Cher as Indian

20180106_150355So this story (finally) broke last year at Christmas, controversy about Bob Mackie and Cher's use of the Half Breed headdress and Cher's presentation as an Indigenous American or American Indian. And I knew I would need to address this story next but I've been putting it off, not because I didn’t want to talk about it, (because I do), but because there is so much to say, so much complexity in this social situation. Could I even sort through it? It involves liberals attacking liberals, it involves conservatives stirring the pot, cultural appropriation, contested appropriation and hundreds of years of history.

20180106_145347I took this image above of the Cher doll as I was taking down my Cher Christmas tree. Amazingly, one of the headdress feathers became caught in the hand of "out-of-the-box" Cher doll, and the image uncannily expresses my ambivalence and sadness around this issue. I'm calling the picture "VAMP with Cultural Feather." That lead me to take this "Sad Stack of Cultures" photo to the right.

I also thought about starting a poll on the controversy but got stumped imagining what question I could ask. Are you Indigenous American or American Indian and offended? Sounds kind of offensive and who would take a poll like that? I’m just hoping for some essay from Indian Country Today to surface on the issue.

So let’s begin with full disclosure, I’ve been a Cher fan for a long, long time and when I was a kid in the 1970s, I thought Cher was and American Indian until I was about 8 years old. I finally found her biography in the local library in St. Louis. And so since then I’ve considered Cher to be half Armenian and half 1950s blond bombshell (although her mom was not a natural blonde). Do most people even know Cher’s heritage? How many have read her biographies? Probably very few. And many may still assume she's Indigenous American (I'm going to stick with that term).

SNegraince the 1960s Cher has been interested in and wearing Indigenous-American-inspired clothing, sometimes on stage, sometimes to major events, sometimes at home. When Sonny & Cher started appearing on variety shows in the last 60s, they started theming their jokes around Sonny’s Italian-ness and Cher’s Indian-ness, to use their word. This was ramped up in their own television shows of the 70s. Cher also moved in and out of other culture areas in her TV performances, including French, Hispanic, American Indian, Japanese, Chinese and African American. Diane Negra talks about Cher’s fluid ethnicity in her book Off-White Hollywood, American Culture and Ethnic Female Stardom. She essentially labels Cher as ethnically indeterminate and therefore map-able to many ethnicities. The cover of the book boldly advertises Cher in the Half Breed headdress.

This flexibility is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending upon if you want Cher representing your community or not. And the gravitas around the issue has evolved over the years. Before the 1970s, ethnicity was avoided on TV or un-apologetically appropriated. In the 1970s, consciousness was being “raised” about the value or “coolness” of ethic differences and this was often explored on hipper TV shows. Looking back now, from where an authentic identity has much more bitcoin, exploration and celebration look very similar to the earlier appropriations.

For years I’ve been wondering how Cher’s identification as Indigenous American and her choices to wear Indigenous-American-inspired clothing has landed from decade to decade. Older Native Americans seemed hesitant to weigh in. But younger activists seem to be taking more offense, but still below the level of what Paris Hilton (Halloween costume) and Wayne Coyne (stage costume) received a few years ago.

The issue is complicated for many reasons:

  1. There’s the song “Half Breed” from 1973 that no one seems to be taking issue with because a) it’s a song about harassment of minorities and b) it’s a bad song living nine lives due to its camp factor. On the one hand it has cheesy drum beats that might indeed be too ridiculous to offend. On the other hand, it showcases details like the offensiveness of calling an Indigenous woman a “squaw.”

  2. HeadlresslesscherThen there are Cher’s stage "costumes" which are the most visible element, the Half Breed headdress Cher has been wearing since 1974 is actually modeled after a male war bonnet and some in the Indigenous American community have equated it with wearing an unearned purple heart. And from their point of view, the bonnet is no more part of a “costume” than a Catholic clergy cassock is part of a “costume.” People don’t like to hear their religious objects demeaned by words with trivial connotations. Regardless, over the years this headdress became an “iconic outfit” for Cher, right up there with the Turn Back Time leather strap-on and the fur (possibly bobcat) vests of the mid 1960s. The controversy over the headdress exploded in December and Cher has since stopped wearing it in her Vegas shows (see a fan's picture to the right). Cher is still wearing the Bob Mackie design that goes with it. It’s interesting to me that the December scandal raised the issue again now when Cher has been wearing the headdress in her concerts since 1999. There may be a reason for that.

  3. Then there's the issue of Cher presenting herself as Indigenous American on her TV shows. And although Cher presented herself as many international and national archetypes on the shows, she was most notably "Indian." A clear story has never emerged with documented proof about Cher’s alleged Cherokee identity. And documented proof is itself a controversy (see below).

  4. And then there was the Twitter fight with the activists, starting from a statement coming out of Donald Trump’s camp. Conservative and liberal politics added another layer of frustrations and communication misfires between Cher and activists and you'd think there would have been a statement ready from Cher’s public relations team, like crafted 30 years ago.

The Trump connection further complicates the issue for sure. (from Jezebel.com)

“In 2017, nobody in their right mind would take this seriously as an emblem of Native American cultures......except Trump’s new Canadian/American pop star appointee for Native American Ambassador on the National Diversity Coalition! Former Pussycat Dolls member Kaya Jones!”

Some American Indian activists took issue with Jones’ claimed heritage:

“Since the December 8th announcement that she will represent Native Americans on the national stage, Jones has been tagging herself as a #Halfbreed along with claims that her father is Apache Native American. When asked, she can’t name the reservation her father lived on or his tribal origins...but what she can do to represent Native American peoples is channel Cher. So now people previously unfamiliar with “Half-Breed” are taking Cher to task.”

Those being millennial Indigenous Americans. I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with their feeling what they feel. Why should they remember cultural work that may or may not have happened in their lifetimes? All they see is Cher appropriating.

When Cher was on prime time American television she was a cool, hip superstar and giving airtime to images of minority women rarely seen elsewhere on prime-time, glamour television. Young girls and boys were seeing that and influenced by it. But that was cultural work done then, a perishable credential.  Some day we may look back on the cultural work of Will and Grace and see it as stereotypical, too. 

I’ve always had this gnawing feeling that Cher was somehow “getting a pass” on her “Indian look.” Why, over the last 50 years, was nobody was calling her out on it? That's not to say I didn't like it. But it’s impossible to believe that there have been no American Indian ticket-holders to the last two decades of live shows that have included the song and the headdress.

This was a bizarre related incident. I went to a show in 2013 with a white, Gen Y girl who became greatly offended by Cher’s Eastern Indian sari worn for the song “All or Nothing.” But she had no strong feelings whatsoever about the ceremonial Indigenous American headdress. (I've included a few existing articles below.)

