Cher and Black Rose

ImagesThe Twitter Cher scholar at Cher Universe mentioned on August 21 the anniversary of the release of the Black Rose album 42 years ago.

I'm always impressed by young social-media Cher fans who for the last few years have been finding the most amazing, never before seen Cher pics hidden out there on the Internets. I've been combing through Cher pics for 45 years now and I've never seen some of these photos.

I first saw this Black Rose picture below from Victoria Shell's YouTube great YouTube bios of Cher (part 1 & part 2) from last year. Never saw it before that.

And the photo was shocking in its silliness. I commented on Twitter this image might have been part of the band's credibility problem. 

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Allegedly, Black Rose was rejected from opening for the tours of every popular 1980s band except Hall and Oates. That might be an exaggeration but they were not a popular band.

2hde5a1This anniversary reminded me that I've been meaning to blog about the remastered Black Rose Import CD (which came from Ireland I think and during Covid it took months to arrive in the mail). The liner notes were worth the long wait because they include an extensive interview with Les Dukek about the experience, which is valuable. He was the main driver of the band, aside from Cher; and during the project he would also become her boyfriend of three years.

The liner notes call Cher's career "varied and unpredictable" and introduce Dudek from his work with the Allman Brothers ("Ramblin' Man"), Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs, 3 solo albums and a member of DFK (with Mike Finnigan and Jim Krueger).

A-1280394-1349896448-9317Dudek calls this project a big mistake but also adds that Cher was not part of the mistake. He says he has very fond memories of his relationship with Cher. He says, "I totally lost my identity but I had a great time." The band itself, he says, was just a bad move for his career. 

He says he was approached by Cher to help put together a band. She took him to dinner at Nick's Fish Market on Sunset Boulevard. Cher said she was working with a few producers but no one she liked. Dudek suggested James Newton Howard. 

After working with them on her 1979 Prisoner album, Cher probably brought in the two members of Toto, David Paich and Steve Pocaro. Interestingly Jeff Pocaro is missing, a stalwart member of Cher's studio bands since the early 1970s). Dudek brought in Mike Finnegan for keyboards and he and Cher held auditions and jam sessions to assemble everyone else.

Other members included Ron "Rocket" Ritchotte, Mike Finnigan, Michael Boddicker, Trey Thompson and Gary Ferguson.

They recorded the album at Sunset Sound, Westlake and decided not to use Cher's name or photo in any early publicity materials, only to list her as a player with the rest of the band on the back album cover. (Eventually this changed.)

CcLqDfAUUAAN7vaBlack Rose toured with Hall and Oates and appeared on Merv Griffin, Tom Snyder (focusing on Cher) and The Midnight Special. There was a Central Park concert. 

Although Neil Bogart was "a sweetheart of a guy," Dudek says there were issues using Cher's current music label, Casablanca Records; but Columbia Records had passed. Not only was Casablanca primarily a disco label, but with Bogart dealing with terminal cancer the label would soon fold. Due to lavish spending "the record company fizzled," Dudek says and was bought out by Polygram. Only 400,000 records sold. Cher became depressed. Dudek claims it was he who encouraged Cher to try acting again and to "go for the Oscar." He went with her to New York City to meet with Robert Altman.

Blackrose_albumAnd the rest is Hollywood history. But I do like the front cover they came up with, its anklet of thorns and also Cher's attempt to downplay her Cher-ness on the whole thing initially.

I hated the album when I first heard it, then years later I thought it was okay, then years later I didn't like it again and now I like some of it.

It's a mystery why the band wasn't writing their own material, especially considering Cher and Dudek did write a song together. 

"Never Should've Started" was written by David Foster, David Paich, James Newton Howard and Valerie Carter. Cher sings the intro well but then her vocal becomes swallowed and the whole thing seems hyper, screechy and empty. Not an auspicious beginning. A live performance.

"Julie" was a Bernie Taupin/Mike Chapman song and Cher's vocal is completely indecipherable here; but I do like to send the song periodically to my friend Julie and pretend the opening lines are "She-blips lie in the hungry ears" because yeah, of course they do! When I was eleven (1981) I also made a mix tape of all the swear words spoken or sang by Sonny or Cher strung together and this song was very helpful in that project. 

"Take It From the Boys"  was written by Carole Bayer Sager/Bruce Roberts and I'm trying to think of something snarky to say about using David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager songs on your debut rock album, but thinking about it just makes my brain fog up. I have no idea what Cher is singing here in the verses and although Cher sounds convincing, I shall not be taking it from the boys in the street, whatever that entails. I do like the end though. You go Carole Bayer Sager!

"We All Fly Home" - This is just another way to say "We All Sleep Alone" but Desmond Child, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora wrote it better. This song also produced a gem for the cussin' tape. I would have been eating Dial soap tout de suite if my mother had found that cassette tape. Cher sings swear words really well, I will say.

"88 Degrees" - a song about LA on a hot day. I do remember the People Magazine album review taking special umbrage about all the vowels Cher uses to sing the word "split." (And no, the word 'damn' did not make the cut for the damn mix tape of Cher expletives.) This song really plods along. 

"You Know It" was written by Les Dudek and I actually like this duet, more than any of the Allman duets. 

"Young and Pretty" is the best thing on the album and the most likely song to be anthologized. Cher's still a bit muddled sounding but there's enough here to hang on to.

"Fast Company" - this was the song I most liked when I was 10 or 11 years old. It was challenging to sing along when I had no idea what words she was singing but I gave it a good go anyway. Like Redd Foxx told Cher on her solo show in 1975, you can get pretty far just on attitude. That's what this song says to me.

The liner notes say the album was mistakenly promoted as New Wave [which is pretty bizarre] instead of hard rock. The notes also maintain that the musicianship was high with quality songs and that Cher sounds "convincing as a rock vocalist" and "slots in with the rest of band...sounds like a proper band not a collection of session talents brought together to fulfill the aspirations of one person."

Except that is kind of what it was. Just having to say that...is kinda...the problem. 

R-3567371-1335637415.jpegI actually don't think Cher was ready yet for this project. And the fact that she was bi-furcated between this band and her big circus Vegas act of pop songs was more of the same brand confusion fans experienced during the Gregg Allman years. I'm sure the proceeds of the Vegas extravaganza were bankrolling the personal projects but maybe that was playing it too safe. In any case, the result skewed more toward a Hollywood idea of what a rock band was (see the back cover for example), or a hodge-podge, over-orchestrated attempt to create one out of thin air.

