Bette Midler on Hocus Pocus’ Enduring Appeal: It Was an ‘Ugly Duckling’ and ‘Now It’s a Swan’

Bette Midler wasn’t concerned with the negative reviews Hocus Pocus initially received.

“I never read the critics,” Midler, 72, told PEOPLE and other reporters on Monday at her annual Hulaween charity event, benefitting the New York Restoration project.

In the 25 years since its releaseHocus Pocus has become a cult classic, and no one is happier than Midler.

“It was like an ugly duckling,” Midler said. “A little creature that nobody thought could do anything and now it’s a swan. It’s found its wings and it’s just flown away. I think it’s fantastic.”

RELATED: Tiffany Haddish and Billy Eichner Attempt to Recreate ‘Diverse’ Hocus Pocus: ‘Crazy Witch Asians’

Midler, who stars in the film alongside Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, has been getting in the Hocus Pocus spirit, posting 25 images from the film to her Instagram, and recently attending Freeform’s Hocus Pocus 25th anniversary special.

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A post shared by Bette Midler (@bettemidler) on Oct 16, 2018 at 4:37pm PDT


During the special, Midler explained that the project ‘intrigued’ her because it allowed her to “play physical comedy and be more than a little broad.”

She also revealed that due to the film’s practical effects, she actually got to fly while making the film, which she likened to choreography and described as “one of the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced as an actor.”

Midler explained, “It’s joyful, it’s also a dance, and there’s a lot of trying to be graceful while not being sure you weren’t going to be turned upside down.”

RELATED VIDEO: Bette Midler Accused Geraldo Rivera of Groping Her in a 1991 Interview with Barbara Walters

In the past, Midler has been skeptical of attempts to remake Hocus Pocus. When it was reported that a TV reboot was being developed by Disney, Midler told PEOPLE it was “going to be cheap.”

“I’m not sure what they’re going to do with my character,” she said. “My character is very, very broad and I don’t know who they’re going to find to play that.”

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John Lennon’s Imagine: Yoko Ono Reflects on Tracks from the Enduring Classic

Each year around Oct. 9, millions across the globe come together to honor the life and legacy of John Lennon on what would be his birthday. But this year fans had another reason to celebrate: the late legend’s solo masterwork Imagine received a lush multimedia reissue, providing unparalleled insight into one of Lennon’s greatest artistic achievements and, ultimately, his musical epitaph.

The album topped the charts worldwide upon its initial release in September 1971, giving the former Beatle his first number one under his own name. His solo debut, the previous year’s John Lennon/Plastic Ono Bandwas a searing confessional, recorded in the wake of an excruciating bout of experimental Primal Scream therapy. Though possessing a raw beauty, Lennon’s self-lacerating lyrics, probing the darkest part of his psyche, made it ill-suited for the contemporary hit parade.

Imagine, with its delicately wrought title track, was aimed squarely at the charts. Just as he and Yoko Ono — his partner in life, love and art — parlayed their fame to promote peace through the medium of celebrity-driven mass media, Lennon drew upon his unparalleled gift for melody and Ono’s singular gift for poetry to craft a utopian anthem for the Top 40. “Now I understand what you have to do: put your political message across with a little honey,” he later said.

Sessions for the album primarily took place in May 1971 at Ascot Sound Studios, a custom-built facility installed at Tittenhurt Park, the couple’s sprawling country estate outside London. This pioneering exercise in home studio recording went a long way in contributing to the gentle feel of the album. With Phil Spector — the infamous architect behind the so-called “Wall of Sound” — co-producing with Lennon and Ono, guest musicians were called in as needed, on a casual rotating basis.

More of often than not, the players were old friends. Klaus Voormann, a confidant of the Beatles’ since their days playing Hamburg’s Reeperbahn circuit a decade earlier, was enlisted to handle bass duties, while London session player Nicky Hopkins commanded the keys. Harrison turned up to play lead on half the tracks, including the Paul McCartney-bashing “How Do You Sleep,” and members of Badfinger — then signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records label — also put in an appearance, as did Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues. When they weren’t busy recording, the gang could often be found hanging out in the mansion’s homey kitchen located just off the studio. “It was really like home-cooking, that’s how Imagine was made,” Ono later reflected. 

Consisting of four CDs, 2 Blu-Ray discs and a detailed book, Imagine: The Ultimate Collection offers rare demos, outtakes, and loose jams from the sessions, plus remixes of the original album skillfully handled by engineers Paul Hicks and Rob Stevens. The most unique elements of the collection are the innovative “Evolution” montages of each track, which edit together the earliest acoustic sketches and rehearsals through studio false starts and dead ends, all the way to the finished product. The result is a thrilling musical tour from conception to completion, allowing listeners to hear the song take shape through every step of the way.

Released on the heels of the box set is a hard-cover coffee table book, featuring intimate, never-before-seen photos curated by Ono herself, and reminiscences from nearly everyone involved with the album’s production. And if that’s not enough to satisfy your curiosity about this creatively fertile period (a “small hurricane” as Lennon once described it), a pair of documentaries — Imagine and Gimme Some Truth — have received a limited theatrical re-release, as well as a DVD reissue from Eagle Rock Entertainment.

