Cher On the Verge

Chermama22Between last November and today, lots of Cher news has happened, is happening. These days I feel like my posts are just roll-up lists of links. It’s kind of amazing (and daunting), but all these major categories below are all in play right now, not only with new stuff but the constant consumption and evaluation of old stuff! It's like her career is rolling up on itself.

Movies & Music

The new movie,  Mama Mia 2, is set to open July 20, 2018. I still have yet to see MM1. And I bet everyone has seen this already but here is the trailer

Christine Baranski recently talked about working with Cher on Live with Kelly & Ryan. Cher apparently sings "Super Trooper" (with the cast) and "Fernando" (solo). I got overly excited about this news last week. I love ABBA and I also love imagining Cher singing improbable covers; but to put these two interests together never entered my head, even after it was announced Cher would be the movie. Either I’m very preoccupied right now (which is true) or this was a big imagination fail on my part. I still can’t really picture Cher singing ABBA.

More stories:

Mamma-mia-Ci-risiamo-1280x500

Old Movies: Here's a story about "How Moonstruck got Italian Americans right." I was just in a new book club at a local tea room a few weeks ago and met a couple, Irv and Di, who had retired to Albuquerque from New York City and I asked them what movie they thought best captured New York City. The husband said he had never thought about that before and asked me what I thought and I said I didn't really know but that Moonstruck perfectly captured the Italian landlords I once had in Yonkers. He heartily agreed about Moonstruck and then came up with "Crossing Delancy" and "The Chosen."

Moonstruck-Cinderella-at-the-BallBill Maher also mentioned Moonstruck in his February 16 episode as part of his New Rules segment covering conflicting messages men get about women from popular movies. Basically Maher was saying women seem to want more aggressiveness from men in movies, judging by the latest movies that are popular with women. In fact, women seem to want sexual advances from men outside of movies too, but only from those particular men they want advances from and not from the ones they don’t want them from. Arguably, this is an unsaid truth of the #metoo movement. And the obvious problem, Maher says, is that men don’t know which of these categories they fall under. Another unfortunate truth. Who can argue that human relationships confuse and contradict easy political solutions. Yeah, it sucks…and it sucks for everybody including women making advances and gay or bisexual men and men women trying to figure out who’s allowed to make advances to whom. Maher then lists some popular movies among women, movies with problematic plot lines such as:

  1. Marrying your boss
  2. Stalking is romantic
  3. I hate you and then I love you …and he lists Moonstruck here.

And this list was very upsetting to me only because Moonstruck was the only movie I recognized! What are all these movies about even? So I can only speak for Moonstruck, a screenplay written by a man and directed by another man. So, clearly the story is a male idea. Women may have liked it (although I don’t remember that) but women certainly didn’t like it as much as they liked Dirty Dancing that year, (I had the unfortunate experience of working in a video store then  and can't begin to describe the absolute frenzy surrounding the lack of enough VHS rentals for that movie), or Thelma and Louise a few years later. I particularly liked Adventures in Babysitting at the time even though I had never babysat in my life and babysitting seemed as scary as the movie confirmed it would be.

But in any case, even if recent mainstream movies with un-PC plot lines have been popular among women lately, it’s not like we've had a lot of space on the marquee lately, in between all the apocalyptic and superhero titles. And if you punch in “popular movies for women” on Google, you get none of those mysterious movies on Maher’s list. “Legally Blonde” pops up first, followed by “Sense and Sensibility,” “Chocolate,” “Julie & Julia” (there’s not even a love story in there, is there?), “You’ve Got Mail” (I should really see that one), “Miss Congeniality,” and “Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion” among others. The only truly disturbing title on the list is “Pretty Woman.”

Anyway, this is not a new conundrum really. Alan Parson’s Project wrote a dramatic song about it in 1979, a song I sometimes fantasize Cher will someday cover. And since I’m on the topic of random songs I’d like Cher to cover, this guilty pleasure song is on the short list too. I’m not proposing Cher should make it with an over-emoted, shirtless video. But it’s inspiring in its way and sometimes very helpful messages come in over-the-top six-packages.

Other music stuff:

I found this brilliant video of what Cher sounded like to us when we were seven years old and had shitty record players.

And recently, The Los Angeles Times opined that if Cher’s song "Prayers for this World" was nominated, we could enjoy Cher dazzling us all on the red carpet this year.  But then nominations came out and the song was not nominated.

