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Cher Feets and Tweets

CherfeetI finished reading The Guardian piece. I found Cher's response comment to Sinead O'Connor about women as sex objects interesting in light of all the Vamp skits I've been watching and their  representations of femme fatales. In fact, in most skits on the shows, Cher characters portray a powerful sexuality. But unlike femme fatals prior, her character always comes out on top (no pun intended). More on that later. Cher also talks about how violence in video games is a much bigger problem (such as Grand Theft Auto), and how although Sonny wasn't a "great statesman," he had the ability to bring everyone to the table, Democrats and Republicans. She also speaks candidly about Burlesque and she elaborates on the Salvador Dali, Sonny and Francis Ford Coppola dinner story.

I also read the Facebook Q&A excerpted on Cher News. She talks about a fun Cher Show halloween party, hints around about her tour's opening act and tells a story about her mom buying art supplies after receiving a tax refund. She says she'd like to perform in the play The Glass Menagerie on Broadway (that would be sweet!) and tells her fans "her imperfections are boundless." But in a Zen equation that also means her perfections are boundless. She also says that if there are fires at the house, she always grabs one jacket she doesn't even like.

Fires at the house? Plural? Who is the pyro in Cher's house?

ACherfeet2lso in recent Cutsie news (I can't remember the full Cutsie News jingle or I'd regurgitate it here), Cher had foot surgery last week as she mentioned on Twitter. She's probably crutchin-it-up at home. Her friends and fans have wished her get-well-soons. I'm attaching Cher foot photos here for positive foot energies. Take care of your feet,  some Buddhist said. I've seen quite a few Sonny & Cher videos of her dancing around like Mother Nature. I hope she can do this again soon.

Her final twitter wishes pre-surgery were about throwing in the  "Tea-haddists" and she got into a tweet-fight this week with Sarah Palin, a spat that is full of ironies. Cher said thusly: 

"Go to a dictionary and look up the 'C word'... Next to the definition, you'll see a picture of Sarah Palin! No... wait... she's under 'dumb C word''."

Sarah Palin posted a response from her brother:

"Dear Cher, I was sorry to hear that you tweeted out such vile comments about my little sister yesterday. It's sad because Sarah has never had a harsh word to say about you. In fact, our grandmother was one of your biggest fans. Have a good night, Chuck"

This is interesting on many levels. First of all, Palin's brother must be working 24/7 to defend his defenseless sister. At the end of the day, if you dish it out, you gotta be able to take it, lady. But at least Chuck's sentences have subjects that match their predicates. His message is condescending in tone ("I was sorry to hear about you," a common bullyish tactic along the lines of "I pity you.") The use Cher-Feet-318319 of the words "vile comment" is terribly and comically ironic when used to defend Sarah Palin (who basically traffics in vile and offensive comments). Does Cher care what Palin might have said about her personally? Many of us are not upset about what Palin has said about us personally, but rather what she has said about other people and groups. So that's a pointless point. And finally, he tries to take a jab at Cher's age and hints at her being a has-been only grandmothers were into. This is ironic in light of the fact Cher has been dominating younger acts on Billboard and being invited to appear on the highest-rated TV shows. But conservatives love to throw out this attack at Cher. It defies logic, showing yet again that wishful thinking trumps reality-based thinking. If Cher's such an old has-been, why do her tweets bother them so much? Plus it just sounds weak, along the lines of "nana nana boo boo, stick you head in doo doo." 

Read all about it on Cher News. This way you can avoid having to visit reactionary conservative websites, which are the only ones talking about this story right now.

To read for next week: Cher News reports on Cher favorite song list from BBC Radio.

   


My Sonny & Cher Mesostic

RrrSo one of the reasons I've been lagging at posting in the last few weeks is I've been finishing up a University of Pennsylvania MOOC (massive open online course) on Modern American Poetry.The class (attended worldwide by about 35 thousand people!!) was haaaarrd. Harder than the graduate poetry classes I've taken. Not only did it require hours of lectures and four essays but the poems were mostly experimental and difficult, starting with Emily Dickinson and going through head-scratching modernists like Gertrude Stein, the language poets and experimental conceptual poets. Our last essay tasked us with writing a mesostic poem.

