In Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, singer, actress and all-around entertainer Bette Midler got to sink her teeth into the titular villain, a hairless cat hell-bent on world domination. And Midler admits the desire to take over the world was pretty easy to relate to.
“I think a lot of female entertainers think about that when they start out,” she says. “I did.”
But as for her character turning evil after an on-the-job accident causes her fur to fall out, Midler insists that’s where they differ. “Something happens to my hair in real life every day and I don’t (turn evil),” she says with a laugh.
Dealing with hair issues is something she says she learned about early on in her career. “A long time ago, when I first started in the theatre, I was in Fiddler on the Roof, and one of the girls in Fiddler was a Puerto Rican girl,” Midler remembers. “The opening night, she had done something to her hair, she had tried to straighten her hair or something, and her hair fell out. Literally. And she didn’t even blink. She went out, she got a piece, she slapped it on, she went out, she gave the performance of her life. And I never forgot that. From that time on, I never thought twice. I just look around, grab a piece, put it on and go.”
Of course, doing voice work for her latest film didn’t require much concern about her hair. “It’s not just isolating, it’s lonely,” she says of the recording sessions. “Because it’s just you in a dark room with a sketch of a character or sometimes a filled-in scene, but you don’t work with the other actors. It’s like one long looping session, I said. It’s like, ‘Oh my God, ADR for days.’”
As much as her feline counterpart is determined to destroy the world, Midler has been working for more than a decade on saving it — or at least her home city.
“A couple of years ago, I teamed up with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to plant a million trees in New York City, and we’ve planted about 375,000 so far in the last two years,” she says.
“I also am the founder and chairman of an organization called New York Restoration Project. We clean abandoned parks and public places, and we also own 55 community gardens where people in the community grow their own food.”