Remember that Cher track on that recent Wu Tang Clan album that sleazy pharmaceutical guy Martin Shkreli bought in 2015 for two million and wouldn’t share with anyone? Well, he’s about to lose it to the U.S. government which means we might someday hear it: https://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/article/bj543d/cher-wu-tang-clan-u-god-album-2018.

ScsanremomariannefaithfulAnd here’s a thing! A video for "Il Cammino Di Ogni Speranza," the song Sonny & Cher sang during the San Remo festival of 1967. They met Marianne Faithful for the first time at that festival (see right).

Covers of Cher:

Judy Hill from the band Girl recently posted videos of the performances she did at CherCon 2002 at the now-demolished Riviera in Las Vegas:

Her band's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/girlrocksyourworld/

Cher Scholar Michael forwarded me this great clip of Liza Minelli singing “You’d Better Sit Down Kids.”

Television

CherfireCher, along with other artists, did a video for the Grammys spoofing readings of the book about Trump, Fire and Fury. Cher-scholar Tyler then reminded us that in 1966 Sonny & Cher were nominees for best new artists along with Herman's Hermits, They Byrds, Marilyn Made and Tom Jones (who won). 

Cher scholar Tyler also found a clip of Sonny & Cher enduring comments about their hipness on The Carol Burnett Show.

Broadway, Las Vegas, Australia & Old Concerts

"Experiencing Cher in Las Vegas" by Naomi Gall: "Not only was she worth travelling half way around the world to see but I’d do it all again – in a heartbeat."

An article in the New York Post about how the producers of the new Donna Summer musical are worried about the opening of the Cher musical. There was also an open call for the Broadway Cher show. Cher scholar Laura P. sent me this list of characters with descriptions from a Broadway casting site. The show has a new logo and early commercial. Tickets also just went on sale for the Chicago pre-shows.  It feels very meta, how they recognize Cher as a process. I like it! Here's a story about the designer behind the logo.

Cher scholar Tyler also found me this clipping about Sonny & Cher’s visit to Abilene Texas for a concert in 1967.

Australia2The big story last week was Cher's trip to Australia for the Sydney Gay Mardis Gras:

Style

More Cher style retrospectives:

Every year for the past few years Cher has been selling Christmas merch on her website. For some reason this year that made news in Vogue and Good Housekeeping:

My friend Julie got me the "Ho Ho Bitches" ornament this year.

And like Linda on Bob’s Burgers, Mandy Moore dressed up like Cher for Halloween on her show.

Activism

Cher’s animal group made a video about Animals in Captivity.

She endorsed an Idaho politician.

She spoke at the January Women's March in Las Vegas:

Cher helped produce the short film Edith & Eddie which was nominated for an Academy Award for best short documentary film. Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 won. Here's the trailer for that interesting one about an LA artist named Mindy Alper.

More stories about Edith and Eddie:

House & Cars

The Sonny & Cher house in Bel Air on Carrolwood is part of a Ponzi scheme controversy.

Sonny & Cher’s famous mustangs are back on sale. They go on sale so often, I’m convinced they must be haunted by Sonny.

Peripherals

The 1970s girl band Fanny has been making news again with a reunion record!

(Thanks to Michael and Mr. Cher Scholar for those links.)

Two-time Cher co-star John Mahoney (Suspect and Moonstruck) recently passed away. Read his New York Times obit.

Elton John referenced Cher in his Farewell Tour announcement.

Chaz Bono talks about his acting experiences and projects.

Cher is suing the owner of the LA Times.

Cher in Media

Hashtags connected to Cher has been coming up lately, including these two:

#CherStrong
#CherIfYouAgree

Las Vegas also honored Cher recently by choosing "Believe" as one of the songs that will play during the Bellagio fountain show. I have to admit the light show song combo is more moving that I anticipated. The boom-boom-boom you can feel viscerally even in these fan video captures. Cher’s in some rarefied company for this Vegas institution.

Believe-fountain

Stories and video:

Family Guy did an episode that was basically a satire of three directors: Wes Anderson, Michael Bay, and Quentin Tarantino. The Wes Anderson spoof is at minute 7:14 and it satires his quirky pop covers with a German version of “I Got You Babe” at minute 11:02. The song is “Bleib Bei Mir Babe” by Wirtschaftswunder. (Here's a more contemporary live version.)

