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Review of Pret-a-Porter

PapSo a few weeks ago I broke down and bought the two Robert Altman movies with Cher cameos and did a positive review of The Player.

In comparison to that movie, Pret-a-Porter (or Ready to Wear) has a much more European cast and vibe, complete with 1960s-inspried opening credits. The film didn’t work as well as The Player did in the re-watch however, even after years of my watching Project Runway and Ru Paul shows.

The movie seems to be trying to showcase the cut-throat excitement of the fashion world’s “behind the scenes” and the shallowness of its players. The so-muchness of every performance and scene began to take on a one-note quality that became numbingly boring after a while. The reviews on the DVD claimed the film was “exuberant” but it read instead to me as manic. Mr. Cher Scholar watched most of the movie with me and I ended up receiving a very long and informative lecture in the middle of it on improv and the movie's issues (outlined below). Mr. Cher Scholar was formerly a Chicago improv director. I didn’t even realize before his schooling that the movie was improved!

  • The problems of improvisation:  Manic-ness is a common symptom of novice improv, according to Mr. Cher Scholar. When stressed, actors tend to play to that stress. It comes off very un-natural. Another issue with untrained improv actors is their declaring who their character is (again, out of nervousness). This was occurring throughout the movie (ex: . Stephen Rae declaring, “I’m just a simple Irish Country boy”). All telling versus showing. This was compounded by the problem of too many characters who didn’t have enough screen time to really develop a characters, to even attempt a “show.” And improv takes time. Scenes with larger casts already cause more nervousness due to the amped-up energy at play. The scenes that did seem to work were much more quiet and simplified. Mr. Cher Scholar also said it's harder to reveal much about your character when you’re doing scenes depicting only business relationships. What information of depth can occur in a short business conversation? And unfortunately, the majority of this movie was about business relationships and business conversations. The Julia Roberts and Tim Robbins scenes were absolutely painful to watch. According to Mr. Cher Scholar, Roberts sounded like she was reiterating the stage notes she had received. Their lines definitely seemed flat and their performances were both manic.
  • The problem of the Altman style of ambient noise:  Mr. Cher Scholar also went into detail about his understanding of Robert Altman’s signature style of having an ambient soundtrack. Apparently Altman likes to shoot scenes in the midst of ambient sound, catching character’s lines in-between sometimes louder noises, characters talking over each other. He said this style demands that you really pay attention or you’ll miss important dialogue. He said McCabe and Mrs. Miller was impossible to watch because, try as you might, you couldn’t hear what any of the main characters were saying and so were lost in most of the movie. Sometimes it works, he said, but in this case this kind of realist soundtrack style, when you add on improvisation, was just a confusing mess.
  • The reporter motif with Kim Basinger as southern-accented reporter Kitty Potter sifting through interviews with “super novas and super nobodies:” Basinger's part played more like a cliché than a satire. Instead of a dumb, ambitious and giggling American” it would have been more interesting if they had let her play smart. But I guess that was Lili Taylor’s role as the slovenly reporter from the New York Times. Mr. Cher Scholar also remarked that the reporter device is really hard to play (by design, the character gets no depth) and serves as mostly a functional, exposition devise (telling us who everyone is because the cast is too big for slower reveals). He was amazed at how bad Kim B’s southern accent was considering she is from Georgia.
  • What exactly is the story anyway? Linda Hunt, Tracy Ullman and Sally Kellerman play editors of prominent fashion magazines who they spend the movie trying to hire an arrogant trend-setting photographer played by Stephen Rae who claims he came to fame “taking advantage of other people’s insecurities” (which could stand as the major message of the movie). The head of the fashion council is supposedly murdered and these are the major threads of the movie, although they can’t seem to hold it together. Forty minutes in and we still had no idea what the major story was. It never felt like the movie was moving forward. Mr. Cher Scholar used Spinal Tap as a comparison. Fran Dresher’s scene with the band, for example, had a simpler focus, was allowed time to develop, and served to comment on the larger story, the demise of a heavy metal band. Christopher Guest’s improv movies seem to have stronger points to hit in each scene and it all works to push toward the spine story forward. Altman didn’t check in often enough with the spine story and a lot of his scenes seemed superfluous.
  • Mr. Cher Scholar was impressed by all the coordination the movie must have demanded with all the scene setups and all the extras in each scene, the sheer cost of the filming on locations. But at the end, he determined the movie was just a mass of entrances where no possible character development could occur, the same scene over and over again for 133 minutes, characters coming in but never going anywhere.
  • Many of the small stories were left unresolved. For example, did the three editors come to successful “negotiations” with Milo? We don’t fully know. At the end of the movie, he’s doing a shoot with babies. That seemed inconclusive. 
  • Fashion already satirizes itself. How can you top it? Altman didn’t reveal anything new, nothing beyond what you’d expect from these characters. The movie deals with the unsavory alliances and the money issues at fashion houses, the last fashion show is entirely of naked girls as a kind of rebel statement. Kitty Potter tries to make meaning out of this and gives up in frustration. You feel like giving up as well. The movie comes up with only “almost satires.”
  • The film deals with many sexualities but is devoid of any sexiness. In fact, it seemed the film was trying for a sexy Pink Panther feel. This failed because the cast was too big and the bad improv work poured cold water on all the potential sexiness.
  • The shows within the show didn’t seem exactly Ready to Wear collections but more like haute couture shows.

