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From One Snow Queen to Another

Chershow2 It’s a busy week this: Just saw David Sedaris read at UCLA's Royce Hall and the Los Angeles Times Book fest is coming up this weekend. This is my favorite literary event….ever!! I can’t wait. I just wish the poetry panels were more substantial – like the groovy fiction and non-fiction panels are. Instead they put out quaint, watery sessions, like this year: Poetry: Inspiring Lines and Poetry: Chapter & Verse.

Fiction get panels like Los Angeles Fiction: Living In Paradise or Writing Science. How about Science in Poetry or Poetry and Place? Feminism in Poetry would be great seminar.

Anyway...it’s also been a great week for Cher scholarship. I Found Some Blog commenter Rob emailed  an MP3 of an old Elton John song called “Snow Queen” which appears to be a none-too-approving disrespect on Cher circa the mid 70s.

This single apparently was the 1976 UK B-side for "Don’t Go Breaking My Heart" and even Kiki Dee makes an appearance singing backup.  The credits listed Elton John, Dave Johnstone, Kiki Dee, David Nutter for music and Bernie Taupin, per usual, as lyrics. You can find the lyrics here at Elton John Lyrics Site.

The song has a confusing object at first. It begins directed to a “you” person.: “You remind me so much / of her when you’re walkin.” Then in the chorus the song starts jumps to the Snow Queen suddenly, presumably one who reminds the writer of being like the "you" person.

Exactly who reminds Bernie Taupin of Cher, I'd like to know. Is that even possible that someone else could be anything resembling Cher? I don’t think so. Just what are the odds?

Early descriptions include “You’re a cushion uncrumpled / You’re a bed that’s unruffled.” Is this talking about the Snow Queen aka Cher here?  “The finest bone china / bone china around”? Is this a poetic reference to Cher’s great cheek bone structure?

Hey now, the snow queen sounds a bit chilly so far. The lyrics state “she’s got the world on a string / like white wine when it’s chilled.” More chilliness again. And why does white wine have so much power over the world…when it’s chilled?

Carolwood2 “I believe the Snow Queen / lives somewhere in the hills.” Had Cher moved from Carolwood to Malibu then (because that's a beach) or to the hills of her Egyptian palace by 1976? Didn't that house take years to  build? But at least that one is in the  Benedict Canyon  Hills.

“The snow queen reigns in warm LA / behind the cold black gates.” So the gates of Carolwood were black. But they weren't in the hills. See the gates of the Carolwood and Benedict Canyon abodes. (Don’t ask me why I have these picks.)

Egyptdriveway_4 The best lines of the song are "Arms are spread like icicles / upon a frosted cake.” Yet more chilliness. Are they insinuating Cher is a cold beeotch?

“Your talons are tested / they’re polished and they’re shaped.” The lyric sheet replaces the first talons   with talents but I think Elton is singing and referring to her nails or talons. “Your talents are wasted / on men who have no tasted” (Gregg Allman?)

And here is where we get in to real evidence that the song is indeed about Cher. “…passion means more than /a wardrobe of gowns, TV ratings /a fragile waist and a name.” Why a fragile waist; I mean, it’s tiny, but fragile?

Then fade out clinches it when Elton sings "I Got You Babe" three times, "Bang Bang" three times and then “aAnd the beat goes on.” I had to turn my iPod volume up to hear the last bit but it's there.

Honestly, Cher had a lot going on in 1976...even Elton would agree. I’d be a beeotch too if I was pregnant on national television, the father was a drug-addled Chia Pet, and my TV ratings and records were stalling like an Edsel.

It sounds like someone didn’t get their invitation to a Cher soirée. I don’t know much about Cher’s relationship to Elton John back then. He was a guest on the debut of the Cher Show back in 1975; but I believe I read somewhere that Cher wanted to open for Elton John when she was promoting Black Rose and he refused. Rumor? Fact? I dunno. She showed up at his Audience with Elton John in 1997 acting pretty chummy.

I actually really like this song. There’s an odd moment at the end where the bongos go crazy but I think it’s a lovely contemplative piece and would be really pleasant for a couples skate.

It also reminds me of Barry Manilow’s early 70s song “She’s a Star” from the album Tryin to Get the Feelin Again. The song was supposedly about Bette Midler.

It would be fun to hear Cher cover “Snow Queen.” It could be a  sort of F.U. peace-offering. She could keep most of the lyrics but sing "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," "Rocket Man" and "Sorry Seems to Be"…at the fade out.

