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Fan Burn Out

FanaticThe big news (literally) in Cher World last week was that the man behind Cher World is stepping down. Personally, I love Travis’ very comprehensive web site and have for years. Many other Cher sites out there are quite simply shrines. Some are very good shrines, mind you, literal libraries of amazing images; but Travis always published something extra, not to mention staying on top of continually breaking news, something Cher Scholar will never be any good at.

Keeping up with Cher news not only takes a great deal of time but some extra patience to make your schedule available for breaking stories. (Such as the fact that a new set of D2K tickets went on sale last Friday for Midwest dates).

Cher Scholar did not make this breaking-news post because last weekend she was in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, getting a very affordable hot springs soak. In fact, due to lack of time this summer, even my posts will be slowing down. I just finished a finalized draft of my next book of poems and I’m starting on my first novel (very scary!). That and an upcoming camping trip, two sets of summer visitors, day-job demands and a big family reunion on the coast of Oregon and something’s gotta give.

It seems to be a tragic summer for Cher fan sites. CherNews is MIA and now Cher World is closing its doors.

The pertinent gossip on Cher World is that Travis was banned from Cher’s Twitterspace for discussing the fairness of how meet-and-greet access was being made available and whether or not there is a Cher clique of extra-special fans.

I can completely relate to the phenomenon of losing your enthusiasm for a fan site when you become a disappointed fan…which is the number one reason I don’t want to go there. Meet and greets themselves are a mixed blessing. Meeting the man behind the head of Oz can be problematic.

My one meet and greet with Cher was at a 1998 book signing in New York City. I would never have gone but I was sent by my co-editor at Ape Culture to write a story about the experience. My favorite part was hanging out with other fans on the street in a line circling Tower Records. My interaction with Cher was uncomfortable and without any meaning I can define. After all, what do you say to a stranger?

Offering up nothing to say is inappropriate. I found this out years earlier when I met poet Adrienne Rich in New Jersey at the Dodge Poetry Festival. Although I respected Rich, I was not a fan -- even though I somehow found myself in a line of them to get a book signed by her. My silence was met with sour disapproval. So for Cher, I tried to come up with something interesting to say. A futile exercise becasue how can you guess what a stranger will find interesting?

Neither of these meets were substantial or awful enough to change my respective feelings about either media personality but I did have one meet and greet that did. For years I had a crush on a well-known lead singer. When I heard he was offering meet and greets for a charity function in Las Vegas, I bought two tickets and dragged my only close friend from Los Angeles to the show. Unfortunately, my friend felt the charity concert was too loud and he plugged his ears for much of the time. This was a pretty small venue and let’s just say that during the resulting meet and greets, friendliness did not ensue. A year later there was a blow up on this singer's own website, a blowup allegedly between the singer and his longtime web assistant. Gossip-filled web posts and emails were exchanged between fans.

These behind the scenes snafus did a lot to disengage my celebrity obsession. Events like this, even when the drama dies down, provide a kind of perspective in the guise of an exit door.

Cher probably does have her cliques and mean-girl moments. Although she sure seems to have less drama surrounding her than most celebrities. But that’s still too much celebrity drama for me.

In full disclosure, I have entered two or three fan contests going back to that one for Not.Com.mercial and I did join one or two fan clubs. The last online Cher fan club never bothered to respond to my emails about being unable to access their site after I paid my dues. I had to literally stop a charge on my credit card to extract myself. Cher conventions have been fun to participate in but are full of their own dramas as well.

This time around, I didn’t even know Cher was doing meet and greets.

And now that I do know, these kinds of things should go to better fans than me. I’m not a good soldier. I’m not a good zombie.  In fact, I will go as far to say Cher the person is a threat to my enjoyment of Cher the product.

But I can relate to the other side of it, too. I have fans myself—three of them including Mr. Cher Scholar! That is if you don't count those 70 Tumblr fans who have mistaken me for porn-star Marie McCray. In any case, when a fan criticizes what you do, your first inclination is to ask, “Who the hell asked you?!”

