Cher scholar Dishy recently got me working out again with Cher's exercise tapes. He asked about locating copies of Cher’s old workout videos in the US. Very unfortunately, they're not available on DVD here. You can only get them in VHS and Laserdisc. If you wore out your VHS, you SOL. You can’t convert your tapes to DVD (copyright protections literally stop you from doing this) and the DVDs that are available in Europe won’t play on your US DVD players. (I've tried to use them on my computers and DVD-players).
I believe this is why Americans are so fat: Cher's fitness videos are withheld from us on DVD. It's bad enough our Twinkies are filled with corn syrup. We're doomed!
I have not played out my Cher fitness VHS tapes because I've only watched them once (while eating popcorn and sitting on the couch). I felt a bit weirded out to have Cher be my fitness guru and my celebrity obsession too. But Dishy inspired me to actually give them a try. For years I've been feeling under the weather and downright "stove up." