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November 2014
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January 2015

Cher Christmas

SantaTwo Cher scholars have asked me why there was no Cher Christmas tree post this year. Well, the tree stayed in the box out in the garage. There was no Christmas tree this year. No Christmas lights or Christmas cards.

A lot of things conspired at the end of the year to make this so:

- I didn't add a new outfit for the tree this year. That usually inspires me to put up the tree.

- I was bummed out about what a sucky year 2014 was, health wise for everybody.

-  ICANN laid me off right before Christmas and hired people in India to do our jobs. In the turmoil of cleaning up ICANN tasks and preparing to start my new job at Central New Mexico College, I was swamped and pooped.

- Mailing Xmas gifts took all my energy this year so there was little left for holiday cheer. Our house was depressingly dark this year compared to our neighbors but I didn’t have the energy to do anything about it and Mr. Cher Scholar is not the festive type. Although he did try to get me interested in Christmas with his sudden, new-found interest in Christmas yard inflatables. Now if there was a Cher Christmas inflatable...

- I’m in the thick of three new writing projects: my New Mexico novel (post scene-layout, starting the first draft), my Buddhist-cowboy poems (finished the final draft, preparing to submit), and a new eBook (finished final draft; getting ready to publish in early 2015), and a long list of end of the year to-dos regarding my writing and websites. I also reformatted my first poetry book (get it on Amazon or Smashwords at a new price of $2.99).

Cher Christmas

C580_Cher_Ugly_Holiday_SweatshirtNew_grandeLuckily Cher was more festive than me and launched a whole line of Christmas products. I bought the ugly-sweater sweatshirt (and wore it on Christmas to visit my three Aunts) and the White Hat Girls Tee.

 

CloserMy friend Julie wrote to tell me Cher was on the cover of a new magazine called Closer and she saw it at Target. I was a day late and missed it. Here's the article about Cher's cancelled tour.

   


Cher Bits Catchup

Richard-pryorCher History

A pretty funny recent article about how Richard Pryor once freaked out on the set of the Flip Wilson Show and fisticuffs ensued and Cher allegedly went and locked herself in her dressing room. It's an excerpt of a new biography about him. It's interesting that Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor both have new biographies out and how they were pitted against each other in the 1980s: clean comedy versus dirty comedy. And how history changes everything. As Camile O'Sullivan sings: "time's the revelator."

Cher Tweet Explosions

Cher takes the Robber Barons to task. My grandfather would love that Cher is invoking the Robber Barsons. Too bad she hadn’t done this by 1978 when I was eight and he asked me soberly over the kitchen table what her politics were:

In December Cher also tried to raise awareness for abused Pigs:

6a00d8341d6c7753ef01b8d089f36b970c-200wiA few weeks ago I linked to a Sonny & Cher video taken in a record store and Cher scholar Robrt recognized the album cover in the video. I also remembered Cher plays this video in her latest show.

Robrt believes this is their second album released in Italy with the Italian-language singles added.

Hall of Fame

I think from time to time about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s ridiculous prejudice in denying Cher an induction. I figure she deserves to be in for at least these things:

1. Her style influence in the 1960s and 70s

2. The collected impact of these songs alone:

  • “Bang Bang” – figuring the amount of covers this song has had.
  • “I Got You Babe” – and the phenomenal fad of this song.
  • “The Beat Goes On” – and how a pop song title has insinuated itself so fully in our cultural conversations. I hear this phrase over and over again on TV and in publications; and how impossibly uncoverable the song remains to this day.

We've all seen the most well-known picture of Cher and Angelica Houtson:

Angelica1

But there’s also a Cher picture in Angelica's new book, Watch Me.

Cher-houston

  


Cher on South Park

SonnycherMr. Cher Scholar has just gotten into South Park so we’ve been watching rerun episodes so he can catch up on ten years of pop culture.

I hadn't watched the show in years but I remember the Cher satire: South Park police playing “Believe” in a Waco-like attempt to drive the holed-up cult members insane. They call "Believe" really bad music and insist, "Nobody can stand this much Cher." But hilariously, the closeted Mr. Garrison loves the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4t3tB9o5TqY

Before Christmas I saw that South Park also did a breakout riff on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in a very funny mash-up with Terrance & Phillip on the episode “Terrance & Phillip: Behind the Blow” from 2001.

