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August 2007

My Early-80s Sonny Bono Birthday Dinner Party

Joancusack This week my attention was directed to the fact that I may have offended one of my readers in a post last week (the petition one). This is highly likely. And problematic as I consistently forget I have actual readers. If it’s any consolation, I’m sure I say offensive things about Cher and her posse all the time.

The thing is it’s awfully hard to objectively critique a celebrity (Cher) and a mass mental phenomenon (celebrity obsession) without stepping on a few rhinestoned toes. It’s simply part of the scholastic process. Doing this takes distance and a sense of humor. Especially because many, many celebrity obsessed people don’t have either of those things. So sociologically, the study absolutely requires it from me.

That said, when I take off that scholarly hat it pains me to think I’ve hurt someone’s feelings. Both because I’m empathetic to that situation and also for purely selfish, karmic reasons. Which is why I’m going to offer up (in the spirit of reconciliation) my own nutty story of embarrassing fandom.

The first thing I ever collected as a human being (circa early 70s) was Sonny & Cher records and dolls. But it wasn’t until I became a pre-teen that I started my actual Sonny & Cher scholarship. This was when I started collecting clips about them in People Magazine and reading their bios in record guides. Learning their birthdays was a big deal when I was in Junior High.

I was also making new friends who hadn’t yet wrapped their heads around my Cher obsession. Understand this was 1982. Cher was way past her disco hit and just shy of her movie career. She was in her has-been phase #3 (phase #2 being the late 60s, phase #2 being 1978, if you consider "Take Me Home" a comeback hit. If not, then we're talking about has-been phase #2...but that is simply a debate for another day). My new friends were cocking their heads and wondering, shouldn’t this young gal be into The Go-Gos and Survivor and other hits of 1982

But my feeling was and has always been: can’t I be into both the trendy and the has-been? For instance, in 2007 I can fall in love with Patti Griffin’s latest song "Heavenly Day" (which I did yesterday) and still love Cher’s TV version of "Rhinestone Cowboy."

And it was with this resolve that I decided to throw a dinner party when I was 12...for Sonny Bono’s birthday on February 16. Now this really confused my new friends. Why is this 12-year old throwing a dinner party instead of the typical slumber party? And why Sonny Bono?

Why...Sonny...Bono?

I didn’t even have Sonny Bono recipes. I just made lasagna and a salad. And as 12-year olds are often at a loss for good dinner conversation at dinner parties, ours quickly denigrated into a daring contest. Someone plunked bits of lasagna and salad into a glass of coke (only the finest beverages at my dinner parties) and the bravest of the bunch tried to drink it.

I’m sure none of my guests ever got over that night. And eventually I had to get all new friends entirely. Just to cover my tracks. But if I ever run for political office, that dinner party will forever haunt me.

So I don’t care what some petition-wielding Cher fan says I said about her. I’m nuttier.

These recipes claim to be inspired by Sonny Bono:

Pasta: http://www.astray.com/recipes/?show=Sonny%20bono's%20pasta

Frutta di mare a la palm springs: http://www.astray.com/recipes/?show=Sonny%20bono's%20frutta%20di%20mare%20a%20la%20palm%20springs

But if you want an authentic Sonny Bono dinner party, you might try to visit his eldest daughter Christie’s restaurant in Long Beach, California:

http://www.toprestaurants.com/la/bonos.htm

http://www.bonoslongbeach.com/

    


Chrome Hearts is Dy-no-mite!

Dynamitechercoversmall_2Of all impending Cher stuff, I get most excited about two things: a new record and a new magazine cover spread. The movies are okay...I mean I love the idea that Cher conquered the movie biz (critically and box-offishally), but I don’t sit around watching the movies all the time. New magazines are really fun to get: new Cher data, new Cher predictions, new Cher photos (what’s the image spin, what wacky outfits, what awesome poses, what artful photography?).

Which is why I bit the bullet (rationalized as a birthday present) and bought an outrageously expensive copy of the Japanese magazine Chrome Hearts on eBay. Cherworld pics inspired me to do it. It even has a fold-out poster! Can this be true? It's like Dynamite all over again! According to the excerpted blurb on the site, Cher might include some country songs on her next album. Sweet! She indicated her set list was uber-difficult this album, which means we might get some artful blood, sweat and tears, as well.

This won't entirely curb the distress I feel over my government's slow descent into chaos and crime, but it will help!

