(pictured here: Joe Namath on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour)
(pictured here: Joe Namath on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour)
Karen Black passed away August 8 from cancer. As a horror movie fan, I of course loved Karen Black in both Trilogy of Terror and Burnt Offerings with Bette Davis and Oliver Reed.
Sandy Dennis also died of cancer (ovarian) in 1992.
Here are some publicity shots of Robert Altman (who died in 2006 from complication of leukemia), Black, Dennis and Cher from their work in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean on Broadway in 1982:
But before I go I'd like to cover a few odds and ends.
Finn Hudson, RIP
I was horribly sad to hear of Glee-star Cory Monteith's death from an overdose at the impossible age of 31. I love that show and couldn't help but feel its positivity and bubble of perfectness extended to its stars' lives. Considering what Cory's co-star and girlfriend Lea Michele must be going through right now, it's hard not to think of the stress and worry Cher probably must have felt back in 1976 and 1977 when she was married to Gregg Allman. Living with an addict, the possible outcomes must haunt you daily. It's probably no minor miracle Gregg Allman is still alive today. Unfortunately, Lea Michele was not spared in this regard.
In 2011 I used this blog to post an open letter to the horror movie industry. I'm happy to say they fullfilled my request with the movie The Conjuring. This old-fashioned haunted house movie scared the bejesus out of me last week. I loved the performances, the back story, the inter-cutting of scenes...all of it: top notch. Plus a plethora of early 1970s sets and parphernalia! Both scary and fun.
Just as Cher has been spending time performing in Russia over the last year, Cher Zine also made an appearance there, at the ZineShow in Ukraine.
I'm sure my celebrity scholarship fit right in with the underground political screeds and punk zines.
Ben Folds Five and The Cher Experience
Finally, my iPod shuffle served up one of my favorite Cher-referencing songs that probably doesn't realize it references Cher, Ben Folds Five's song "Best Imitation of Myself." Ben Folds may not realize this song is about Cher, but it is. I've made one slight alteration in the lyric to solidify the simpatico.
I feel like a quote out of context
withholding the rest
so I can be free what you want to see.
I got the gesture and sounds,
got the timing down.
It's uncanny, yeah you'd think it was me.
Do you think I should take a class
to lose my (Elvis) accent?
Did I make me up
or make this face til it stuck?
I do the best imitation of myself.
The "problem with you" speech
you gave me was fine
like the theories about my little stage.
And I swore I was listening
but I started drifting
around the part about me acting my age.
Now if it's all the same
I've people to entertain.
I juggle one handed
do some magic tricks and
the best imitation of myself.
Maybe I'm thinkin myself in a hole,
wonderin who I am when I outa know.
Straighten up now time to go
fool somebody else,
fool somebody else.
Last night I was east with them,
west with them,
trying to be for you what you want to see.
But I can't help it
With you the good and bad comes through.
Don't want you hanging out with no one but me.
And if it's all the same
it comes from the same place.
If my mind's somewhere else
you won't be able to tell.
I do the best imitation of myself.
Yes, it's uncanny you see.
You'd really think it was me,
the best imitation of myself,
I do the best imitation of myself.
That's all for now. I'll write when I can.
After decades of dissings, then surprised condescension at her success in the 1980s, then the 1990s of affected interest with the turn into occasional accolades and credit, the excitement of this round's interviewers is palpable. I’m chalking it up to the inarguable facts of her career piling up and The Cher Show kids finally finding their asses in interviewing seats. It’s truly extra-ordinary and Cher is responding with her grown-up voice and is downright verbose in her responses.
One of my favorite pile-ups of accolades was from SoSoGay,
“Before Beyonce, before Gaga. Before Rhianna and before Katy. Before Britney, Christina, Cyndi and Celine. Before Whitney and Mariah, and before Madonna. Before colour television, before the Vietnam War, before man walked on the moon. Before the decimalized pound. Before everything, before time immemorial…There was Cher….this shimmering vestibule of unrelenting fabulousness….her sparkling tsunami.”
