Bette Midler wrapped up her Broadway run Sunday in I’ll Eat You Last, her hit play about Hollywood agent Sue Mengers, and by Monday she was starting to decompress. Her voice was strained after three months of chain-smoking herbal cigarettes as the nicotine-and-pot-loving Mengers, but otherwise she seemed hardy during a telephone interview about her first role on Broadway in some 40 years. There was little bitterness, for instance, at the theater insiders who declined to nominate her for a Tony Award — one of the biggest surprises of the theater season.
“I think it’s a great group, but it’s not my scene,” Midler said of the nominators and other powers that be in the Broadway industry. “I come from another world, and I think they might have felt, ‘Oh, she’s not really in our world; she’s just dropping in for a cameo.’ I can’t get worked up about it. Besides, I already have a Tony for my Broadway concert in ’73. It’s one of the most precious things I’ve won.”
If the nominators didn’t embrace her, audiences and many critics did. I’ll Eat You Last broke box office records at the Booth Theater and recouped its $2.4 million investment in May after eight weeks of performances, a rare feat for a play. The producers and Midler are talking about taking the play to Los Angeles, where Mengers was a major force. As for Broadway, several producers are hopeful that Midler, 67, will consider another play or musical. Right now, though, she said she just wants to catch her breath.