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Cher Scholar in Phoenix

BurlesqueSo I thought I would be real modern and hip and post tweets from the show (I did a few) and blog a report right afterwards. Like last Saturday! Needless to say, that did not happen. I blame my old age primarily. But also the fact that I had to race to Phoenix and back on little sleep in the midst of covering a Singapore meeting for ICANN's website (which means I've been on a night shift since last Thursday). I'm exhausted. Mr. Cher Scholar drove us to Phoenix Friday afternoon. We got in late and literally slept in our clothes. 

Saturday we got up early to do a Chastity movie location tour with Cher scholar Robrt Pela. Robrt is not an arena Cher fan; he's a 1960s Cher fan and an obscure-stuff Cher fan. He had just written about it in the Phoneix New Times and in a story for NPR. It was great to meet Robrt after all these years. Although we don't agree about every aspect of Cher product, we do connect on many intellectual aspects of being a Cher fan. Robrt has been doing Cher scholarship on the movie locations for Chastity and was very generous to give us a tour of all the locations he's found so far. Mr. Cher Scholar even expressed interest in watching the movie again. It was serendipitous that we randomly found a hotel (near the venue) that was right in the filming hood for Chastity.

Afterwards, we hooked up with my bff from LA and her boyfriend. We went to dinner at a St. Louis style place in Scottsdale (Julie and I both grew up in STL) and had toasted ravioli, St. Louis-style pizza and ooey-gooey buttercake. We got to the venue an hour ahead and crowds were milling outside because they weren't letting anyone in yet.

Photo 1We killed time standing in line to get a group photo with Cher impersonators. We then stood in line to get in. We then stood in line to get swag. There was no lunch box there yet so I'm glad I ordered mine from the online Cher store. There was mostly t-shirts and posters. Some small kitch: mugs, keychains and a lanyard for $20! There were no buttons or magnets. Phooey. I got four tshirts, two tour shirts, the 60s-style one and the shirt with my favorite Norman Seeff Cher photo on it. That picture was also available in poster (sweet!) and there was also a tour poster and one of those funky posters that changes when you Programmemove in front of it. I have it sitting on its side now and it shows Cher half-blonde-half-brunette. There's also a program, colorful and high-quality per usual but no intro text inside. However, the back of the book does have a funny Cher message full of mea culpas for returning with another tour after her farewell shows.

It took so long to get everyone in the venue that Pat Benetar didn't start until about 8:30 or later. She kicked ass, by the way. She made a believer out of Mr. Cher Scholar who always thought she was sub-par. Her mercilessly made fun of Neil Geraldo before the show. Said if I ever did poetry readings, he wanted co-billing. But their show made him a changed man. It appeared even Pat Benetar and Neil Geraldo were a bit surprised at how supportive the Cher fans were. We knew all the songs. Benetar

When I was a kid, my brothers were into Pat Benetar and disparaged my Cher obsession. This was back when Cher didn't even have a slot in the local record stores and Benetar was filling arenas. How surreal then it was to see Pat Benetar open for Cher. It was a perfect opening act, full of energy, hard rocking, highlighting both Cher's love of rock and serving as a tasty raw contrast to the spectacle of Cher's show.

Benetar opened with my favorite song of hers, "Shadows of the Night" and did all my favorite hits, "We Belong," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Heartbreaker."

Then it was almost another hour (it seemed) more waiting for Cher! The old people around us (and there were quite a few) were really sweatin' it out.

Mr Cherimpr 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Cher Scholar at the show. Blurry pic of an impersonator walking around.

Apparently, according to Cher, she was having a meltdown back stage because nothing fit. She started at 10:20, finally coming on over the  loudspeaker, asking, "Can you guys hear me?" She made a Hoveround joke and said, "If you’re gonna grade the show, grade it on the f*cking curve."

And here is the spoiler alert. If you don't want to see pics of the show and a set list, do not proceed.