Ed Brody, the author, tells me Burlesque was amazing and to get over myself. I laughed at that. I wish I could. But that's the cross a scholar bears.
Here's more overview of the love:
Candidness: Cher seemed so much less guarded in her face, body, and with her words.
Cher was great fun through all these shenanigans.
On Live Chat NY, Cher says she Pink, Adele, and Amy Winehouse; On XM she said she still has her favorite go-to song (but said it makes no sense) as Procol Harem’s “Whiter Shade of Pale.” SoSoGay reporter mentioned that her song from Not.Com.merical, “With or Without You” taps into that Procol Harem sound.
Twitter & Star Fights:
Exercise & Free Time:
In the New York Times, Cher admits her limited movie offers might be due to her wrinkle-free visage, that her look might make it “hard to be anyone but Cher.” She said this idea “didn’t feel very good. But it was true. I get that. I understand that.” She was also asked about Chad Michaels allegedly having surgery to look more like her: “If it doesn’t bother him, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t feel creepy. I don’t.”
To Andy Cohen, Cher admitted she once wrote "a half-assed book." But before she write the bigger book, people have to die off. She said she and friend, Paulie, talk about it all the time.
Shy Kid to Superstar:
My iPod shuffle served up the Sonny & Cher b-side “Hello” during Cher’s big June/July press push. I was taken by how far she’s come in her confidence.
We've also come to a point of critical mass in her career, where no one (including Cher herself) can pretend this is her first album, movie or project and dismiss or ignore all the preceeding history. I love it when she talks about experiencing showbiz over so long a period of time and, as you can see, all these interviews reflect the breadth of her work, from live shows to TV shows to music albums to being a fashion icon. It's all here.
Not only did Jean Stapleton appear on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour but she sang with Cher when Cher guest-hosted for a week on The Mike Douglas Show in 1979, the same episode Sonny was on. On that very episode Jean said she loved appearing on The Sonny & Cher show because they wrote sketches to let her be who she felt she really was.
However, their duet on the show was not quite so pleasant. Jean did a full Broadway treatment of the song "My Buddy" and Cher did her usual hip Cher version of the song and the two did not mesh. Unfortunately I can't find links or pictures of them together on Mike Douglas.
I did find this clip of Jean Stapleton's work on the early 1970s Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour hamming it up.
I'll miss Jean Stapleton. And sadly, I feel like she's died twice, the first time when they killed off Edith's character on All in the Family.
This is the first Cher special that has occurred since I've had my blog (which started in the fall of 2006). And I have to say, my two favorite Cher things in the world are Cher albums and Cher TV specials. I think this comes from starting to be a Cher fan in the early-to-mid 1970s when Cher was all about some flashy-fun TV Specials.
I noticed some old-tyme Cher special feeling while I was watching this one (luckily Mr. Cher Scholar was at work or he might have been disturbed to see it): childlike excitement, a feeling of suspended time, and then a slight sad fretting that the special would be over in one short hour. A Cher special for me is then like Marcel Proust's madeleine cake in In Search of Lost Time, a key to a vivid childhood memory. I watched it three times.
I loved seeing never-before-seen pictures of Cher as a kid and hearing the family delving into their history in Arkansas.
Bits about the family
Cher calls her history a "strange American story" but it's probably not so strange. Definitely interesting. Definitely American. She kids her mom that they "can only walk the narrow razor wire of white trash so long."
I loved all the stories about Georgia's grandparents, her fierce grandmother who defends her mother with a broken bottle and her mean grandfather who blows himself up while working dynamite to blow up stumps while the railroads in Arkansas were being built. This story is downright poetic with the psychic daughter's graphic dream predicting it. In newspaper reports, Lynda is called a "self-proclaimed psychic." It would be interesting to hear more about her other uncanny predictions or how the family felt about having some psychics in it. Lynda comes across as a very complex figure who is never described mean as such but does her share of mean things.