      


Petition to Congregate in Unified Fandemonium

Petition It almost looked like Cher had another Palm Springs house for sale this week according to the Daily Telegraph. But turns out this is the same house as she was selling last January. These Cher houses all look the same.

Has the house not sold yet? Maybe this isn’t a good time to be selling. Tuesday, Associate Press reported that southern California home sales have plummeted; but it turns they’re just talking about po’ folk homes.

“While sales of high-end homes have remained stable, many entry-level homes have been languishing unsold as would-be buyers try to time the market in hopes of seeing even lower prices.”

Cher doubled the size of the $650,000 house and put a $2.4 million price tag on it. This new story also claims Cher has put up her Malibu house on the market for $25 million. But what about the Buddha-build? Is this typical bad reporting or typical Cher indecision? We may never know.

Speaking of Cher not doing stuff we thought she would, Vegas is eternally unconfirmed. That’s not news. But this nutty Cher petition is.

Reference the article “Petitioners Want Caesars to Court Cher” Reports of this petition have been going around for a few weeks. I can’t decide if this is an annoying or inspiring development. Somehow I doubt Caesars has much power in the situation. My guess is they’re waiting on Cher for a yea or nea. Cher will either do it (less likely) or not (more likely) or not agree to do anything until we all lose interest. I doubt she can be petitioned into anything by her fans.

But this article has some highlights. They call Tamara Hampton’s celebrity obsession an unconventional hobby of iconic immersion. I’ll say. Hampton, a real estate broker and music promoter, says “Cher is the most captivating, explosive, modern icon the world has ever seen”!

I love the hyperbole! How would you define explosive?

Hampton claims the petition has global support – but only 1,000 people had signed yet...that's from over 194 countries worldwide, which breaks down to average of 5.15 people per country.

“She’s the people’s choice!”

The article mentions an uproar that occurred in Cher’s fan base when it was announced that Bette was going to be given top billing. 

What base? What uproar? Nobody...ever...calls....me!

Apparently, fans are demanding preferential treatment and top billing. But how can someone uncommitted to a job be given any billing, I wonder. It all makes no sense to me but what do I know?

If you want to sign the petition (get inspired by our founding petition above), visit http://petitiononline.com/cher2008/petition.html.

Moveon.org can’t even get me to sign anything. Well Jesus, I can’t sign everything. I’m worried about my brand.
   


Women with Hips

Cherchromeheartsmagazine1 This snarky pop blog has a Cher sort with some nifty pics. They call her a diva-saur. That honestly made me laugh out loud. Remember the confusion between Lee Tergesen and that other long-haired dude with a cap she was huggin way back? Re-read up on the scoop here. It reminds me of when Cher once said she likes guys with a “street look.” I call it more of a “just out of prison” look. And what is that outfit she’s wearing toward the bottom with the plaid skirt and mini-skirt? It’s a cross between ho and hoe-down.

I found that site while searching online for more information about the Japanese magazine Chrome Hearts which Cher is now on the cover of. Copies going for 40 bucks on eBay. I just blew my wad on Cher dolls so I'll have to pass on this goodie.

I actually love this cover with Cher looking disheveled (not a common occurrence), giving the shirtless guy an alluring gaze. Does that work for us? Is this a play on Cher with the younger feller? Are we disturbed? And is this a double-standard disturbance? These are all questions I’m vague about so I have decided to quiz my bf tonight on what makes an mature woman sexy. And is this different from what makes an mature guy sexy. My knee jerk theory about why girls like older guys is that we are often under the mistaken impression men have finished sowing their wild oats by then, that they’re somehow wiser for the wear and not so erratic-like in the love department.

For women to be perceived as sexy, I have a feeling it’s a constant game of surrender and control. Typically with gals in the surrender role. But age demands a change. I’m just not sure how or why. I just know it's all very complicated and sexist.

By the way, Cherword.com did some fine reporting, as always, getting the scoop on this and other late-breaking, rare and trendy Cher news. I’m always impressed how on-top of it they always are in matters of Cherabouts. They do the leg work so we don’t have to.

Cher looks lovely in the photo...much less posed than her usual photographs. Reminds me of the Believe era but with better hair. And so voluptuous. And that’s comforting.

While I was back in Lancaster, PA, my parents, my bf and I watched some old family movies to find video of Helga, my former dog. He’s heard so many stories from friends about her very caustic, un-dog-like personality. We came across Christmas footage which included me looking really, really, really stick-like thin. It felt like a punch in the gut to see. It looked unattractively skinny to me now and I’ve never ever thought this about an image of myself. I am now “hippy” and trying to lose weight for my 20th high school reunion later this year. But my  whole life I’ve felt hippy and chubby. There’s never been a time when I didn't feel I could stand to lose 5 pounds.