Things I liked:

  • The fact that there was a dog in the dog show named “Ladd.”
  • The huge cell phones were very funny. 
  • Richard E. Grant.
  • Some of the fashions were funny: the two candles on the head, the siren light hat.
  • Teri Garr made me laugh when she got in a cab and said “Tout les bags!”
  •  Sophia Loren talks about doing aerobics. Remember aerobics! How old-fashioned.
  • I liked the variety of fashion shows: the street collection (in an abandoned subway, no less), the over-the-top gay collection, the mature European woman collection.
  • I loved the song playing during the naked show, “Pretty” by The Cranberries (“You’re so pretty the way you are”). I also liked the closing Grace Jones version of “La Vie en Rose.”

CherreadyThere was a shorter, mostly European, list of “As Themselves” cast members of which Cher and Harry Belafonte were the two I recognized.

Cher’s is seen in two scenes, one arriving to a show (as seen on a TV) and the other being interviewed by Kitty Potter (Basinger). You get a good view of her old necklace arm tattoo. She wears a busty white t-shirt top with a leather-like quilted bustier and pants. She talks about how we can never look like Naomi Campbell or Christy Turlington and how these shows are about “women trying to be beautiful,” calling herself a “victim as much as a perpetrator” when Kitty Potter says, with admiration, "Well, we can’t all look like you either." Cher says it’s not about the clothes on your body but what’s inside that counts.”

ReadytowearThis reminded me of when Kitty Potter introduces the photographer Milo and says that for a decade he has “controlled how women think they have to look.”

Cast members who connect to Cher: Linda Hunt won the Best Supporting Oscar we were hoping Cher would win for Silkwood. Teri Garr (of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour) has a very funny part as the co-hort of Danny Aiello who played Johnnie Camereri  in Moonstruck. Sally Kellerman was in the movie Foxes where Cher had a song on the soundtrack, "Bad Love."

Oddly, none of the clothes or hairstyles portrayed on the DVD cover to the right appeared in the movie. And who is that blonde woman?

  


Cher in FLATT Magazine

FlattCher scholar Michael recently informed me that Cher did an interview for the new magazine FLATT. FLATT is a philanthropic arts organization that “celebrates creative entrepreneurs and contemporary philanthropic ideas.” I found my copy on eBay because I am two states away from a decent newsstand.

The cover is gorg and the interview was done by Christina Lessa. It was an exceptionally good one, too, and not just remarking on clichés about how Cher is an iconic diva. Lessa effused instead about Cher’s humanness and her status as an underdog and as a pioneer, how she always tends to steal the show (even still), and how she never looks like she’s trying. Yes, thank you! Cher herself talks a bit about singing with her mom, grandfather and uncle, her grandfather playing the guitar (love those stories!). Cher also talks about the dichotomy in her personality of being both loving and mean. She admits she has “a list” of at least one item she requires in a mate: he must be a good artist. She talks about doing a PSA for suicidal servicemen (so heartbreaking!) She also talks about discussing reality shows with Elijah and how she hates them. It even seems unlikely that she would like one with Elijah in it.