DictaphoneDoing research for a novel, I was reading a cheap anthology of short stories about ghosts and came across one called “Dead Media” by Nick Mamatus. In the story, a girl named Lenore goes to a Liberal arts college called Miskatonik. She meets the college A/V nerd named Walt who attempts to help her trace back an audio file of a chanting ghost through all sorts of media platforms. They go from an archive of mp3s to DAT tapes of a cassette of reel-to-reel tapes of a 78 record of a dictaphone cylinder. At first, the author had me enraptured with this very nerdy premise and commentary on every-changing media. The characters ended up recorded a voicemail to a dictaphone cylinder in order to debunk the

“vibrato buzz of the sort that made Walt’s molars cringe in his mouth, like auto-tune, a nail on a chalkboard. Walt didn’t hear it so much as feel it.”

Ugh. Auto-tune snobbery inside this fun technology ghost story. What a bummer.

At the end of the story, the author changes the point of view from the nerdy Lenore character to a girl who went on the same search back in 1977 and is now a ghost who murders Walt and Lenore on behalf of Mi-Go aliens

“from Tche, a great, gas giant in the Oort Cloud, a cold and squishy minor planet like Pluto.”

It takes four pages at the end to basically say the aliens did it, the kind of plot cop-out and genre whiplash that always makes my molars ache.

  


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

What We Talk About When We Talk About Sonny

Sonny1A few weekends ago I was driving to Sedona for a girls weekend and my iPod shuffle served up the song “Snow Queen” by Elton John, a song Elton and Bernie Taupin (and others) wrote about Cher when she was in her Paris Hilton phase: all paparazzi and no respect. A grandiose idea occurred to me that Cher was a Proustian novel. Actually, my full thought was that Cher was a Proustian novel and Sonny was a Proustian character within it.

Proust is famous for long, stuffed sentences but there’s another aspect of “In Search of Lost Time” that applies to Cher, the long scope of the novel over a lifetime and how the characters evolve over the entire piece. In some places, characters seem admirable and plucky and other times pathetic and clueless. Considering Sonny in this context is a good exercise in understanding complexity. He’s not an easy character to define; and from different angles and according to different people you’re likely to hear different stories about Sonny.

Cher, other ex-wives and his children are probably most likely to see the positive side of him. Other colleagues not as much. It's like those difficult people at work whose children admire them and imagine them as heroes in the office. It’s awkward but it’s also life. People behave differently with different people, within and outside of their private circles.

From a scholarship standpoint, you try to see the whole picture. Typically, fans will disagree about this, but what good is sycophantism? It’s not really healthy for anyone.

There are aspects of Sonny that are completely underrated: writing unique cowboy songs, launching unlikely superstars from street waifs and providing them with the skills to sustain an entertainment career spanning over 50 years, parenting, a particularly personal show biz sense that predated reality television by 30 years. He was tough and smart, fashion-fearless and yes, like Cher has said, he had beautiful hands. He was a great cook, too. There's probably a lot more.

On the negative side, he couldn't sing well, his acting was a bit hammy and not everybody enjoyed working with or for him. I've been mulling over the pros and cons of Sonny all year as books and links about Sonny have come my way.

Congressional Speech

When my parents visited this summer, we watched an Al Franken correspondence dinner speeches from 1994 and 1996. At about 36:20 I shouted out “There’s Sonny” like I was 7 years old again. You see him prominently walking around with his wife, Mary. Were they late for dinner? Were they on Hollywood time?

Doing a search for the clip I discovered Sonny himself gave a speech in 1995 at a Freshman Dinner (as a newbie congressmen). It’s very bad footage but Sonny makes the other U.S. congressmen laugh. He breaks the ice with that joke about nobody knowing what he went through to be serious and he refers to Cher saying, “Remember the other woman? She wasn’t easy to shake when I wanted to peruse this career." Then he goes on to say that Mary is “way better looking than Cher,” taller and 33."

Wow. Why be so mean-spirited about your meal ticket, dude? He then talks about wining the Mayoral race in Palm Springs and how the guy he fired (that being the defeated mayor) is his gardener now. Huh. A power joke. He then said he had originally wanted to be a U.S. Senator (instead of a congressman) because the prestige of a Senator eclipsed the prestige of show biz and he admired the power and respect Senators received. Well, at least he's being honest.

With all humility he says he respects the job, the new environment and he is trying to learn. He talks about how he’s ironically learning a lot from Democrat Barney Frank: “The guy’s amazing…he does the best Shecky Greene I’ve ever heard, the best I’ve ever seen. Haven’t figured out what you do but it’s good.”

His outsider humor was very effective. He goes way over his allotted time. Says he was supposed to do 3 minutes but he does a half an hour. His demeanor reminds me a lot of Chaz.