Much to my despair, I was diagnosed (by family Dr. Vorhees) with anorexia when I was 13 or 14 years old. If I thought I was thin in this video! Jesus, I must have been all bones in junior high. But happily, I got better. Which is not something you usually hear about anorexics. They usually struggle over a lifetime. I’m thankful, believe me. I love to eat. For me it was mostly mis-education about dieting from listening to pop-star interviews and reading Cosmo issues with too much faith. I believed you could shrink your stomach and live on bean sprouts. But still, I do remember the very real madness that ensues when you willfully stop eating. Exhaustion, both mental and physical, moodiness, an overall sense of darkness, like the whole world is tinted over. Your head is full of conspiracy theories (why does everybody want me to be fat?) which leads to a scary kind of alienation from everybody.

I was heartbroken when my doctor told me what was happening. Karen Carpenter had just died. I couldn't even read the People cover story. I still remember its horrific blue cover. I knew at its heart that this was a madness I wanted no part of. I started eating right away (Lucky Charms as an afternoon snack), gained weight and then eventually learned, with the help of a nutritionist, how to stay thin in a healthier way. But that was a turning point in my life in many ways. I knew I wanted to be sane much more than I wanted to be thin. And whenever I have some weight to lose and I'm tempted to crash diet, I always ask myself the same question: would you rather be fat or crazy?

I surely feel celebrity culture affects our goals and desires and our self-image. That’s why celebrity obsession can be so dangerous. But Cher’s thin-figure never did inspire me to starve myself. It was rather people around me in class who were very thin...tiny body types mostly. The tiny Indian girl who sat next to me in science class. 

All that bad flashback aside, I did have a great vacation...although traveling there and back was exhausting. It took us 17 hours to get home from Philly after we missed our plane due to excruciatingly slow check-in and security lines. My bf said we could have gone to Hong Kong by then. Poor guy. He endured a neighborhood picnic, a small town parade with veterans and fire trucks, a town faire with a hilarious baby parade, and poker with my unscrupulous family members. He also was introduced to the Ephrata Cloister, Wilbur's Chocolate, Gettysburg re-enactments, a Philly hotel fire alarm in the middle of the night, a fun tour of South Street, and ersatz history at the City Tavern. He was the new plaything for all the family kids and was dubbed Funckle John. He was also told, by my 10-year old nephew, that  he wouldn’t be allowed to come to our family reunion in New Mexico next year until he became “a Ladd.” I wonder if my mother put him up to it.

    


Believe it or not (a new mashup)

Believe_2 Last week a concerned non-fan friend sent me the news that "Believe" made Rolling Stone Magazine's list of most annoying songs.

I notice all the songs on this list were massive hits, thus probably most annoying due to being over-played. Some I’ve had the pleasure of never hearing. Some are sexistly annoying. Some are annoying just because people find Celine Dion annoying. And yes, some are probably inherently annoying. I’m going to remain silent on "Believe." It was never one of my favorite songs and it’s probably my least favorite among Cher’s iconic solo quad which includes "Believe," "Gypsies," "Half Breed,"  and "Turn Back Time" – although "Believe" gives "Turn Back Time" a run for the bottom spot in my list. I love "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves." I really do. But it would have probably have made Rolling Stone's list in 1976.

Here's the list:

  1. The Black Eyed Peas - My Humps
  2. Los Del Rio - Macarena
  3. Baha Men - Who Let The Dogs Out
  4. Celine Dion - My Heart Will Go On
  5. Nickelback - Photograph
  6. Lou Bega - Mambo No. 5
  7. James Blunt - You’re Beautiful
  8. The Spice Girls - Wannabe
  9. Sisqo - The Thong Song
  10. Cher - Believe

Cher fan friend JeffRey sent me another mash-up of "Believe," AC/DC-ized. You know I love mash-ups! This helps alleviate the annoyance quite a bit.

     Download AplusD_YouBelieveMeAllNightLong.mp3

 


Woman at War

Dietrcih I finally bit the bullet and bought the coffee table book: A Woman at War: Marlene Dietrich Remembered as Cher contributed an essay to it. Cher was one of the few celebrities included among children of Dietrich, the son of Joseph von Sternberg, former GIs, producers, directors, biographers, a journalist and a jazz musician. Cher (listed as a singer/actress) is included with Burt Bacharach, Rosemary Clooney and Hildegard Knef.