That said, I do think this whole endeavor was practice for the more simplified and cohesive Geffen years.

An aborted second album allegedly included the Frankie Miller song "Aint Got No Money," "Dirty Old Man," and "Don't Trust that Woman," the song Cher and Dudek wrote together. 

Mask-bikersInteresting to note there are two versions of this song: the version Cher wrote with Dudek and he recorded on his solo album Gypsy Ride (1981) and then the version Elton John re-wrote with Cher later and recorded on his Leather Jackets album (1986). In 1985 Cher also got Dudek a role in the movie Mask as one of the bikers. "I did an album and a movie with Cher and I'm proud of it, so there," Dudek says, "She has a great work ethic. She's real dedicated to what she does." 

Little timeline of Cher recording with men she was sleeping with:

1977: Allman and Woman, Two the Hard Way with Gregg Allman

1978: "Living in Sin" with Gene Simmons

1980: Black Rose with Les Dudek

And for a palette cleanser, Youtube served this up to me this morning, a Toto song I had completely forgotten about (thus giving me a K-Tel record flashback): https://youtu.be/rQysrhYnWHg. If only Steve Lukather from Toto had been in Black Rose too in order to give them songs like this.

And a shout out to Hall and Oates.


When Cher Sings a Song: What It Means

Slander-libelSo I’ve mentioned before how when different people sing the same song, it can have different meanings; and this is because every person brings to a song their own “star persona” and personality and backstory and public backstory.

Andrew Goodwin talks a lot about this in his book Dancing in the Distraction Factory about music videos in the 1980s and 90s. A music video was never just a music video, but a piece in a conglomeration of promotional materials, star personas, the history of entertainment on television, (and he doesn’t mention it but this includes musical segments on old variety shows), posters, album covers, magazine interviews, TV interviews, aspects of business and the whole cyclone of products, promotions and pressures that circle around a song.

So while I was working on the latest Cher show this week, her opening song came up as a perfect example of this. First of all, I had never heard this song, “Keep the Customer Satisfied,” before last weekend; but I loved it immediately and saw it as the kind of song Cher would often use to explain herself, certain songs she sings over and over again, like “More Than You Know,” and “’Aint Nobody’s Business.”

I was very surprised to discover this was a Simon & Garfunkel song, written by Paul Simon. And when they sing it (and as the lyrics literally read) the song is about being on the road and the perils and pains found there.

Slander-libel2But Cher can’t help but lend a different spin to the song. She sings a few bars of the Janis Ian song “Stars” as the initial torch moment of the opening. “Stars” is a song about how alienating stardom can be. This was a significant song on her 1975 album (and not the only song on the album dealing with issues of fame) and it is significant that this was chosen as the title of the album. So from the beginning of this performance, Cher is setting up that “this song is about me as a famous person.”  This affects the context of the matching, following song, "Keep the Customer Satisfied" which in her hands focuses more on slander and libel than life on the road.

In her version, the road is more figurative for her whole celebrity life. At the time Cher was the most recurring cover girl on news stand tabloids, which were full of silly, off-the-wall stories about her love life (mostly involving people she had never met). She was also criticized for her divorce and risqué costumes. Here she’s presenting as a working showgirl just trying to do her job and entertain. The sheriff becomes not a literal middle-America sheriff but middle-America itself.

Slander-libel3So literal details can become figurative depending upon what the singer persona brings to the song. It’s a magical thing.

It’s also a catchy song. And this isn’t always the case, but here I like the Cher version better, even though the big production of the S&C version has a fun build. I feel the song fits Cher's drawl and delivery. She brings more gravitas to her version. Because really, how slandered and libeled were Simon and Garfunkel compared to Cher.

Or was anyone I submit to you.

The Gary Puckett version.


My Rick Springfield Story

Untitled design (2)This story came to mind recently after a few nice people wrote to me about the Partridge Family/Cher post a few weeks ago. One was a music writer from St. Louis and I enjoyed her pop-culture writings on Cher, Cream Magazine and a very funny piece on Rex Smith. I also liked how she incorporated a representative music link at the end of her commentaries. And she reminded me how my two older brothers, solidly in the 1970s, St. Louis KSHE-radio rock-music demographic, once mercilessly made fun of Rex Smith.

This was separate and apart from their ongoing pressure for me to alter my music plays in the house. And even though my first instinct was to resist their suggestions in this area, in a few cases their influence did affect me unawares.

In the first case, they ruined Barry Manilow’s song “Mandy” by telling me the then-popular rumor that the song was about a dog. The second instance involved Rex Smith when my brothers mocked his single “You Take My Breath Away” one day while we were in the family station wagon because the song was basically the same two sentences sung over and over again into perpetuity. I had to agree they had a point there.

There was also their general, unspoken disparagement of pretty boys in all cases, (especially light-haired ones), which must have seeped into my consciousness somehow and pretty much made impossible any crushes I could ever develop on Rex Smith, Leif Garrett, Sean Cassidy, Jimmy McNichol and pretty much anyone from Duran Duran.

But that was all academic because I was too late a bloomer for Mr. Rex Smith. And I really can’t emphasize that enough. I was a late, late, late bloomer.

Screenshot_20220723-194805I was a perfectly happy camper being a kid with my girlfriends roller skating and playing waitress or teacher or famous novelist. We had our salacious sexcapades with the Barbies; we had incredibly complex township soap operas improvised around the Fisher-Price army of Little People and their building structures. We had board games, books, restaurant menu design, newscasts, pirating.

But the biggest thing was the Fisher-Price and Tree Tots villages we would create in our basements by pooling together our buildings.

Screenshot_20220723-194821My friend Krissy was a year older than me and we played this way for years…until she “turned.” Darcey Steinke explains “turning” for girls very well in her novel Sister Golden Hair. Turning refers to the change from girlish kid-hood into the adolescent tweens. Girls turn overnight, Steinke explained, and this completely jives with my experience growing up. Girls pass from childhood to adolescence overnight like a flipped light switch whereas boys could take months if not years to evolve into their adolescence. I don’t know how it was for gay or trans kids. Possibly something in between. But for cisgender girls, the change was Twilight-Zone quick. One day a girl had a kid personality, the next day that kid disappeared and the same girls were like zombies solely intent on finding out where the boys were grazing. It was unnerving if you were a late bloomer, kind of like watching a 1950s horror movie.