I’m guessing here that Cher’s Indigenous American fans are older and this makes me think younger fans are feeling more offended because they have zero context to Cher’s persona in the 1970s. I could be wrong about this but there does seem to be a response difference in age groups. And newer kids have no context to “the way things were,” which has always been a thin-ice defense as it is.

Quite possibly the idea of Half Breed has outlived its previous pass. Which is making older fans feel very sad because they believe Cher as Indian was doing cultural work. (But maybe it’s also doing cultural damage now.) Older fans also feel the headdress is beautiful and they nostalgically love it and feel bad hearing that their love of something has been construed as bad or wrong. Do they then not have agency to love or appreciate? I feel for the fans here, too.

And that the whole issue beginning as a continuation of anger over Trumps position vis-a-vis Indigenous Americans just makes it all the more tragic, because the headdress issue has been lumped in with frustration over the status of the Keystone Pipeline struggle, Trumps dismissive Pocahontas comments, and his choice of an ambassador a woman with dubious claims to Indigenous American heritage.

And then there’s the very real issue of proving your Indigenous Americaness, which has controversy even within Indigenous American communities and leads to issues like blood quantum and time spent growing up on the reservation, how you get excluded and included even in your own communities.

“If you're Native American, there's a good chance that you've thought a lot about blood quantum — a highly controversial measurement of the amount of "Indian blood" you have. It can affect your identity, your relationships and whether or not you — or your children — may become a citizen of your tribe.” (NPR) 

So what a mess it all is. How can we even separate out all these issues for a second. Again, I keep waiting for a good essay on the Cher problem to appear somewhere. I want a method to proceed, guidelines, context, a way forward. But unfortunately life doesn’t always work that way.

As a word nerd, I’m inherently interested in the evolution of offensive words, including a word like “costume.” We learn in etymology class, that culture is impossible to promote, protect or contain. That’s why it’s so hard to get everyone to use a certain word or not use a certain word, like “costume” or "Native American" or even more offensive words like whore and retard. It’s also why we keep wanting to “dress up” like nuns and ceremonial chiefs for celebratory events. Sometimes when you’re trying to learn or appreciate another culture, you try to wear another man’s hat.

You can say tone means a lot, but quite often even the tone is all wrong. And policing tone is full of problems. It’s unfortunate but culture has a massive mind of its own. Not that we should just let that stand and endure. But we should recognize that not everyone gets the memo, literally. But even emotionally and intellectually. Teaching empathetic understanding takes work, much of it teaching concepts that are abstract and painful to deliver and receive.

The fact that many conservatives dismiss word politics has to be addressed here as well. I have no doubt that if Cher was a member of their circle, they would be defending the Half Breed headdress to the ends of the earth, as part of their ongoing fight against the “scourge of political correctness.” In this atmosphere, other liberals become easier targets because they care at all. Which makes the headdress another casualty of the recent heightened awareness of Trumpian offenses.

So yeah, it’s 2018 and we’re focusing on micro-aggressions, which should be a good thing. We’re finally getting to the micro stuff, unintentional but still hurtful stuff. Problem is we’re losing focus on the macro-aggressions, which in no way have been wrapped up: discrimination in marriage, jobs, housing, physical violence, bullying at an all time high. Our energy seems frayed and raw right now. Do we keep finishing work on the macro but not stop work on the micros?  Will the macro ever resolve itself? Will racism ever stop happening?

Another issue with liberal call-outs is when critics offer no way through. What is acceptable behavior between cultures? What are we working toward? We need examples of that and we need it on TV. What was so great about 1970s television as it began to integrate, (projects of which Cher was a part), was the fictionalization of race issues and examples of how to behave correctly. We’ve completely lost that with network and market-designed segregation of television programming and the self-segregation that occurs with too many segmented channel (and online) choices.

But if there’s no way through for offenders or victims, what could possibly change? Confusion and paralysis sets in. “I’m drowning here and you’re describing the water,” misogynistic Melvin Udall says in As Good as it Gets. At some point, calling out all the drownings becomes absurd. 

But I can hear the response: “it’s not my job to find a solution to the world’s problems.” I wonder whose job it is. And if it’s nobody’s job officially then it’s everybody’s job. So it is your job, long story short. And adding one more voice to the chorus of complaints will do nothing but ensure all our future suffering, and the suffering of all our friends.

 

Some discussion of the issue to date:

  • Native or Not (how controversial was “Half Breed” and were there protests?) (2008) From Mental Floss
  • "Is Cher Indian" (2013) from Waiting to Get There
  • "Cher in a Headdress Again" (2013) from Newspaper Rock
  • "The Controversy of Cher's Heritage" from Native Arts
  • Recap of the December 2017 drama on Jezebel.
  • "My Strange, Strange Holidays Arguing with Cher, yes, THAT Cher" (2017) from TiyospayeNow
  • "Why is Cher Arguing with Native Twitter" (2017) from Storify

Cher Mags, Shows, Movies, Music, TV, Fashion, Merch

Linda_CherWhat a Cher year it's been, starting all the way back in January with "Prayers for this World."  It's a bit overwhelming and I can't believe I haven't blogged since Halloween! My own Fall has been crazy with three sets of house guests and the production of a new political poster for the my art action group ArtBrawl (we decided on a name last summer). We also recently launched a Facebook page that has been tracking our goings-on. Two weeks ago we started screen printing.

For Cher this seems like a critical mass era where she’s producing a plethora of new things, all while older work is getting re-evaluated constantly (her fashion, songs and movies).

Tributes  

Bob's Burgers did a tribute to Cher on their Halloween episode. Technically Linda is dressed as a "Cher-iff," a sheriff dressed like Cher (or Cher with a badge). 

Linda explains her costume as having “handcuffs, a badge and a body that just refused to age!” She also wears a diminutive cowboy hat. “OH, I LOVE her!” she says and then says to Bob, “Snap out of it! From the movie!”

Linda stays in her Cherfit for the whole episode. The outfit is basically the Turn Back Time V-fit with extra Linda coverage, darker stockings and the leather jacket and Cher’s own latter-day boots. I appreciate that the cartoonists put Cher in the original Turn Back Time V-fit and not the concert version hole-fit that everyone now associates with the song.

Some clips:

- Linda explaining the costume
- The family trick-or-treating

While searching for show clips I also came across this story about Ellen wearing the hole-fit version a few years ago. They're very different outfits and now when Bob Mackie talks about designing the Turn Back Time outfit I have no idea which outfit he's talking about.

  VideotbtCher-ellen

 

 

 

 

 

 Magazines

CloserCloser magazine came out with a Cher tribute issue in November which is pretty good. Some new pictures and stories inside. There have also been some new online articles about Cher like these on motherhood and retirement.

