbiz cliché” imaginable. After he had edited the book, she presented Preston with an 18-Carat gold money clip, bearing a pair of tiny gold scissors, which came wrapped in a note thanking him for “the kindest cuts of all”.

Bette Midler played Jacqueline Susann and Nathan Lane player her husband in the 2000 biopic Isn't She Great 
Bette Midler played Jacqueline Susann and Nathan Lane player her husband in the 2000 biopic Isn’t She Great  CREDIT: REX FEATURES

He in turn praised her for sticking to her guns and rejecting suggestions to change the title of the book. “She would not give way on the title although the book distributors hated it, arguing that bookstore personnel might put the book in the children’s section,” recalled Preston.

There are new editions of the novel coming out to mark the half-century anniversary of Valley of the Dolls and publishers Grove say: “We want to make history again. We want Valley of the Dolls to be the first novel to achieve #1 on The New York Times Best Seller List – twice.” Without the dynamic Susann around to promote the book, that’s unlikely.

 

She died of cancer, aged only 56, on September 21, 1974. After her funeral service, her husband had Susann’s body cremated and her ashes deposited in a bronze vessel the size and shape of a book, which he kept on a bookshelf alongside copies of her books.

Susann was certain she would be remembered, though, and as more than just a bronze memento. This indefatigable self-publicist once boasted that “The 1960s will be remembered for Andy Warhol, The Beatles and me!”. A bold claim. But just imagine what she would have been like in the modern age of social media self-promotion.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sophie Von Haselberg: How To Crash Your Mom’s Photo Shoot

W Magazine
How to Crash a Marc Jacobs Campaign With Your Mom
Actress Sophie von Haselberg talks shooting the Marc Jacobs campaign with her mom – Bette Midler! – and working on her first film with Woody Allen.
February 9, 2016 1:19 PM | by Stephanie Eckardt

When Marc Jacobs calls, you go – which is exactly what Sophie von Haselberg did when he asked her to appear in his spring 2016 campaign, shooting the very next morning. Her mother, Bette Midler, was already set to be the star of the ads when Jacobs had the “very last minute thought” to include von Haselberg, too, the designer said in a characteristically candid Instagram. For an America- and theater-themed collection, it was an appropriately super-sized cast: Sky FerreiraEmily Ratajkowski, Guinevere van Seenus, Jamie Bochert, Christina RicciBella Hadid, Beth Ditto, and Midler were just some of the models shot by David Sims, and soon von Haselberg, an actress with no background in fashion, was a part of the mix herself. Back from the premiere of her new film Equity at Sundance, von Haselberg talked working with Jacobs and her mom, plus how she landed her first film ever, with Woody Allen.

How did you end up in the campaign? Was it really that last minute?
Well, my mom and I went to his fashion show together last season and had a total blast, obviously – it was so incredible and theatrical. I knew my mom was going to do the campaign a couple weeks later and was extremely excited for her. Then I got a call from her assistant literally the night before the shoot being like, “So, I just got a call from the Marc Jacobs’s office, and they are wondering if you want to join?” Initially my response was, “Hmm, that seems like maybe not the best idea, maybe I should lay low.” And then I sort of slapped myself in the face and realized that would be totally idiotic. I guess I must not have had anything planned because I sort of said yes, got into bed, and was like, “Okay!” [laughs]What was it like on set the next morning?
The whole vibe of the shoot was very ‘70s, very David Bowie-influenced, so it was loud and crazy in the best way possible. A lot of super fun ‘70s music. They brought me into the big room with all the clothes, and I kind of died over them. They were really fabulous. But of course everything was a sample size zero, which I am not, so I exhaled all the possible air in my body and eventually squeeze into this amazing suit version of the coat that my mom is wearing, which actually has beads where the faces [of opera legend Maria Callas] are. And then I put on a pair of high, high, high heels. I had never been to a fashion shoot of that scale before – they had an entire floor with all the clothes and a gigantic hair and makeup station. It had a very cinematic feel in a way, because it was sort of, “Oh, this is what it looks like in the movies.” But it is actually like this.