And speaking of talons and the lovely 80s Interview cover picture I talked about last week, my Richard Bernstein photo book came today. Whoo hoo! Bernstein did those Warhol-esque Interview covers for many years. In the book, Bernstein calls himself a “thoroughbred New Yorker and his photo looks like it fell the wall of an  80s hair salon.

Inside there’s a short essay on Cher that attempts to conceptualize her stardom. It says she’s somewhere between the invention of the Barbie Doll and the Valley Girl, “a money-to-burn celebrity,” and “someone every Jewish princess, Dry Wasp bitch, valley girl from Tuxedo, South Carolina and Hi Hat, Kentucky, can relate to.” I don’t quite get that, but okay.

“Today [this is the early 80s, remember] Cher’s famous claws for nails are clipped. So is her windfall of glossy black hair…Her nails were like falcon’s talons, a mighty two inches long and dipped in sanguine crayon. Cher's eyelashes still flap like porch awnings.”

“She wants to be an ordinary high-serious actress so she's moved to New York...”

Ah yes…so pedestrian to be an award winning actress when you can be a cultural icon. With that I agree.


The Spector of Violence

Bensargent Ben Sargent is one of my favorite political cartoonists. This one particularly captured my feelings lately.

The Phil Spector trial has begun this week with cameras in the courtroom. Must 3-year old Maggie down the street be subjected to the ravings and hairstyles of a mad Los Angeles courtroom? Well, maybe she should. "Never get in the car with crazy record producers, Maggie. Learn to produce your own records."

There’s a very poignant recap of the Spector saga written by Joe Domanick in the Los Angeles Magazine. Although some of the Cher's biographies and Ronnie Spector’s book do cover Phil history, I learned a few fun facts about him in the LA Magazine article.

On the positive side, Domanick describes Spector as the first rock-star producer of the 60s with a "transformative vision that combined the raw power of juke-joint blues with the energy of teeny-bopper pop." Domanick states that Spector "took youth culture into the realm of the operatic" and that his singles had an almost "Wagnerian force." Spector worked on Beatle-related classics such as "The Long and Winding Road," "Let it Be," George Harrison’s "My Sweet Lord," and John Lennon’s "Imagine." Bruce Springsteen’s "Born to Run" was inspired by Spector, as were the bands The Killers, Nine Inch Nails, and The Shins, according to Domanick’s piece.

On the negative side...his parents were first cousins and his father committed suicide by the car-and-carbon-dioxide method when Phil was 8. As a child. Domanick describes Spector as an "asthmatic elfin misfit." His mother and sister were allegedly domineering. Does that neccessarily cause issues with women? Early girlfriends comment on Phil's early struggles with anger and jealousy. He’s been in therapy since 1965 and was on the wagon for a year prior to the incident with Lana Clarkson; however, prior to that he pulled guns on various dates and musicians including Stevie Wonder Dee Dee Ramone and Leonard Cohen. He also allegedly fired a round when producing John Lennon.

I dread following this story. More gun violence issues, hooray. But as Cher Scholar, I feel compelled to keep a side-glance on it. Spector and his minions were a big part of the Sonny & Cher sound, pre-Snuff Garrett.

Cher sang backup on the oft-mentioned signature recordings: "You’ve Lost that Lovin Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers, "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes and the Spector Christmas album. Spector also produced Cher’s first single "Ringo, I Love You," a super-rare collectible of pop culture because it’s desired by Spector fans, Beatle fans and Cher fans.

At Spector’s recording studio, Gold Star on Vine Street in Hollywood, Spector worked with a core group of studio musicians he called The Crew. Cher worked with many of them throughout her tenure with Sonny & Cher: Hal Blaine appears on many Sonny & Cher records (his daughter Michelle Blaine is prominent in the Clarkson murder investigation as she worked for Phil until recently and allegedly deflected his marriage proposals), Glen Campbell who made a few appearances on Cher’s variety shows in the 70s, Leon Russell who wrote "Superstar" which Cher recorded before The Carpenters turned it into a hit, and Mac "Dr. John" Rebennack who also played with Sonny & Cher in the early days.

Sonny probably picked up a lot being Phil Spector’s helper-bee. I remember Sonny talking on an 80s Phil Spector documentary saying how brilliant the Wall of Sound was but that this was basically all Phil could do.

This crime story is also a map of a fading Los Angeles nightlife: Phil hit Trader Vics and Dan Tanas before picking up Clarkson at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. Lana Clarkson was an aging actress struggling to pay her rent on a shabby bungalow in the Venice canals. Maybe she should have looked for less exclusive and cheaper rent somewhere else, instead of paling around shifty entertainment types at the House of Blues. The LA Magazine article makes her out to be a sweetheart of a smart gal. But they fail to explain (or even raise the question – the veritable elephant in the room) of why this far from doe-eyed-right-off-the-bus actress (she’d been a lei girl on Fantasy Island for God’s sake) didn’t know better than to go home with someone who everyone knows has more guns than wits about him. Was he attractive? No. Was he a star maker of the moment? No. Was he treating her swell that night? No. So WTF??