This is a big beautiful magazine with lots of amazing art and photographs. Surprisingly the magazine had two sections of poetry! “Poetic Narrative” by Marc Straus (with artwork by Bruce Robbins) was my favorite of the two represented. His were lyrics with a lot of juxtapositions of random lines. But there was  an undercurrent of a story about a father. These poems reminded me of William Carlos Williams as they were written from a doctor’s point of view. His poems also contained a large amount of scene-setting, some interesting lines like “Rivers drowned in each others’ mouths,” class issues touched upon in “He went to the suburb where/they judge your lawn,” and American critique: “He said that 90 inch drapes were 89 inches long./That one inch made America rich.” The other poet Jason Armstrong Beck was included with a poem called “Dust Storm” mostly a visual study.

Quite an impressive magazine but the typos drove me nuts.

  


The Drama of Cher News

Ec2I’ve been MIA the last few weeks due to a research project I’ve been working on.

But last week was depressing week anyway for Cher news. Eljiah Allman gave a supposed “tell-all” to Mail Online magazine (are they a tabloid? A magazine? I don’t even know). They heard he was now married and called him to get a scoop. They got one…sort of.

But by the end of the piece, Elijah’s mom doesn't look that much worse than other bull-headed parent out there. It sure didn’t rise to the level of No More Wire Hangers in any case. Which didn’t make it any less sad.

Growing up in Hollywood is hard: nannies, the physical and emotional absence of parents, peer and parental drug use, shallow behavior (the rest of American is catching up there), the problem of how to live up to your famous parents. Most kids take the harder route of leaving school early and trying to do one of these things that Cher’s kids have already tried:

  • Acting
  • Launching a band
  • Becoming reality stars

Some like Elijah may feel they are above the antics of Hollywood but their aspirations belie the truth. They don’t run off to missionary work or become scientists or teachers. One problem is they usually aren’t around to witness the struggle, the obscurity, the real work their parents put into their early careers. By the time they come along, they witness only the press, the entourage and the living large.

The interview didn’t reveal anything about Cher we probably didn’t already know, except the private details we maybe shouldn’t already know. Cher has been a celebrity since she was a teen. For whatever reason, she’s probably a flawed parent. Not big news there. But Elijah admits she tries and in admitting that he’s admitting a lot.

In unrelated but kinda related news: people in New Mexico are literally freezing to death because they can’t afford the cost propane to heat their homes.

Someone should write a book about the phenomenon of growing up in Hollywood with famous parents. I know of one offspring of a very iconic artist who lives in another man’s LA garage and has become a hoarder.

Cher tweeted:

"I know it's confusing for you but I love Elijah. And like Chaz, he is my heart. I've said I truly regret some of my choices. But his truth is, well?"

Cher also expressed unhappiness with her album label:

“It’s true [Warner Brothers] hasn’t got a Great Deal of Interest In My CD,” Cher wrote on twitter. “Not ALL [the staff], THERE R HARD WORKING ADORABLE PPL. But Decision Makers Don’t Seem 2Care That Much.”

Cher World adds:

…some countries around the world would not even realize Cher has a new album, with no advertisements, press, posters, zero promotions from Warner Bros records.  The album simply relied on Cher’s star power appearances on US TV and in Europe without any follow up promos from Warner Bros.

Or videos to speak of. And this is after a debut at #3, two hit dance singles, “Woman’s World” (#1) and “Take It Like a Man” (#2) and heavy concert ticket promotion that helped the album enter the Top 40 again recently with a 160 point jump to #36. My billboard-watching friend Christopher contacted Billboard directly to ask about how the concert promotion is working. Unlike how Prince promoted his album Musicology, (been there, got one), CDs are not given to all attendees of shows. You have to redeem your free copies as an extra step and that makes all the difference to Billboard. Apparently, according to our source, Tom Petty, Bon Jovi and Madonna have also used this promotion.