And then you catch yourself and think, “Oh. I did when I asked you to buy my book and engage with it as a human being, one who is separate from me and sees things from another perspective.”

You ask for attention, you get opinions. That said, you do your best to be cool about it. But we're all human.

Which is what is especially interesting to me here: how fandom plays out on the Twittersphere. Fans now have contact with Cher’s daily thoughts (what we choose to read anyway) and Cher now has daily contact with ours (what she chooses to read anyway). It’s a contract of the new technology that can’t help but lead to human drama.

“It’s the human element,” my grandpa used to say, as if the world consisted of fire, water, air and human kerfuffles.

At the end of the day, I feel sympathy for anyone involved in the celebrity/fan symbiosis. I feel solidarity with my fellow fan-site maestro who feels let down and the celebrity who may have little inclination or power to please all fans all the time.

Oz is an uncomfortable place. You meet the wizard behind the curtain and he sends you off on some dysfunctional mission to kill the witch because you’re full of expectation and frenzy and he doesn’t know what else to do with you.

  


Working Out With Cher

NewattCher scholar Dishy recently got me working out again with Cher's exercise tapes. He asked about locating copies of Cher’s old workout videos in the US. Very unfortunately, they're not available on DVD here. You can only get them in VHS and Laserdisc. If you wore out your VHS, you SOL. You can’t convert your tapes to DVD (copyright protections literally stop you from doing this) and the DVDs that are available in Europe won’t play on your US DVD players. (I've tried to use them on my computers and DVD-players).

I believe this is why Americans are so fat: Cher's fitness videos are withheld from us on DVD. It's bad enough our Twinkies are filled with corn syrup. We're doomed!

I have not played out my Cher fitness VHS tapes because I've only watched them once (while eating popcorn and sitting on the couch). I felt a bit weirded out to have Cher be my fitness guru and my celebrity obsession too. But Dishy inspired me to actually give them a try. For years I've been feeling under the weather and downright "stove up." Starting last January I've been working out on a treadmill. I was finally ready to work out with Cher.

I didn't want to invest in a step yet (in case I hated stepping) so I simply used a small step stool. My Cher bands were also MIB (where they'll stay) but I did have some bands from physical therapy a few years ago.

The Body Confidence (1991) video packaging is odd in that Cher's body is all in shadow. Isn't that what we're selling here: Cher's body? The video's Wikipedia page says that Health & Fitness gave the video 5 out of 5 stars and that it sold 1.5 million copies by December 1992 in the US (350,000 in the UK) and has become one of most successful fitness videos of all time. Wikipedia disclaimer, however, says these facts are not substantiated and may be deleted soon.

Before the workouts, Cher gives good pep talks about having a lifelong commitment to exercise (too late), having faith and courage and being willing to work. I really like her emphasis on putting in the work. I also like how she admits she’s not the best at working out and defers to trainers instead of trying to be the Queen Exercise Bee. She says exercise isn’t her profession and she seems happy to be the student. She says it's ok not to be able to make all the reps (that's good) and you start where you’re starting. She says you don’t want to spend rest of your life in a gym but there have been advances in exercising. (There actually been many more advances since the early 1990s—the whole Pilates-yoga fusion craze). She says you should aim to slowly get strong. Here's a clip.

Newatt1Part 1: The 38 minute step class is with Keli Roberts and Cher is over-outfitted in ruffles, a curly full wig up-do and makeup. She looks more like she's going out to party than attempting to work out. The videos are full of all women, no men, but there's a good feeling of female camaraderie.

There's always a Cher song to frame the tapes. For this one it's "Love & Understanding." The rest are covers of mostly 1960s up-tempo hits like "Born to Be Wild," "Get Ready," "All Right Now" and an 80s song thrown in, "Missionary Man." Cher provides many asides and smart-ass comments.

The class provides three workout levels. My step turned out to be too small and I couldn’t step over it. Longtime Cher pals, Dori Sanchez, Paultette and Angie can be seen as fellow exercisers in this segment, Paulette very demurely doing her moves. They don't show Dori Sanchez enough considering she's doing the non-step moves. You get a pulse check. Mine was within range but not spectacularly within range.