ImagesKrissy was older and so her disappearance was expected to some degree, although because she was in a grade higher at school, I rarely saw her again after that. But for the girls in my own grade, the loss of a playmate was much more egregious and painful because we would still be friends at school. We just weren’t spending our free time in the same way anymore. It was a confusing kind of loss. And in the condescending way of girls who mature faster than others, my friends were patiently waiting for me to ‘catch up’.

Screenshot_20220723-072550Jane in our grade went next. Boy crazy we called her then because she was a statistical outlier. But then suddenly all the girls started falling like dominos!

I made an impassioned case to save them, too. I said things like,

“Hey listen, I have two boys in my house! And first of all, they smell…like bad!

Secondly, they’re obnoxiously immature for like forever and it will be another whole year before one will even be able to have a civilized conversation with you.

Screenshot_20220723-194618What’s the rush anyway? You have the rest of your life to suffer over boys!

Let’s play a game of Life!“

As you might imagine, my arguments fell flat.

I remember my very last Fisher-Price friend. Her name was Chris and she was one of the last girls to turn. She wasn’t interested in boys yet because she was a tomboy, which I was not. I was just clear-headed and probably psychic about the prospect of a lifetime of love-drama ahead. I was also to into dollhouses and stuffed animals to be a tomboy. And I had no interest in climbing anything. A few times I did swear to my Screenshot_20220723-194506father that I could be a tomboy for 48-hours in order to finagle an invitation to the boys-only camping trips. But no luck; he never bought it. Not once. (And thus, an adulthood of compensation-camping for me).  

In any case, I was always willing to caucus with the tomboys if it came to that. And I thought, “okay here is someone who beats up boys at recess! She’s good for another year with this Fisher-Price stuff…at least.”

Screenshot_20220723-194539Her father did very well at a local company and so she got presents on holidays like Valentine’s Day. She had so much stuff, she’d give it away frequently. All my Michael Jackson albums were bequeathed to me when she got a full replacement set like on like Washington’s Birthday or some other non-gifting holiday like that.

So of course all her toys was great. She lugged them all over to my basement one day, all her Fisher-Price buildings, the airport, the cottage, the farm and the Holiday Inn (which I didn’t even know existed). Those combined with my farmhouse and parking garage and we had quite a metropolis.

Screenshot_20220723-194439And we were having a swell time in my basement when two days later she calls and says she can’t make it over that day.

(No worries. Everything’s fine.)

But then I get the same call again the next day and then the next day; and I know what this means. I’ve been here many times before. She’s turned. She’s still friendly at school and willing to do all the adulting things she’s newly interested in; but she suddenly has no interest in being a kid anymore.

So we’re talking on the phone a few days later and I say, “By the way, you’re going to have to come over and pick up all your stuff or I can bring it over to your house or whatever.”

And this is what she says to me, (and it still breaks my little heart to this very day). She says,

“You can keep it.”

Ugh!!!

(Flash forward a few decades and my mother kept all that Fisher-Price stuff, both mine and everything Chris left behind, and was a very popular grandmother as a result. All my nieces and nephews loved those toys as much as I did. Even the neighbor kid would come over. It brings me some kind of mitigating joy to know those things had those subsequent lives.)

But anyway, I was adrift then because you couldn’t play with that stuff alone. You needed to bounce your imaginative stories off each other. So Chris’ kid-defection effectively and forcibly ended my career with Barbies and Fisher-Price people forever.

Kid-business just ceased to exist for these girls. Roller skating now had to happen at a disco roller rink where boys could be skated in front of. No more Nancy Drew. It was now standing around at the shopping mall in a cute outfit. (Which, by the way: you couldn’t pay me.)

Over the years I’ve thought a lot about this turning business and my being so tardy with it. It’s like each girl in my grade became possessed with another personality overnight, all the girls except the ones who were never going to turn, like the ones who turned out to be lesbians. Every other girl turned before I did. Actually, most of the boys turned before I did, too. That’s how late I was. And it was a lonely year as far as after-school was concerned. I watched a lot of TV.

I have this theory that Gen X girls in my grade all turned during a three-to-six-month period of time in the early 1980s. And it was like they woke up one morning and said, “Hey, I like boys today!” and then they all went to the record stores all over America and said, “Hey look! There’s a boy!” and then they all bought that same, damn Rick Springfield album.

My friend Krissy was a perfect example. She was completely following my influence in her record album purchases, however questionable they were. Slowly in the late 1970s, Cher and Johnny Cash albums were stacking up in her bedroom. And then out of the blue one day she makes a renegade purchase and I find the Rick Springfield album lying there on her bed.

And it was like any disparaging thing I could say about boys would just result in a moony gaze at the Rick Springfield album cover.

It’s important to note here that this was a completely different situation than years earlier when one of my friends would put on a Sean Cassidy or Jimmy McNichol 45 record as we kept on playing with the Fisher-Price stuff.

I was like goddamnit Rick Springfield; you are making this so much harder for me! It wasn’t his fault, I suppose. If it hadn’t been him, it would have been someone else. So it wasn’t personal exactly.

It was a little bit personal though.

Of course, I did turn eventually. One day in science class two of my girlfriends forcibly made me pick out some rando guy to “like.” And what seemed like a perfectly safe and perfunctory choice in the moment turned into rent garments pretty quickly. Within days, I was so predicably swept away I couldn’t even parcel out all the incredibly deserved “I told you sos” to all my friends.

And from that day that I turned, I have no clue where all that Fisher-Price junk in the basement got stored away because, for the love of god, all that ceased to exist and within days the basement was repurposed into a dance floor where I was dancing to The Pointer Sisters and songs like “Let the Music Play” while daydreaming about stupid rando boy. I had a bathroom now miraculously full of makeup and hairspray, was giving a shit about what I wore to school every day, and even stinky socks and asinine immaturity seemed mysteriously surmountable and even immaterial and now possibly (alarmingly) even part of the new appeal!

I think we can all look back at this time and clearly see I was totally right about all of it; and if Rick Springfield hadn’t enabled the complete Gen-X-Girl Turnover of 1981 & 2, I would have had a fighting chance in talking sense into those precocious, hormonally-hijacked young ladies.

The Rick Springfield thing isn’t personal. It’s just a little personal though.

StateoftheheartThis grievance of course doesn’t include the Italian Rick Springfield. He’s a total hottie.

 

And now…the closing Rick Springfield song.  
(I did buy this 45 single in 1985 so I couldn’t have been that mad at Rick Springfield.)