Cher scholar Tyler also located this Travel Girl article on Cher: http://travelgirlinc.com/cher-glamorous-gorgeous-still-going-strong/

 

 

 

Charity & Social Causes (Twitter)

Cher has been busy with social and charity causes. She's working with Ben Stiller and others to get supplies to Puerto Rico:

Cher also took part in an auction for veterans on Veteran's Day.

And (thanks to Tyler again) here's a found clip of Cher's interview at the One Young World Conference where she launches Free the Wild and talks about how she's been working with Bob Geldof's manager to launch the animal rescue charity. She talks about her fake fur and a few rescued elephants.  She also says the song "Walls" was from "Believe" producer Mark Taylor.

In the Twittersphere, Papermag has also offered "A close reading of Cher and Rihanna’s Twitter Exchange"

Cher Shows

Las Vegas: There's Las Vegas and then there's the original Las Vegas. I went to them both in the last few months. The older one is actually in New Mexico, an old west town rougher than Tombstone. Mr. Cher Scholar got his masters in archaeology there a few years back (which is why we live in New Mexico now). We took Mr. Cher Scholar's brother to The Plaza Hotel there to do some ghost hunting. Mr. Cher Scholar's brother even has ghost hunting gear. There also happened to be a Halloween party there that night.

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A few weeks later we went to the other Las Vegas where I finally saw the November 11th Classic Cher show. Our seats were not as close as the cancelled show seats we had in spring, but they ended up being better seats than I thought. Cher opened her monologue with "You've probably planned a long time for this." Tell me about it! I was shell shocked the whole weekend worried about a cancellation. Sigh. Sometimes I think I just want it too much. Cher talked about mid-era Sonny & Cher days working show rooms and living in Motel 6 like motels with Cher attempting to cook their diners in the rooms.

It was a great show. I particularly liked the new graphics for "Walking in Memphis" and "The Shoop Shoop Song."

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I really loved the faux Cher Vegas sign. So retro and fun!  

News about the show:

Broadway Show

There's a page for the Chicago shows of The Cher Show. It would be nice to see a bit more of the performers involved and a better logo. An article from Junkee on the show which captures a lot of her tweets related to it.

Cher Music

"Ooga Boo" is now for sale and when you buy through smile.amazon.com, money goes to charity.

Cher did an interview for the BBC ostensibly about her new song "Walls" but the interview is kind of fluffy and truncated before we get to discussing the song.

Music History

Cher scholar Robrt found this 2016 commercial that uses Cher’s 1967 song “It All Adds Up Now.”

Cher scholar Tyler found this clip of Cher lip synching her way through "I Found Someone in chain-mail-fit"

Cher Movies

It was announced that Cher will play the part of Meryl Streep's mom (in flashback) in the sequel to the movie version of Mama Mia.

OrgasmicMovie History

A great article about Witches of Eastwick seen from 30 later.

 

Television History

CbMy favorite Cher wig is the multi-bun. It's best seen on The Carol Burnett Show. Here's a clip of the sketch.

I heard news that the Get TV Cher shows were coming back. But there's no sign that they will air any new episodes. Last night they played the same Christmas show they aired last year.  This run of shows has been mildly disappointing.

But we can console ourselves with this: Cher scholar Tyler located an opening segment of Laugh In with Sonny & Cher. See Sonny in his groovy scarf. And wow! Some Cher eyelashes there! Cher also gets on a bike. Here's another Laugh In segment with Cher and Tim Conway.

And the full episode of Sonny & Cher on The Glen Campbell Show

And another tribute to Sonny & Cher on David Letterman 30 years ago!

Fashion Influence, Peripherals and Stuff

Ode to an Idol: https://www.image.ie/fashion/in-ode-of-an-idol-the-iconic-and-timeless-wardrobe-of-cher-88368

The New York Times ran a story about a republican mayoral candidate who happens to be a big Cher fan.

Cher is planning to release more Christmas merch on her site soon. See the products on her Twitter. It looks like the themes will be Chercophanie and Black Rose. You can still buy scarves, too!


Fabulous Fun Fan Fall: Music

CherwallsWalls

This is like my favorite time to be a Cher fan. There’s another new Cher song out! She “performed” a song called “Walls” solo last weekend at the One Young World Festival in Bogota. Here’s an audio clip.

It’s very "Sirens" sounding. Allegedly a single will go on sale to benefit Cher's animal welfare foundation, Free to Wild. Keep a look out for the official recording to purchase. Cher is putting her vocals behind some really great projects this year: Syrian refuges, character-building children’s shows, animal welfare. Hopefully we can all contribute to these causes officially.

This is Cher’s fourth new song this year. Three of the new songs were released as a surprise without PR fanfare and none have been officially released as singles. According to reports, “Walls is expected to be released in the near future with proceeds from sales to be donated to Free The Wild, Cher’s foundation which was created to protect wild animals in captivity.”

Cher was recently trying to free the elephant Kavaan.

According to Newnownext, "It’s always a cause for celebration when Cher releases new music. But when it’s a soulful ballad that subtly knocks President Trump, it’s doubly amazing. The Dark Lady premiered “Walls” over the weekend at the One Young World Festival in Bogota. While it’s ostensibly about emotional barriers, it’s also a dig at Trump’s favorite pet project—a wall along the U.S./Mexican border.”

It’s actually primarily about animals in cages. But I really do love the fact that the song can be read on three layers. They lyrics are vague enough to be read as tearing down Trump’s Mexico wall, tearing down political, emotional or interpersonal barriers, and about cages keeping in wild animals.

In college I made a mix tape of animal welfare songs. And yes, "Bless the Beasts and the Children" was in the mix, completely un-ironically. However," Tame Yourself" by Raw Youth has always been my favorite animal welfare song. Although I see now that the finger crossing in the video is a little over the top. The song was recorded to benefit PETA and was released as a compilation with other animal welfare songs.

Cher’s song is not maudlin or accusatory. And it does seem elastically vague enough to be readable with multiple interpretations. We don’t know who wrote it yet but it could be another Diane Warren song. The vague language kind of reminds me of her style.

Which reminds me that Paloma Faith, who has a new album coming out soon and a new single posted on YouTube, now has a Diane Warren connection.

LovecanhurtSo Paloma is an artist that I love so much I’ve accidentally purchased one of her albums twice. And I did this recently. After buying her third album twice, I became enraptured with the video and the song "Only Love Can Hurt Like This" and for about a week I listened to it nonstop before I realized it was written by none other than Diane Warren. I love this song. And I know I’ve been pretty vocal about my feelings about Ms. Warren. Like most people, I’m too opinionated about music. And way less opinionated in poetry where I'll return to writers I don’t like to see if I might become more open to them.

Most Cher fans love her Diane Warren songs. My friends, all 80s kids, love her songs, too. I’m pretty much a minority of one in my distaste for them. In fact, my friends and Cher-fan friends might say I have a bonafide prejudice. And in this world of over-opinionization, opinions have become pretty meaningless. I’ll argue strenuously any day of the week that music preferences are completely subjective any way you look at it.

But it’s my blog so I can complain if I want to. However, I’m now faced with the issue of there being Diane Warren songs I like.

To recap what I haven’t liked: 1) simplistic melodies (Cher’s “Turn Back Time” being particularly grating), 2) easy rhymes and platitudes (Cher’s “Love and Understanding” maybe the worst offender), 3) ubiquitously found on everybody’s albums, including now the incomparable Paloma Faith!, 4) if you write a song about smiles, it has to live up to the smile of the person singing it. (The whole sub-genre of smiling songs we can leave to another day.)

HosAnd this reminds me that John Waite has also released a new album with a good version of Donovan's “Catch the Wind” which Cher covered too in 1966. Which yet again reminds me of that day in 1989 when the first Bad English album and Cher’s Heart of Stone were released on the same day.

And in full disclosure, of all the many, many Diane Warren hits I have liked the following: "Unbreak My Heart," "If You Asked Me To" (Patti LaBelle’s version), and as a preteen I really did love the build-up and synthesizers in Laura Branigan’s "Solitaire." Oh, and Michael Bolton’s "Time, Love and Tenderness" was one of the few cassette singles I ever bought  because it felt like an updated, edgier version of the Barry Manilow’s cheer-up song "I Made it Through the Rain."

But I can live happily never having heard these songs again: "Because You Loved Me," "Look Away," "Blame it on the Rain," "Don’t Turn Around," "Rhythm of the Night," "Don’t Want to Miss a Thing" (ugh, really hate that one), "I Get Weak," "How Can We Be Lovers," "Just Like Jesse James," and Heart’s "Who Will You Run To."

I can’t argue with the powerhouse that is Diane Warren. All I can say is that I love "Only Love Can Hurt Like This" and have to throw some of the credit for that to Paloma Faith who has really taken the song and made it part of her retro-ouvre.

It will be interesting to find out who wrote “Walls” and if I’ll have to eat my hat again over liking it for the very same reason I don’t like Warren’s other vague lyrical material.

CherfutureEveryday People

More material from Cher’s commercial with Future (that news feels like old news now, huh?).


Cher in Movie History

GoodtimesThanks to Tyler (again! He's a Dr. of Cher scholarship) for sharing this great blog post on Good Times.

"Good Times" is not necessarily a good movie by normal cinematic standards. In fact, let's come right out and say it -- it's a bad movie by most cinematic standards. But it's still fun to watch, especially if you think of it as a series of music videos instead of a movie. Or maybe just think of it as a preview of their TV variety show from a few years later.

ChermaskAnother great article about Cher music on TV and in the movies.

The article singles out the recent covers of “Believe” on singing competition shows and also super rarities in the movies, like the song “Human,” the never-released gem from the soundtrack of Stuck On You. It's one of my favorite later-day Cher songs although the production sounds a little back bedroom. Another interesting mention is Cher's performance of “Little Egypt,” the infamous, badly-lit scene cut from the final release of Mask. You can see the outtake here (and in  Peter Bogdanovich’s Directors Cut DVD). It's the part of the movie where she runs into Gar at a picnic that turns into a party and she's trying to lure him back into her life.

I haven’t seen this movie in years. Maybe it’s time.


Cher in Television History

SonnychercarolNostalgia TV

So much good TV history stuff this summer, but I’m a bit frustrated with the ever-repeating reruns of reruns that is Sonny & Cher on GetTV. For all of you who didn’t kill yourselves to get this channel, you can rest happily. As a consolation, GetTV has provided a quiz on their website: Are you more Sonny or Cher? I scored as Cher: a free spirited, outspoken, wise cracker.

Over at the other beloved re-run channel MeTV there is a story about Classic TV Stars Who Are Still Touring and 10 Iconic Facts about Cher.

Carol Burnett Show

Cher scholar Tyler discovered this delectable early Carol Burnett Show episode with Sonny & Cher from the mid 60s. The full episode includes everything (the solo of "You’d Better Sit Down Kids" and the duet "Living For You," plus the big finale number) but Cher’s solo is missing audio.

 For that solo, you have to visit this other link. Carol Burnett introduces Sonny & Cher as part of a “wild, way out movement [hardly]. They country jam this groove-fest.

Cher comes across as a shy, morose teenager in these numbers and at one point actually creeps off the set. Sonny tries to be so groovy, but WTF is he wearing on his leg? Cher’s correct, though, he has very nice hands.

The big number (at mark 45:10) is really something to see. Cher in very shy and unsure as Carol Burnett and Nanette Fabray exhibit the kind of duo chemistry that makes Cher look like a big third wheel. It’s exactly the same shut-out that occurred in 1975 between Cher and Tina Turner, when Kate Smith looked like the third wheel in the big Beatles tribute.

Magic on The Cher Show

Another great find (thanks to Tyler) was this Cher Show appearance by magician Mark Wilson. Cher plays his assistant. It’s pretty cheesy by today’s standards, there’s a big overhead of assistance, lame jokes and is that Gloria Steinem in the un-enthused crowd?

GroovypadLove American Style

Truer than the red, white and blu-oo-oo! The full episode of Sonny and Cher’s appearance on Love American Style from January 1971.

It’s called “Love and the Sack.” I loved this show as a kid. This time I noticed how goofy and Mary-Tyler-Moore the set looks: a wicker chair, peace sign art, 1960s plants, and the ubiquitous guitar in the corner.

Cher (as April) is waiting for a surprise marriage proposal from her boyfriend Henry. A sack arrives with Sonny in it, postage due. Sonny says, “I mailed myself to you” as if that’s not a creepy-stalker thing to say. Stranger danger!

Sonny, who’s name we never learn, tries to convince Cher/April that life with Henry would be a mundane affair of track housing, missionary sex and too many babies. Meanwhile he has a motorcycle, a loft in the village with a bathtub sofa, (I looked that up and found nothing but a slew of bathtubs converted into sofas), and promises her a Turkish-bath honeymoon (I looked that up too).

So Henry shows up and Cher says “get back in the sack!” See, in the 60s, sack was a double-entendre. Anyway, Henry comes in and offers to take Cher out for Cock-a-doodle Chicken. (This show is so randy!) And bingo, all of Sonny’s predictions come true. Henry IS a stiff who wants her to be a baby factory. Henry calls Sonny a bag of soft potatoes and calls Cher/April a kook and a weirdo for having a man in a sack in her living room. Sonny tells Henry to offer Cher/April “Italian sausage.” I kid you not.