I wish we had learned more stories about Roy too who spent so much time with Georgia and who, it seemed, Cher knew as a child. He is described also as a complex of mean and funny. When did these family members die? What did they do while they were in California? And what about the story about Roy's attempt to kill Georgia and her brother Mikey. We learned nothing about Mikey.
Cher affirms that her grandmother Lynda's mother was either a quarter or a half Cherokee. Cher claims it was her great-grandmother who taught her grandmother the Rabbit and War Dance. She said although that doesn't make her very Indian, "Half Breed" was a good song to sing.
Bits about Georgia
Georgia was born in Kensett, Arkansas, on June 9, 1926. Her father Roy was 21. Her mother Lynda was 13. She started singing at five and became state champion, described as a blues singer, in Arkansas (May 29, 1938). It was Bob Wills who encouraged her father to take her to Hollywood and they hitchhiked. Georgia talks about being perceived as a "dumb Oakie" when she came to LA. She explains why she changed her name from Jackie Jean Crouch (which she liked) to Georgia Pelham (in honor of a dead friend) and where Holt came from (last husband's name). Her Dad worked at the famous Cliffton's Cafeteria. (It's still open! Go eat there...it's so kitchy!).
Georgia talks about the squalid conditions of living in the slums near San Pedro, Main Street and Central Avenue. Georiga talks at length about her conflicting feelings about her early marriage to Cher's biological father, torn between her mother Lynda, John Sarkisian and an abortion. She tells more about the Catholic home in Scranton that wanted to keep Cher (which inspried Cher's critical song "Sisters of Mercy") and Georgia's eventual 6-week "Reno Cure."
Back from early struggles, Georgia won some beauty contests in Reno and LA (Miss Holiday on Wings) and won a Jack Carson scholarship to drama school with the Ben Bard Players. We get to see clips of her bit parts on both I Love Lucy and Ozzie and Harriet. You can see Cher's 1960's smile in some of these clips and head-shots. The family talks about Georgia being friends with Robert Mitchum and Lenny Bruce and a herd of beautiful people. The Asphalt Jungle story is told.
The list of husbands was illuminating but inconsistent:
We hear much about Cher's longtime boyfriend, Craig Spencer, who came into the picture while Georgia was running Grannys Cabbage Patch quilt shop in Brentwood in the late 1970s. It was Craig who encouraged her to record an album at a West Lake studio. Craig was 30 and Georgia was 51. Craig and Georgia are shown being interviewed by Oprah early in her career. In old late-1970s clips, Georgia talks about having the same vocal resonance and register as Cher. Craig and Georgia talk about their disappointments that the album was shelved due to contract disputes. Craig laments, "50% of something is better than 50% of nothing." The recordings languished for years in Georgia's Palm Desert garages. Cher says they shouldn't have survived.
Georgia comments a bit on her depression and how she became "a royal pain" after this late career setback but nothing about family depression is elaborated on. Georganne talks about Georgia's unique carriage and demeanor and I think that was spot on. Cher calls her before her time.
Bits about Georganne
We learn all the many shows Georganne appeared in and it's an impressive listing: General Hospital (where she created the mean-girl character of Heather), Ozzie's Girls (with a young Matt Harmon), Welcome Back Kotter, Happy Days, Fantasy Island, TJ Hooker, Police Woman, The Streets of San Francisco. Would love to see her full reel!
Cher talks about living her life like a bumper car. Georgia claims Cher is stronger and braver than she is. Cher and Georgia tell the story of Cher's arrest (on January 27, 1959, complete with mugshot) and how the event started at a bowling alley before Cher drove off in the borrowed car to get a sandwich. A picture of the famous LA-eatery Johnnie's Pastrami is shown. By the way, the profile and head-shot of the mugshots do not match.
Scenes from the TV biopic The Beat Goes On are show to illustrate Cher's stories about moving out of the house as a teenager and moving in with Sonny. I've always wondered if Cher approved of that movie based on Sonny's tell-all book. Cher indicated that Georgia threatened to put Sonny in jail. Cher was in her teens and Sonny was nearly 30. I wonder how far Gerogia's threat went and if it was a real concern for Sonny. Interestingly, Cher talks about her anger when she finally ran away and back to Sonny, kicking out her bedroom window screen in what she describes as a dramatic scene.
