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Chaz & Georgia Holt on RuPaul's Drag Race

DragraceRuPaul’s Drag Race was on a few Monday’s ago and I just watched it. The challenge was for the drag queens to pretend to interview Chaz Bono and Georgia Holt. Chaz seemed very bemused-to-annoyed during all but two of the interviews. Georgia tried to appear upbeat but most of them were pretty bad. One queen kept saying “that’s amazing” and “that’s so cool” inappropriately when Georgia talked about starving during the depression. One asked only yes or no questions, one ignored Georgia entirely (even when Chaz tried to steer the interview towards her), and one queen kept calling Chaz Chad (this one got the boot). One queen made the faux pas of doing a Cher impersonation. Chaz commented that unless it’s a Chad Michaels performance, why bother? It must be very uncomfortable for Cher’s family to endure Cher impersonations. For whom does an impersonation impress? Cher is really un-imitable. As The Beat Goes On tele-drama proved, it's damn near impossible to cast a faux Cher. I sometimes feel tributes are closer to the mark. The Neil Diamond-tribute SuperDiamond was almost better than the real thing. Tributes seem to get closer to the tone of the person somehow and put less emphasis on exterior mannerisms.

ChazgeoOne queen asked Georgia about her almost-abortion of Cher. Gerogia claimed she was simply stunned by the question but the look on her face was sheer shock and dismay. The abortion-questioning queen apologized to Georgia later and Georgia was gracious with her forgiveness. In the Untucked aftershow (which I am thankful my DirectTV DVR is automatically taping), the queen expressed dismay that they would both tell Cher he was an asshole.

Apparently the queens suffered from nervousness but these were mostly weird interviews. Of note, Chaz talked about his feelings of identity at age 13 and Georgia said she saves everything.

Dragrace2Paul Abdul was also a judge on the show and the Lip Synch for Your Life was done to her "Vibeology."

Chaz was a diplomatic and nice judge, commenting on nerves, and those who appeared uncomfortable as interviewers. He was always nice about it. 

All the queens defend Cher in Untucked show.

 

The aussie Courtney Act conducted the best interview and won Aussiethe challenge (and some wigs). She was very like-able and flirted with Chaz. Her wing costume was also amazing. Bende la Crème was also very good.

Courtney Act (Shane Jenek) and Adore Delano (Danny Noriega) are two Drag contestants who have previously competed on American Idol. Shane tried out as a man and did not make the tryouts. He came back the next day as Courtney Act and made it. Watch him perform on Australian Idol Season 1. Danny Noriega competed as himself. Watch his performance on season 7.

Danny Noriega/Adore Delano & Shane Jenek/Courtney Act

Danny  Adore Courtney

   

 

 

 


Magazine, Album News & Concert Reviews

ShowShow Reviews

Indianapolis

Star balances state-of-the-art production with doses of self-deprecation...She addresse[d] her fans while the arena's house lights were still on...this simple gimmick to start the show re-introduced the irreverent voice and personality that first captivated the mainstream in 1965...the show-opening "Woman's World" and "Take It Like a Man" -- sailed as fine examples of modern electronic dance music. All of the art direction for "Believe" called for a do-over.

Detroit

A spectacular ride...the wide and varying ages of those present prove that she continues to appeal to the masses...Later in the evening, she would speak about the three things that she remembers about the Detroit area: that one of her wigs once fell off here, that she found her cat underneath a tour bus while performing here and took him home where he became "the luckiest cat in the world" and that at one time her late husband/singing partner Sonny Bono worked in Detroit.

Ottowa

Low-key restraint was never Cher’s bag and this concert reeked of excess, sometimes to the detriment of the show. The overblown staging seem to overwhelm the songs and there was a constant beehive of activity onstage, especially when acrobatic dancers were swirling overhead on circular metal cylinders...The best moments, for me, came when Cher toned things down.

News

Cher I Walk AloneToday is the first day you can purchase the remix album of "I Walk Alone" on iTunes or Amazon. I haven't seen a physical CD release and somehow doubt there will be one.

Which sucks because I love this cover and it would look great alongside all the other CD singles we all have.