This is the mystery I’ll be pursuing during this trial. Not if he did it; not why he did it; not why none of the other victims called Spector to acount for years of abusive incidents. Even crazy-old power paralyzes in Hollywood, so it would seem. What I want to know is why the hell Lana Clarkson ended up in that house.

The latest coverage of the trial can be found here, including interesting revelations this week about the jury pool.

   


Cher Links

Cher_time_cover For some reason I’m obsessed with the old Alan Parson’s Project song "Dammed If I Do." I used to have it on one of my old K-Tel albums as I kid. Now it's in steady rotation on my iPod. Last weekend my boyfriend was singing "Eye in the Sky" apropos of nothing and I dug out my old Alan Parson’s Greatest Hits long playing vinyl album. (I’ve been playing a lot of my LPs lately to try to weed them out). I played him "Damned if I Do" and he danced around the room making fun of it. His friend has been lending him symphonic performances of bands like Pink Floyd and The Doors. I asked him to get me an orchestral version of Alan Parson’s Project. He said "Alan Parson’s Project is an orchestral version of Alan Parson’s Project."

By the way, Cher should not cover this song. "I can’t seem to seize the light! I’ve done everything but I can’t get it right." You've already played it out in your head, haven't you?

I particularly like the chorus: "Damned if I do, damned if I don’t but I love you." It changes to "Damned if do, damned if I don’t cos I love you" halfway through. Completely changes the meaning changing 'but' to 'cos.' Proves what one connecting transition word can do to alter the sense of a sentence. Lesson in poetry, right there.

Anyway, I found some interesting Cher-links this week.

My google blog search brought up this odd page: thin celebrity photos posted to inspire extreme dieting. I love the 80s Cher Jack LaLanne photos found here (and the awsome other-version from the Vogue/Dark Lady album cover) however further research showed this forum site was part of a larger "Pro-ana" site which is short for "pro-anorexia.

"Welcome to the Pro-Ana Forum! Pro-ana is a largely Internet-based movement which views the eating disorder anorexia nervosa as a lifestyle choice rather than a medical condition."

There’s a thread on the group called "threats to kill oneself" and "are you lacking in energy."

Sigh. I would be open to this assertion except personal experience tells me this death-defying lifestyle choice makes your family and friends cry.

Lots of kewl skinny Cher pics have been posted and oogled over at Thinspiration.

Here’s a link to the Time Magazine article from March 17, 1975. This is a very important piece. It was a whirlwind of commotion on the Cher timeline. Her solo show was just starting and she was doing interviews to re-introduce herself to a country who wanted her to go back to Sonny so they could watch The Sonny & Cher Show again because that's the show they LOVED. The dress shown on the cover caused a stir when she showed up wearing it at a The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan and the press thought it showed more skin than it did.

Then there was the fact that a celebrity was appearing on the cover of time Time Magazine. Unless there’s a scandal occurring, this isn’t even done that often today. Time rarely calls out a celebrity phenomenon. In 1975, it was even more rare and it shows Cher was a legitimate cultural Phenomenon Interviewart_2 with a capital P in 1975. She was…HOT. She was called out as the most photographed woman in the world then (and this is with Jackie O running around), she had two teen-style magazines dedicated to her that year and and two pulp biographies published, one by George Carpozi (Cher) and one by Vicki Pelligrino (Superstar of the 70s….Cher!). She was the IT girl of 1975.

The article in Interview Magazine, December 1998 is not as great as the Warhol issue of Interview from the early 80s (with that wow-wonderful Richard Bernstein cover – I had it framed), but it’s still interesting in that she talks about Sonny, motherhood, biggest fears, and an odd little story about how she willed together the cast of Tea with Mussolini. She also has some interesting comments at the end about the process of being interviewed.

 


Charlie Rose Interview from 1996

CharlieroseFYI: I write for another blog (a blog subsidiary of Ape Culture) where I do things like compose haikus for Sanjaya and critique other matters of American Idol (don’t hate me...it’s my job!). I also make inappropriate personal declarations in a manner I’m not wont to do here.

I watched the Charlie Rose interview from 1996 on Google Video. Overall it was a great interview. What I like about Charlie Rose is that he asks interesting questions; then he probes for clarification when an interviewee is vague. And Cher is often vague, which is, needless to say, her strategic prerogative. But it was refreshing to see a talking head challenge her. Rose does that in gently prodding way. So we get some interesting information regarding Cher’s interior life, her experiences in therapy, her criticisms of herself.

