Kaballah hasnt dulled Sandra Bernhards rough edge

As direct, opinionated and brutally honest as her antics, the high-fashion diva is "business casual" when talking about herself one-on-one. Discussing her evolution as an entertainer, she sees herself as more introspective than she used to be.

Apparently, that has everything to do with her studying Kabbalah for the last three years.

"It's changing me in every way," she said. "It gives me more compassion and patience toward people. I am able to detach from things I used to take personally. I would react to things that would or wouldn't happen before seeing the whole picture. Now I realize that everything happens for a reason or it doesn't happen for a reason."

Bernhard opened her one-woman show earlier this week at San Francisco's Alcazar Theatre.

When she struts out on stage, even before she opens her mouth, audiences notice her super-full lips (which have never needed collagen-injection enhancement) and supermodel frame.

"I've always felt like a winner," said Bernhard. "I have never been self-deprecating on stage. I'd rather be an example."

Earlier this week, however, Bernhard was rather subdued. In interviews with this reporter since her 1984 film debut in Martin Scorcese's "The King of Comedy," she has seemed almost the antithesis of her "act," never trying to amuse or be outrageous.

Bernhard's shtick is exposing cultural and political hypocrisy, whether she's discussing the religious right or shining a harsh spotlight on a holier-than-thou celebrity.

Referring to the deaths of Gianni Versace and Princess Diana in the current show, she says, "Elton's been there for everyone through all this."

"I call people on their bull—-," said Bernhard. "I speak out about injustices, and I have a lot of opinions about the world. I don't accept things just the way they are. Especially being Jewish, we have a bigger vessel to handle to be more just and righteous in a positive way — tikkun olam [healing the world].

"I've always been a spokesperson for realness. Since doing all the spiritual work, I understand the context of why I do what I do. I have a responsibility to tell the truth. When I do that, light is revealed."

Not everything Bernhard scrutinizes is just for laughs. For instance, she describes her piece on Courtney Love as "a melancholy homage."

"She's super-talented but she struggles. I've hung out with her. I have compassion for her. Sometimes plastic surgery can be a good thing. Other times, it is a result of the manipulation of our culture. I have a sense of sadness about it."

While Bernhard grew up in a Conservative Jewish household in Scottsdale, Ariz., went to Hebrew school, had a bat mitzvah and was confirmed, her interest in Kabbalah came out of "looking for a deeper spiritual context for being a Jew."

Bernhard is aware that a few other entertainers have made it known that they have been studying Kabbalah, including Madonna (a former close friend), Roseanne and Laura Dern. "People make changes. I don't really keep track of what other people are doing. Only time will tell whether it's a trend or not," she said.

Bernhard said that making changes in her life has become a daily practice.

"The true spirituality of Kabbalah is about making corrections and adjustments. It's hard work, but I might as well do it this time because I'll just have to come back and do it better the next time."

Another big change awaiting Bernhard in July is the birth of her first child. She decided she was ready to take on motherhood because of "all the spiritual work I've done. I didn't want to miss the opportunity.

"The bottom line is I have a lot of love to give and I've a very disciplined person," she said. "The combination would make me a good mother."

Fans might wonder whether seeking spiritual peace and succumbing to maternal instincts would soften Bernhard's raw, pop culture-drenched wit.

She scoffs at the notion.

"I've never worried about losing my edge. I'm more on top of it now," she said. Becoming more spiritual "means being down and dirty."