You can find grainy clips of this routine online.

CrunchesPart 2 is 10 mins of back and abs movements. They do mostly old-style abs crunches. This is too hard on my neck so I tried Pilates variations. Cher called the course concise and challenging. Most of the camera work was with Keli Roberts and Cher. Cher looked tiny her in a suspenders outfit. View a clip.

Part 3 is 32 minutes of buns and thighs. This was a tough workout of mostly standing work and squats. I used a chair ala Jane Fonda’s old-people's DVD workout, Fit and Strong.

I liked the step routine more than I thought I would and went online to see if I could buy or make my own step. Used ones are still going for $40-50 (too much). If you’re a carpenter, you can make your own; but I’m not and neither is Mr. Cher Scholar. One hilarious website showed you how to to turn four boxes of boxed-wine into a step. You use extra cardboard inside the boxes for support and many wrappingss of duct tape around the boxes. I seriously considered doing this, (thinking the drinking part would be fun), and then realized it would cost me just as much to buy a damn step. So I found one on Amazon for less than $30 that will work fine.

BodycBody Confidence (1992) is the second tape and according to Wikipedia, Health & Fitness gave it four stars. It has a better cover and plays scenes from the last video. They called video one award-winning but I couldn’t find anything online about which award it might have won.

You can get very affordable Gaim-brand workout bands in three strengths at Target. The video also advertised that you once could order extra bands from an 800 number at $9.98 (allow 4-6 weeks) from Tarzana, California. Send check or money order. Ah...those quaint days before PayPal.

Cher provides another pep talk about not believing in "no pain no gain." She says this tape will help sculpt muscles and burn fat. And don’t be too critical, you'll pick up the dance moves. She says she's never taken a dance class and is "just naturally good at my body." View a clip.

CherholeHot Dance is 38 minutes led by Dori Sanchez (Cher's tour choreographer). Cher is in another over the top outfit (her HoleFit, believe it or not) and another wig up-do. This is like Cher as Dolly Parton making an exercise tape.

The music on this tape is framed by "Turn Back Time" and includes different 1960s music covers including "Pretty Woman," "Dancing in the Street" and "You Got Me" with the 80s addition of "Addicted to Love." I know many fitness fans care a lot about the workout music. I used to but these days I kind of zone out and don't even notice if the music is amateurish. Cher's tapes are better than average for music.

This workout is full of good Cher-tattoo sightings. And one brunette has an over-the-top level of enthusiasm. Myself, I never could “double it up.”

BandsPart 2 is 45 minutes of Mighty Bands. Bands work like weights without the full gym. I found for this class you really need two bands of each strength for the standing routines. Karen Andees leads us through this segment and there are major sound issues and correction dubs. The music is so loud you can't hear the cues. You have to watch.

The cast is full of the old players including Mark Hudson doing music (I can't stop thinking about Chaz's harassment story when I think about him); manager Bill Sammeth, director David Grossman, costumes by Van Buren. The exercising girls were: Karen Andes, Angela Arnaud, Anita Morales, Trish Ramish, and Michelle Rudi (although I could swear her name was spelled Rudy on the second tape), Dori Sanchez, Paulette Bettes listed as stylist, Leonard Engleman for makeup, Renata Leuschner for hair. The song credits were not listed.

At the end of two weeks I determined I really liked these classes. Which is really too bad because I won't be doing them again. Although Cher was actually fun to work out with, I don't want to wear out my VHS tapes. I went online this week to find other step and stretch workout DVDs I can keep doing.

Getting to Know our Teachers

FitnesshollywoodKeli Roberts is from Australia and has worked with Kirstie Alley, Jennifer Grey, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Russel Crow and Faye Dunaway. She's a guru of step classes and has done over 40 videos. Her book Fitness Hollywood was popular and she's now a trainer in Pasadena. For more books and videos: http://keliroberts.com/products/fitness-videos/

Dori Sanchez is Cher’s longtime live show choreographer. She was in the movie Dirty Dancing and works on the TV show So You Think You Can Dance. Her father was a ballroom dance teacher and she’s also worked with Shakira, Peter Gabriel and Jane’s Addiction. She credits Cher with helping her though a brain tumor episode in 2011.