Charlie and Cher talk about the kind of insecure personality show business attracts. Cher also expresses disappointment in herself for not being stronger at times in order to do the right thing more often. This interview shows Cher is more level-headed and sincere about being a decent, stand-up person than many celebrities of her stature. It also hints that she might have a more realistic idea of her accurate self, which must be a challenge after living in the fame bubble so long.

Rose did irritate me with his constant comments about her smarts and stupidity. He spent way too much time telling her how smart she was, she spent way too much time telling us how smart she was, and then toward the end Rose calls her "so stupid" for believing, in a fit of guilt, that being a working mom might have contributed to her daughter being gay. First of all, this is not a correct idea but it’s not stupid. Many mothers feel guilt about being working moms – and many of them feel responsible about all sorts of things about their kids. It’s a normal maternal reaction; admittedly a knee jerk reaction after adjusting to a secret exposed. No big whoop.

But smarts is an issue that keeps coming up with Cher, going way back to her comments about being a naïve young girl and not being able to match socks, being dyslexic and not doing well in school, and to funny naivetés like thinking Mt. Rushmore was a natural phenomenon.

I was shocked at Rose’s usage of the word stupid. Coming from him, it sounded rude, especially after all the unnecessary smart buttering. It made me question his whole attitude.

I don’t really think Cher is stupid. But I’ve never played Trivial Pursuit with her so what do I know? I don’t think Cher has crazy mad verbal skills but I do think she has many smart visual skillz, plenty of street smarts (Sonny often derided her ‘smart mouth’). She has also exhibited many smarts in putting together a professional, talented and loyal entourage of business players. Such a dummy would never last so long in show biz.

The Cher clip only runs for a half an hour. The second half is an interview with Michael Keaton. Thanks to the Follow This You Bitches blog for finding the interview on Google Video.

Btw, the last time I played Trivial Pursuit I only knew one answer and it had to do with Harry Potter. :-(

   


Amish Envy

Hoodie_2I love this hoodie look for Cher! I can’t find words to describe how refreshing it is to see Cher in something I would wear.

I just want to continue my Luddite-esqe rant on technology for a minute. (Please keep in mind my day job and the publishing work that I do heavily uses the very technology I am ranting against at this moment and I’m not unaware of that.)

That said - I went to a meeting yesterday for a new calendaring software let’s just call MeetingSpam. It’s a new program we’re supposed to use for scheduling meetings with fellow co-workers. It also happens to have an email component that runs automatically every time you schedule a meeting in it; but other than those specific meeting-related emails, we’re not supposed to use it to send emails in general. We’re supposed to use a program I’ll call WhatEveryoneElseInTheWorldUses. But we can only use WEEIT-WU for email and not the very robust calendaring system it has. There are valid technological reasons for this that I won’t get into. But this I will say – neither of these programs can be open at the same time because they fight over the same dll file; so we have to keep opening and closing each one all day to send emails and schedule meetings alternatively.

As you can imagine, this complicated half-breed pair of programs requires extra work. But here’s the clincher. For this meeting on how to schedule meetings with MeetingSpam, I was the only one who showed up on time (by about 10 minutes!). All of the other meeting attendees had to be emailed or IM’d after they failed to show up. Excuses ranged from "I didn’t know where the meeting was" to "I never got the meeting invite."

I was coincidentally the only one who didn’t use a computerized product to remind myself of the meeting time and place, either with MeetingSpam, a WEEIT-WU email reminder, or a blackberry.

I often feel like we’re stuck in a quagmire of work management programs that have become over-complicated obligations. I’m often drowning in bugs, passwords and work-arounds. And it bleeds over into our fun time. How absurd is it that our social lives have now found the need for project management? (MySpace, endless mobile social softwares, etc.).

Have bugs, passwords and work-arounds made anybody’s life any easier?

I was the only person able to get to a meeting on time (or anywhere near the right meeting time) without extra technology prompts. How did I do it? How did I avoid being overcome by technology’s swamp of time management tools?

A small note to myself scribbled on day 11 of my wacky websites day calendar.

Nothing beats the technology of paper and a pen.

   


YouTube Overdose

EdgarbigheadYesterday was a hard day, a real hard day. I woke up from a night of crazy dreams, including one where I was stuck in a haunted house with The Edgar Winter Dog (pictured right). In the dream, the house kept shifting itself around so that my bedroom window, normally facing the backyard, was suddenly facing the street. What could that mean about my psychological state?