The Kiss-Off Songs of Sonny & Cher

Sonnyandcher01Full disclosure: when I was eight years old, I found Sonny & Cher's final record at the local library. This album seemed totally crazy (even for an eight year old) and yet I still proceeded to develop a nine-minute dance routine to Sonny's confounding title opus. 

Now, every time the song "Mana Was a Rock-and-Roll Singer, Papa Used to Write All His Songs" comes up on my music app shuffle, I can't help but compare it to the song Cher chose to sing to Sonny during one of the final episodes of their TV variety show.

MamaSonny's song is particularly venomous and disingenuous, full of bitterness. What's most shocking is that he got Cher to sing it.

"Damn you girl, you went and messed up the world" is really its prime motivation but includes attacks on Cher's alleged promiscuity, her looks, her treatment of him, and mysterious manipulations that allegedly led to someone getting jail time! Although Sonny does admit Cher is "super fine and blows people's minds."

The song then oddly floats into a reflective set of movements which take up two-thirds of the running time and proclaim a false modesty repeated over and over only to disprove the adage that if you repeat something enough times people will believe it.

The last two thirds include a full production with children's chorus, agitated strings and horns, a gospel singer, and a guitar solo which you don't even notice right away because so much is going on!

It's really something. Why is Cher involved in this again? Oh yeah, because even when she was pissed off at Sonny and he was being a complete dick, she still loved Sonny. And then, just when you think it's over...

DidntweIn contrast, Cher's fare-thee-well song to Sonny was Jimmy Webb's "Didn't We." Spectators to her performance of it, one of the final taped solos of the 1971-1974 series, say there wasn't a dry eye in the house, including Cher's.

Every time she sings, "And this time we almost made that long...hard climb," that emotional part always makes me sad.

Sonny also wrote a solo song called "Last Show" but it was mostly about losing the shows, not about losing Cher. And don't get me started on the grammatical uses of she and her. That song just makes me tired. I actually prefer the crazy opus if I had to choose. And, luckily, this world does not require that of us.


Cher Show, The First Season

Cher-georgeThe first season of the TV show Cher is up: https://www.cherscholar.com/the-tv-variety-shows-and-specials.html

Like my experiences re-watching the Sonny & Cher shows, I am enjoying the Cher shows much better as I’m re-watching them. The half-hour Cher shows when they aired on VH1 seemed very thin and awkward; but watching full-hour episodes gives them some heft and I can see more significance in skits and threads developing as the show evolved. Which is a surprise to me. I was expecting to not like them just as much as I had previously not liked them except for a few crazy or amazing musical numbers. I'm even enjoying the Saturday Night skits a lot more than I once did. 

Here are some additional comments about the show and Cher from the TimeLife DVD interviews. In the George Schlatter interview, George says:

  • “Old ladies and kids all loved her...the audience loved her.”
  • CBS was always nervous: what would she be wearing and singing.
  • George tried to set Cher up with dancing and singing lessons (to add 2 notes to her range). But she disappeared during the break and never did any of them.
  • Bob Mackie was “such a genius.” Schlatter first worked with him on The Judy Garland Show, where he noticed Mackie was great at smoothing over pressures with the divas. They sometimes had to sell Cher on some of the songs on her show with Mackie's dresses. Cher was sewn into some of her dresses.
  • Jerry Lewis was not the easiest man to work with.
  • But everyone should have a Lily Tomlin in their lives. (I would go for that.)
  • They were always waiting on Cher to get her nails done.
  • Cher didn’t know some of her guests on the show. For example, Kate Smith and Cher hadn’t heard of each other.
  • "The learning curve with Cher was a cliff."
  • Cher was "a rock-and-roll phenomenon" although she was not a rock-and-roll singer but rather a personality. “Cher is an event...I’ve worked with everyone. Cher is truly unique” in her appearance, delivery, interests.

S-l500In the Lily Tomlin interview, Lily says:

  • She saw Sonny & Cher more as musical performers than as a comedy team.
  • Cher has likability, is funny, is part of our culture, is very honest, outrageous, a feminist.
  • "Her show was really fun...It was variety’s golden age. People didn’t tune in for the guests; they tuned in to see Cher doing something."
  • During Tea with Mussolini Cher asked Lily: “Doesn’t Maggie just scare the shit out of you?”
  • What makes Cher a great actress: empathy , she brings authenticity to the screen, she’s “kinda remarkable.”
  • Lily and Cher fight together for elephants who are in captivity and they’re friends. Lily says Cher will tell her, “you’re the best but I’m the greatest.”
  • Lily says Cher is down to earth, real, authentic. She’s also “got a mouth on her.” She’s "the real thing, audacious, original, disarming, artful, indominable."

Cher, The Partridge Family Album and The Great American Themes

Adventures-of-huckleberry-finn-136

As I started working on this post last Friday, I wasn't sure which blog it would end up in (the Cher blog or the poetry blog). I feel the topic is halfway between writing the great American story/novel/movie/song/poem and the Cher blog where I could start to talk about Cher’s major career themes. I decided on the later since I’m starting to work on a Cher book divided by categories which are much more generalized and less specific than the Great American Themes but that are worth looking at through the kaleidoscope that is Cher.

To date I’ve finished reading 61 books on pop culture topics. Which is nothing, by the way, a drop in the bucket in the proliferation of pop culture scholarship these days. Academic Pop Culture Studies have exploded in the last 30 years, ever since “the Madonna essay.” We can get degrees in this now? Indeed. Not when I was a kid.

But pop culture pontificating has basically borrowed the existing think-tanking apparatus from the study of literature, which I did get a degree in so... yes ma, my indulgent book-club degree may just be of use here.

Here is a small sampling of the Cher-book categories to give you a taste of what the book will cover:

  • Feminism
    • Women on TV in the 1970s
    • Cher as Drag
  • High vs. Lowbrow Culture
    • Camp Culture
  • Appeal as Gay Icon
  • Movies & TV
    • The Male Gaze, MTV and the Female Gaze Looking Back
  • Power Pop/Girl Music
  • The Diva/Icon/Unruly Woman
  • Fan Culture

As of now there are 17 major categories. From the beginning I realized my weak spot would be writing about music, a category I don’t feel particularly knowledgeable about or good at writing about; so two years ago I started reading books around that, which led to a few minor obsessions: a search for Lester Bangs' essays, Lester Bangs' reviews of Sonny & Cher, and women writing about rock music.