Conspiracy Theories

A very thorough Cher scholar alerted me this spring to the self-published book Sonny Hit a Tree from 2015. There’s a conspiracy theory out on the Internet about Sonny possibly being murdered by political or international operatives. I’ve avoided learning about this conspiracy theory because, well…it’s an awful idea and I hate conspiracy theories.

But I felt, for due diligence, I should check this out. I read the 17-page tract on a camping trip to Conchas Lake last spring. Here's my review: do not buy this book. The conspiracy theory isn’t explained or even mentioned. Sonny is mentioned only once in an introductory letter addressing his widow Mary. The rest is a full plunge into the head of mental illness. One-hundred percent incoherent and rambling accusations that run the gamut from Saddam Hussein to Putin to the L.A. Police Department. It makes you fear for what kind of letters Mary Bono receives these days, let alone Cher. It feels icky on every level.

Just…don’t. 

LangstonSonny's Atmosphere

And speaking of self-published, one of the actors from The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Murray Langston, also known as The Unknown Comic on The Gong Show, has published his memoirs, a much more coherent book called Journey Thru the Unknown. Yes, “through” is spelled “thru so you know it’s self published. That and the highly pixelated cover.

It’s a long book and not much of it concerning Sonny & Cher, although there are a few glimpses of the show, the social lives of the cast and what they all thought about Steve Martin, which was fascinating. However, Langston is crystal clear about his feelings around Sonny. He didn’t like him. In fact, Sonny makes it into his top 2 list of Hollywood’s biggest megalomaniacs. Langston also says he and Cher were on friendly terms for decades until Langston admitted publicly his true feelings about Sonny.

It’s never great to hear negative things about a loved one. And yet, Murray Langston does have the right to tell his own truth about a work situation. Interestingly, he did remain close friends with other S&C show alums, Ted Zeigler and Freeman King, until their deaths. And by now it's clear that the cast of the S&C shows did not cohere in an artistic or social sense like the cast of The Carol Burnett Show did. There are no show reunions, cast members are absent from DVD reissues. Steve Martin and Bob Einstein don’t talk at all about their experiences on the show. Teri Garr barely does.  It’s not like they’ve all been out trash-talking the show either. They haven't. But the silence adds up and might be one of the reasons the show has been undervalued all these years.

And the idea of Sonny as a megalomaniac is believable. According to Langston, Sonny always referred to the cast as 'furniture' and 'atmosphere.' Imagine Tim Conway or Harvey Korman putting up with this? And maybe a variety show with a duo is more crowded than a variety show with a solo. Maybe the cast never fully bonded for whatever reason. It’s also very possible that Sonny wasn’t on his best boss behavior. And to see him in this light is far from condemning him entirely. Assistants and colleagues have been slow to come out about this but you read stories in “Strong Enough” by Josiah Howard and from Cher herself. The existence of Cher Enterprises kind of speaks for itself. Sonny could be unkind in business. People are complicated, multi-faceted and not everybody had the same experience with your loved ones. Sonny has a very complicated legacy. Can we even get our head around it? It's Proustian.

I wouldn’t go as far as to recommend Langston’s book to Cher fans as the book is mostly not about the TV show era, but Langston has his point of view and it gives the story of the Sonny & Cher shows another perspective.

Sonny-deacon0darkSonny as a Cult Classic

I was a pretty synchophantic Sonny & Cher fan as kid, even after they divorced. But it was Aaron Spelling shows that eventually killed my fandom of Sonny. They were pretty bad performances....or so I thought. Lately, I’ve been searching for Love Boat episodes to capture his four appearances on that Aaron Spelling show. So far I’ve only come across his appearance with Marty Ingels (truly terrible) and his episode as Deacon Dark. As a kid I did like this episode. To me it was an obvious send-up of Gene Simmons in KISS, who Cher was dating at the time: the face paint, the long, protruding tongue, a human being feeling stifled by the gimmick of makeup.

As I was looking up the show’s air date, (March 17, 1979), I found a whole slew of articles about the Deacon Dark episode. In fact, for many Love Boat aficionados, this is their favorite episode. And it’s fascinating to read their comments. They have no context for the Cher/Gene Simmons reading at all. So they see more Alice Cooper (snakes) in the performance. They're not Sonny or Cher fans. They just like the episode for what it is!

There's no substitute for actually seeing the episode, but these are the two songs Sonny sings on the show:

"Smash It" and "Now That I've Found Sarah."