Georgia eventually got used to the idea of Sonny and talks about how proud she was of Cher when she visited Sonny & Cher the set of Good Times.
Sarkisian as in Cherilyn Sarkisian. She was named for Lana Turner's daughter Cheryl combined with Georgia's mother's name Lynda. It's interesting that Georgia picks all her names based on women in her life. Cher was born May 20, 1946.
Even the special could not clear up the cloudiness surrounding spellings of LaPiere. In the beginning of the special, Georganne's name was spelled Lapiere Bartylak (no space, small P) and by the end of the special, husband #5 had his name spelled Gilbert La Piere (space and a big P). Gilbert's obit spells his name LaPiere. In any case, there are no two letter Rs in any of these versions.
Chaz Bono was born Chastity Sun Bono on March 4, 1969.
Elijah Blue Allman was born on July 10, 1976. (Why did he wear sunglasses throughout the special?)
There were things I missed that a one-hour special couldn't hope to cover: a sturdier timeline of when Georgia's family moved from Arkansas to Oklahoma to California. More Arkansas stories, more stories of Cher's grandparens. A more complete list of the husbands with dates and more anecdotes. I know Georgia married John Sarkisian twice but I still don't know which other husband Georgia married twice. She had 8 marriages and 6 husbands.
More good stuff:
I've listened to Honky Tonk Woman, the new album by Cher's mother Georgia Holt, (at left the two of them first photographed together in 1946), three times now. These were lost tapes from recordings made in 1980 with the Elvis Presley band. Cher's current band refurbished the tracks and helped Georgia to release the album last month.
I love the country feel of the cover. I downloaded the album from iTunes and so haven't seen what any inner CD packaging or recording details there might be.
I'm Just Your Yesterday: I can understand how Georgia would want to interpret this song in a mother-daughter duet. On the TV special, Dear Mom, Love Cher, neither Cher nor Georgia could remember recording the song. So this is Cher singing circa 1980? The Black Rose era? That would be incredible. I thought this was a new recording and I keep listening to it in order to catch clues to properly date it. Cher's vocal style has changed over the decades and I'm stumped as to why I can't sort it out. It doesn't sound like 1980s Cher. I love the harmony between Georgia and Cher and although they sound similar, (especially singing vowels like Ah and Ohs), Georgia's voice is very clean and neat. Cher is notably more earthy.
I Sure Don't Want to Love You: I'd love to know who the writers were for these songs. A lot of them invoke "Daddy" which carries all those connotations of Fathers, Sugar Daddies and Honky Tonk Daddies. Definite barroom feel to it.
Movin On: Georgia can sure hit all the notes and effortlessly. This isn't gritty country. It's pop country. I've always heard Georgia describe this project as California country is that the same alt country we think of when we say California country these days? I'm not sure what California country was back in 1979.
Las Vegas Blues: I didn't love this one. According to the short-lived Wikipedia page about the album, Georgia wrote this song. But it sounds too Vegas-hokey for me. More Daddys in the lyric. And unlike Cher, Georgia's vocals can get overpowered by the band.
I Bought the Love Love That You Gave Me: Great title and although this didn't stick out for me, I appreciate its honky tonk torch-like quality.
I Wonder Where You Are Tonight: This one seemed off the rails for me. A dissy up and down quality yet a little lackluster. Too enunciated and we need more crying in the beer.
Love Me Tender: This is one of my top two favorite tracks on the whole album. Georgia shines doing a simple ballad that seems tailor-made for her. The backup vocals warm up her sound. I strain to hear Cher doing backups but I think she's there. I love that Cher is doing backups for her mom.
You Can't Go Home Again: Sultry and 1970s sounding. Again, I think Georgia scores with quiet, particular ballads.