A mesostic is similar to an acrostic poem (where a word spells down the left spine of the poem) exFin-ale-c06442-dcept a word gets spelled down the middle and the source text is a jumble of words from a "found" text. There's a complicated set of rules on how to select individual words from the "seed text" that has now been developed into a computer program developed for an experimental poet named Jackson Mac Low and used heavily later by experimental artist John Cage.

We were asked to find a source text and pour it into an online program called a Mesostomatic. The program would do the calculations and produce poems for us based on the formula. Since this is not typical creative authorship, it is called writing by "chance operations." Most people think this type of writing is hooey but some writers believe lovely art can come from chance operations (Jackson Pollock was one) and some fans of these mesostics call the program an "oracle" for the eerie results it produces. I believe humans read into all art something of themselves. If you want to see something, your mind will see connections. And that's the real oracle about it. But whether you believe in divine intervention or the power of the human mind, it's all fun.

Since I've been in Sonny & Cher TV Land for so many weeks, I decided to use Sonny & Cher lyrics. I also had to choose "spine words" for my poems, those words that flow down the middle. And I had to produce an essay "explicating" (reading meaning into) the output. Here's what I did:

"My source text is composed of three of Sonny’s three most popular songs (composed for Cher to sing: “Bang Bang” from 1966,  “The Beat Goes On” from 1967, and “I Got You Babe” from 1965), and one song lyric that was a collaboration in authorship that included Cher (a 1973 reworking of a Seals and Crofts lyric for the song “Chastity Sun,” a tribute to Sonny & Cher’s then-daughter Chastity—now Cher's son, Chaz Bono).

The spine terms I chose were BIOGRAPHY (because Cher text raises many questions of reinvention, identity, drag, authorship and autobiography); SONNYANDCHER (because the lyrics—and Chastity—were all “authored” in some way by Sonny and Cher); DAUGHTER (in light of Chaz Bono’s 2051624609_c4e89a63b7 recent gender reassignment and the fact that Sonny and Cher both conceptualized their child as a daughter); and the term POSINGATARTIFICE (“posing at artifice” because Sonny and Cher have consistently attracted controversy around the idea of “being artificial”). This final long phrase, however, seemed too much for the Mesostomatic and returned the least amount and the least sensical results.

Because “posing at artifice” produced no usable results, I made that the title of the completed set. I deleted the mesostics I didn’t like, added punctuation, a word or two (noted with an asterisk), and re-ordered them.

The results were very cryptic and I definitely used matrixing (a term from the show Ghost Hunters for the human tendency to try to make meaning from noise) to make my meaning. My biggest “ah-ha” moment in this exercise came with an awareness that being a fan (of anything including poetry) involves the same kind of matrixing.

The formatted poems are attached here: http://cherscholar.typepad.com/files/posing-at-artifice.pdf [13 KB]

In Section 1—Biography, I see black as dealing with being an outsider and a fighter, juxtaposed with the idea of Sonny & Cher music as light music for teenyboppers. The emphasis on rhythm connects to Sonny Bono’s emphasis on the rhythm section when producing albums. 

The next stanza refers to lines from “The Beat Goes On” and speaks to “times a-changing” in the mid-1960s. This stanza into the next continues with the idea of perseverance (“climbing, I got so tight”) and asks, are hits proof of value? I tampered with the line (changed his to make it hits…it was so close!), but you can find a feminist reading if you revert the word to “his.” The stanza ends with a kind of a confrontation of the 1960s term baby or babe.

The next stanza can be read as Cher’s image-making and costumery juxtaposed with her alter-ego as a activist tweeter, ending with the Sonny & Cher ethos of simplicity and togetherness.