Continue reading "Cher Scholar in Phoenix" »


Behind the Seams

20140208_092741My friend Shelby emailed me from Los Angeles days before the opening of Cher's new tour. He had an interesting behind-the-scenes story as follows:

The building next to my apartment building makes costumes for TV, film and stage. Normally they work M-F 8-5pm. Yet, you know when they have a BIG deadline when the workers are coming in on Saturday & Sunday and work late into ALL evenings.

Which has been happening the past 2-3 weeks. And this time around…there have been A LOT of limos, chauffeured SUVs. Just parked in front of our building for hours. Hours. I knew they had to be working on someone HUGE. My bedroom window [left] looks right on to their parking lot. [Her small sons], Sawyer and Blake have spent quite some time watching the people come and go and the limos just sit there. We all get bored with it all because we never see any “important” people get in or out.

Yet, I knew I was going to find out who the client was because one of the employees has a son Sawyer’s age and we go to the same daycare, are actually in the same class. I saw her this morning and asked, “So who is the big client you are working on now?”  She replied, “Cher.” My face froze.  I was not expecting that. At all. Cher. Wow. She said Cher has been in and out several times. I asked what she was like, “small?  Nice?” She said, “She is average sized and she is whishy-washy on what she wants.” And that is a problem when you are making costumes for tour that starts next week.

On Tuesday they had a last fitting of the costumes that got bungled. For some reason they flew the costumes and fitters on a commercial airline and not together…so [US Airport Security] TSA held back the costumes. The fitters got to Phoenix at 12pm. The costumes got there at 5pm. 

That will not happen again…so the costumes are leaving TODAY at 3pm on a  chartered flight.

This is all very interesting in light of the comments Cher made opening night, that she had a meltdown crying jag before the show and nothing fit.

  


Countdown to Cher Live

Az

The countdown to Cher’s opening night of the Dressed to Kill tour is ticking down. The big news last week (and it was BIG NEWS) was that Bob Mackie had stepped out of doing Cher's costumes for the tour, despite Cher’s pleas to "end with her." That has a sad ring to it.

Reports said that "other commitments have since prompted 73-year-old Mackie to withdraw, leaving Cher to put her faith in Hugh Durant, a British designer she previously worked with in 2003." -- Hollywood.com

Cher reminded us that Mackie has made all of her costumes since 1972! That is over 40 years. 

Not only did some of my Cher friends notify me about Cher’s tweets a few days ago, but the story has been posted everywhere, including:

Bob responded in Us Magazine: "Nobody wanted to design this last tour more than I did! I am sick about it. My professional and business commitments were just too great. There simply was not enough time to give this wonderful project the proper amount of care and attention it deserves.  After all these years of collaborating, it is like turning down your own little sister, and how many guys have a little sister like Cher.”

This is news on top of previous tweets that rehearsals have been a bit rough on Cher. The desert air has been hard on her voice, the new songs stretch her vocal range and a crew member was recently killed in a car crash.

 Her arrival to Phoenix last week made the local news and the opening show is coming in 7 days.

Cher News also reports you can get some tour merch before your shows from her website shop: http://cher.shop.bravadousa.com/

I truly have always wanted a Cher lunchbox. If only I were 7 again! The mug would be filled with Campbell’s tomato soup and the rest with a bologna sandwich and a Twinkie or a Chocodile.

I will try to post again about the tour next Saturday night (and if possible tweet out news).

  


Cher Songs, Old and New

Longdaffair

While searching for old 1970s Cher clips this week, I came across this gem, a remix of “Long Distance Love Affair." Retro-Awesome!

Billboard is also listing the premiere of a new Cher remix, Tracy Young’s Ferosh Reconstruction of “I Walk Alone.” Sadly, the remix is not available as a single on iTunes or Amazon and there’s no YouTube video. Video? Who's heard of those?

Like many single releases for this album, they’re initially hard to access with your cash!

   


Cher eBooks & Chart News

PaperwhiteI received a Kindle for Christmas. Of course, the first thing I did was to search for Cher books. Second thing I did was to search for Goodnight Loving Trail books for some poems. I read three books on that first. Then I came back to my Cher search.