Homecoming Queen: Interesting in a faded-flower kind of way. And Georgia sort of owns this one with her lady-like demeanor and her hard-times-in-Hollywood persona. Allegedly Georgia wrote this song as well and I like it much better than "Las Vegas Blues."
Cryin' Time: My very favorite track on the whole album. Not just because Sonny & Cher did the song as a single circa 1966 and it was included as a bonus track on the 1999 re-release of The Wondrous World of Sonny & Cher. Not just because you can really hear Cher doing backups strongly on this track. But because Cher and Georgia really sound great together here, better than the duet even. Also, the song is a more twangy country selection that seems like a happy compromise between Cher and Georgia's voices. I love it!
While listening to the tracks, I thought a lot about mother and daughter vocal differences. About genetics in vocal chords. About learned performance and what it says about the cultural time during which each woman developed her vocal style. Why one succeeded and the other did not. Beyond perseverance, beyond talent. Georgia's voice is pretty. Cher's voice is hip. Georgia can sing in a more "professional" manner but Cher's can emote.
I played the album for Mr. Cher Scholar who was a young 1970s country fan growing up in Kansas and is a current alt-country aficionado. He loves Mike Stinson and we've just discovered Stinson's 1960s alter-ego Sonny Throckmorton. We've been watching all the old RFD country shows like The Porter Waggoner Show, Pop Goes the Country (which I LOVE), and the awful Nashville on the Road. I swear Jeannie Kendall of The Kendalls is doing a Cher impression every time I watch her Pop Goes the Country appearances.
I was having trouble placing Georgia's delivery style. At first he said her songs sounded like Nashville pop of the 1970s but then he decided that the songs had more of a 1940s/50s country sound and that Georgia most reminded him most of Norma Jean, the original girl singer on The Porter Waggoner Show (before Dolly Parton arrived). Singers like Patsy Kline, Kitty Wells and Norma Jean had a very toned-down delivery, almost bland-sounding judging by today's sparkle and belting.
Mr. Cher Scholar and I talked a lot about Cher's "it" factor and what the heck that was. Cher isn't so neat with her notes after all. But fame requires an act of salesmanship (even Sonny would tell you), what many call sincerity or authenticity but what I prefer to call "soul," a kind of cool polish or (in the case of someone squeaky clean like Doris Day or Karen Carpenter), selling yourself as the genuine article (hip or square). Mr. Cher Scholar thinks it's a package of many variables that work together to create charisma.
Cher.com has some great artwork posted about the album. By the way, Cher.com is looking much better! Check out the browser tab title logo! Is this what Cher meant when she mentioned her new blog? It sort of reads like a blog.
In my stack of to-dos I have a post-it note with the title The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector and for the life of me I can't remember who recommended this to me. Was it Cher scholar Dishy, JimmyDean or Robrt? Was it someone at work? Anyway, I watched it yesterday and it's a BBC documentary from 2009 which aired between Phil Spector's mistrial and his final conviction for second-degree murder (not premeditated) that same year.
To me the death of Lana Clarkson is a very complicated whodunit, a legit mystery with a dangerously broken man at its center. There seem to be facts supporting his conviction and facts supporting his innocence. I don't feel this documentary clears up the matter at all. The movie only confirms one thing, Phil Spector was looking more and more like Penny Marshall throughout his trial.
The film inter-cuts video footage from his first trial with clips of his greatest musical moments. Commentary about his oeuvre and brilliance is set as text which you try to read while court dialogue plays at the same time. It's very confusing to catch it all. But the commentary on Spector's "little symphonies for kids" is actually very good, the best part of the movie. The interviewer also handles Spector well and gets some semi-sane conversation from him, mixed with a bit of grandiosity (Spector compares himself to Da Vinci, Galileo, Gershwin, Miles Davis and Irving Berlin) and conspiracy theories (he thinks his enemies from the 1960s and 70s are involved in his latest troubles and is needlessly jealous of Bill Cosby's honorary PhD). But it's not so easy to write Spector off as a lunatic because he has completely lucid, smart and valid things to say about his career. Although he's bitter and a mess, he's right on some points.