Overall, the essay was packed with content. I really enjoyed Cher’s self-deprecation and passion about Dietrich. The intro paragraph commented that Dietrich always watched Cher because she was a fan of Bob Mackie's work and that Dietrich liked Cher’s tenacity and bravado.

Cher discussed her one sighting of Dietrich during a Mackie fitting, which Cher said often entailed standing for hours. Cher also admitted to shaving off her eyebrows like Dietrich during the S&C Comedy Hour. Cher said you can see a whole season of her with penciled-in eyebrows. This is a good Cher test: does anybody know which season this is?

The funny thing is another Cher fan Bruce helped me track down many of the Cher photo credits on this blog and he said you can do Cher-dating based on her eyebrows. It’s all about the eyebrows, he said. I think this definitely deserves further study – resulting in a possible timeline or PowerPoint. I will try to secure some grant monies for this effort.

Cher also admired Dietrich for her ability to "command attention," her ability to do comedy while being sexy, the way she used lighting to create an image of herself, and sustain a singing career without having a strong voice. Cher, a student of all of these attributes, even said “I don’t think much of my own voice.” That kills me everytime she says that!

Cher also discussed women having to be a bitch to survive in show business. She imagines Dietrich could be a bitch from time to time and Cher comments how "people around you often pay for it." You never hear stories about Cher being a Diana-Ross-style beeotch; nevertheless, I still hope Cher’s personal assistant gets a good Christmas bonus.

Cher also said “women like Dietrich, Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn paved the way for me.” Not only is this true in a ballsy-image kind of way, it also hints to the fact that Cher has an old-Hollywood air about her, probably inspired by these ladies. And I think it’s definitely a facet of her longevity.
   


Cher Cartoons, Links and Movies

Wilson Some cool links came along while I was on vacation: Cher fan Tyler posted links to the John Wilson cartoons from The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour that he found on You-Tube.

Tyler’s compilation includes one I haven't seen, "Love Song" a remade Randy Newman song.
Other John Wilson videos are here.

They may seem crude today, but back in the early 70s these toons and the slick transitions between S&C skits were really cutting-edge hot stuff for variety TV.

Tyler also passed along a memorial site for Patty Darcy Jones.  I've seen so many spellings of her name (even a variety on IMDB). I’m sticking to the version on the Cher albums.

I found a new type of celebrity news aggregator that had linked to this blog. You may find it handy. I’m a little overwhelmed (err....aggravated) with information aggregation at the moment so I’m not sure if I’ll use this or not. http://www.boxxet.com/Cher/best.box

July is the month of movies in LA! Not only is LACMA having a Katharine Hepburn festival, but the Cinematheque is hosting a festival called Mods and Rockers...full of 60s and 70s music movies. This is why I love living in LA –  rare movie screenings framed with nerdy talks by movie participants. You get rare opportunities to see filmmakers talk about their movies. Two years ago I saw Peter Bogdanovich talk about the director’s release of Mask.

Backstory: a month or so ago I was in a store on Main Street in Santa Monica and I came across a coffee table book mentioning Harry Nilsson and I thought about the duet he did with Cher in 1975, the one I blogged about as being part of Cher’s Phil-Spector oeuvre. I turned to my bf and one of us said 'Who is Harry Nilsson?' I mean...in the scheme of things.

So it kills me that I’ll have to miss this Saturday’s feature: Who is Harry Nilsson (and Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?

Get this: one of the speakers after the movie includes Jimmy Webb! I have so many questions I would ask! Aaargh and double-aaargh. Webb produced Stars. I would ask him how the recording of that album that year was affected by the Nilsson single on the same label and what does he know about how that duet came to be, how it went and what Cher thought of it. It’s a perfect cross-hairs of Cher Scholarship and I’ll be missing it! *sob*

You might think I’d be having goiter surgery or something for missing this. But no: just hard-made dinner plans with some good friends I rarely see.

People first. Before obsession.

But on my birthday, (Harry Potter’s birthday too, btw), there’s another good movie regarding Cher history: Atlantic Records: The House that Ahmet Built. Which reminds me, my neighbor has a very kewl Atlantic Records coffee table book with some nice Sonny & Cher photos in it: What’d I Say: The Atlantic Story.

You can see a list of all the Mod and Rocker movies here:
http://www.americancinematheque.com/pressreleases/2007/ModsNRockers_2007.htm
http://www.modsandrockers.com/schedule.html