Cher's in Elle Magazine will hit the newsstands next Tuesday as reported by Cher News. You can also find sneak peaks of photos there.

Cher tweeted that the tour will be extended at the end of the year (yeah!), but no word yet on ticket sale dates

Cher News found some interesting posts pertaining to Cyndi Lauper who has just joined the tour in place of Pat Benetar:

  • Buffalo News talks about the debt younger pop divas owe to Cher, including Cyndi Lauper (for stage presence), Madonna (for being as much about the show as the music), Christina Aguilera (for her professed love of Cher and ability to work pop's subgenres) and Lady Gaga (for ability to shock without alienating fans).
  • Excerpts of Cyndi Lauper's comments in Time Magazine: "Yes, this is my third tour with Cher, but it has been a long time – almost ten years since last we toured together. I was a fan of hers growing up. I bought her records and of course watched 'The Sonny & Cher Show' religiously. I mean, the costumes and the hair and the make-up! Come on! I'm looking forward to being on the road with her again."Cher has always been very supportive of me. There were times in my career when I needed her and she has been there for me, so I wanted to be able to go out again with her to say thanks."

   


Interpreting Believe Visually

BelieveCher scholar Todd from Wisconsin wrote to me a few weeks ago to discuss the costumes throughout the years at concert shows for the song "Believe." Todd flew down to Phoenix to see the opening show of the Dressed to Kill tour and he talked about the "cosmic" and "futuristic" theme always for costumes and set designs for the performance, how throughout the tours, the shows have stayed with that theme. Todd thought re-visiting the clubby "Believe" video, descending in a clear box, would be interesting.

I  agree with this. And besides the dance sound, I wonder why the interpretation of the song has always been so circus-top other-worldly.

I still defend the cartoon-like costume Cher wore on the opening night but it would be interesting to see an interpretation that shakes things up. Not that we have many opportunities left for that.

Believe2  Believe4

   


Cher Respect: Little Bios and Forbes Magazine

Some bloggy housekeeping: my parents will be in town for a few weeks so I'll be out and about with them. I'll be back to blogging in late April. And Cher News is reporting that Cher will be in the May issue of Elle as part of a feature about women in music. Miley Cyrus is on the cover.

Cher scholar Michael alerted me last week to the somewhat snarky bio of Cher on the music streaming site Rhapsody. I decided to look it up and compare it to what Pandora has. The artist bio ususally comes up on your device or computer when one of their songs play.

356x237Rhapsody's page

Complete bio:

"Few entertainers' career paths have been as forked as Cher's. Getting her start when Sonny Bono took her under his wing and became her producer, collaborator and eventually husband, the duo produced some of the most popular duets of all time, including "I Got You Babe" and "The Beat Goes On." They parlayed that success into a 1970s variety show that showcased the pair's onstage banter and had everyone asking (as Joe Jackson would later put it), "Is she really going out with him?" Once divorced, Cher pursued a solo career with some success. "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves" and "Half-Breed" were imaginative story-songs in the Vegas revue tradition that established her as a torchy, impassioned vocalist. As her acting career began to take precedence during the '80s, her singing career fell into arrears, as evidenced on disco debacles Take Me Home and Prisoner. Recently Cher has reasserted her singing prowess and charting abilities with the 1998 hit Believe; both the title track and "Strong Enough" fared favorably on dancefloors. Clubby, slickly produced, and re-mix ready, Cher's new sound shows she'll never be too old to learn new tricks -- especially when those tricks come from Madonna."

SNAP! That is a bit snarky.

Pandora likes Cher much better. They give her 12 paragraphs, which is more than they give most people, says Mr. Cher Scholar, the main Pandora-user in the house.

Q11493EPNPOPandora's page (and bio in full)

Bio Excerpt:

Cher has had three careers that place her indelibly in the public consciousness, and two have been in association with her then-husband, composer/producer/singer Salvatore “Sonny” Bono (b. February 16, 1935, d. January 8, 1998). She charted major hit records in the 1960s and 1970s, working in idioms ranging from early-‘60s girl group-style ballads to Jackie Deshannon folk-influenced pop, to adult contemporary pop in the manner of later Dusty Springfield. She also embared on an acting career, initially in the late ‘60s in association with her work as part of Sonny & Cher but later on her own, which led to a series of increasingly polished and compelling performances in Silkwood, Mask, and Moonstruck, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress."