I captured it on my camera. Higher quality link to .wmv: http://www.cherscholar.com/tandpsandc2.wmv

MP4:

FLV:

If I were to describe South Park, I would say it’s one of the best animated shows ever produced, consistently hilarious and well-written morality tales. The creators have impressively tackled movies and Broadway. It's easy to appreciate well-rounded characters like Randy Marsh and Shelly (who's hardly ever on but is one of my favorites), the eternally frustrated Mr. Garrrison, and the goodhearted Butters. And although the show is socially (and verbally) liberal, its creators are decidedly not. Occasionally they go a bit conservative for me. Combined together I'd say they skew overall middle-to-conservative politically. The Huffington Post does a good article on trying to determine the political bias of the show and the complications: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/25/matt-stone-trey-parker-ar_n_475744.html

Speaking of conservative, I came across a conservative blog complaining about Cher’s tweets.  The article is called "The Unbearable Whiteness of Cher" and it sits on the Tea Party News Network. So rest assured there's a gratuitous amount of name calling in the article: Goddess of Botox, Queen of Plastic Surgery, dimwit, tool... My two cents:

  • The article is really about how white the city of Malibu is. And the only reason the article is even worth mentioning is because the author made a pie charge to describe this whiteness of Malibu. His thesis: Cher can't possibly like black people because she doesn’t live near them (as figured in the pie chart). Conversely, Rand Paul is not a racist because Bowling Green, Kentucky, has a higher black population than Malibu.
  • His implied thesis: rich liberals who don’t have a large enough black population in their neighborhoods are banned from discussing race issues. It’s a creepy racist way of saying “It’s not your problem. We’re living with them. Stay out of it.”
  • Although low black populations in rich neighborhoods is a legitimate cause of concern, we can easily find poor white people (living near black people) who would be more than willing to say the same things Cher has been saying. Do you have to live in the appropriate pie-charted neighborhood to judge Rand Paul?
  • If Cher didn’t talk about issues like Ferguson, that wouldn’t go over well either. It’s a trap she can’t win. And Alex David would be calling Cher a hypocrite no matter what she did, unless she agreed with Rand Paul.
  • This is good time to remind everyone how The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour hosted a plethora of black entertainers no other variety show would host or support. But unless Chris Rock becomes her neighbor soon, this probably doesn't count for anything.

   


Another Armenian Poet

Gregory-djanikianTraveling through my other obsession I found another Armenian poet, Gregory Djanikian. Don't ask me how I knew he was Armenian! He was born in 1949 in Egypt and now lives near Philadelphia directing the creative writing program at the University of Pennsylvania. That's not chump change.

Find out more about him:

- Bio on The Poetry Foundation (poem samples at bottom)

- Three Poems

   


Cher Obsession in a New Novel by Darcey Steinke

Sister_Golden_Hair_cover-193x300I've just published a recent interview with the author of a new novel, Sister Golden Hair, about a pre-teen girl named Jesse growing up in the early-to-mid 1970s. I talk to author Darcey Steinke, the daughter of a minister and a beauty queen, about how a celebrity-obsession with Cher works in the narrative and what Cher's "text" means vis-à-vis our struggles with ideals of beauty, role models and holiness. We also talk about the construction of her novel and depicting the trials of a teenager navigating issues of identity.

Great, fun interview!

Interview with Darcey Steinke, author of Sister Golden Hair


Andy Cohen, Kids Books, Cher Impersonator for Safety

AndyThe December 5 issue of Entertainment Weekly does some name-dropping with Andy Cohen. They break out a face chart for all the famous people he name drops in his new book The Andy Cohen Diaries. Here is the list:

Sarah Jessica Parker – 26 mentions
Kelly Ripa – 22
Anderson Cooper – 18
Jimmy Fallon – 12
Diane Von Furstenberg – 11
Ellen Barkin – 10
Martha Stewart – 9
Matthew Broderick – 9
Cher – 8
John Mayer – 8
Allison Williams – 7
Jim Edmonds – 7
Lady Gaga – 7
Madonna – 7
Raph Fiennes – 7
Seth Meyers – 7

The same issue lists 50 books every kid should read. The list had some of my favorites: Where the Wild Things Are, Charlotte’s Web, The Ramona series, The Borrowers, Island of the Blue Dolphins, James and the Giant Peach, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Outsiders, Bridge to Terabithia, Harry Potter.

However the list also included some of the books I was most disappointed in, the Series of Unfortunate Events. EW says this series resists providing easy answers to its messy mysteries. I say phooey on that. If you're interested, here's my longer essay on the dismal end of that series.

The list also left out many of my favorites: Nancy Drew books, Little House books, The Rats of Nimh books. I have to admit, I've never read A Wrinkle in Time. Should I go back and read it?

