Q: You're 65has touring taken a toll on you?
A: I'm an athlete onstage. I've been running around singing "Copacabana" for 30 years. So it's got to get to you somehow. I walked into a wall and I broke my nose. I did! So many hotel rooms, you know? I'm surprised I haven't peed in the closetI just never know where the bathroom is. I went left instead of right, and I hit the wall and fractured my nose. I was hoping, Oh, goodie, I can get a nose job!
Q: When you were growing up, were you a religious kid?
A: Absolutely not.
Q: Did your family go to temple?
A: They did, but I didn't get it. I didn't get religion. When they took me to shul, it seemed to me they were always telling me that I was doing something terribly wrong and I had to atone for it. And I kept saying, "But I'm a nice fellow. I don't think I need to atone for very much." So I didn't get the rest of it. I went on my own and figured out my own spiritual path.
Q: You first generated attention for your work in the early seventies, when you were playing the piano for Bette Midler at the Continental Baths, a men-only bathhouse in New York City.
A: I only worked there for two weekends.
Q: Oh, I had no idea that it was that short a gig. It's become so mythologized.
A: Yeah, that was it. I think Bette worked there for longer than I did, but when I got there she had already been there, and then she exploded and we went to little nightclubs after that, and it kept going up and up and up and up. But the bathsthey were crazy, but they were only two big weekends.
Q: What was crazy about them?
A: Well, you know, the first one that I seem to remember was all the guys that were there in towels. It was a little nightclub situation downstairs by the big poola piano and a drum and Bette and a whole bunch of guys cheering her and cheering her and cheering her. She was just great. And then the next time, she had exploded so much that when they got us back, they invited people with clothes on. Because it was such a hip place to go, and then all these society people came"Oh my goodness, the Continental Baths!"
Q: The legend grew so fast that clothed people started showing up.
Q: You've never been a favorite of the critics, but a lot of them had kind words for your 1984 album 2:00 AM Paradise Café. When you recorded that album, you were in the midst of a sort of existential crisis. What fed into it?
A: It was 10 years of pop stuff that was tremendously successful, and I just needed to do one for me. I needed to get away from the record company and the pop singles, and I went to Clive Davis and I said, "I got to do one for me," and he said, "I think you've earned the right to do that. Go on." He was very kind.