From The Deacon Dark Files:

"As you may or may not know, I am a huge fan of The Love Boat. I am such a big fan, I even watched Love Boat: The Next Wave. Yes sir, it's true. If I had to narrow down my favorite episodes, I'd be hard pressed because I just adore them all. However, there is one that keeps popping up in my forever clouded childhood memories that I think is probably the best episode. Ever.

On March 17th, 1979, Love Boat unleashed Deacon Dark on an unsuspecting audience. The Deacon is a culmination of Alice Cooper and KISS mixed with a whole lot of TV sensibility towards the then-current pop culture crazes. In effect, Deacon is thought to be a dark rock and roll soul, but underneath his satanic pantomime makeup, he's just dying to write a ballad….

I love every second of it and apparently I'm not the only one. Just today I discovered a Deacon Dark fan page on Facebook! The Deacon lives folks!"

"The Love Boat of Hate! Sonny Bono is DEACON DARK!" - this article links to Sonny’s  heated Palm Springs mayoral debate.

 From “Smash It”: The demented, the dangerous and the disgusting Deacon Dark:

“There’s not a lot of originality to be found here, of course — seems to us like the writers Joyce Armor and Judie Neer wanted to parody both 70s-era sensitive schlocky singer-songwriters and satanic heavy metal rock singers — and the costume and makeup people didn’t have to work too hard to come up with Dark’s garish demonic look either because they pretty much just ripped off KISS bassist Gene Simmons’s full face makeup. The writers also apparently threw in a little bit of Alice Cooper’s stage theatrics too, particularly because it involves fire (Arthur Brown could have been mentioned here too, we suppose).

Today, the demonic Deacon’s face makeup seems like it may have inspired or at least prefigured the black and white corpse face makeup favored by Danish black metal bands, or perhaps even the Insane Clown Posse’s Juggalo clown face….

We hear Backstrom’s alter ego being introduced as the “the demented, the dangerous, the disgusting Deacon Dark!,” then see him taking the stage to sing his hit song “Smash It!,” which you can watch at the clip at the top (we also learn during the episode that Dark is also known for two other songs: “Screaming Voodoo Devil Boogie Woman” and “Step, Step, Step On Toads”).

After the performance, Captain Stubing still appears unimpressed: “He’s no Jerry Vale.” (We should point out here that “The Love Boat” was one of the only hour-long American-made TV shows that consistently used a laugh track).”

“There’s also quite a few blogs online where clever writers have created entire backstories about Deacon Dark, including this one ...(read the entire thing though, it’s pretty great).”

It is brilliant. My favorite excerpt:

"The destruction of Deacon’s works continued down to individual albums and 8-tracks. The only account I’ve ever read of the “event” was in a old copy of Kerrang! magazine I found, uncatalogued, in the New York Public Library’s Chinatown branch. According to Kerrang!, readers reported strange winds would sweep their Deacon Dark 8-tracks out of their cars; that unorthodox rays of sunlight would melt Deacon LPs and that some albums would simply disappear. I know for a fact my dad owned a vinyl copy of Deacon’s third album, “Luvin’ The Coven,” but I’ve searched his stacks of wax again and again over the years, and the thing is just gone."

Deacon Dark has inspired Fan Fiction!! How awesome is that for Sonny. Who knew this episode had such a cult following. It’s pretty cool.

The Facebook page, well, I won’t spoil it. Just scroll all the way down and don’t forget to look in the photo album. It's full of fake album covers and allegedly historical photos. (Do not miss the Jerry Vale joke).

Okay I will spoil it.

Here are my favorites (click to enlarge). Just the funniest damn thing I ever did see.

Earlyshows Earlyshows Earlyshows

 

 

 

 

  

 


Earlyshows 1016501_10151700307973395_708120916_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found the fan fiction completely compelling and it's inspired me to ask you to compare this: Deacon Dark's “Smash It” to Def Leppard’s “Argmageddon It.”

Punk Rock Sonny

And finally, over the last few months we've been watching old 80s videos on MTV. Yes, when the moon hits the mountainside to reveal a keyhole after the thrush trills, MTV plays videos. We watched “Punk Rock Girl” by the Dead Milkmen and there was a Sonny reference.

Sonny-video-punkrockgirl


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.

20171027_174238 20171027_205646 20171027_203500

 

 

 

 

 

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."

20171111_223432 20171111_223655 20171111_223701

 

 

 

 


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!


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 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.


Cher Slays the BBMAs

BillboardmagIt took me a moment to gather my thoughts this week and this is going to be a long post. Very exciting stuff going on and some of it very important to Cher scholarship.

