The 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.