Section 2 deals with Chaz Bono and his struggles in being Chastity (how she grew “Round”), how he altered his life and “his-tory” and gained “gROUND” in transformation. Stanza two deals with sexual identity and rage, ending with an emblematic sign of femininity/sexuality, the miniskirt. Stanza three brings God into the picture. I was surprised how many times the Mesostomatic invoked God from the text. I read this stanza as ‘God is Good,’ as an affirmation of sorts.

Section 3 is more universal and asks us not to over-intellectualize history and culture (good luck with that) and possibly is the machine's subtle dig at my attempt to make “posing at artifice” a spine word, although history has changed music by changing the means of production, creating a mass-production consumer culture, especially affecting young girls.

Stanza two says “I got this, baby,” an understanding of the hidden perils of innocence, who God ultimately loves, and how endings are beginnings. The third stanza is one that brought the most chills. We kiss Sonny goodnight (in death) and the stanza expresses a kind of one-ness between Sonny, God, and Chastity as all coming from the same source.

I included a coda of the scraps the Mesostomatic generated after each spine word grouping. Again God is invoked, along with will and hesitation."

So, the point of this is to show how explicating art takes work and some amount of matrixing and that randomly generating things can be pretty at times.

I created a page for this Sonny & Cher Mesostic (including youtube song clips of the source text and references) from: http://cherscholar.typepad.com/i_found_some_blog/sonny-cher-mesostic.html

 


My Sonny & Cher TV Study

HopejacksonsI had a breakthrough last week on my survey of the Sonny & Cher television shows. The project all started when someone wrote in to Cher Scholar to ask about a particular Vamp episode (where the characters whine for Caesar). I've always felt bad that I've never attacked this huge oeuvre of work with any real scholarship. I had just watched all of The Mary Tyler Moore Shows in a row this summer and given up cable for a while so this seemed like a good time to open out the Cher tome of television.

I have to tell you, I've found so much to talk about: memes, subtexts, latter-day ironies. Look for this to be the centerpiece of Cher Zine #4. Not this year, maybe next year. But anyway, I finally found the episode my scholaring student was seeking. It was a Vamp skit from The Sonny & Cher Show (which I'm calling the Yellow show as opposed to the Orange show), episode #9, starring Tony Randall as Caesar and Cher as Cleopatra. She's an unusual Cleo this time, however, doing either her Mary Hartman impression or rather more like a whiny Laverne Defazio. (Is there a non-whiny Laverne Defazio?) It's actually very funny but, sadly, not to be found on the youtubes or in any online stills.

I also recently found outrageous evidence of Cher actually ordering a pizza! I was so shocked I captured it with my smartypants phone. As you may know, Cher and Kathy Griffin claim Cher does not, in fact, know how to order a pizza. I'm surmising she may just not know how to look up the pizza parlor phone number. She should channel her inner Rosa.

(Note: I really loved the King Kong hand skit when I was 7 in 1977).

 

Mr. Cher Scholar has been passing through as I've been going through some of these episodes and he said the other day how self-aware Sonny and Cher were and how he couldn't fathom any acts today willing to be so self-deprecating on a show. He said, could you imagine Lady Gaga being the butt on a joke? I wonder if maybe young pop stars might do it once or twice for fun...but I do think many stars today construct their "images" with hyper-sensitivity and would be afraid to take the piss out of themselves week after week. I don't know how many times I've heard the name Bono taken in vain over the past four months. And not only do I have trouble imagining pop stars doing this, I'm having a hard time imagining comedians doing it. Dave Chappelle comes to mind. But you can't have good variety showings without self awareness (see Carol Burnett).

I'm about 4 or 5 episodes from watching all I have available to watch. But I keep finding more in my garage. So many people have sent me episodes over the years, very degraded VHS copies hidden in tucked-away places. One year, my ex sent me some tapped off of VH1s 7 Days of Seventies; one year I begged my friend to send me some from TV Land; in 1999 I bought some on the underground market; some have been legitimately released on VHS and DVD. It's taken me time to catalogue them and match them up to online and book lists. 