Still, respect for Cher's career is a bit uneven. Which brings me to a Forbes article that appeared on the Yahoo Cher freaks group last week. Apparently, Forbes Magazine has published two (two!) articles on the financial success of Cher's D2K tour.

March 23: "With Strong Demand For Tickets, Will Cher's Dressed To Kill Tour Really Be Farewell?"

and April 4: "Price of Cher Tickets Continues to Rise Through First Dates of Dressed To Kill Tour"

Success should speak for itself.
  


D2K Reviews Through Mid-America

Cher I Hope You Find It liveCher's Farewell Tour was the first tour where fans could actually access concert reviews from other cities online. As fans would post links to reviews in their cities on the old Yahoo Cher freaks list, I tried to copy out as many as I could but soon got overwhelmed. I have a box of concert reviews from that tour somewhere unread in my garage.

I'm trying to keep up this time. I think there's something to be gleaned from the change in the tone of Cher concert reviews over the years. It seems Cher has finally worn reviewers down into appreciating her big circus shows. Since this tour began, I've yet to read one fully bad review, zero snarky Cher comments and only a few critical comments can be found at all. This seems different than the Farewell Tour if my memory serves me.

Let's step through the early accolades and notable news since she left Texas.

Of the Little Rock, Arkansas, show, Jennifer Christman said: "Speaking of her mother, Cher mentioned the Arkansas roots of her mother Georgia Holt (born Jackie Jean Crouch) who is a cousin to Arkansas First Lady Ginger Beebe. Cher also noted her great aunt was the first patient in Little Rock to undergo electric shock therapy."

Christman went on to say, "She might sing 'If I Could Turn Back Time' (and did, while strutting in a skimpy bodysuit nearly identical to the one in the 1989 video), but her figure reveals she already has found a way."

[It really irks me when they mistake the "Turn Back Time" concert outfit with the "Turn Back Time" video outfit. Am I the only one who is OCD over this?]

For the Tulsa, Oklahoma, show, Jerry Wofford said it was a "a wild, ornate and carefree show" and that she opened with a gasp: "...the curtain fell and on a pedestal, bathed in gold light with an enormous Vegas-style headdress was Cher, looking like the Goddess of Pop she is."

He said, "Cher’s humor between songs was incredible. She went from ripping on Dr Pepper to talking about her idea for a Perrier water commercial to the troubles of nail polish and toilet paper. She was carefree and irreverent and hilarious. He quoted her saying, 'I kind of make it up as I go along because that’s how Sonny and I used to do it.'"

About the song "Dressed to Kill" he said, "performed live, it was done incredibly well."

His only criticism: "There still were a few awkward issues to work out. Syncopation was off on a few songs."

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Rachel Weaver said, "Perhaps the most endearing moment was when she sang alongside a video version of her late ex-husband Sonny Bono to 'I've Got You Babe,' a part of the show she admitted it took her some time to be able to do."

In Boston, Massachusetts, Chris Sosa (of the best-written review so far from The Huffington Post) said, "It's hard to really define a Cher show in the way one does a traditional pop concert. Sure, there's singing. Spectacle abounds. A great live band is present to bring decades of hits to life. But everything one sees is in tribute to something greater than the sum of these parts: Cher."

He continued, "Despite the intense effort that has to go into such involved showmanship, Cher keeps an amusing distance from the whole affair. It's the sort of devil-may-care persona only an entertainment legend can pull off without seeming glib."

Describing part of the show he said, "Then there was Cher, fending off a strapping 20-something while singing the tour's title track. Yes, she could be his grandmother, and he's probably gay. But damn it if Cher didn't infuse the situation with every ounce of sexual tension the number demanded."

He made a good defence of the Geffen-era hits: "During the megahits "I Found Someone" and "Heart of Stone," the multi-generational crowd seemed dangerously near spontaneous combustion from joy."