In other news:

  • Cher News reports that Beauty World has honored Cher
  • Cher News also reports that Passenger dissed Cher in his lyrics because he was writing songs while in a bad mood. In a related story, Mr. Cher Scholar hates the Passenger song “Let Her Go” and he walks around the house making fun of it with lines like, “You only know you’re naked when you’re wearing clothes…you only need a hanky when you blow your nose...and you blow your nose.”
  • And Pat Benetar and Cyndi Lauper are alternately opening for Cher's tour. Whoo hoo! I’ve seen Cyndi Lauper open quite a few times for Cher shows and while she’s always amazing, I’m glad to be seeing Benetar this time. I saw her show at the Orange County Fair in 2005. Loved it. But it’s kind of a surreal universe with Pat Benetar opening for Cher.

   


Strong Enough Biography: The Pre-Breakup 1970s

Sonny and CherIn the new biography, Josiah Howard covers how Sonny & Cher went from “50,000 screaming kids to 25 unimpressed adults" singing in nightclubs, living as "professional guest stars on talk shows."

This is the first book that delves into detail about how the skits and segments of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour came into being and from where all the players came from. The book also explains more of the creation of Cher's Laverne character. One of my favorite stories was how they had to bribe 250 people from the farmers market next to CBS Studios with food to attend the first taping. Howard also summarizes the initial reviews of the show and the types of fan mail the show received. Hair guru Gary Chowen said the show was about 3 things: Cher’s put downs, fashion, and hair. Chowen even elaborates on the odd ways the hair constructions were put together.

Seeing as I had just seen the Sandy Duncan episode (and noticed something vaguely discomforting about it), I was amazed to read that Cher and Sandy Duncan had then fought over Duncan's come-on to Sonny and that Truman Capote had made a pass at Sonny as well (Philip Seymour Hoffman RIP). It was also fun to read about visitors to the set, like Sammy Davis Jr., over from taping All in the Family, the POW, Ronald Reagan, and more about S&C's mysterious 21-room mansion on the old-Hollywood Owlwood compound. 

The book also lists Cher's occasional award nominations, from the Grammy for best pop performance by a duo for the Sonny & Cher Live album by duo to the best pop vocal performance nomination for "Gypsies Tramps & Thieves," and Howard elaborates on the vocal changes Cher was going through, losing her “teenage angst whine” and taking on a “new sultry, low-register, contralto accentuated by a dancing vibrato.” Howard also details more about the Bittersweet White Light album including the discrepancies on the back cover credits and he interviews the songwriters to some of Cher's biggest hits of the early 1970s, hearing their later-day opinions of her versions. He also captures some interesting old reviews, including the fact that Rolling Stone Rolling Stone thought her voice (with its country sound) was attractive and that Creem loved "Dark Lady."

   


Cher Concert Billboards Across America 2

Lv These billboard pics were sent by Cher scholar Bruce from Vancouver.

The first was as seen on Facebook, a shot from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. I saw Cher perform there on the Farewell Tour.

The one below is from Cher scholar Olga taken of the Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

 

 Olga-vancouver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Is there a Cher billboard currently up in your town? Kindly send it to me and I will post it here. It would be even better if you were in the shot.

Send pics to mary@cherscholar.com.

   


Review of The Player

CherplayerIn 1992 Cher did a cameo for the Robert Altman film The Player. I have always hesitated to buy or review this movie because a) should cameos be included in a star's filmography? Really? and b) I was only 22 when this movie came out and had never lived in Los Angeles so all the cynical references were lost on me.

But since The Player and Altman's other cameo-ridden movie, Ready to Wear, always end up in Cher filmographies and since I'm older and LA-savy now and since the new Cher biography mentioned the trivia that Ret Turner was supposedly Cher's date to the movie, I finally purchased my (used) copies of these two "Cher films."

I'm actually glad I did. I'm better at reading these films now. Did I ever tell you how I became Cher Scholar? After creating the spoof fansite Cher Scholar, a site meant to be a critique of online Cher shrines, I was working at a job in LA and didn't have anything to do for a few weeks. So I started writing off-the-cuff reviews of all of Cher's albums in order to keep away the crushing boredom of the work day. This begot the Cher zines and essays and eventually this blog. Last week in a poetry essay I read a description of a Bob Dylan scholar as a "Dylanologist." In mocking celebrity scholarship, I accidentally became a real one. Anyway, it all led me to nerdy essays and pop culture analysis that ties back into the explicating I used to do in college for literature papers. This is why this post is so nerdy.