As I said, I have plenty of deep scholarly thoughts about the shows and their effects on culture and culture's effects on them, covering topics like

  • Evolving race relations in the early 1970s
  • The evolving roles for women and how the show operated in reaction to and in ironic support of feminism
  • Sexuality and the femme fatale

I'm really enjoying this project and it's interesting for me to think about how the shows are perceived in hindsight and how they may have been perceived at the time.

   


Help Cher Save the Elephant

Billy Cher is asking her fans to help her save Billy the elephant from the LA Zoo. She has offered half-a-million dollars to help get him released to an animal sanctuary in San Andreas, the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

Like Cher I love elephants and have my own diminutive elephant collection (that I will be unloading at a garage sale next spring). And similarly, I dislike zoos and circuses. So joining this effort seems like a done-deal for me.

Billy is an Asian elephant. You can tell by his little ears. This is an African elephant (dressed like an Indian)...

African elephant

Cher said, "Billy has weighed heavily on my mind for many years. I would give half-a-million dollars for his release to the place that Bob Barker talked about (PAWS). LA Zoo holds Billy hostage! LA Zoo has abused him until all he does is rock back-and-forth, alone."

She continues, "Go to this site: Earth in Transition. 14 Elephants have died in LA Zoo and Billy has spent almost all of his 27 years in a tiny space. Think! You are all so smart and kind, please put your heads together! I've just signed a letter that will be read Downtown tomorrow. Boycott circus!"

This is a continuation of Cher's efforts from 2009.

How you can help: http://www.helpbilly.org/howtohelp.html

I'm not a resident of California anymore (although that doesn't need to stop you from contacting local legislature there) but I did donate some cash to the cause (which was super easy via PayPal).

Chershirt

 

 

 

 

 

 


Cher Press and Dancing with the Stars

GauntletsMr. Cher Scholar was very concerned after we returned from Red River Monday afternoon that I might not be able to see the Cher tribute live on Dancing with the Stars so he re-rigged our TV and we were able to get ABC finally. So glad because this was more than a typical Cher performance on a music show (she performed twice), and more than a tribute show (amazing as that was), but Cher was also a guest judge. Unheard of!

And she was delicately political about the whole judging thing, too, other than one 10 second beep where she said God-knows what.

Well, Elizabeth Berkley knows. Follow the stories of her appearance:

I've been a fan so long, it truly is hard to expect a Cher appearance that breaks the mould after 40 years, but this show was truly surprising. First, I had to acclimate myself to all the celebrity dancers. Since Chaz Bono's season, I haven't watched a single episode of this show.

Ozzy Osbourne's son Jack was interesting to watch and his cerebral or anti-cerebral attitude about his experience there. He said he knows how Ozzy get bummed when people muck up his tributes and he just hoped he wouldn't bum Cher. It was touching to see his parents there cheering him on like typical worried parents. Jack did a tango to "The Beat Goes On."

Elizabeth Berkley (infamous from Showgirls) seemed herself a Cher fan, picking "Bang Bang" for her jazz dance as it had special meaning for her and giving Cher a verbal tribute after the judging was completed. She thanked Cher on behalf of women for showing that you can create your own rules and for her resiliency.

Leah Remini also seemed to have a special understanding of Cher and was abrasive and wise-cracking in a way that I felt was sort of its own tribute to Cher. She danced a Viennese Waltz the depicted the meeting of Sonny & Cher to the song "I Got You Babe," a tribute that seemed to genuinely move Cher (although the dance was factually inaccurate in that the meeting was love at first sight only for Cher and not for Sonny).

The guy from the show Pretty Little Liars did a dance to "The Shoop Shoop Song." He seemed to think much of himself and I wasn't sad to see him booted off.