It was weird to hear him talk about MTV because I thought he was already a shut-in by the time I was watching MTV. In fact, I was surprised to hear he had met a woman at the House of Blues. I'm too reclusive to frequent House of Blues. What the hell was Phil Spector doing there?
There are about 101 shots of Phil Spector looking like a sad sack, put upon by the system. Testimony to the power of film, this almost drew me info full sympathy with him until I reconsidered all the problems with this documentary and Spector's case:
In the beginning of the movie, Spector wonders how his life would have been different had his father not committed suicide when he was 6 years old. I also wonder if Spector would have become less bitter if he had simply recorded himself instead of producing a string of other artists he didn't respect. To his credit and as the film shows, many of those artists couldn't replicate the greatness of his records in their live performances. If Spector had recorded himself and caught what he felt was the deserved credit and adulation....who knows.
Why did women keep going home with Phil Spector? Why did Phil Spector keep finding himself in dysfunctional relationships with women. Why didn't Phil Spector retire into a nice career as a music critic or as an elder statesman of music?
Be warned, there is some sad footage of Lana Clarkson taken by House of Blues surveillance, gory testimony described and her death scene photos are shown, albeit at a distance from the top of the staircase (a staircase from a grim-looking, dark and dated Phil Spector house, a death scene that looked the the entryway of doom).
It's hard to find a moral in this sad, sad story. I guess maybe the "teaching moment" would be if you have a history of playing with guns and scaring women, make sure no woman ever dies from a gunshot wound to her head in your house...like ever. Because karma will f*#k with you.
The posting I watched yesterday has already been taken down due to copyright issues, but you might find a new posting of it by searching for it on the tubes. Phil Spector has spent his time in prison appealing his conviction. His last appeal was denied in 2011.
Cher has been tweeting that she has finished her album and this was picked up by many news outlets including The Huffington Post and ABC News Video with the headline, Cher Reaches Out to Young Stars After 12-Year Break.The video remarks that Cher "has made as many comebacks as a Clinton." Ahem...I rather think the Clintons are still in the process of having a Cher-like number of comebacks...if you do that math.
In the same tweet-span, Cher also talked about visiting Chaz in a musical on a break from final album tweaking:
...went to see Chaz in an unbelievable musical! It was so funny and everyone was great! Got home at 12:30...
Chaz is also breaking out in the news cycle this week due to stories about his 60-pound weight loss. The UPI story.
I have a long list of video links that I've been meaning to talk over. This one I love for many reasons. According to the post where I found this opening clip of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, "I Need You" is from Episode #28 which aired on November 10, 1972. I don't remember having seen it before. But those outfits I remember because I had a calendar when I was a kid and one month was devoted to S&C in these outfits. I kept the calendar page all these years. That's what a Cher hoarder I am. It's nice to see the video that reminds me of my Cher hoarding problem. Secondly, the video is full of classic Sonny & Cherisms: hair flipping, tongue rolling, wardrobe issues, rocking back and forth, singing to each other (I've noticed Dolly and Porter never so much as looked at each other), Sonny with his hands on his hips, Sonny with his paws all over Cher (see right), lots of whoos, Cher mocking Sonny, Sonny & Cher laughing at some inside joke and lots of polyester perfection. For all these reasons, I consider this video High Period Sonny & Cher.
This week Cher scholar Dishy sent me links to a recent interview Cher's sister, Georganne LaPiere, gave to Greg in Hollywood. In part one, Georganne talks about life on General Hospital and Greg seems like a legitimate fan of the soap opera.
Part two goes into her reaction to Chaz transgendering, her relationship to Cher (how Cher basically raised her) and all the perks of being Cher's sister, how she got Cher involved in a project with her mom and a hint about what we might be seeing in next month's special.
Read the interviews here:
Also Cher News is reporting that Cher and her mom, Georgia Holt, will be appearing on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday April 30.