I don't know if you have to live in Los Angeles and hear awful Swimming With Sharks stories about Hollywood movie-making from your friends to get the inside digs the fill up The Player, but the movie starts right away with secretary abuse, ("I want him back here before he arrives!"). There are plenty of dysfunctional throwaways in the movie: posers who don't really watch movies, endless ridiculous movie pitches (Ghost meets The Manchurian Candidate), sad digs at writers (the writer desperately stalking/pitching producers in the opening shot turns out to be a famous writer), the fast-paced frenzy of the power players in meetings juxtaposed with the frenzy of the police station (every bit as heated and crass, with Whoppi Goldberg twirling a tampon throughout the scene), disparaging TV stars versus "real" stars, characters who have their most personal conversation in script-eze and who make pissy requests at restaurants. It's humorous to see the world of curly-paper faxes, pre-Windows computers and pre-cell-phones. The movie also questions not only Hollywood posers but outsiders like the love-interest who is a painter and who claims to be above the world of movies: "Life's too short for movies." Turns out even she's not who she purports to be with her existential commentary on art and life, but possibly just a fake like everyone else.

Ironically, it's only the writers who pay to go see the movies here, who still love movies, and who still innocently consider movies to be an art form versus a cut-throat business that it really is.

Even Altman's film-making is meta-commentary on the movie business, his initial tracking shot that happens while the head of security (Fred Ward) drones on about long tracking shots. He keeps foreshadowing doom for the murderous producer/protagonist Griffin Mill. The movie marquee lights go dark when Mill walks under them; we see closeups of ominous horror movie posters, of dead fish, a picture of Alfred Hitchcock with his eyes closed. These turn out to be frustrating and empty foreshadowing.

Altman also subverts the idea of the happy ending as a critique of the happy ending. He hands us a happy ending but he gives it to the bad guy. Our hero is a thief and will he pay for his crime? No he will not, and here we have the movie's sublime irony. When earlier a writer pleads for his movie to be made lacking the typical Hollywood happy ending because that's not reality, Atlman's provides a happy ending for his protagonist/villain that is a "happy ending" but one that sadly still reflecting the harsh reality. Altman is, in effect, saying Hollywood producers get a away with murder. The happy ending is for their point of view, which makes for the realistic sad ending for everyone else.

This would be a distasteful message to hear from practically any other director other than Robert Altman, someone whom many consider an outsider auteur. You can believe he would have had to endure some of the near-murderous aggravations the movie describes.

Because the characters talk in script-eze and because some stars play stars in the movie and some stars play characters, Altman also subverts the idea that you can ever reconcile the fake with the real when dealing in Hollywood "players" since the fictions bleed into their real lives. And any story is always threatened with becoming overwhelmed by the personality attached to it. 

Speaking of which, Cher is in three shots of the film. She appears at the LACMA party wearing a fire-engine red dress (when the invitations specifically call for black and white attire). This is supposed to be seen as typical Cher-style rebelliousness. She shows off her two 1990s-era shoulder tattoos and arrives with the nemesis of Griffin Mill, (played by Tim Robbins), Larry Levy, played by Peter Gallagher. Altman gives Cher the prime spot of sitting next to Griffin Mill in the movie and her only understandable line in the movie is "Well, are we having fun yet?"

Ret-peter Ret-turner  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is the shot of Cher appearing with her date in the film, Peter Gallagher. Next to that is a picture of Ret Turner with Cher in the same dress. This would indicate Cher arrived at the production with Ret Turner.

It's significant that Altman gives Cher such a prominent position in this scene. And that she wears red. Not only is the color shocking for the LACMA party, but it's a shot of color in an otherwise colorless and drab movie, the flat look familiar to many of the movies of the early 1990s. Remember how colorful Scorsese's The End of Innocence seemed to be in 1993?