It also lead to three rock histories, Good Booty by Ann Powers (a history of popular American music through the lens of sex), How the Beatles Destroyed Rock and Roll by Elijah Wald (worst click-bait title of a book I’ve ever seen…but nonetheless good alternative history of American popular music from a perspective of changing technology) and finally Mystery Train, Images of America in Rock and Roll Music by Greil Marcus. I was dissatisfied with the last book, only because the notes take up half the book and the meat of the thing only covers about five American themes:

  • Stagger Lee and the myth of the African American man as gangster
  • Everyman and freedom in the songs of Randy Newman
  • Pilgrims like The Band
  • Rags to riches and the country glamour of Elvis

But the book title does say "images" and not "themes" so my bad there. Anyway, this all got me to thinking about my own bigger list of the Great American Themes. And while I was wide awake last Thursday night it occurred to me most of the big themes are all oddly covered in the 1971 The Partridge Family Album.

TpfaBefore I launch into these themes and TPF Album, I want to say a few things:

  1. This was not my Partridge Family album. This was one of my brother’s albums. This thing came out in 1971 when I was 1 year old. Today both of my brothers refuse to cop to owning this thing but I am a witness to the fact that it was worn out by the time I got to it sometime in 1975. The cover was falling apart and the vinyl was worn and scratched already (and not by my parents, to be sure). Maybe it was neighbor kid Leewee's album (yes, that was his real name and we tend to blame him for things in situations like this).  In any case, this was the first non-Sonny & Cher/Sesame Street/Mr. Rogers/Disney Storyteller album I listened to. 

  2. PartridgeFor years I’ve been confused about why I still like it and looking at the back cover again today on the Googles, I can see why: it was essentially a Wrecking Crew album. The initial Partridge Family “sound” (and I would add, the initial very creepy sound) was based on the Ron Hicklin Singers and The Love Generation. But when everyone learned David Cassidy could sing, he was promoted to singer...for many obvious reasons. The album's non-Cassidy songs reflect the sickly-sweet foundational sound. 

  3. I was too young to be a fan of David Cassidy. He was old hat by the time later-day Gen X girls were crushing on singers and so Sean Cassidy was much preferred as was Kristy McNichol's brother Jimmy, which girls were losing their minds over as I recall. I've also never seen a single episode of The Partridge Family. It wasn't syndicated in St. Louis by the time I was watching copious hours of after-school TV. And these days, I can't look at that patchwork bus for very long before I start to get a headache.

So anyway, back to the themes. I made a table:

Theme

Partridge Family Album Song That Applies

Other Literature That Applies

The great American shoot-out, guns

 

Any western or gangster film

Reinvention, self-help
(Subtopics: failure, alienation, outcasts)

"Brand New Me"

Great Gatsby
Light in August

Upward mobility, rags to riches, class
(Subtopic: justice)

"Bandela"

To Kill a Mockingbird

The party, altered states, bottoming out

"Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque"
and "I Can Feel Your Heartbeat"

Infinite Jest

Nostalgia, the passage of time, the party’s over, loss of innocence

"Only a Moment Ago"

Blood Meridian

Driving, cars, wheels and rivers

"On the Road"

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The religious, spiritual quest, cults

"Somebody Wants to Love You"

Moby Dick

Self-actualization, identity (may not necessarily include a reinvention), general Me-ness

"Singing My Song"

Invisible Man

Pragmatism

"I Think I Love You"

Pragmatism by William James, anything by Ben Franklin

Survival of the fittest, The American Dream

 

The Grapes of Wrath,
The Jungle

 

Anyway, the Cher-text does not cover many of these American themes, at least not in song lyrics. Reinvention (and its root-cause of failure) is certainly a career theme, as is alienation, social mobility, and nostalgia (through remediation of old material). The shoot-out cowboy does make an appearance (via Sonny’s songwriting) as does coming-of-age and the loss of innocence (in both Sonny’s cowboy and teen pregnancy songs) and Cher does have a few songs about traveling on airplanes.   

More to think about there.                          


Friends of Friends of Dorothy (and a Missing Swimming Pool)

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Last weekend I spent time with two friends on a trip partially to visit the Georgia O'Keeffe house in Abiquiu, New Mexico, something we all had tried to do back in March of 2020 but the pandemic started that weekend and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum closed (which resulted in the creation of this thing).

This time we stayed at a guest ranch in Pojoaque, a place my family has been visiting for many years. Because I had been there before I was excited about taking a swim as soon as I arrived.

IMG_20220625_135413Crossing the grassy lawn in my swimmies, with a towel under my arm and a big coke in my hand, I suddenly came upon this:

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Missing pool. Alarmingly missing pool.IMG_20220625_140544

Ten minutes later, while I was taking a very angry shower, I kept thinking "what does this remind me of? This reminds me of something."

And that's when it occured to me the missing pool, among a few other things that had delapidated a bit at the guest ranch, (the trail to the river was blocked by an ominous barricade of tumbleweeds), were reminding me of Sonny & Cher's cartoon visit to their honeymoon hotel with Scooby Doo. You know, the scene where Sonny is listing off all the amenities of the place (pool, tennis courts) and the caretaker is telling them all those things no longer exist?

Brochure Brochure Brochure

 

 

 

 

Anyway, the guest ranch was not that bad but it was also not as good as previous visits either. Nevertheless, the weekend was beautiful; it rained most of the time through the cottonwoods and we hung out with peacocks, bullfrogs, goats, rabbits, burros and some very grumpy sheep while we had some deep conversations about life. We tried to feed the goats the day we left and they stole my friend's bowl from her hands and we had to stage a bowl rescue involving hanging her over the fence while the goats weren't looking. Good times.

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Glamour shots of one of the bowl thieves.

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Anyway, it just so happens my two friends are a gay couple and so we talked about recent (and possible upcoming) developments of the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a Cher fan, I have many gay men friends (and lesbian friends who are Cher fans too, as a matter of fact). Fag-hags was the derogatory term for us in the 80s. And all sorts of ideas proliferated about why we hung out with gay men, affection and shared interests never being part of the imaginative equations.

I was on a TV show once with a friend and many people thought we were depicted there as a gay couple there so Julie and I took to introducing the show to our new friends as Who Gets the Lesbians. (Edgar did. Edgar got the lesbians.) And although neither of us are gay, this never bothered me because it was actually more exciting than what was really going on in my life at the time; and if we had been gay, we would have been a very fun and interesting gay couple.