I honestly feel this skit shows a solid preview of Cher’s future acting chops.

Glen Campbell and Jerry Lewis

We lost both Glen Campbell and Jerry Lewis this summer. Cher worked with Glen Campbell back with the Wrecking Crew in the 1960s. He also appeared on Cher Shows; Cher appeared on Glen's shows, both with and without Sonny. Cher was also a guest on Jerry Lewis’ TV show and he appeared on hers, with and without Sonny. These are my favorite clips:

Cher and Glen do one of their last medleys (of many) together.

Jerry Lewis on Cher’s show.

Glen1 Glen4

 

 

 

 

 

Cherjerry4 Cherjerry3 Cherjerry2

 

 

 

 

 

Turn Back Time

Cher made the Rolling Stone list of sexiest videos of all time.

Tbt


Cher in Music History

Ms3614 Jackson Highway

There’s a 2014 book, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music, by Carla Jean Whitley that includes some additional information about Cher's experience there in 1969.

I also saw an episode of Merv Griffin with Tom Jones from back in January of 1980. He was promoting a 1979 album called Rescue Me and performing a song called “Flashback.” Merv thought it was an old song but Tom insisted it was brand new, “never before performed.” I wondered if this was the song Cher recorded for her 1976 album I’d Rather Believe in You and it was. Compare the two versions.

Flashback

Tom Jones in 1979 (much more disco, without the piano)

Cher in 1976 (love TJ songs but this version has more texture, IMHO)

These Days

Here’s a good site about everyone who's covered Jackson Browne’s song “These Days” including Gregg Allman and Cher.

"Cher recorded and released a Jimmy Webb-produced covers album, Stars, that attempted to steer her in a more classic-rock direction, but to complete commercial apathy. Cher’s relationship with Allman might have had something to do with her choice of including “These Days” to join the likes of Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” and Derek & the Dominos’ “Bell Bottom Blues” on the track listing — she didn’t just pick a recent hit of his, rather, she gravitated straight towards one of the more mournful ones. The subtle pop-country-rock arrangement on her version of “These Days,” which leans heavy on syrupy strings, still steps back just far enough to let Cher’s voice stand out as something genuinely longing above the haze of schmaltz."

Cher's "These Days"

Gold Star Studio

An extensive blog post about that clip of Sonny & Cher at Phil Spector's Gold Star Studio in 1966.

Mashable also posted a series of pictures of Cher looking like a sullen teen while hanging out at the studio.

Sirens

And where have I been but I just discovered the original version of "Sirens” by Nell Bryden.


Media History With Cher

GtI’m like a kid in a candy story with all this Cher scholarship out right now. Two more articles last week:

Cher Is Still Changing The Conversation In 2017 (BuzzFeed)

“Cher is still making headlines, after more than five decades in the spotlight, because she’s never stopped finding and mastering new outlets for her creative expression.”

The article talks about her “fierce tweets,” her “Cher-style viral disruption,” her ability to project an expression of a 'real' person, her outspokenness, her flamboyance, the way she “tends to downplay her hard work,” her history as a fashion trend-setter, a comedian, an actor, a “cross-genre, cross-generational pop artist,” her ability for “generating memes and moments for decades” and “meme-generating outfits.

Um, meme wasn’t even a word back when Cher was doing it.

The article credits her for a style that “that would eventually almost become commonplace on red carpets.” There’s a funny quote from her 1970s manicurist, Minnie Smith, who said, “What the hell different can you do with fingernails?” They found something.

According to BuzzFeed’s culture writer, Pier Dominguez, Cher has a “reliable self-awareness” and is able to maintain “a kind of “authentic down-home appeal” unfiltered and has become a “larger-than-life movie star” engaged in a “defiance of aging.”

He links to that crazy 1975 television duet with David Bowie. This clip has become a popular reference point since David Bowie died. For years I’ve never been able to decide whether these song mashups were brave or ridiculous. Probably bravely ridiculous.

And this NPR story by Desire Moses, Shocking Omissions: The Resilient Reinvention Of Cher's 'Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves' (NPR).

This piece talks specifically about the song “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” as a vehicle for Cher’s “signature contralto” and androgynous vocals and that was a step away from Sonny’s “straightforward, cheerful music.”

We are reminded here that Cher lost a Grammy for this to Carole King’s Tapestry (not too shabby). Moses explicates the song  as ”a story of classism, sexism and racism,” and Cher's performance “whose strength lies in her embodiment of the character.” It’s the story of a woman who has been “shafted into the same life as the generations of women who came before her.”

I feel like a whole new generation has discovered this song.

“Cher’s emboldened drawls [a perfect way to describe her singing style] transformed the song into an urgent, beguiling pop smash” and “established a pattern of storytelling reliant on exoticism,” Moses says, in reference to “Half Breed” and “Dark Lady.” Moses calls Cher a “red-carpet trailblazer” and the “poster child of 70s glam,” an innovator one step ahead of the times.

This year's statements, my Cherfriends, are not things that have been typically said about Cher by the press. This feels like a pretty big shift toward sainthood.


Tons of Cher Scholarshiping

BelieveOver the summer I did a bit of Cher scholarship and some awesome scholarship came to me.

Chart Masters

One of the most exciting things was this analytics data Cher scholar Aurélien sent me, this study conducted by the site Chart Masters. I love this nerdy stuff! Numbers have been crunched to combine physical sales, compilation and live album sales with digital sales to get a better understanding of a song or artist’s overall popularity. For longtime Cher fans, there aren’t many surprises in this report, but it's still fascinating nonetheless, especially the streaming aspect. Madonna fans in the comments took great umbrage with the new Cher moniker “goddess of pop” (was this a fan label or a press one, I never did know). This week my friend Ann suggested the title "the Nefertiti of Pop Music," but the article suggests possibly a more accurate alternative moniker: the “Godmother of All Divas.”

Something to keep in mind, these statistics don’t take into account Cher's popularity in movies, television programs or any other products and these diminutive sales might prove that Cher’s true popularity lies more in other products beyond music, which makes the longevity of her career making music (to date: 1964-2017) and the Billboard record breaking stats all the more mysterious.

BelievealbumRanking of Top Albums

The first section lists the sales of albums, both physical and digital. I’ve re-ordered the list by top albums by total world sales. However, early 60s and 70s albums numbers were  hindered by the fact that apparently few people invested in buying full albums (is this true?) and there weren’t many international sales. The deep catalog is also severely compromised by the fact that almost a decade of Cher’s output has never been officially released digitally (on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube).

  • Believe – 11,800,000
  • Heart of Stone – 6,000,000
  • Love Hurts – 3,500,000
  • Cher (1987) – 2,050,000
  • Burlesque Soundtrack – 1,375,000
  • Look at Us – 1,300,000 (the best of 60s albums)
  • Living Proof – 1,125,000 (said to be bomb because it landed next to Believe but it doesn’t seem awful, like other Cher bombs below)
  • Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves – 1,000,000 (strong comeback for the time)
  • It’s a Man’s World – 850,000
  • All I Ever Need Is You – 700,000
  • Half Breed – 600,000 (half of Gypsies)
  • Closer to the Truth – 600,000
  • Take Me Home – 550,000 (not as good as Half Breed)
  • All I Really Want to Do – 450,000 (second best of the 60s)

CherishedRanking of Albums That Didn’t Do So Well

  • Foxy Lady – 375,000
  • The Sonny Side of Cher – 325,000
  • Dark Lady – 300,000 (I was surprised at this low ranking considering the album had a #1 hit attached to it; but maybe being in the middle of a highly publicized divorce with the sad end of a popular television show compromised its chances. But it’s nutty to me that Foxy Lady outperformed it.)
  • Cher (1966) – 250,000
  • With Love, Cher – 250,000
  • Wondrous World of S&C – 250,000
  • In Case You’re in Love – 250,000
  • Good Times Soundtrack – 150,000
  • Stars – 125,000 (sad results for three of Cher’s best albums, Stars, Backstage and 3614 Jackson Highway)
  • Backstage – 100,000
  • 3614 Jackson Highway – 100,000
  • Bittersweet White Light -- 100,000
  • Mama Was a Rock and Roll Singer – 75,000
  • I’d Rather Believe in You – 75,000
  • Prisoner – 75,000
  • Cherished – 50,000
  • Two the Hard Way – 50,000
  • I Paralyze – 50,000

Single Rankings

The single “Believe” is a legitimate phenomenon and all the more so for Cher being 52 at the time.

  • Believe – 7,020,000
  • I Got You Babe – 2,870,000
  • Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves – 2,370,000
  • Half Breed – 1,850,000
  • If I Could Turn Back Time – 1,780,000
  • The Shoop Shoop Song – 1,710,000
  • Bang Bang – 1,570,000
  • Dark Lady 1,510,000
  • The Beat Goes On – 1,360,000
  • Baby Don’t Go – 1,300,000
  • All I Ever Need Is You – 1,290,000
  • Little Man—1,270,000 (I’m very surprised this song made the list; I always assumed it was a minor hit.)
  • Strong Enough – 1,170,000
  • A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done – 1,140,000
  • Just Like Jesse James – 1,010,000

Take Me Home doesn’t even make the list. Due to the funkiness of the disco era where they were counting 12-inch singles and chart rankings based on units shipped, the single was certified Gold and it charted #8 on the U.S. Billboard chart.

Other songs that charted in the U.S. but did not make the sales list: After All, Walking in Memphis, The Way of Love, You Better Sit Down Kids, I Found Someone, We All Sleep Alone, All I Really Want to Do, Love and Understanding, and Heart of Stone.

I found it interesting that even for streaming statistics on old catalog albums that have been released digitally, the blips that did occur in sales were usually for single releases, even non-successful singles, for instance a song like “Carousel Man.“ Sometimes music companies make strange choices for singles, (“Sing C’est La Vie” instead of “I Got You Babe” being a famous example of Sonny having to fight the ideas of Ahmet Ertegun at ATCO). You’d think streaming would even the playing field a bit, especially for young people who don’t have the cultural memory of what those unsuccessful single releases even were. According to MJD, this is because most users on Spotify rely on playlists, which just reinforce the "best" of an era.

Some of the charts also have misapplied orphan songs that really belong in another artist category, (Cher versus Sonny & Cher), are actually from soundtracks or live albums or may just be bootlegs.

The brutal summary is that Cher has a dead catalog compared to other artists Chart Masters has studied. I don’t know how she compares to other artists her age or other artists who began releasing material in the 1960s, (besides The Rolling Stones and the Beatles). But Chart Masters does list the records she has broken: longest span between two hits (she’s 8 years ahead of Michael Jackson), oldest artist to have a top Hot 100 song, “Believe” is also the most successful album from an artist over 50, and she’s one of the few artists to win an Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and a Golden Globe.

Cher in Music Guides (It's Never Pretty)

I posted this article a few months ago (http://www.ninjajournalist.com/entertainment/secrets-cher/) but I revisited it over the summer. I like the thematic dissections of Cherness and the article points out that the Burlesque soundtrack was nominated for Grammy. Really? It was and it also won the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association Campy Film of the Year. It must have been a camp-free year. They  also call out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Good!

But the article doesn’t debunk the silly rib removal story, passes an impersonator photo off as Cher, in once place Cher is spelled “share,” and the article claims S&C sang harmonies. They really didn’t. In one place it says Cher excelled in school despite her dyslexia and then later states she always got Cs and D.

Most interestingly, the article quotes writer Nicholas E. Tawa to say Cher’s voice is “bold, deep, and with a spacious vibrato.” That sounded like a rare compliment so I looked up the attribution. In his book Supremely American: Popular Song in the 20th Century (2005) Tawa spends a paragraph on Cher. Here’s the excerpt from Google books.

One small paragraph full of so many common inaccuracies about Cher.

“During the seventies, too, a new kind of performer came into view – the chameleon, always ready to adapt his or her public personality and tailor a singing style to suit the prevalent fashion.”

This is both true and not true. Sonny, Cher's first producer, was a bona fide folk rock artist. He picked the material and he didn’t change in the 1970s. He just handed Cher over to producer Snuff Garrett and so her music style changed. Cher never endorsed adult contemporary and fared only adequately with it (aside from 3 #1 hits), considering how long she was assigned this style by producers). Cher critics are constantly having it both ways. Tawa sees Cher as an exploiter of styles and cynical chameleon (when actually she felt powerless at the time to choose her material). Tawa even admits further down that some artists are “steered hither and yon.” But he must not be thinking of Cher here.

Tawa calls Cher a “case in point” of someone “who gave careful consideration to advancing her career.” If you’re a real student of Cher, you know her career is not Madonna-esque. It was always a fly-by-the-seat music career with occasional attempts at steering, some of which worked, but most of which did not. 

The Chart Master’s study above proves all this. As I said in my comments there: “Cher has never been a successful pop star in comparison (to Madonna) and yet she is consistently accused of being simultaneously too popular and calculated (by rock artists who never have pop hits) and not being popular and calculated enough (by fans of young pop hit-makers). This survey proves she is neither calculated nor popular. Which just makes her icon status all the more mysterious and remarkable.”

From Tawa, this is poor scholarship:

“In order to prove irresistible to her audiences, she had her nose and teeth straightened, her teeth capped, her breasts firmed up, and her body reshaped” and that this is why she succeeded.