AndesKaren Andees is a previous co-owner of a Gold’s Gym in Marin County and she writes about nutrition, balance, equipment, gym ettiquite, obsession with body and self-esteem. Her book, A Woman of Strength received mixed reviews. She now appears to be into yoga swinging at her San Rafael gym.

 

The exercise guru space is sure crowded but here are some other trainers I’ve come to like:

JoanieJoanie Greggains She is my first fitness guru. I worked out to her vinyl albums in the 1980s (literally the one on the right). She had a popular TV show called Morning Stretch and is still working on a radio show: http://www.joaniegreggains.com/

Denise Austin - I've come to really like her because she has a very friendly spirit and helpful website. She's very encouraging. I purchased her $5 video on walking from the back of a ceral box. Her Fit Forever program sounds suspiciously close to Cher's Forever Fit though. She started as a gymnast from San Pedro, California.

Ana Cabán is an LA Pilates guru who studied with Romana Kryzonowska. She has had studios in LA's Silver Lake area and in Miami. She was a dancer who injured her back and recovered with Pilates: http://anacaban.com/

Christa Rypins is a former ice skater who developed chronic pain and came up with a program of somatic movement yoga called "Yummy Yoga" which is a fusion of yoga, Pilates, and meditation. This tape isn't fancy but it's the only thing that relieves my carpel tunnel and chronic neck pain. She runs the Intelligent Body Movement Studio in Murphys, California: http://www.intelligentbody.net/meet_christa.html

Tamilee Webb Yes I have a buns of steel video. Buns

Lara Hudson does those 10 Minute Solution videos. Often her Yoga is too fast for me but her Pilates video is popular. Fans say she gives clear and concise cues. She's a former acrobat and developed something called The Mercury Method which is again another fusion of yoga, Pilates and traditional training. She explains the difference between Pilates (non-nonsense muscle conditioning) and yoga (mental and spiritual well being with breath and poses): http://themercurymethod.com/lara-hudson/

Elisbeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito (husband and wife) work at Exhale spa in New York City and have trained Heidi Klum and Cameron Diaz. They provide yet another fusion of yoga, Pilates and the Lotte Berk method which focuses all Pilates and yoga on a stable core. Their video has lot of core work and some mind-body balance. They care about alignment and working one position for a long time instead of “mindless reps.” It's very challenging and I like how these two trainers trade off: http://acacialifestyle.com/exhale-core-fusion/c/360/

MayaMaya Fiennes is Macedonian and a classical pianist who teaches Kundalini yoga classes. These are full of mantras and dextox yoga. I usually do this one twice a year: http://www.mayaspace.com/

I also found out today of all days that Namaste Yoga is starting their third season on FitTV channel (which I don't get anymore). I love this slower Ayurveda yoga (seems like there are a million types of yoga) with a big meditative quality shot beautifully and narrated by Kate Porter. The first two seasons are available on DVD:  http://www.katepotteryoga.ca/namastetv.html

 

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The European covers of Cher's fitness programs (but the DVDs don't play in the US)

    


Is Jennifer Lawrence the New Cher?

JlMy Billboard-watching friend Christopher sent me a batch of articles this month. One was on actress Jennifer Lawrence in Los Angeles Magazine (Feb 2014 issue) by Anne Taylor Fleming. Interestingly my parents love Jennifer Lawrence and they are always telling me that she reminds them of Cher, especially in interviews. They talk about her take-no-guff irreverence. So I thought I'd see if I could find any similarities in the article. I definitely could.

Fleming calls Lawrence "the little toughie" and likes her because she's "frisky and unguarded...She seems to be centered in her own skin, not preening and posing and flirting and giggling."

Also Lawrence, "isn’t threatening to women. To them she’s cool, in a down-to-earth way that’s never self-conscious." There's "a freedom about her, a zest, a willingness to be goofy and unself-censored. None of that canned, feminine stuff."