The 71st Birthday Tributes

Remember last year on Cher’s 70th birthday when we had a plethora of celebratory articles? This year there were far fewer but then people were already talking about Cher’s Billboard award instead. Still there were some:

10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Cher - They even take issue with the fact that she’s not in the Hall of Fame yet.

Cher's Most Iconic & Controversial Fashion Moments of All Time (E! Online)

Our Favorite Quotes (Biography)

Cher: A life in photos

A Star Is Born: Cher turns 71 today (LA Times!)

Midriffs, Wigs, Sparkles & Boots: Cher’s Glam Concert Style Over the Years (Footwear News) - Footwear News??

Cher: See Her Top 10 Most Outrageous Outfits Ever

#BornThisDay: Cher (World of Wonder)  (thanks to Tyler)

Cher at 71: Her most incredible outfits in pictures (thanks to Tyler)

Bonus! Tour Cher's California Homes (Architectural Digest)

Kim Kardashian even had her own subset of birthday tweets and articles resulting from those tweets:

Billboard Sweetness

So, in support of Cher’s Icon award, Billboard Magazine did a series of tributes to her (see more in my opinion post, Cher’s Musical Oeuvre).

The interview: Cher Sounds Off on Trump's 'Cheating' & Why She's 'Not a Fan' of Her Six Decades of Hits

The article tallies up more famous Cher fans, (so now we have Pink, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, and the already-mentioned Tracy Chapman and Chrissie Hynde). Pink calls Cher a smart “sharpshooting rock star.” The article covers facets of her reputation: her blunt opinions, clothes, her swearing, her “fearlessness.” It culls out her award winnings and record breaking chart appearances. This is an old school article that actually sends a reporter to visit Cher in her Cher lair. (Remember those interviews?) The article touches on her androgyny and how she solidified an image on her television shows as “a woman who claimed privileges usually reserved for men, including honesty, independence and confident sexuality.” That’s even understated IMHO. The article also talks about The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour’s technical innovations with chroma key. Author Rob Tannenbaum calls her current live show set a Parisian flophouse (nails it there) and says the show is “dizzying, festive and cheeky.” He calls her image during Geffen era the MILK of hair metal (funny and not totally off the mark).

This seems like a typo though: “There was one problem: no evident lack of talent.” Why would no lack of talent be a problem? There’s also at least one factual error,  stating that since Believe Cher has only released one album on a major label. She’s released two (Living Proof and Closer to the Truth on the same label).

The article states Cher has 3.3 million twitter followers and that Buzzfeed calls her “the world’s most beloved Twitter user.” (Sweet.)

Chad Michaels on Cher's Musical Legacy & What It's Like Impersonating the Pop Icon to Her Face

Michaels credits Cher with pioneering the music video on her 70s TV shows and talks about age-bracketing his shows for content. He calls Cher not only the Goddess of Pop but the Queen of Rock and Roll (yeah, let’s get that one going). He admits “it must be strange for any celebrity to come face to face with an impersonator” and he talks about working on stage parodies of Witches of Eastwick.

RaptureWhy Cher Is More Musically Radical Than You Think

This is an awesome piece by Joe Lynch who  talks about the sexism inherent in rock criticism. He gives only a partial list of Cher’s accolades, (awards, sales, endurance, record breaks), and says “Cher’s impact as a musical force is unfairly disregarded or minimized.” He says music history is “refracted through a male, rock-privileging lens. But it’s also a casualty of music fans’ obsession with authenticity.” I would argue that even under the authenticity rubric, (which is ludicrous in what is essentially a posing industry), the standards are not evenly applied depending upon the rock clique you belong to.

Lynch argues that it’s not even fair to judge artists who don’t have full control over their material because even auteur-film-directors don’t have full control of theirs. I think we can look even closer than film: did The Ronnettes fully control their material? Did any Phil Spector artists have full control? Because many of them are in the Hall of Fame. Lynch gives Cher credit for auto-tune and she should get credit for fighting for it if not coming up with the idea for it on her song “Believe,” (even though I think that is a problematic accolade in rock music, again around issues of authenticity).

We can all agree, like Lynch says, that Cher didn’t pioneer genres or “take lyrics to new poetic heights” but she did “forge an iconoclastic path for vocal and visual androgyny in pop culture that’s frequently overlooked.” (I would argue she also did that with glam rock).