The past few weeks and days have been an endless stream of discouraging poetry project news which is making me feel pathetically sorry for myself. I'm suffocatingly behind on all of my projects and overbooked socially (Although I loved them, I can't face anymore grind house festival movies). I needed some R&R time, some me time. Then my new iPod spontaneously broke itself. The last song it ever played was "Take Me Home." It wouldn't surprise me if the thing went on Cher-strike. I didn't even get a chance to upload the new John Waite song I had downloaded from iTunes, "Universal Soldier."  A great new song but very depressing! Hence, I was a muddled heap of inert despondency by mid-day.

So what did I do? I drowned my sorrows in Cher Scholar tasks. I posted two blog entries and uploaded the remaining Ask Cher Scholar Q&As from Zine 2 (including information on what to do with your 401(k) and how to increase your vocabulary).

After that I tried to peruse Cher clips on YouTube. The more I found the more I was finding. I found I couldn't digest them all -  while watching one treasure, I would get distracted by another cool gem.

Which reminds me of a recurring dream I had as a young impressionable tween. I'd be in a used record store and I would find all these rare Sonny & Cher albums. Either I wouldn't have any money or I'd lose the album among all the other records in the bins before making it to the cash register. This whole YouTube search felt like an flashback.

Maybe it's technology that's making me feel unhinged. While posting the Ask Cher Scholars, my version of MS Publisher had to be re-loaded. I went to a friend's house for dinner and she couldn't get her Tivo to work with her new HD TV. With my iPod suddenly becoming corrupted, I was feeling suddenly strangled by technology. And too much information.

YouTube is now a phenomenal source for getting rare video footage of your favorite things. And that's where the some fabulous Cher magic really is - in the video clips. The Michael Dougles interview with the flowered headpiece...Cher is blooming herself. My Heart Belongs To Daddy is another great energetic early 80s performance I didn't even know existed. Re-watching Cher call David Letterman an asshole, it's all golden.

This all should have been an early evening of fun for me but I was too much in a funk about the too-much-ness I was facing. A kid in a candy store suddenly over-sugared. And still today, I feel too scattered to concentrate. And strangely powerless and small. But then if I give up into it...it feels kind of chaotically peaceful.

That's it. I'm losing my mind.


Wall of Unsound

Spector_2If you've been watching TV at all, you can't miss the latest court room news on the Phil Spector case. The latest evidence that prosecutors are submitting is testimony from a woman at Joan Rivers' Christmas party. Spector was there allegedly ranting about all women deserving to die by a most violent means. Which if you've read Ronnie Spector's biography (which I did because Cher wrote the foreword), these latest accusations of violent bullying aren't exactly surprising. One wonders if Cher witnessed much of what Ronnie went through. Cher apparently was pretty feisty with Phil during those recording sessions at Goldstar Studios.

Then again, maybe Phil Spector, as freakish as he seems to us, didn't frighten Cher all that much. She was probably exposed to a plethora of characters, quirky and unsavory, both in the family and growing up on the streets of LA. Maybe that gave her the cojones to survive in the cut-throat music biz after Sonny's exit stage left.

LA Times' latest on Spector's trial:


Cher.com Was M.I.A.

Tom_jones18Cher.com was down for a few days and it didn't seem to cause much of a fruckus on the two yahoo groups I frequent. This struck me as odd because I thought fans used the forums heavily...however, maybe the forums stayed up. I didn't check. I wasn't in the mood to get sideswiped by some d.r.a.m.a.

But the site being down struck me as interesting, especially the error message I was getting that the domain name had expired. Bizarre because a search of Whois verified the domain was safe as a peach.

One of my consulting jobs has educated me on domain name issues of the day along with other policies and politics regarding the running of the Internet. While the site was down I hoped the domain name wasn't dismantled by a scandal occurring right now with Registerfly. The company, a domain name registrar, failed to renew customers' paid-for domain name renewals and is preventing them from rescuing their domain names to a more stable and customer-service-friendly registrar. If you have a domain name that, at some point, may need rescuing, read this article on the whole story and how to protect your domain name. The situation is a serious one - many business' web sites have gone off-web as a result, allegedly ruining their businesses and livelihoods.

Yesterday I noticed that Cher.com was back up, but sadly with the same old out-dated news and shtick. So little I missed ye, Cher.com. I know. I know. With fans like me, who needs fanemies?

One of the most interesting, usable artist sites to me has been www.tomjones.com. It always changes, experiments with technology and has just the right combo of distance to friendliness that a fan site requires. Plus, right now it's full of TJ looking pretty freakin sweaty and hot.