First of all WTF does having your body reshaped even mean? That could simply mean twelve months at the gym. Secondly, Cher did have her nose and teeth done in her mid-40s, starting at her third decade of her career after the bulk of her music career was ostensibly over with. Those were fixes for her acting career, beyond the scope of this book on popular music. Other body amendments were allegedly made after pregnancies or in the 1990s and beyond. Tawa implies that she did all this as a young woman in order to make it in the music business. His chronology is completely off base but he plunges ahead with his conclusions.

When he lists her music styles, he includes 60s folk-rocker (true), pop-rock (true), wailed power ballads (is wail really the word one would use if Cher weren't a woman? Does Bon Jovi wail?), disco numbers (true, but why are disco songs always called “numbers”?),  New Wave glitter rock queen in the early 80s (one album of New Wave that was as far as queen-dom as you could possibly get, see album's ranking above), punk (ah, no), an exponent of arena-rock (ok maybe), and in a later reincarnation tried hip hop (is this a reference to It’s a Man’s World?). He leaves out dance (or as some would say Eurotrash) and the biggest hit of her career.

The Poet Scholar

A while back I posted the text of a poem called “Cher” by Dorianne Laux, who does a lot of pop culture pieces. The poem made the rounds again on a fan site and I decided to give it a closer reading and research other comments about it. There are some factual errors in the poem. And I hate to a Nelly-Nit-Pick but…a poem is all about particulars so...

  • Cher's labeled as tall. I guess she was perceived as tall on television but in reality looks tiny.
  • Laux says “before the shaving knife/took her…before they shoved/pillows in her tits” --Cher has never had huge breast implants, only breasts lifts…and even if she has had some, they are not quite “pillows inserted.” That was a huge recurring joke on the television shows, how flat Cher was. She may be bustier now...but not at a pillow level.
  • In general the language is vague and presents a weak ending that doesn’t really say anything: “singing in a sloppy alto/the oldest, saddest songs.”

But there are some really great lines too:

  • “bony shoulders draped/with a curtain of dark hair”
  • “nonexistent butt…I wanted to wear a lantern/for a hat”
  • “throaty panache, her voice/of gravel and clover, the hokum/of her clothes….bullet-hole navel….her crooked/teeth, hit-and-miss beauty” - all this stuff is great, if sometimes backhanded.

The poem originally appeared in a book called The Book of Men in 2011 but Laux re-published it in a book with her husband called Duets (2017). Laux says,

"All the poems are about music and musicians. I love rock ’n’ roll and pop music so my poems feature Cher and Dolly Parton, Mick Jagger, and Paul Simon. And Joe loves jazz and the blues so his poems are about Bo Diddley and Lightnin’ Hopkins, Ray Charles and Monk, among others.

And here:

"I’ve written poems about some of the icons of my time (Cher, Mick Jagger, the Beatles), and I’ve written poems about the artist Manet and his subject, Olympia, a failed poem about Van Gogh’s room in Arles. Those are obvious influences. But I think other influences are subtler and more profound. The music of my time included the harmonic complexities of Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, the rough-edged energy of the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin, the lonely solo of Otis Redding singing “Dock of the Bay.” This is a music I try to bring to my poems and look for in the poems of others."

The Cher poem is singled out here:

In “Cher,” the entire poem is a list of descriptors both plain and precise. Only two verbs activate the poem—and it’s the same verb—“wanted.” The movement comes in the swivels, the mini voltas that spin the poem along its axis. And, of course, how fitting to write a catalogue poem about J.C. Penney’s. It is as if the form was made for such a poem.

And here is a quote saved from Laux's defunct blog: 

"Laux wrote "Cher" after he husband Joe Millar gave her 10 words and told her to use them while saying something she'd wanted to say but hadn't. Laux took the chance to talk about her Cher envy."

So okay that makes sense. Cher envy. It doesn't even need to be based on reality. My bad.

BwlHow Does Cher Sound to a Classically Trained Musician?

And finally, my most favorite scholarshipping over the summer: a new interview and research project!

Musician Todd Grossman, a classically trained musician and teacher, took some time to discuss Cher and her oeuvre, her strengths and flaws all from a more professional perspective.
We talked about Cher’s 60s sound, ticks of self-consciousness, and an objective review on what’s still messy in her catalog and what was maybe overlooked.

Check it out!

Beat2The Idiom of The Beat Goes On

And now the research! I hear the phrase “the beat goes on” spoken as a common idiom constantly on the radio and I read it in print articles, attached to stories that have nothing to do with Sonny or Cher. And I started to wonder what people think this phrase means and how popular it might have become since 1967. I started a survey and found the phrase in lyric tributes, in Internet and scholarly articles and news stories, as book, album and movie titles, made into random images. Then I explored a possible etymology that predates Sonny’s lyric.

Check it out!

 


Cher Commercial with Future; Fundraising with Oprah, Baby Don't Go

ChergapWow. Before I could finish blogging this week, Cher turned up in more stuff.

The Cher Gap Commercial

The Gap has just released an off-the-cuff commercial with Cher and Future singing “Everyday People.” It's great. And painfully short.

- From Ad Week

"A new 30-second ad, debuting today, will air on high-profile TV programming like NFL games, prime time and late night, marking the first time in several years that Gap has advertised on television in the fall back-to-school period."

- From People

"What do you get when you put one of the most iconic female performers of all time on set with the chart-topping rapper of the moment? A duet you never knew you needed. Unlikely duo Cher and Future team up for Gap‘s latest installment of its “Meet Me in the Gap” fall campaign to make some music together — and of course they look really good in their Gap gear while doing it."

- From Logo

"Is Cher’s ad better than Madonna and Missy Elliott’s iconic 2003 Gap commercial? We’ll let you be the judge..."

See the full commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_bbo1hUJeY

And Sonny & Cher singing the song on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour back in the early 70s.

Baby Don't Go

BdgI also forgot to mention this earlier but the Welsh band Colorama just did a very lovely cover of Baby Don’t Go (and it’s good to see something other than "Believe" and "Bang Bang" getting some attention).

 

  

 

Handinhand2Fundraising for Hurricane Harvey Victims

Cher also appeared on TV to do fundraising for Hand in Hand and giving a speech with Oprah. Read CNN's story.

Some links: 

  Cher-oprahHandinhand


New Cher Projects, 2017

ChazSo my summer break was longer than usual. My parents came to stay with us for 5 weeks while waiting to move into a new house in Ohio. I’ve also been taking stock of my writing projects and realized I’m way behind in my self-imposed schedules. I don’t know how this will effect the blog.

But despite the big break, I’ve still accumulated so much good stuff to share. I’ve been working on some new scholarly projects that I’m excited about and will unveil a few (on Cher Scholar and Big Bang Poetry) over the next few weeks.