And for the storyteller songs most derided in Cher’s catalog Lynch says, “It’s absurd to argue those songs could have been as effective in the hands of another singer—sure they’re good story-songs, but Cher’s delivery is what makes these admittedly dated pop songs resonate…” Lynch says Cher “teed things up for people like Bowie and Patti Smith, and the world would certainly be different if she hadn’t stayed so irrevocably Cher from the start.”

A Look Back on Her Film & TV Career

GwenHow Cher Transformed Fashion And Became One Of The Most Influential Style Icons In Red Carpet History

This article notes Cher’s influence on Katy Perry, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna, saying she has “left a trail of glittering breadcrumbs across the mood boards of designers and musicians.” Author Brooke Mazurek calls her “the original red carpet renegade and provides quotes from Michale Kors, Vogue Editor Andre Leon Talley and the Fashion Institute of Technology’s curator Kevin Jones. Mazurek also draws a line back to Marlene Dietrich and Josephine Baker and has Bob Mackie crediting Cher with bringing ethnicity to 1970s TV. (That is also a big thesis of the book Off-White Hollywood by Diane Negra).

Cher's 'Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves': Why It's One of the 20th Century's Greatest Songs

This is a great piece by Rob Tannenbaum who wrote the lead story. Cher is dismissive about the song and the length of the recording session but Tannenbaum calls the song “one of the most majestic pop hits ever made…a tale recounted at breakneck speed, of sexual hypocrisy…female and class consciousness…voyeuristic like a pulp novel…redeemed by a brash confidence Cher gives the narrator.”

Tannenbaum goes on to explicate the complicated story line, the implications of which most people blithely ignore as they sing along. This is real professional scholarship here! This could be a undergrad lit paper! Tannenbaum even deconstructs the song musically:

“The song feels urgent partially because of the breakneck pace: the band plays at 171 beats per minute. (For comparison, the Ramones’ “Beat On the Brat” is 157 BPM, and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” is 164.) When she reaches the chorus, Cher suddenly sings way in front of the beat, an expression of anxiety. The lavish arrangement feels vaguely “ethnic” or “exotic,” thanks to mandolin and calliope, and also threatening, due to the irregular meters and some shreds of dissonance. It has the grandeur of a Phil Spector production, but with B-movie horror mixed in to it.”

He points out that Cher is never sexually “apologetic or sorrowful…but savoring freedom and rebellion… delivers the line [“Papa would have shot him if he knew what he’d done”] with chilling delight…[making] it one of the most lurid and sexy lines in pop music, merely through implication.”

The song, written by Bob Stone, has “plot, detail and emotional complexity, and Cher belts it with a punkish defiance. As a song about prejudice, poverty, and the consequences of pregnancy for working-class women, 'Gypsys' has aged beautifully.” Yes, indeed.

Cher's 10 Best Trump Tweets

I love Billboard Magazine’s implicit affection for Cher’s anti-Trump tweets here. It’s their own condemnation of Trump and such a reflection of the mainstream, they let it go without any qualification or judgement. The article credits Cher as an advocate of LGBT and women’s rights, her political activism. Lauren Tom calls her a “a pioneer of female autonomy during a male-driven era.”

Older related links

Bob Mackie's Archives Unveiled: Iconic Designer for Cher & Diana Ross Gives Billboard a Peek Behind the Curtains (Oct 2016)

See Bob Mackie's Sketches for Classic Madonna, Cher & Tina Turner Gowns

Press Before the Show

SpeechThe internet was also full of stories rehashing the Billboard interview and reacting to Cher’s admission, (not nearly a new one), that she hates her own music. Every time she says that, people respond in such surprise.

After the BBMAs Coverage

My two cents: award shows seem now to be just excuses for launching elaborate musical performances from big arenas. I'm bored with it already, especially the Byzantine performances of Nicki Minaj (and ten variations of her throughout the night). I did enjoy the Chainsmokers (although it sounds like nobody else did), Julia (I like that funny "Issues" song), and Lorde's very inventive performance pretending to be at a karaoke club. I thought Celine was understated but great per usual (that crazy dress!). She had a lovely chandelier to sing under.

Gwen Stefani introduced Cher who then sang "Believe" and then we watched a career reel while Cher changed into the hole-fit and sang "Turn Back Time" and then accepted her award. I liked her speech which threw some props to Phil Spector, the Wrecking Crew, her mom, Sonny, David Geffen, Diane Warren and luck. Watch Celine Dion sing along to Cher.

GIF of Cher saying she can do a five minute plank.

Spend an afternoon with Cher GIFs!


Cher History: Marriages, Music, Hair, Movies and TV

ChergreggGossip

Cher's marriage to Gregg Allman was revisited by Inquisitir: “inside their whirlwind marriage.”