She says, "For me, Lawrence has that something extra, the ineffable quality that bubbles up from inside. Even as she goes quiet on the screen, you can’t look away. When she’s being strong, it’s not in a cartoonish Lara Croft way but in an assertive, convincing manner. She can turn on a dime, cry and kick butt, empathize and rage from one frame to the next."

We've heard a lot of those same things said about Cher.

Other Cher Bric-a-Brac

Sunny

Cher scholar Robrt found this crazy video for "Sunny" complete with a circle of crazy little girls.

Gay Divas

Christopher also sent me the article "Gay Men and Their Divas" by Michael Musto from the Feb/Mar 2014 issue of The Advocate. Musto talks about all the divas who have let gay men down and why. 

He credits divas for being "muses and champions." He talks about how Judy Garland was knocked around by horrible men, but could still stand up and belt it out, “getting more riveting with wear and tear.” Plus she sang that iconic rainbow song and died right before the Stonewall riots so is the patron saint of equal rights. Bette Midler sang at the Continental Baths and was campy, raunchy, weepy, and hilarious (but she "turned her back on us" for mainstream fame). Donna Summer sang pure LGBT hedonism but then got religious and said some gay slurs allegedly although she denied it. Madonna drew on bold designs and gay culture and hung out with Sandra Bernhard, but she defended Eminem in 2001 when he was being homophobic but now she's back in good graces donning Boy Scout outfits and kissing Britney and Christina. Lady Gaga provides positive messages about and for the oppressed. But "Born this Way" was way too spelling it out and heavy-handed.

“It might just be Cher who’s the post-Judy high priestess of the LGBT. After all, she’s ageless, she’s fabulous, and she’s even let us down—twice [bristling at Chas’ coming out and transitioning]. These were icky moments, and yet, Cher’s honesty in admitting her feelings resonated with many of her fans who were going through similar situations. Cher revels her foibles and takes us with her as she goes to the other side, where she achieves grace and acceptance [in other words, with Cher there’s a real life narrative not just a PR pose]. And that’s what the best gay diva should always do. Brava, diva.”

He skips telling us why Cher appealed as a Gay Diva in the first place.

Stephanie Miller

Last week on The Stephanie Miller show, their phone screener insisted Frenso was famous for birthing Cher. Producer Chris LaVoie then said he thought Cher was from Glendale (because all the Armenian’s live there, I guess). I did an Internet search to find out if there was any Fresno/Cher misprinted information foating around out there. There is not. Cher is firmly from El Centro. Although her father’s relatives lived in Fresno and she went to Frenso High School.

Cher and Susan Sarandon Chersue

I'm beginning to wonder if this is like east-coast/west-coast rap. Cher is so west-coast. Sarandon is so New England. I've been talking to Cher scholar Michael about Susan Sarandon and Cher, making comparisons. Is Sarandon too serious? Interestingly she admits in AARP Magazine that she was so immersed with the idea of justice as a child that she would rotate outfits on all her dolls so no one doll had all the best outfits. 

However, I think Cher is getting more serious and socially-committed as she ages. As Sarandon says, “With age, you gain maybe not wisdom, but at least a bigger picture.”

Christopher sent me this AARP article on Sarandon and reading it I still find many things they have in common:

  1. Both will appear in public without makeup. Unlike Dolly.
  2. Both date younger men. Sarandon was with Tim Robbins many years and now is dating Jonathan Bricklin, a tender 36 years old!
  3. Both were first borns.
  4. Both were very shy as little girls.
  5. Both speak out, damn the consequences to their careers.
  6. Both are described as sexy older stars. Mark Harris says about Sarandon (and it could be said about Cher), “Even when she was young, her sexuality seemed mature. There’s a self-confidence to her. She knows who her characters are, and her characters know who they are.”

By the way, I am missing Cher News news. I was hoping Mr. Cher News was away on vacation, like some kind of European, two-month vacation. I hope all is okay over there!

  


Cher in the Midwest

StlConcert Reviews

(Cher in St. Louis, left)

Lincoln, Nebraska

"Cher entertains with spectacular Lincoln show."