So for a long time I've been thinking about straight people in close relationships with gay friends. It should go without saying that having gay friends doesn’t mean you’re gay or on your way to being gay or that gay people are trying to turn you gay. Unfortunately, there are still folks out there who believe this.

SilkwoodAnd this all came up again last week when Cher tweeted a birthday wish to Meryl Streep and recalled the swing scene from Silkwood.

Although Silkwood is a very dry movie, (albeit one with an amazing cast), it's an unheralded example of a sweet relationship between straight and gay people. It depicts a very intimate and close relationship (one sometimes fraught with conflict) between Cher, who plays Dolly Pellicker, and Meryl, who plays Karen Silkwood, culminating very movingly in the swing scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDP_4UqslnQ

While I was at the guest ranch, I also came across this news story about someone else I'm a fan of, "Barry Manilow pauses Newcastle concert after 'rude' reaction to lyric." Even though Barry Manilow is a gay man, most if not all of his fans are straight women, even ones like me who knew Barry was gay long before he came out.

According to the story, Barry Manilow was singing "Weekend in New England," and as he was singing "when will our eyes meet/when can I touch you" the girls in the audience started to holler. 

The article states, "Looking slightly flustered, Barry was momentarily speechless, before letting out a little chuckle and commenting: 'My hands are busy now!'"

If you watch the video, the aforementioned pause is miniscule, the rudeness is questionable and the comeback is quick.

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Barry is used to the sexual innuendos in his shows. The Concert at Blenheim Palace in 1983 is a good example of the Barry tease and screaming girls. I watched it recently in 'slight' amazement that it worked so well considering didn't half of us know he was gay? His repartee was full of double entendres and the girls sounded like they were losing their minds while their boyfriends sat there stoically trying to go to their happy places.

In "Weekend New England" most people miss the obvious sexuality and Barry performs the climax more lustfully than he gets credit for, which I assume is because he's become a performer most people assume has no sexuality. We love to rob people who are different or 'square' or a bit goofy of their sexuality.

“When will this strong yearning end...I feel brave and daring/I feel my blood flow."

Where did you think the blood was flowing?

It doesn’t matter that he’s now an outed gay man singing these lines to straight women. If Barry Manilow was caught off guard or flustered in Newcastle, (which I'm not convinced he was), maybe this was because he wasn't still expecting the straight reaction to his performance because it was occurring after he was outed; but the 'lewd' responses are still happening like clockwork.

And Barry Manilow is still responding with his old-school retorts. It's the very same thing, straight people in relationships with gay people and joking about sex and it gives me deep joy.


Cher in Andy Warhol's Interview, December 1974

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I'm not proud of it, but when I saw this come up on eBay a few weeks ago, after waiting decades for the issue to show up, I literally threw money at it with the dangerous Make an Offer feature. 

And after reading it I wasn't very sorry I did. I think this is an important interview for 1974, albeit annoyingly gossipy to the point of catty and status obsessed, as Andy Warhol's Interview could often be. (Andy and Bob interviewed her once again for the March 1982 issue)

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In 1974, Cher, David Geffen (who Cher was dating at the time), Andy Warhol, Bob Colacello and Andrea Portago all met at the Hotel Pierre and they all mostly talk about shopping.

Every column or so of text had a list of shorthand topics that were discussed but not transcribed. An example:

"Liza Minelli
the wedding
Jack Haley
coming to town this weekend
Halston's giving a party"

Another especially egregious example is this one:

"serious economic situation
very depressing
stuff by the yard
1940s jewelry
so cheap now
vulgar, but big
Cartier's in Paris
the best
pull out their old stuff. Ask them.
Erte's book
designers today
any master craftsmen?"

Interview2However, there are some unique conversational events in this interview.

  1. Defending Sonny:

    (a) Cher has just found out earlier in the year that Sonny had slyly screwed her out of all her earnings over the previous decade. She has just discovered she was a paid employee in a company Sonny and his lawyer created called Cher Enterprises and Cher was entitled to none of the profits but three weeks of paid vacation (so that's something...but which she never received, telling the Warhol gang the act Sonny & Cher never took a vacation in all of the last 12 years). Sonny's contract also stipulated Cher could not work on any solo projects without his permission. So Cher had been out of work for most of 1974 while David Geffen used his formidable gray cells to liberate Cher from Sonny's contractual clutches. Geffen as Cher's knight-in-shining-armor was not appreciated by Sonny, who despised David Geffen for years afterwards with the heat of a thousand suns.

    Despite this drama, Cher refuses to trash talk Sonny in this interview. "I knew that we owned half of the show and I thought that Cher Enterprises was just a company you had to have because people are always forming companies--I really didn't even know why, you know. I just thought because we had a payroll, and the checks said Cher Enterprises...Now I get nothing....the judge gave me a certain amount of money each month to live on until I can have half of whatever it is..." (this never happened by the way; Cher ended up having to buy out her contract from Sonny which took her until 1977). When Andrea talks about how greedy that was of Sonny, Cher's response is "Well, it's a strange thing....Sonny was really angry. He said, 'You screwed up everything. I could have made all this money and...it's your fault so I should be the one who keeps the money and you should go out and work." I said, "That seems logical, but when I met you, you were a truck driver and I was doing nothing and we were nothing and now we have all this money and all these things, and you should take half and I should take half..."

    The next question is Andy Warhol asking Cher if she does her own nails.

    (b) Custody of Chastity: Sonny also fought Cher for full custody of Chastity "and then the judge ended up giving him less time to see her than I had always given him so he said, 'Well, I hope you're not going to stick to that' and I said, "No, you can see her whenever you feel like seeing her.' My goal in life is not to keep her from him."

    (c) Sonny's flopped variety TV show: Andrea asks Cher if she saw Sonny's 1974 show, The Sonny Comedy Review. Cher says, "Yeah, I did." "Did you like it?" Andrea asks. For the record, this show was handed it's ass in  1974 but Cher says, "Well, there were a lot of things about it that I liked. You know?" Andrea says, "I thought you were sorely missing and Chastity, too." Cher says "Well, a lot of people think that, but I think that if you looked at the show and you didn't remember the Sonny and Cher show, that it was a pretty good show." Andrea retorts, "But it was the same format. How could you not remember it?" And Cher says, "It was, that's true. Well, that's the producer's fault because they just kind of do the same thing over and over again and they've done it like five times but the only time that it actually ever worked was with us but I don't think they know how to do anything else."