One book just came out, called “Cher Unauthorized & Uncensored.” I could tell by the sample that this book was really awful and when I went to delete my sample, I accidentally purchased it! If you have a Kindle, you know how this happened. You have to double tap an object to delete it. They conveniently place the Buy option right below where your finger is already pressed to activate a purchase or a deletion, resulting in accidental purchases. I'm now out three bucks on a lousy Cher book. Since I was tricked into buying it, I decided to review it.

The intro makes copious claims about fact checking. Actually, there are so few facts in the book, incorrect facts are not the issue. This book is a school paper turned into an eBook. You have to beware of such things in the world today. The eBook revolution encourages easy money. If I were this writer’s teacher, however, I would mark it up for being poorly conceived and full of grammatical mistakes. Titles lack italics, quotes are missing quotes. Each chapter contains one paragraph. Random videos are inserted that lead you to YouTube. My Kindle can’t play YouTube videos so this was pointless. I did find one factual mistake. The book says Cher won an Oscar for Silkwood and an Academy Award for Moonstruck. I began to think our author was from another country. In one funny part, the book states that “By 2000, Cher recorded a few albums.” Yes, a few. A section on her personal life gets 7 lines. At least the book is timely, including news from January 30, 2014. The lesson here is you, too, could put out a crappy Cher eBook (and some dolt might accidentally buy it).

I knew I’d be in better hands with M.A. Cassata’s eBook released last fall. Also “unofficial and unauthorized,” at least Cassata is a journalist and can write a good sentence. I always enjoy how she organizes subjects around her Cher fandom, as she did in Cher Scrapbook. Although be warned: this book also has many typos. Some as innocuous as missing commas and italics, some as large as a missing answer in her 50-question Cher quiz. Hopefully these will be fixed in upcoming editions.

Speaking for myself, it is hard to catch all your typos. My blog has them (turnaround is too fast for proofing and it’s free, for Chrissakes!). My zines have them (also an underground, low-rent publication). But when I did my first book for sale on Amazon in 2012, I went and paid for a professional proofreader. Costing only 50 bucks for shorter material, I would recommend it to all eBook publishers.

 

Cher News is reporting that Cher's single "I Hope You Find It" entered the Adult Contemporary chart last week at #24 based on radio play.

 


Cher in New TCM Documentary

Oscars80sCher scholar Dishy notified me a few weeks ago that Turner Classic Movies was airing a documentary called And the Oscar Goes To in which Cher is interviewed and occasionally appears.

There are brief clips of her talking about her Academy Award night experiences. They show clips of Sonny & Cher arriving at the 1974 Oscars and Cher's presenting of Best Original Dramatic Score where she fumbles over Marvin Hamlisch's name. Cher was wearing the floral dress below when she presented with Henry Mancini (watch her present).

To left is her appearance there when she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Silkwood.

 

FlowrdressThe documentary is more about this history of the academy awards show itself and of the academy's politics and it was interesting and straight-forward, but one thing was missing: I didn't see that famous David Niven and the streaker clip. That seems to me a major Oscar's moment and spoke to something going on at the time culturally. That clip also occurred the same year Cher gave to Marvin Hamlisch.

Watch a video of the moment and why it was important. If I'm not mistaken, as David Niven delivers his ad lib you can hear Cher's crane laugh in the background.

  


Cher in the 1970s

CherengsteadCher’s life an career through the mid-1970s is what the book Strong Enough is about. It goes into the struggles the Sonny & Cher had from 1973 to 1975, including the fact that Cher grew up and Sonny’s fatal flaw was not recognizing the changes. Josiah Howard interviews witnesses to speak on how Sonny was behaving with everyone and the strain on the whole staff. He talks about their cancelled shows, what the tabloids were saying, the bloat (in many senses, including the title’s) of their last record album Mama Was A Rock and Roll Singer…

I appreciated how the book slowed down to really detail:

 - Cher’s appearances on award shows
- Cher’s Emmy and Grammy nominations and wins
- Details on their divorce (Cher used Lucy’s divorce lawyer) and how they behaved with each other at concerts
- How CBS and MCA responded to the drama
- How the lawsuits settled out
- Cher’s outings to concerts and parties
- Which major magazines she appeared on the cover of while she was a “newsstand staple.” We also learn how the tabloid The Star built itself on Cher stories around this time.