There is a dullness in all the scenes, sets and characters. This flat lack of color seems very intentional. Even the painter seems drab (seeming and looking) in the story. It's as if Altman is saying Cher is the most colorful thing in Hollywood. And colorful in every sense you can think of: colorful in what she wears and says, colorful as in her attributes as a woman of color and ethnicity, and colorful as in just being an interesting person, as in being not at all dull.

So far from being simply a cameo, Altman's idea of Cher as a Hollywood personality becomes symbolic in the film's critique of Hollywood itself. And in an Altman-approved positive way. Cool beans.

As I was watching the movie, I played the game of "Catching People in the Movie Cher Has Worked With in the Past" (that I know of):

  1. Fred Ward (Morgan in Silkwood)
  2. Lily Tomlin (Cher show and Georgie Rockwell in Tea with Mussolini)
  3. Peter Gallagher ("Vince" Scali in Burlesque)
  4. Teri Garr (Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and Cher show)
  5. Karen Black (Joanne in Come Back to the Five and Dime)
  6. Martin Mull (Cher show) - I missed this cameo but he was in the credits

   


Poem with a Sonny Bono Mention

SbsexyI love it when my obsessions collide. Poetry and Sonny & Cher. It rarely happens but when it does...happy day!

So I'm reading this great book of poems last week by the poet David Trinidad called The Late Show. It's a book of poems Cher would probably like because it's full of references to watching old late-show movies. The first poem, "The Late Show," is about Trinidad's memories of scenes from his favorite old movies. One poem is entirely about the film Penelope and ends with a reference to Turner Classic Movies. Another poem is just a creative listing of old movie titles. Yet another poem does the same thing with only Bette Davis movies.

One of my favorite pieces in the book is called "Hack, Hack, Sweet Has Been" and goes into depth about the making of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush, Hush...Sweet Caroline as well as briefly cataloguing all the horror movies Joan Crawford and Bette Davis did after Baby Jane.

And of course the poem "Watching the Late Movie with My Mother" reminded me specifically of Cher.

Trinidad's poems remind me of Frank O'Hara (think "The Day Lady Died") and he's also a Barbie collector. The final poem is about how the worlds of poetry and Barbie-collecting intersect. It's called "A Poem Under the Influence" and surprisingly it referenced Sonny. Unfortunately the poem is too long for me to quote in its entirety (it's over 30 pages!) but here is the pertinent excerpt:

"I remember that What a Way to Go! was on a double bill with That Man From Rio,

but don't remember how (or if) I responded to Jean-Paul Belmondo's homely good looks.


The Beatles (already a sensation: "I Want to Hold Your Hand" topped the Billboard charts in

February '64) would soon clue me in: contrary to popular sentiment, I thought Ringo was

the sexy one. Later: Sonny Bono and Bekim Febmiu (of
The Adventurers) turned me on.

I
believe I saw a photograph of the latter wearing a skimpy black bathing suit in a magazine.

Cher gets all the credit for being a Gay Icon but maybe Sonny had a gay following, too. It explains the Truman Capote come-on as described in the new Cher biography.

Anyway, Trinidad is strummin my life with his fingers when he talks about the cut-throat world of poetry and how this can in any way coincide with collecting Cher dolls.

    


Cher Concert Billboards Across America

ChernashvilleWhen Mr. Cher Scholar and I were traveling across the country for Christmas, we came across this electronic billboard in downtown Nashville.

Mr. Cher Scholar double-parked for 6 minutes so I could get this shot (we had to wait for all the country star billboards to revolve around). It was only fair since we drove in circles earlier that morning trying to find the original Ryman Auditorium for him.

Anyway, is there a Cher billboard currently up in your town? Kindly send it to me and I will post it here. It would be even better if you were in the shot.

Send pics to mary@cherscholar.com.

    


Strong Enough Biography: Childhood Through the 1960s

ChermomanddadSo we've been discussing the new and wonderful Cher biography in detail. I wouldn't say this is my favorite Cher biography, (that would be hard to choose), but this is definitely a packed one and only the second one to have been published since I started this blog.