Bill Engvall said Cher, along with Farrah Fawcett, was one of his 1970s fantasy girls. He did a disco number to "Strong Enough" and told Cher what a huge fan he was.Amber from the show Glee did a rumba to "Turn Back Time."There was a dance-off to "Woman's World."

Cher wore two memorable performing outfits, descending for her entrance to sing "Believe" in a demure miniskirt (it's shocking that now a 67 year-old Cher in a miniskirt caused such controversy recently in the UK) and an awesome feathered wig and fringe outfit for "I Hope You Find It." Her judging outfit was appropriately understated (and didn't detract from the other stars).

Believedress Dwts3 

 

 

 

 

There were many dance tributes to Cher covering her long career and pieces of her music played to transition in and out of commercials, including "Welcome to Burlesque,""Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves," "I Found Someone," "Song for the Lonely," and "Walking in Memphis,"

Cher received standing ovations and the show, the audience, and the contestants seemed over-the-moon about her appearance there. Many of the contestants mentioned being "freaked out" that she would be there.

She was asked how she picks dancers for her shows and she says she sees so many talented dancers, it comes down to an "it" factor.

It was nice seeing Cher as a judge, although she was very hesitant to stick out as a judge. Now that's she "been-there-done-that," maybe she'll do more of it. People love her whether she's being stern or motherly. Or stern and motherly.

This week I tried to catch up on my Cher appearances after our weekend trip to Red River. Cher talked on the E! interview about how profound mentoring on The Voice was. 

Introducing her Attitude Award, Graham Norton talked about Cher's friends who showed up to see her accept it (Judi Dench, Ben Kingsley) and how the word legend is overused unless describing Cher. Cher later said legend was gay-code for fun. Cher also said that gay men either "love you or they don't even notice you're on the planet." I would agree with this assessment. Cher also said "gay men love women who are having a breakdown constantly. Judy Garland has nothing on me."

GnCher's appearance on BBC's Graham Norton was also fun. Her drink of choice was Dr. Pepper and she talked about the rumor last year that she had died due to Twitter hash-tag confusion over Margaret Thatcher's death (#NOWTHATCHERSDEAD). She also talked about how lonely the road is. She gave Michelle Pfeiffer a big hug and she complemented fellow-guest Jennifer Saunders over what a fan of French & Saunders, hoping they'd get back together sometime. Sound familiar? Saunders gave that same uncertain look out to the audience that Sonny or Cher probably doled out whenever anyone said the same to them.

Some interesting asides, Cher talked about how bad reviews of Come Back to the Five and Dime ruined the once popular Broadwasy show and she described a very funny dinner she had once with Robert De Niro and how he scared her drag-queen fans.

A UK website called Chart Shaker had this to say about Cher's recent showing in the UK charts:

"Should [Closer to the Truth] maintain its place in the Top 40 until midnight on Saturday, it will earn Cher her first UK Top 40 hit in twelve years but, more importantly, it will make her one of – if not THE ONLY female artist to have scored a solo Top 40 hit in the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the 00s and the 10s. Six decades. A feat matched by David Bowie (who added to his tally earlier this year) and Sir Cliff Richard who started a decade earlier but has yet to add another Top 40 single to his tally this decade.

Cherilyn Sarkisian. 100 million solo albums sold. Another 40 million records shifted as one half of the massively successful television and musical partnership Sonny & Cher. The woman behind the biggest selling single by a female solo artist in the UK (Believe). That dance number, co-written by Xenomania founder Brian Higgins, has shifted over 1.7m copies in the UK alone. She has won Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes and an Oscar. And she has just released her 26th studio album Closer To The Truth."

Star Pulse recently posted excerpts of Cher recent Facebook Q&A, which I haven't read yet (see below), where she talked about missing Sonny but imagining him (or joked to imagine him) in hell. She also effused about Jack Nicholson and a recent hand-painted bull he gave her in tribute of the fact they were both Tauruses.

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