 

 

Music

And on the site AV Club, death-fuled songs from the 70s place "Dark Lady" in the same league with Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" and “I Don’t Like Monday’s” by The Boomtown Rats.

Death-songs

Speaking of their "Copacabana" video, watch some bad, unenthusiastic lip-synching and awkward dancing from a dapper and youthful Barry Manilow in that video. He even does a Cher-like costume change!

I love that guy. “Don’t fall in love. Don’t fall in love.”

They also list "Indian Reservation" by Paul Revere and the Raiders (see the stats article).

CherhairFashion

Is Cher hair still a trend? The article references Kim Kardashian but she just cut her hair.

Thanks to Cher scholar Tyler for this article on the Five decades of Cher outfits from CBS News.

 

 

 

 

 

R.I.P.

Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour producer Chris Bearde has died. Mr. Cher Scholar always snickers these days when the credits roll and his name appears as chrisbearde.

Cher-chris

Cher’s late-1970s manager, (before 80s-era Bill Sammeth), Sandy Gallin, (whom for years I thought was a woman) has also died.  (Thanks Cher scholar Michael for that link.) Another story from the gruesomely named Deadline.com.

Cher-sandy

This TV site mistakenly attributes Cher’s tweet about Bearde to be about Gallin.

But on the brighter side, Cher says her mom is doing better.

Cher80sMovies

I've been finding a lot of interviews on YouTube that were obscure since the 1980s. I will try to blog about them as I can. This is one of the best, a great German interview for Witches of Eastwick and Cher's Geffen Records era debut.  In it, Cher says she and Sonny were the first hippies in the world.

 

GlencTelevision

Cher scholar Tyler found this amazing bit of scholarship on YouTube, a fascinating medley between Sonny, Cher and Glen Campbell, a medley proving that when art is concerned, conservatives and liberals can get along.

 
You can also watch the full 1976 episode of Sonny & Cher on Donny & Marie

Dandm


Cher TV Shows

Marilyn-billyWe went away for Martin Luther King Day weekend and much drama ensued. First, we braved a Midwestern ice storm. Then, while we were gone, our landlord accidentally set off our house alarm and the police showed up. We came back Monday exhausted, (after a Chief’s playoffs defeat), to find one of my favorite Sonny & Cher show episodes airing, the one with Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. which I love because they sing one of my childhood jams, "You Don't Have to Be a Star," and it’s one of the few episodes I remember seeing when it originally aired. It also has an amazingly Rhett-scarlettprogressive satire of Gone with the Wind where McCoo and Davis Jr. play Rhett and Scarlett. 

But it wasn’t taping!! Oh, the horror. I have actually had obsessed fan dreams about this exact thing: I find Sonny & Cher shows in the TV Guide but I can’t tape them, or  I find rare record albums in store bins but I can’t get them to the checkout counter. What would Freud say? I don’t have a clue but I was definitely experiencing missing a Cher show anxiety. Then I realized GetTV was not categorizing each Cher series correctly and that’s why the McCoo/Davis Jr. show wasn’t taping. Lucky for me and my obsession, GetTV has been airing reruns of the reruns and I caught the show a few weeks later.

So I’ve become a bit ambivalent about GetTV recently. First there have been the aforementioned DVR issues. There are three separate shows to track, understandably unavoidable, but when I set up a Comedy Hour series recording, DISH can’t recognize all the future airings of Comedy Hours. And furthermore, and this is a persnickety, obsessed, scholarly issue, GetTV mis-titles some Comedy Hours as the later day S&C Shows and vice versa. Criminy!

And then there are times of plenty and times of scarcity, like mid-January when GetTV aired as many as three new shows a Monday night. Then a month later you get no new shows and lots of reruns of reruns. They are keeping us on our toes, DVR-wise.

In any case, there have been way too many shows in the new year for me to even research online. So that whole idea of keeping up in the blog isn’t going to work, even with sketches of recaps. But I do want to address these shows in a blow-by-blow way and have decided that when GetTV has finished it’s run of them, I’ll start from the beginning and do recaps of every skit, song (with links if possible), and information on which channel aired what skits. And I'll include some scholarship that proceeds with the evolution of the show.

In the meantime, to tide you over, here are a slew of show promos:

And here's a Sonny Comedy Review promo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5q2ihScKfbc

And here's a thing called a Bumper. What is this thing called a Bumper?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5ak-yYrVCQ
Note where the bumper says: “the Indian always wins.”