And concluded with, "Perhaps the absolute best use of such archival footage was her duet with Sonny Bono. She explained that after initially rejecting the idea, closing out her final (wink) tour with Sonny was an opportunity she couldn't pass up. In a visual effect that's been alternately described as disturbing and endearing, he stared right at Cher and sang 'I Got You Babe.' She sang it back with the sincerest expression of the evening. It was the first point of the evening where Cher the human emerged, a welcome guest given Pat Benatar had been blowing the roof off with husband Neil Giraldo just prior...watching a talented musical storyteller just emote from a place of sincerity is even more enjoyable."

[Amen]

James Reed, of The Boston Globe, said "She is in exceptional form, as a singer, entertainer, and tour guide through her 50 years in show business" and called the duet with Sonny, "sweet and not at all morbid."

In Toronto, Canada, Brad Wheeler said, "She razzled, she dazzled, she costumed-changed like a pro (which is what she is). She defied gravity, and convention. She was an audacious Helen of Troy one minute; a chatty Cherilyn Sarkisian of El Centro, Calif., the next. She twirled on a chandelier, as one does. She head-dressed. Sequins happened. She believed in life after love. She said that this really was a farewell, and was lovingly booed for the suggestion, though she winked and nodded when she said it. Not unflatteringly, she wore sheer costumes that would frighten women half her age. She sang 'If I Could Turn Back Time,' and basically pulled off that trick."

He described her early 1970s hits thusly: "'Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves,' followed by 'Dark Lady' and 'Half-Breed' – the “great swarthy trilogy,” in the words of rock critic Robert Christgau."

[Interesting. Will have to look that up. The great swarthy trilogy.]

Wheeler didn't like the angelic flyover, however. He thought it was "far too much symbolism."

Kyle Gustafson of The Washington Post said, "Cher appeared to be physically in pain at a few points in the show" and that she had a "hard time freeing herself from the safety mechanisms as she tried to exit the flying contraption. That made saying goodbye to her fans hard, logistically and emotionally."

For the Mohegan Sun review, Donnie Moorhouse liked the Cher singing on a stool part of the show: "It was Cher without all the pomp-and-circumstance, the true “concert” part of the performance. While it may not have been what her audience came to see, it was a reminder of the talent that lies underneath the bells and whistles (and wigs)." He said she didn't fly over in her saint-mobile for this show.

Links to full reviews:

    
    


Cher on Bad Biographies

PeterlanzThere’s a new biography of Cher in German, “Cher, Die Biografie” by Peter Lanz. Cher responded to its existence on Twitter, saying “Don't buy this unauthorized biography crew. It p*sses me off when some *sshole I don't know presumes to write about me. Idiot." She went on to say she’s “not protected in any way, because I'm a public figure".

Biographies are a fascinating cultural artifact. They usually outsell many other categories of books. As a culture, we seem to care a great deal about trying to get to know our favorite people. This is either an obsessive pastime or some misguided intellectual quest to figure out other humans.

It is also bizarre this idea of being a “public figure.” Aside from the fact that entertainers use their “personas” as their product, I don’t see how they themselves can be defined as “public people” beyond having a public career. And to Cher's credit, it must be very discomforting to have a stranger tell your story incorrectly. Nobody can speak to how you felt.

But on the other hand, if there weren’t unauthorized biographies, there would only exist public relations spin. Although a celebrity controls the story in public relations, it isn’t necessarily always more truthful.

Cher is right that biographers don’t know her and likely get an embarrassing number of facts wrong. They may even have agendas. I always felt Lawrence J. Quirk had a conservative agenda.

But at the end of the day, even the best biographies are flawed artifacts. Every perspective is in some way prejudicial. Even one’s own. Although I enjoyed Lauren Becall’s autobiography By Myself, a book essentially made up of published diary entries, I don't doubt it's full of rationalizations, self-censures, agendas and untruths. It seems one’s own self isn’t even really qualified to write about one’s own self. And who are you anyway? Are you who you think you are, who your mother thinks you are, who most of your friends or co-workers think you are? It's hard to say.

And how would we learn anything about Thomas Jefferson, Gandhi or even Buddha, for example,  if we had to rely on someone who knew them, all long dead. We should still be learning about historical icons even if their biographies are full of myths and mistakes.