The two pictures here are not included in the book but they are new pictures I've come across recently (Cher posting on Twitter?) that seem to epitomize something interesting about a particular time in Cher's life.

All biographies give Cher's ancestry and childhood short shift. This biography spends even less time on her childhood since the book is ostensibly not a full-fledged bio. That said, the book does illuminate a few shadows in her story. This is the first biography that I have read that tells the story of Georgia's father trying to kill her and her brother and about her life in LA's Skid Row.

I also appreciate how the book gives more detail to Uncle Mickey. He seems like a somewhat important fixture in the story and we don't know much about him or his relationship to Cher and Georgia (except in flashes). He was involved peripherally in the Hollywood music scene after all. This book gives us more information on that in tidbits.

We also get a bit more about Cher's father. Although he was a troubled, often absent figure, his story is important. His story (and even the story of his parents and grandparents) matter in explaining why he was a troubled and absent figure in Cher's life (and why he was trouble when he was present in Cher's life). If he had been the perfect Dad, Cher wouldn't be who she is today. She'd be, for better or for worse, someone completely different. So his story matters, good or bad.

American Indian writer Leslie Marmon Silkos has some famous quotes; one is "You don't have anything if you don't have the stories." She meant that if American Indians lose their stories (and therefore their culture), they've lost everything. But I think we can extrapolate this idea to what we value about everything. Nothing is more valuable to us than our own story. And no story is disconnected from the stories of our parents.

So it's good to finally know why Cher was born in El Centro. Why were they down there? Turns out this has to do with her paternal grandfather trying to help out her father.

I love how Howard really breaks down her name and is concerned with the spelling of it. Finally! 

The book also details Georgia's marriages a bit more (although I swear this trail of marriages needs a flow chart or some kind of visual aid or something). I wish we could get a detailed list of all the LA neighborhoods Cher lived in and all the schools she attended.

Along with many more childhood stories. I loved the ancestor stories in Cher's special Dear Mom, Love Cher but we need more, more, more. You don't become Cher right out of the box, for Chrissake.

1069807_192674664227032_1779329975_nThis early picture of Sonny & Cher intrigues me because I think Sonny's main "Achilles Heel" regarding Cher was that no matter how far she grew into a glamour girl, no matter how much she matured, Sonny could never see anything but the young girl in this picture. And that was his fatal flaw.

I like how the recent Easlea and Fiegel biography put their music in context with what was happening at the time. This biography goes into more depth as well, but not regarding the music. Howard talks about how Sonny & Cher first connected and why, the desires they had in common. Howard also fleshes out Sonny's relationship to his first daughter Christy a bit.

And Howard also adds some new light to their financial situation through "Baby Don’t Go" and "I Got You Babe." Did you know "I Got You Babe" is the second most played song by astronauts, number one being Rush's "Countdown."

The book also is the first one to address Sonny's temper and witnesses to his explosions, from Les Reed talking about working with him on the show Ready Steady Go to quotes from friends who saw his personality change as Sonny & Cher became more famous. Is this because Sonny has passed away and people finally feel free to speak about it?

The book also addresses rumors that surrounded Sonny & Cher from their inception: that Sonny beat her up, that Cher was really a man. What wackadoodle things people are saying about you, this is a constant phenomenon that would plague Cher throughout her whole famous life.

The book lists out the various public service announcements Sonny & Cher were involved in, not just the anti-marijuana one. What would Sonny make of the current legalizations of marijuana? There was also the stay-in-school psa which you can hear yourself at the end of the "Hello" track on your The Beat Goes On, The Best of Sonny & Cher CD. This spot is overly ironic since neither of them did, in fact, stay in school and they were doing just fine and therefore were horrible examples for such a message. Sonny & Cher also did a spot apparently for National Bible Week. Surely it was the cumulative effect of all these unhip psa's helped to put their career in the shark tank.

By the end of the decade, after essentially funding their own interestingly flawed independent film (ahead of its time really; everybody is now funding their own interestingly flawed independent films), Sonny & Cher were, as we all know, broke and owning the government $200,000 in unpaid taxes. My question to this factoid has always been, why did they owe this much in back taxes?  Did they have a Willie Nelson moment or was it some unscrupulous accountings?