    So kids...this was the apex of Sonny's assholery toward Cher (going for her share of a fortune and full custody of their child). So when in 1998 people ragged on Cher at Sonny's death for jumping on a grieving-widow-wagon because she had spent decades trashing him, this was just more of the same anti-Cher bullshit made up over nothing true. For all Cher's softball insults about Sonny over the years ("I traded one ugly man for another"), she defended him just as often and always came to his aid when summoned, like when he opened his LA restaurant and needed publicity, when he was running for mayor of Palm Springs and needed publicity which precipitated the David Letterman Show reunion. This interview is the sterling example of how hard, if not impossible, it really was to turn Cher against Sonny. Not even Sonny could do it.

    Sonny & Cher outside of the Santa Monica Courthouse in 1974 where Sonny slipped Cher some tongue for the paparazzi:

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  2. Being a Slave to Fashion, Andy Warhol vs. Cher:

    They're discussing people who wear whatever they see in Vogue Magazine. Cher defends people who need help figuring out complete looks with magazines. Andy Warhol then says, "And the fashion editors spend millions finding the right things, and they are right about what looks good; whatever they show is really right-looking, and they do work hard at it so people might as well take advantage of it."[Andy Warhol: Fashion Apologist!] Cher then says, "there will always be people who won't follow this. Sometimes I buy a 3-piece suit but then I just wear the pants because it makes me feel strange to go out in something that's pre-set already for me. I kind of like to screw around with it...I think there's really no such thing as what's 'right' in fashion now and I think that's good."

    Another thing Cher gets no credit for: her risk taking 'looks' that say fuck-you to fashion more often than catering to it. Some 1974 Cher looks:

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  3. Laverne vs. Ernestine:

    This is short but interesting, Cher's conception of her character. When Andrea says Cher's Laverne character "is a little bit reminiscent of Lily Tomlin's telephone operator," Ernestine. Cher says, "I guess they were both strange kind of ladies, but then Ernestine was so square and Laverne was so broad...she played around a lot."

    Laverne and Ernestine never met in TVLand like Laverne and Geraldine did.

    Laverne-geraldineThere's still time.

  4. Meeting famous people:

    It's always interesting to hear famous people talk about meeting other people they consider more famous than themselves. David Geffen says, "your fantasies are bound to be destroyed upon meeting almost anybody. I'm sure if we met Clark Gable we'd be very disappointed" and Cher says, "Yeah, because we all have an idea of what we think of Clark Gable, right? and we'd make him fit the mold of filling our insecurities, our neuroses or what we need of him as our star..." and then Andy Warhol says they just met Joan Crawford and she was great, "fit the bill" he says. Cher doesn't seem to buy it and tries to quote something about legends and men and David Geffen remembers the quote more accurately, "When the Legend is bigger than the Man, then print the Legend."

    Cher's celebrity obsession was Audrey Hepburn, by the way, and I don't think she was disappointed. Speaking of which, this picture I just found on Pinterest is captioned, "Audrey with Cher Hair."

    Audrey
  5. The Famous and the Famous:

    Cher's recent Aspen trip proving celebrities sometimes really do hang out together: Cher is talking about having dinner plans that night with Ara Gallant and how Cher had just been to Aspen with Ara and "Angelica, Brit Ekland, Apollonia, Ingrid, myself....And David, Lou, and Jack. We had the most wonderful time. We had a ball. I mean we just blew it out. Skied all day and danced al night."

    As you would expect. Then Bob tries to talk Cher into going shopping that Saturday for 1940s jewelry. (We gotta get in on this hanging out with Cher thing.)

    Aspen
  6. Cher in Movies: 

    Andy Warhol tells her her movie was "so great. It was really good comedy." And Cher says, "What? Good Times?" She then acknowledges both Good Times and Chastity as being "much longer ago...let's see, I was 20, so that's eight years ago." (Ages!)

    Gt

Andy, Bob and Andrea leave the Pierre and talk about how good Cher looked without makeup and how "she'd be fun to shop with--she loves all the jewelry." 


Cher's Performance in Jimmy Dean Gets a Deep Dive

Come-Back-to-the-Five-and-Dime-crying-cherWhen people ask me what my favorite Cher performance is I always say Sissy in Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. Her performances as Loretta in Moonstruck and Rusty in Mask are pretty great too, but just not as great.

The issue in saying this, however, is that Jimmy Dean is a much more difficult movie for people to watch than all the other Cher movies. Unless you're a fan of Robert Altman and even then, this is not a favorite film among even Altman fans.

For one thing, there's the convention of time-travel through the dime-store mirror that seems confusing for most people. Then there's the whole storyline of transgenering, which in 1982 was challenging for viewers and is still controversial for some people now. 

So I was thrilled to find this dissection of Cher's performance by film critic Claudio Alves who has been watching the Criterion Channels Films of Endearment series. He calls this move "an underrated Robert Altman effort" and rightly credits Altman's role in handing Cher a serious film career. "If not for this flick, her ascendance to movie stardom might have never happened." 

Alves concedes that of the three women, Cher's role is "the least showy part, though no less complex" compared to Karen Black's performance of a trans woman ("portrayed with a sensitivity that feels ahead of its time for 1982"), and Sandy Dennis' performance of "warped fandom" and a life of lies. Cher's role still contains plenty of "juicy monologues and shattered multidimensionality."

He breaks apart Cher's casual entrance and connects it to her on-stage persona. He talks about her "vocal cadence and the rhythm of gestures" that reveal "a deeper weariness" and he contrasts this to her portrayal of her younger, more jubilant self.

He takes apart her "humor and energy" in the role during periods of reaction to the dramas of other characters ("comedic frustration," "dipsomatic deadpan," "bored and slightly critical in that way one is when being presented with an oft-repeated lie") and her performance of

"exaggerating emotion in order to force herself into genuine feeling. It's a risky gambit on Cher's part, for the approach could read as over-deliberate, mayhap over-technical when compared to Dennis' externalized implosions and Black's sense of innate fragmentation. Thankfully, Cher thrives in making bold choices look instinctual, erasing any signs of forcefulness until everything she does on-screen looks effortless. Such powers aren't beneficial for winning awards, though, since so much value is put on the performer's self-conscious extenuations. Nevertheless, they're vital to the songstress' success as a dramatic actress. They also define her presence as that of an old-school movie star. She can walk into a movie, captivate the camera, and magnetize the audience's gaze without breaking a sweat."