Any book about Cher is doomed to this inaccuracy: a book by a stranger, a book by a friend, a mother, one of her sons, a book by Cher herself. But despite their imperfections, biographies make a good try at explaining someone’s trials and motives. Facts do tell a part of the story but certainly not all of it.

Without the messy attempts, I’d be left not knowing anything about why Frank O'Hara wrote "The Day Lady Died" or how a hard childhood in Oklahoma could make James Garner so prone to fist fights.

Which is not to say opportunists aren’t out there trying to make a buck off of celebrity fame. But who really thinks the spin Kitty Kelly doles out will affect how we view famous figures? The dis-credible biographers may make some ill-gotten earnings, but in time they tend to fall by the wayside.

The fact that Cher biographies exist at all matters. Think about how many films and books have been written about The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. None without mistakes I'm sure. There are factual mistakes in Sonny's autobiography.

And it’s fascinating to think about what Cher might mean to Germans. Too bad this book might not tell us. I still wonder why there aren't more international biographies of Cher.

Me? I could never write a Cher biography. I’m too shy to do the interviews. But I can speak to the cultural subtexts in Cher’s persona and her works and the impact these things might have had on our culture. Does this say something about me? Yes it does. I'm rationalizing Cher. But that's we do as consumers of pop culture. We interpret everything we consume, whether we think we do or not. I may not interpret things the same way Cher would. But I am not having the same experience in life as Cher is having.

There will be crappy Cher bios. (I just read an e-book that was pretty bad). But frustration just leads to suffering. You desire the biographies to be something they can never be: well-intentioned and perfect. From a distance, they’re all part of the whole mass of good and bad. Having some at all, in some way, is a sign of importance.

But there’s nothing amiss with Cher saying, “This is a bad biography. There are a lot of errors in it.”

BonovbonoDid you know Sonny’s sister self-published a biography last year? I found Bono vs. Bono, A Battle Royale by Frances Erikcson when I was searching for Cher eBooks. It's also available in paperback.

Here is a case in point. Sonny's sister is telling the story of her battle with her father’s last wife over Sonny’s father’s small fortune. Although you are sympathetic with Frances as you read the book, you still get an unsettling feeling that she might be skewing the story her way. She often seems too much the victim in battles with her family, and in minor battles with banks and nurses. There are too many perfect betrayals, dramatic to the degree of melodrama, and yet she keeps coming back as the perfect daughter. And you know what, this may even be true. The point is, it’s difficult to believe the narrator of her own story.

That said, the book was a fascinating read, even though Cher isn’t really in it. In fact Sonny & Cher are barely in it. The worst Frances has to say about Sonny is that the siblings grew apart when he became famous, partially because her first husband was a Hollywood player-wannabie. In any case, Frances has nothing bad to say about Cher or Susie Coehlo or Mary Bono. She doesn’t really have much to say about Sonny either, except that he sided with their mother in the family saga. This is a book about the feuds between Jean Bono (Sonny's mother) and his two sisters, with the father being the pawn in much of it. Sister Liz is often mentioned as siding with Frances, but you don’t get a clear picture of her or her story.

Forget about a Cher biography. If you strung together all the dramas of Sonny’s family, Cher’s family and Gregg Allman’s family, you could have a soap opera that would run for 10 years.

JanehJust as I was mulling all this over this week, I came across a poem by Jane Hirshfield. It says all there is to say about biography.

It Was Like This: You Were Happy

It was like this:
you were happy, then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.

It went on.
You were innocent or you were guilty.
Actions were taken, or not.

At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.
Mostly, it seems you were silent—what could you say?

Now it is almost over.

Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.

It does this not in forgiveness—
between you, there is nothing to forgive—
but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
he sees the bread is finished with transformation.

Eating, too, is a thing now only for others.

It doesn’t matter what they will make of you
or your days: they will be wrong,
they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.

Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
you slept, you awakened.
Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons.