But as happens every summer, lots of Cher stuff has gone down.

American Horror Story

Chaz Bono has returned to the American Horror Story franchise this year as a one-armed Trump supporter and there are rumors that Cher will be making an appearance this season as well. The rumormongers:

- http://elitedaily.com/entertainment/cher-ahs-cult/2059844/
- http://www.konbini.com/us/entertainment/cher-american-horror-story-cult-cameo/
- https://www.queerty.com/cher-appearing-new-season-american-horror-story-evidence-speaks-20170831

The hate-crime, fascist stuff, not the clown, has scared me right off watching the new show on anything slower than 15x. When entertainment is that close to reality…I’m just a jellyfish I guess. However, I'm going to see Stephen King’s IT movie this Thursday and I’m sure that will be much more pleasant.

You can collect Chaz’s appearance on AHS #6 Roanoke which goes on sale for DVD and Blu-ray October 3.

ClassicClassic Cher

Cher started up her stage shows again. Here are the latest reviews on that:

Her show’s guitarist, Joel Hoekstra, is interviewed here: http://www.sarasotapost.com/great-reading/1362-turn-back-time-with-classic-cher

The Broadway Show

Cher’s new Broadway show had its open call in July and over 500 people showed up:

They predict a Spring 2018 opening: http://www.goldderby.com/article/2017/cher-broadway-musical-tony-awards-news/

Boovs2Two New Songs

Cher made an appearance on a children’s show called Home: Adventures of Tip and Oh and recorded two new songs.

Reviews speak for themselves:

Netflix Got Cher to Record a New Song for a Cartoon Because Netflix Can Do Anything Now

“Cher seems to be particularly picky about what she's recorded in the last decade. There was an album in 2013 (Closer To The Truth), a contribution to the soundtrack of her 2010 film Burlesque ("You Haven't Seen The Last of Me," by the acclaimed Diane Warren), a contribution to the documentary Cries From Syria, a duet with her mother, and a couple of unreleased collaboration (with Lady Gaga and Wu-Tang Clan). She has not been particularly prolific, and this might be considered her first dance floor jam in at least four years.”

Cher's New Trap Track

“To be a fly on the wall where this bonkers song was pitched to Cher... We’re still not sure how this track came to fruition, but we’re not complaining either: somehow the 71-year-old sells this campy trap song.” 

Yes, I had to look it up. Trap is “southern hip hop with ominous lyrics, double or triple time divided hi-hats, heavy kick drums and a Roland TR-808 synthesizer or layered synthesizers.”

Cher’s bizarre new song is the catchiest thing you’ll hear all day

“We love Cher. Not only for her amazing back catalogue, her brave fashion choices or constant trolling of Donald Trump on Twitter, but also because she still has the ability to surprise us with her music” and “gloriously psychedelic video.”

Cher Dropped A Demented Bop Called “Ooga Boo”

“It transcends traditional kiddie fare, however, with the demented electronic production, heavy lashings of auto tune and an annoyingly catchy chorus. It’s the not the comeback we wanted, but it’s probably the comeback we deserve.”

EarstockingsThe Animation Podcast review was hilarious.  (Thanks to cher scholar Tyler for the find).

Animation aficionado ElectricDragon505 had his mind blown by the cartoon, not because of the story or Cher’s appearance on it, but because of of her character’s design. He says it reminds him of a “drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket” or a mutated marshmallow. “What the fridge am I even looking at!” he cries. He likes the Boov characters and their bright, cold colors with flashes of hot yellows, oranges and reds but says the makeup is “even too much for a drag show.” Too much are the comically huge eyelashes and fishnet leggings because the fishnet leggings are even on Chercophanie's ears. (I would agree with that; WTF.) But ElectricDragon505 will even give the designers a pass on all that. What he absolutely can’t abide is a Boov wearing three bras because this forces questions about Boov anatomy that he just can’t face.

This all seemed like a great deal of news for an appearance on a Netflix children’s show, so I did a search for her last un-released but kinda-released song from January and oddly there were zero news stories or reviews about “Prayers for this World” on two pages of Google results except this short blurb:

“First new material since 2013 From a documentary that debuted recently, she is singing with the Los Angeles Children's choir. Absolutely amazing!”

My parents gifted us with Netflix. So I watched the Chercophanie episode last week.

The show is about an interracial or inter-galaxy friendship between a spunky preteen black girl (Tip) and an alien Boov (Oh). The episode is called “Chercophanie/Oh Man & the Sea” and it contains two 15 minute stories. I spent time bemoaning the short attention span of “young people today” as I was watching it and then realized I spent my own childhood binge watching 8-minute Loony Tunes cartoons.

Tip is playing pretend rock star and her friend Oh is playing pretend obsessed fan. By the way, we never played pretend star/fan back in the 70s. We played teacher, waitress, working single-mother, sordid soap-opera Fisher House community, salacious sex-life Barbie, TV news broadcaster, outdoor Missouri shipwreck, and novelist.

DG1ewsoU0AAGmzYBut anyway, Tip is full of artistic torment for fame and glory. Unfortunately, she feels a lack of desire to actually practice singing or guitar playing. But she wants legions of fans, like, yesterday! And she tries to make a big splash as a street singer. The humans hate her performances but the alien Boovs love it. By the way, all Boovs look like octopuses.

Tip loves to talk about “star power” and she calls her fans Tipsters. Cher descends into the scene as “a true star who knows how to make an entrance.” In fact, the show gives Cher’s Boov character plenty of funny entrances. She’s “a cultural enigma” they say but she’s never given the chance to tell Tip and Oh what her true passion is. Spoiler alert: it involves whale-shaped Ooga Boos…which finally explains Cher’s new song then.

StarpowerBut sadly, the public doesn’t care about Chercophanie’s passion and only wants to hear her “rockin voice.” There’s a very funny bit where Chercophanie cries and her massive mascara runs down her face. A makeup Boov rushes in to fix it.  

Chercophanie calls Tip “Twinkle Pie” and takes Tip and Oh to her studio to hear her latest track, “Ooga Boo,” and my parents left the closed-captioning on Netflix so I was able to decipher that confusing lyric: “Moi a tu.”

Tip is over-confident and when she finally hears herself play the guitar, she’s mortified, even after Chercophanie tries some funny production magic. A few times I laughed out loud at this stuff: Boovs crowd surfing, Boovchella. During performances, Tip likes to yell out “how many of you out there have faces?”

CherwhaleChercophanie tells her not to be worried about the reviews, just be you…because following your heart is “where you find true art.”

Fans of Tip, of course, hate the result of that sort of advise and abandon her new direction. One fan calls out, very disgruntled, “my expectations have been defied!”

Cher fans, you’ve been there.