Right. Was it like being on set filming a movie at all?
No, actually, because movie sets tend to be pretty quiet when you’re rolling, whereas this had a constant buzz about it. I feel like hundreds of models were there, but that must be an overestimation. [laughs] We were only there for one day, but it was a multi-day shoot. It was a pretty big operation.

Bette Midler

Bette Midler in the spring 2016 Marc Jacobs campaign. Photo by David Sims, courtesy of Marc Jacobs.

What was it like to work with your mom?
It was great. It’s fun to take photos with her. She of course has much more experience with this stuff, so I would look at her and be like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay, we’re here, we’re doing this, it’s cool.” It was fun and easy and she’s my mom, so it felt pretty normal.

What about Marc Jacobs?
Oh my god, he’s hilarious and a total live wire. He’s obviously an aesthetic genius and had such specific ideas of what he wanted. A lot of what he was trying to impart was just the vibe of the whole collection, so he definitely encouraged us to have fun, move our bodies, and be fluid, not to be too stagnant or anything. And my mom has a huge personality, so I think the point was to kind of get that across.

Do you think you’ll do more in fashion?
I don’t think so. I don’t even know if I’ll be in New York for Fashion Week. It’s not really my world, to be honest. I had so much fun doing it and I always have been a huge fan of the fashion world, but I don’t really feel like that’s where my strengths lie necessarily. [laughs]

That makes sense, although you’ve changed gears before. You got your degree in sociology and East Asian studies at Yale before going back there a few years later for acting school. What made you switch?
I grew up performing, but when I got to college I decided to sort of become a “more serious person,” whatever that means. After that I moved to China and was working at this advertising agency, but I’d be sitting in meetings and having these pangs of missing out on being an actor. I knew that’s what I really wanted, so I moved back and spent a couple of years taking classes, and then I realized that if I wanted to be taken seriously, and if I wanted to take myself seriously, I needed really hardcore training. So I went to Yale Drama, which was the best decision of my life, and graduated from their MFA program about a year and a half ago. It’s been a pretty wild ride since then.

Seriously – your first film was with Woody Allen. What was it like to work with him on Irrational Man?
It was insane, and obviously a dream come true for many, many actors. He’s been doing this for so long that he understands how to run a set in the most incredible way. It’s so easy. On the production side of things, everybody has their role so down that you kind of feel like you’re walking into this well-oiled machine and can just do your job. Not in my wildest dreams could I have possibly hoped for a better first professional experience.

Sophie von Haselberg

Sophie von Haselberg with Emma Stone in Irrational Man, directed by Woody Allen. Photo by Christie Mullen, © 2015 Gravier Productions, Inc.

Yeah, it’s crazy for a first movie! How did you end up getting that role?
I had a meeting with this casting director who came to see the showcase that I did for Yale, and at the end she asked me if I would read a scene from a film with him. So I read with her, and she asked what I was doing the following week. I was like, “Nothing!” She was like, “I’d love to have you come back and read with Woody,” and I’m sure I blushed and started stumbling and couldn’t quite get myself together. I went back not knowing what to expect, just thinking I’d see what happened; after I did it, I didn’t hear anything for about two weeks. I was like, “Okay, you know what? That was an amazing experience, totally once in a lifetime, and that’s that.” And then my manager called me and was like, “Uh, so you booked that Woody Allen job.” I was on the street corner with my best friend and just started crying and, I don’t even know, screaming. So that was that.

What do you have coming up next?
I just got back from Sundance where a movie I did called Equity premiered. I play a hacker and I work for a company that Anna Gunn’s character is taking public, and I’m sort of a leaker. It’s a small part but a pretty pivotal role, so it was really fun for me to play.

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Bette Midler – Everybody Knows — Red Couch Bit – Divine Intervention – 2015

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Bette Midler On Putting Sophie In Experience The Divine:

Bette Midler On Putting Sophie In Experience The Divine: “I put her in “Ukulele Lady,” She sits and plunks her ukulele and sings a song and has a pretty wonderful time. She loves slapping that make-up on. We call it going to ‘burlesque camp.’ She loves the trappings, the feather boas, the makeup and the hairdos. She loves the costumes and the sets. She’s a great kid and she’s been a great sport.” (The Hour – Aug 16, 1994)

Bette Midler: Bootleg Betty's photo.
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