The stunning assortment brings fans as close as humanly possible to those spring days inside Ascot Sound Studios when rock history was made. To be sure, PEOPLE spoke someone who actually was there — and played a seminal role in the creation of Imagine. In addition to co-producing the album, Yoko Ono co-wrote “Oh My Love” and also the title track. She graciously went track by track through Imagine, answering questions via email.


The seeds of the lyrics for “Imagine” are taken from “Cloud Piece” in your book Grapefruit — what is it about the act of “imagining” that’s so powerful?

Because now we are like people in jail, we have to use our power in a stronger way.

“Crippled Inside”

What are some of the best ways that we can heal and not be so crippled emotionally?

Once we decide that we can heal ourselves, not leaning on anybody else, and focus our attention on that, we will come out healed.

“Jealous Guy”

Was it hard for two strong artists to co-exist in the same (psychic and literal) space? How do you ensure there’s enough energy for your relationship, but also for yourself and your work?

We had to be extremely wise and knowing that we are both very strong people. We also decided that we should not use our energy to fight with each other.

“It’s So Hard”

I always had the impression that “It’s So Hard” is the inverse of “Imagine” — all the day-to-day troubles that get in the way of our peace of mind. How do you manage with daily stresses and keep a clear head and peaceful soul?

I just found a way to do it.

“I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier”

For so long, “manhood” has been linked with the capacity to kill. How do you feel we can move past this brand of toxic masculinity?

We have to really understand what men can do to make the world beautiful. The big mistake we make is to make men be what they don’t want to be. And vice versa.

“Gimme Some Truth”

In the eyes of many fans, John experienced a “political awakening” in the early ‘70s. How much of that do you feel was your influence?

I think I’d like you to imagine how much of it was me.

“Oh My Love”

In the past, you’ve named “Oh My Love” as one of your favorite songs of John’s. What is it about it that’s so special to you?

The reason is very clear, isn’t it?

“How Do You Sleep?”

What did you think about “How Do You Sleep?” at the time? Did you have any reservations about it?

No, because it’s a beautiful song.


As one of the billions who love him, I always found this line particular affecting: “How can I give love when love is something I never had?” Why do you feel that so many people have such a hard time accepting love?

It was what John experienced too as a young boy. People are scared that the love offered to them may not be true.

“Oh Yoko!”

You’ve said that the two of you shared an almost psychic connection. In what ways did you think alike?

When we were creating a song we quite often realized that we were thinking the same thing.

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New Amsterdam and the Enduring Power of Medical Dramas

New AmsterdamER. Chicago Med. House. The Good Doctor. Grey’s Anatomy. And now New Amsterdam. The medical drama has a rich history on television, dating back to the 1950s, and it’s not going anywhere…

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The Look: Bomba: The Enduring Anthem of Puerto Rico

The resurgence of a traditional Afro-Puerto Rican musical genre owes something to formal experimentation. But some traditionalists fear that its roots are at risk.
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The Mysterious Origins of the Enduring Heart Symbol

The heart icon is everywhere, but it looks nothing like the beating organ in our chests. A look into the curious medieval origins of the shape. Lifestyle


Twitter Users Recall All The #TrumpFirsts That America Is Enduring

For better or worse, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to shake up the political system.

Because he has already broken with convention multiple times, the #TrumpFirsts hashtag trended on Twitter over the weekend as users recalled the traditions he’s eschewed and imagined other (sometimes dangerous) precedents that he may soon set.

Here are some of the best posts from the @HashtagJones1-created game that we’ve seen so far:

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— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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Vera Wang: Enduring Style

Vera Wang: Enduring Style

As USA TODAY, The Nation’s No. 1 Newspaper, put it, "Vera Wang is hot???.She oversees everything." The name Vera Wang has become synonymous with simple, elegant design. Her wonderfully styled gowns drape and flow to make the wearer look her best. Her casual clothes beautifully combine comfort and function. But who’s the person behind the brand? Born to wealthy Chinese parents, Vera Wang learned about high fashion at an early age. After many years as a Vogue magazine editor, Wang embarked on her own design career, starting with unique, stylish wedding gowns. Her attention to detail and understanding of a bride’s needs made her a must-have designer among the rich and famous. Eventually, she spread her wings to include gala attire for Hollywood events, china, crystal, stationary, perfume, low-priced ready-to-wear clothing, and even mattresses. What will this designer and entrepreneur pursue next?
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Beautiful Photo Captures Elderly Couple’s Enduring Love

If there’s a photo out there that more beautifully captures enduring love, we’re not sure we’ve seen it.

Redditor downvotestickle writes of the photo below, “My 91-year-old grandfather is dying. Caught this beautiful moment between he and my 92-year-old grandmother in the hospital today.”

And if that wasn’t proof enough, their grandson added in the comments that the pair — who have been together 68 years — “still kiss 15 times before bed every night (and will until he can’t any longer).”

“I’m hoping to love my wife as deeply and long as he’s loved his,” he says.

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