Bette Midler returns to the stage and screen

NEW YORK Fri Apr 25, 2008 10:53am EDT

Bette Midler poses for a portrait during a media day promoting the film ''Then She Found Me'' in New York April 21, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Bette Midler poses for a portrait during a media day promoting the film ''Then She Found Me'' in New York April 21, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - They just don't make entertainers like they used to and, at 62, Bette Midler should know.

Midler is experiencing what she calls a "boomlet," or a career mini-boom. She has replaced Celine Dion in a two-year singing engagement in Las Vegas and is co-starring with Helen Hunt in "Then She Found Me," her first film in three years which was released on Friday.

The all-around entertainer told Reuters that juggling acting with singing, cracking jokes and strutting on her tiny high-heeled shoes across one the world's largest stages on the Vegas Strip are skills from another era.

"You could say I am the people's diva, I am like the last one left," she said in a recent interview. "I just think you have to do everything.

"I am like the last of another breed."

The American singer, actress, comedian and one time go-go dancer, who launched her career in a Broadway production of "Fiddler on the Roof" and once played a Manhattan gay bathhouse with Barry Manilow, lamented the loss of "full service entertainers." She joked she should set up a "diva boot camp."

She said some modern performers were so stiff and interacted so little that audiences might be forgiven for thinking "they are looking at a gigantic television set."

In "Then She Found Me," Midler plays a gregarious television show host mother of a demure schoolteacher played by Hunt. She said Hunt, who directed the film, hounded the two-time Oscar nominee to be in the film, then asked her to tone down her famed bawdy antics. Midler was nominated for 1979's "The Rose" and 1991's "For The Boys."

"She nagged me," she said. "She wanted me to be much lower key than what I usually am. I was a little nervous about that, but I think she was right."

Midler has acted in only a few films in the past decade after starring in a raft of films in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including "Ruthless People" and "Beaches."

"There is a cycle to it and you are hot for 10 years and then ... you do what you do," she said. "I have been very lucky because I have my own shows that I really love to do and my own music that I have been singing since I was a kid."

But she had once hoped for more dramatic roles after her star-making turn in "The Rose."

"I was really hoping I would go on that path but it didn't turn out for me, you know, " she said. "They didn't really know what to do with me -- and then I arrived in comedy."

While she doubts she will ever return to Broadway with its punishing eight-shows a week schedule, she says she still gets a kick out of show business.

"When it really belongs to me, when I own it and the house is in my hands, I do, I love it," she said.

(Editing by Jackie Frank)

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