Cher's love life after leaving Sonny has been covered extensively through the years but this book goes into Sonny’s relationships with “models and dancers” and his long term affair with “secretary” Connie Foreman, how it was Sonny on his dates with Connie that actually blew open the story about his split with Cher. (See tabloid photos of Sonny & Connie)

The book also goes into more detail than I’ve ever seen about Sonny’s solo show and the press surrounding it. How they unfortunately tried to spin him as Chaplinesque. We also learn about Cher’s real reaction to the show. This biography is also the first one to deal with Sonny’s Mimi Machu scandal. And the first Cher biography to track more fully the struggles she had with her father at this time, although I felt there was a lot more to tell here. Did he work for Sonny & Cher (I heard he did), did he really try to make money off of his connection to Cher?

The book combs through all the starting players of Cher’s solo show, called simply Cher and not The Cher Show: George Schlatter, Art Fisher (and his affair with Sally Struthers), the head writer and the writing staff, set designer Robert Kelly (remember the Cher logo and the tongue set stage?), musical director Jimmy Dale, choreographers Tony Charmoli and Dee Dee Wood (I just saw that she did that unforgettable choreography for Mary Poppins), Ben Nye II doing makeup, her PR photographer John Engstead, producer Lee Miller, her unusual dressing room, the rock and roll guests she wanted on the show and who was unavailable, her sponsors. The book details the excitement at CBS during the first few shows with other stars and dancers dropping in.

We learn again more about the beauty regimen: about her skin problems at the time (due to pancake makeup, Kleig lights, stress and bad eating), her Christina Smith eye lashes, lighting tricks used to hide acne, her hair darkenings (from warm Armenian brown to black), her Minnie Smith manicures, Jim Ortel hair and Renata Leuschner (Rena) wigs.

The book also confirms CeeCee Bloom’s character from Beaches was based on staff-writer Iris Rainer’s experiences working with Cher.

We learn about all the skits (in fine detail), what skits never aired, which were “banked,” and how the show fared in the ratings and with the press as the weeks progressed. I found it ironic that CBS typically cut songs for original airings (famously for Raquel Welch, Bette Midler, The Spinners) and when the show finally re-aired on VH-1, the majority of the skits were cut out.

One thing I could never get used to was Cher’s move from the cut-up bitch on her show with Sonny to the hip-talking, ingratiating  nice girl on her solo show. "Far out man." "That’s cool!” This slangy, wanting-to-be-liked was ironically unlikable. Everyone seemed to prefer the stoic tough broad.

From the start, the show seemed to have dysfunctions built in: staff fighting, the star’s missed rehearsals and troubled private life encroaching on the schedule, inconsistent material, the show always suffered a lack of a strong point of view. Either because of this or encouraging the sense of something missing, often tapings occurred without a live audience.

Although her femme fatal characters were mostly gone, the show did profess power to the gals with memes such as “Girls are smarter,” women behind the men, and “Trashy Ladys” skits.

The book talks about how variety Shows were starting to decline around this time as detective shows were on the rise.

RockfordThis is why I find it interesting each time I hear a Cher reference on The Rockford Files (a show which I watch obsessively when I can):

I’ve seen two Cher references so far since I’ve been re-watching them on ME TV: one episode was about the cut-throat LA real estate business. A real estate agent tells Rockford that he just sold a house to “Cher and Gregg.” Interesting that viewers would know what that meant. Would they today? The other episode was about tabloid journalism and Rockford was hiding out at a tabloid on a private investigation on a burglary. Rockford bemoans the potential lack of privacy in hospital records and warns about the dangers of coming across “Cher’s last physical.” The tabloid office eventually burns down.

Oscars73Sonny & Cher presenting Best Original Song at the 1973 Ocsars; watch them present pretending to be couple-y.

  

 

Grammys74The 1974 Grammys appearance, Cher’s first public appearance without Sonny.