     


James Garner on Hollywood

GarnerfilesOnce in a while I do indulge in one of my  minor celebrity obsessions. I have a short list of them and after reading The Garner Files by James Garner, which I found at a used book store, my Rockford Files and James Garner obsession has surged. I've cued up The Americanization of Emily (with Julie Andrews), and Support Your Local Sheriff on GreenCine. Mr. Cher Scholar has also taped The Great Escape  for us on cable. I’m especially interested to see Support Your Local Sheriff, the movie Garner says is the best satire of a western. Since John worked on season two of the Hulu show Quick Draw, I thought he might be interested in this one too. Quick Draw just received some good press from TV Guide who called it "an offbeat show you should be watching" and the show was also listed as the part of the future of television in an essay by HDVideo Pro: "TV V.2.0 : Led by streaming and binge viewing, television is going through a revolution").

Anyway, there are rumors that James Garner might be on near death due to another recent strokes. I’m glad he wrote a book and a feisty one at that, full of Hollywood and political dish. Like Cher, he’s another outspoken progressive.

There were a few excerpts in his book pertinent to Cher scholarship. As you know (especially if you’ve read Cher Zine 3), I am a passionate defender of Cher’s work in commercials. I’m happy to say James Garner is on my side. He talked about his experience doing those famous Polaroid commercials with Mariette Hartley.

“I had a lot of fun doing them. I’ve been asked a hundre times about the “stigma” of doing commercials. Well, I’m an actor. I hire out. I’m not afraid of hurting my image. I figured if Henry Fonda, Laurence Olivier, John Wayne and Orson Wells could do commercials, so could I. If you do it right, you don’t demean yourself by selling a product and you can be just as good in a commercial as in a feature film.”

Like Cher, James Garner was both a TV and movie star and he talks about how hard it used to be to jump from TV (where there was a real stigma) to movies:

“Throughout my career, I’ve gone back and forth between television and movies. I started on TV back in the 1950s, did movies in the 60s, went back to television in the 70s and did them both from then on. Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen and I were the first to make the leap from TV to movies, but it was unusual. Television was a second-class medium for a long time. When we started, being on television carried a stigma. There was a pecking order: stage actors were next to God, film actors were right up there with the angels, TV actors were beneath them, and commercial acting was the dregs. If you were  a television actor, you weren’t allowed to do movies…Today if you have a hit on TV, you get just as much respect, maybe because there’s so much competition on television…I always felt movies were easier. The pace was slower and the pay was better. Television was more demanding, both mentally and physically.”

Garner has plenty to say about Hollywood and fame. Here are some excerpts:

“It was once reported that I paid the seller of maps to the stars’ homes to take me off the list, but that’s not true. I may have threatened to give the guy a shot in the mouth, but I didn’t bribe him.”

“I hate everything about show business but acting…I don’t read anything they write about me. I never liked making personal appearances or getting my picture taken…I’d rather dig a ditch than do an interview, let alone a press junket where you sit in a hotel room all day while a hundred reporters work you over one by one. I never liked premieres or entourages or anything associated with celebrity. I’m not too crazy about limousines, either.”

“I don’t give a damn about awards…I didn’t get into the business to be better than anyone else.”

“I couldn’t stand fan magazines. Even as a teenager, I new they were bullshit. I’d look at Photoplay and think, What a bunch of phonies!...I never understood the whole fan thing, because I’ve never been a fan of anybody. How can you care so much about someone you never meet?...The fan magazines were so sleazy, they weren’t saved in libraries like old issues of Life or The Saturday Evening Post. I’m glad.”

“I hate Hollywood. You say, 'Good morning' in this town and they say, 'What did he mean by that?' Maybe that’s why they never understood me…The industry is like it’s always been, a bunch of greedy people…I never got along with studio executives…They’re in constant fear of losing their jobs, which makes them indecisive. In negotiations, their goal is to get the best of you, not to make a good deal for everybody involved…Hollywood is dishonest, it’s petty, and it’s ageist…It’s worse for accesses. Women come into their own in middle age—their smarter and more attractive. I thought Lana Turner was much more interesting at forty than she was at twenty….William Goldman was right: in Hollywood, nobody knows anything.”

And if you like those blurbs, this book is full of a small-town boy from Oklahoma speakin’ his mind.