Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sue Mengers, Bette Midler and Marijuana

VIP Bette Midler won rave reviews in her one-woman show I'll Eat You Last playing the legendary Hollywood agent and marijuana lover Sue Mengers. The successful show had its final performance on June 30, and there is talk of bringing it to Los Angeles.
"Midler's Mengers passes the 90-minute show lounging on a couch, puffing on a joint, 'pumping out profane one-liners'" wrote The Week. The actress smoked herbal cigarettes throughout the show, and told the New York Times, "I was thrilled when I finally got the timing down to smoke two at once – a cigarette in one hand and a joint in the other. That was Sue."

Charles Isherwood of the New York Times wrote, "Ms. Midler... gives the most lusciously entertaining performance of the Broadway season... (She) cradles a spellbound audience in the palm of her hand from first joke to last toke."

The first "superagent," Mengers began as a secretary in 1955 at MCA and ended up representing, among others, Barbra Streisand, Candice Bergen, Peter Bogdanovich, Michael Caine, Dyan Cannon, Cher, Joan Collins, Brian De Palma, Faye Dunaway, Bob Fosse, Gene Hackman, Ali McGraw, Steve McQueen, Anthony Perkins, Burt Reynolds, Cybill Shepherd, Gore Vidal, Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss, and Tuesday Weld. She died in 2011.

"Her enemies dismissed her as loud, overbearing and vulgar. But to the stellar list of above-the-title clients in her heyday, Mengers was therapist, confessor, Jewish mother, best friend and unflagging chief advocate," wrote Nikki Finke at

Finke writes:

"Mengers’ pot smoking at ICM was legendary. (The running joke there was that part of the test to getting a shot at working on the legendary agent’s desk was an ability to roll joints.) In the Morris mailroom, the trainees joked about the unmistakable acrid smell that wafted from inside Mengers’ offices seemingly daily. One day, the last mailroom run called for a pickup of a small package at a private residence that was to be delivered that evening to Mengers at her home. The trainees couldn’t help but peek inside the package. Inside a rolled newspaper was a plastic baggie containing an ounce of what they recognized at once was marijuana."

Forced out by the good old boys of William Morris, who hired her in 1987 "to bring the agency back from near-extinction" (Finke), Mengers bounced back by holding dinner parties in Beverly Hills that were legendary. She "became one of Beverly Hills’ top hostesses, with A-List stars crowding her dinner parties and Mengers (joint in hand) at the center of it all," wrote Josh Ferri at

More on Mengers:

“Sue loved her pot. That’s one thing Sue and I had in common. We all loved to smoke pot, lots of it. She always had the joints rolled, and kept them in a little box in the coffee table.” —Bill Maher

“Sue even had a friend blowing marijuana smoke into her face as she passed away. She was high until the bitter end.”  —Bette Midler

“She was one of a kind, acerbically funny, witty, brash, tough but cuddly, a powerful woman in a man's world.” —Barbra Streisand

“She was the modern-day Gertrude Stein. People would gather and exchange ideas and talk about things that were not talked about anywhere else in town.” —CBS President Leslie Moonves

“Sue was unlike anyone I’ve ever met – a true original. Her name became synonymous with women and what she helped us all to accomplish, but her legend is really the vitality with which she lived life, and her wit, which will be celebrated in stories throughout our community for years to come.” —fellow agent Boaty Boatwright

UPDATE on November 25, Midler appeared on the Jay Leno show and traded stories about the good old daze. "Of course I was smoking a lot of dope in those days," Midler said. Leno came back with a snarky, "Of course all that's changed." (No denial)

She speaks about Menger (and Harry Hamlin), adding that Virginia, Menger's housekeeper, was tasked with rolling her joints (as was Hamlin).

 I'll Eat You Last will play at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles from Dec. 5-22.