I have a reputation among my friends for liking movies the rest of my friends hate, including Dutch and The Kid with Bruce Willis. Another movie in the list was The Ref with Denis Leary. This week's Entertainment Weekly just listed The Ref as an “criminally underrated Christmas movie.” Thank you. I have to send this information to my friends.

Cher-roadHealthy Living Alliance in Springfield, Missouri, has hired a Cher impersonator to make a funny public service announcement about bike safety: http://www.ky3.com/news/local/cher-the-road-funny-ad-drives-home-serious-safety-message/21048998_29807412

   


Cher Duets

CherduetsListening to Barbara Mandrell the other day, I came across one of her hits "Woman to Woman." Suddenly an idea for a Cher duet album came to me.

I remember being slightly perturbed by the story that Cher considered doing a duet on the Tony Bennett album but it didn't work out.

Isn't Cher too big to be on some man's cast of duets? Pah-leeese!

No, Cher shouldn’t be appearing on no stinkin' duet albums of some old men. She should be front-and-center on any duets album. She should be the main duet-ee. She's the legend, for Chrissake! Why are men mostly doing these things anyway?

Cher is particularly suited for doing a duets album because she has a history of dueting with an assortment of people on her TV shows and albums and, least we forget, she was part of arguably the most famous boy/girl duo. No one deserves a duet album more than Cher.

And this fantasy duet album should have an age spread. I know she's been cavorting around with a lot with young starlets: Christina Aguilera (oddly, no duet was made there...in the package of a musical no less), Lady Gaga, Pink, etc. This is all well and good. It's very generous and friendly and it keeps her in the realm of coolville. But does she really need youth-dust to stay cool? No. Besides, respect should be give to her favorite colleagues as well as her living idols: a celebration of mothers, sisters and daughters.

Or she could do songs with all men. Or she could do all-female duets of songs made for men. I recently saw a gay punk band in Madrid do a show of awesomely fierce songs they were told women couldn’t cover like Aerosmith's "Dream On."

Please just no duets with Muppets or any dead people besides Sonny. Read Talking Head front-man David Byrne's essay on Barry Manilow's latest album of duets with the dead.

  


Thoughts on Cher Memoirs

MemsThinking about Angelica Huston's new memoir (because one of my friends asked for it for Christimas) and ruminating on her comments about writing it, I'm reminded again of the kind of book Cher might write. Cher could easily put out two books, too, by the way

Last week, in a book called The Mindful Writer I found this quote:

“Let’s say you’re writing about your childhood…as you write, there are multiple variations of you [writing]. There is the wounded nine-year-old you, still (because childhood can be so searingly painful) aching after all of these years. There is the angry teenage you, still needing somehow to rebel, to lash out. There is the twenty-something you who finally recognized how much pain and anger there was in your childhood and what seemed normal to the youngster was neither normal nor healthy. And perhaps there is the forty-three or sixty-three-year-old you, sitting at the desk, trying to explain and explore the memories that somehow never go away. Whose perspective are you going to bring to the [story]? That is not a simple question—there is no right or wrong answer…There is no reason to tackle a subject, even your own life story, if you are not seeking understanding, looking to learn something, asking questions to which you do not know the answer.” That is what will make the work interesting to the reader, and that is what will make the process worthwhile for you.”

One of the recent issues of "Poets & Writers" magazine also broached the topic in an article by William Giraldi: 

“…there’s never been a consummately honest memoir, that all memoirs are fictionalized to one degree or another. The memory’s intrinsic fallibility makes an accurate book unattainable from the word go.”

Happily, complete honesty is not the point of it. If the impossibility of complete honesty ever stopped us, no one would ever tell a story to anybody--ever. Language is fallible but do you stop speaking? No, you acknowledge the imperfection as part of the life of the art.

   


Mike Nichols, Dead at 83

ChernicholsCher with Mike Nichols at his AFI Life Achievement tribute in 2010.

Mike Nichols died suddently of cardiac arrest in Manhattan on November 19 at the age of 83. The Dec 5, 2014 issue of Entertainment Weekly memorialized him with a short essay and a list of his essential films, which included Silkwood, released in 1983. 

Entertainment Weekly's commentary on the movie:

“Astoundingly lived-in performances from Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell, and Cher anchor Nichols’ drama about blue-collar workers in an Oklahoma nuclear-parts factory.”

People often comment on the difference between Cher and Madonna in film. I believe it is just this "lived-in" quality (not affected, not actor-ly) that many critics find so appealing about her performances.

Watch Cher's tribute to Mike Nichols. where she calls him Dad and talks about how he deserves the credit for her Oscar nomination (for her performance as Dolly Pelliker) and how she always called him whenever she was in a bind.