 Kansas City, Missouri

"Cher pulls out all the stops at Sprint Center concert...Cher opened the show standing atop a 20-foot pillar; she ended it riding an enclosed platform high over the arena floor, waving to fans regally, like the icon she is...At times this show felt like one long and lavish valediction [an act or expression of leave-taking]...prompted raucous ovations from a crowd that spanned three generations...For her finale, as she sang the inspirational ballad “I Hope You Find It,” Cher rode that platform to the back of the arena, as if in the midst of heavenly ascension. She would return to the stage to bow and wave and blow kisses to all corners of the arena. If that truly was her last farewell, it lifted her stature to greater heights.

St. Louis, Missouri

I grew up in St. Louis and so I'm always interested in how she plays there. My first Cher concert ever was in 1989 at the St. Louis Arena downtown (since demolished). What I liked about the latest review there was that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch linked to the review of the Farewell show review there in 2002. You can definitely read a change from that review to this show. Not that much has changed about the show. Something has changed about their attitudes about Cher.

The 2002 Farewell Review

"Cher came to Savvis Center on Monday night to a packed house, was style-heavy and substance-free, appropriate since that sums up most of Cher's music history. It also describes her last tour, the one for "Believe" a few years ago…What Cher offered during her quickly moving 100-minute concert was good, dumb fun."

Some back-handed compliments there all of which was toned down in this year's review:

"Cher razzles, dazzles...Over the course of 18 songs, the consummate entertainer delivered a fabulous time full of rock classics, dance favorites, ‘80s power ballads and obligatory new tunes, all having their own place in the show...The show was free of any thought-provoking subtext, but rather a celebration of all things Cher. She promised ridiculous outfits and fabulousness, and that's what she gave...The packed house ate up every morsel. “I haven’t gotten this reaction anywhere,” she said. “You all are on drugs.”...Cher, whose costume changes numbered about a dozen...the fact she can still pull it off is to her credit."

Milwaukee, Wisconcin

"Mick Jagger might still be rocking out in his senior years — but let's see him try to pull off a Rolling Stones show with exposed butt cheeks and a thong...And without those "stupid costumes" — which were unapologetically gaudy, and undeniably impressive — Cher wouldn't be so fabulous...Yes, the tour was dressed up to kill, an overstimulating spectacle that compensated for any of Cher's shortcomings. But it's a testament to the music that the show could span so seamlessly between '60s hits and 2013 material like "Woman's World." Cher's steady contralto never faltered, either, across an hour and 40 minutes...And during the night's quieter moments, Cher reminded us of why she is so captivating. There was a sweet and sentimental video duet with the late Sonny Bono for "I Got You Babe." A cover of Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis" was a warmhearted tribute of sorts to Elvis Presley (probably wise she didn't take on the King head-on). And one of the set list's least celebrated songs — "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," from her more-or-less forgotten musical "Burlesque" — was a memorable display of an impressive vocal range delivered with patented diva drama...With Friday's concert, Cher became only the 10th act to headline the Bradley Center at least four times. The others: Billy Joel, Janet Jackson, Tim McGraw, Yanni, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Bon Jovi, Metallica and Bruce Springsteen, who has headlined the arena seven times, more than anyone else...Best merch item: A glittery Cher tumbler for $25."

"As timing would have it, Cher and Cyndi Lauper's Milwaukee concert happened the same day that Wisconsin's gay marriage ban was overturned. But while both pop stars are outspoken advocates for LGBT rights, neither spoke up about the ruling....Some artists nurse water during a show. Others beer. Cher's drink of choice: Dr Pepper. But she said she was trying to kick it, so Friday she was sipping Dr Pepper watered down with Perrier.

Also came across this paper's review of Closer To the Truth: "My Love" is a dizzying, heart-fluttering melodrama, "I Walk Alone" (co-written by P!nk) is an apt soundtrack for empowered speed-strutting (or jogging, or dancing), and, with her charged contralto, she dominates album-opener "Woman's World," co-written and produced by Paul Oakenfold." But while "Closer" can be campy fun, the truth is it picks up right where 1998's "Believe" left off, with minimal updates to bring her European dance club sound to the 21st century."

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