Alves even has some rare praise for Altman's work here: "This film...works as a showcase for Altman's ability to collaborate with actors and shoot limited spaces, finding infinite strategies to capture and contrast the store and its women...using these famous performers in ways no other film ever tried, before or since.

Not only does Alves give Cher's performance due diligence, his screenshots are perfectly illustrative of key moments.

Read the piece here: http://thefilmexperience.net/blog/2022/5/3/almost-there-cher-in-come-back-to-the-5-dime-jimmy-dean-jimm.html


The She-Shed Cher Shrine

TapestryOne thing I finished in April was the ‘shrine’ in the Cher She-Shed. Full disclosure, the story of the she-shed Cher shrine is a long and winding one. It began, one way or another, all the way back in 1998-9 when my friend Julie cajoled me onto the Internet and I discovered early Cher fan websites in the mid-1990s that mostly contained only copious amounts of pictures of Cher.

At the time I called those sites disparagingly 'Cher shrines.' After learning HTML for Ape Culture (Julie again), I secretly wanted to create my own Cher website but wanted to avoid a shrine. I came up with the jokey 'Cher Scholar' to pretend scholarly legitimacy. I’ve since come to learn you should be careful what you joke about. Jokes can overtake you. Sure enough, in 2010 I found a copy of the journal Camera Obscura with an academic essay on Lena Horne and I've been aspirationally scholarin’ since.

Around the same time I had moved to New Mexico which is composed of three large groups of people: Native American Indians, Hispanics (self-identified descendents from Spain vs Latin Americans) and Anglos. When I moved here I started  researching the major Anglo artists here, including the Taos and Santa Fe art colonies and the grand dame of Anglo art here Georgia O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe is important in New Mexico for two reasons. (I promise this will get back to Cher). First of all, she’s one of the very few female artists with a museum dedicated to her (thanks to heiress Anne Marion). She’s also a pretty good interpreter of New Mexico from the point of view of Anglo transplants. And there has been a proliferation of Santa Fe artists and writers that are descendants of her style (and lifestyle).

Back in the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s my grandparents accumulated a bit of American Indian art from my grandfather's career in the Indian Service. I had a somewhat advanced knowledge of traditional Pueblo arts in New Mexico and Hopi, Arizona. Meeting students and teachers while working at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and visiting their associated Contemporary Museum (the area’s most interesting modern art actually), I caught up on non-traditional artists. But knew little to nothing about the Hispanic arts in the area

Back in 2015, I started working at a community college in Albuquerque and I took a class on New Mexico Art History. It was the whole world of Spanish-influenced New Mexican arts that had an impact on the Cher shrine as it came to be.

New Mexico was a very remote area in the empire of Spain for about three centuries. As a comparison, New Mexico has only been part of the United States for less than 200 years. Some very unique arts and culture developed here due to area's remoteness (from Spain and even Mexico), particularly objects related to the Spanish/New Mexican Catholic Church, as well as the practice of speaking Spanish here that was so secluded, it 'stagnated' (or separated from the natural language evolutions happening in Mexico and Spain) and became a different dialect of Spanish that is spoken to this day in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.

IMG_20211120_182005Most of these arts were developed from lack of materials like gold, silver, wool and plaster. This includes fiber arts like colcha (lack of yarn), tinwork (lack of silver), straw filigree pieces made with wheat (lack of gold), and wooden altars they call retablos (lack of painting canvases) and bultos (or santeros), wooden saint statues (lack of plaster).

Anglo painters like Marsden Hartley even painted the retablos and bultos.

There are pre-historic and multi-cultural arts here that exist nowhere else on earth.

And here is where we come back to Cher. 

The idea to start a fake-shrine began when I acquired the praying-hands Cher blanket (at the Chersonian, we call it a “tapestry”) which was originally sold on her Believe tour. I thought immediately I could hang this up with a two-person pew beneath it. Fans could then pray "with" Cher if (hopefully not) "to" Cher. 

Then I found a little tourist retablo of Saint Cecelia in Santa Fe that looks totally like Cher in the 1970s. Catholic candles are very popular here (you can find them at every grocery store) and there are now Cher versions proliferating on Etsy. I snared one for the decades 1960s, 70s and 2000s. I then collected a few tin nichos (little nooks) in need of pictures so I downloaded some  Cher pics in prayer gestures and a very creepy Cher head transposed onto Jesus.

(click any pic to enlarge)

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At Spanish Market I ran into the booth of an artist who calls himself the “Picasso Santero,” Jose A. Lucero. His Jesus retablos had an uncanny resemblance not only to Cher in various colored wigs but they even uncannily indicated a Picasso-like post-plastic-surgery Cher. How great is that??

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The Cher store at Caesars Palace put out Cher mints that serve a handy Eucharist. And then I found the handy fan-made kneeling pillow (to replace the pew, which there was no room for).

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You may recognize the Vida scarf Cher designed a few years ago underneath everything.

One day I found a fan-made picture of the Divas Last Supper on Etsy. It arrived in the mail with a Britney Spears laminated card. I had no idea what this card was and asked Mr. Cher Scholar who informed me it was a Catholic prayer card. It took me literally a second to decide to design a Cher one with her lyrics for “Chastity Sun” serving as the prayer on the back. 

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All that was missing were the bultos, the wooding carvings of the saints. 

I couldn’t very well ask religious artists at Spanish Market to make me a custom Cher bulto, although I’ve stood in front of many a vendor table contemplating it. “This Jesus is so cool but…”

For Christmas last year my friend Julie got me a little wooden doll of Cher carved with her "Take Me Home" outfit. She found a Palo Alto artist named Holly on Etsy who does various wooden pop culture figures and she has a whole suite of Cher dolls in iconic outfits. I suddenly realized these was technically tiny bulto figures.

And so the New Mexican She-Shed Cher Shrine was done.

It’s been a big unnerving to watch some of my more religious family members tour the Cher she-shed but I did find the "Sonny & Cher read the Bible" advertisement; so I hope that mitigates the sacreligiousness for them somewhat. The religious visitors don’t seem too disturbed, honestly.

It’s the straight men who experience adverse effects repeatedly. I’ve taken large family groups into the shed and the girls (gay or straight) all express surprise and delight (which is always a shock to me considering how dorkey the whole enterprise is). But after the initial pass-through, I will invariably look around and all the straight men will have disappeared.

I look out the door and they’re out on the lawn literally fanning themselves. I’m not kidding. I think they’re having a religious moment.

 

More information about New Mexico's Spanish arts and culture:

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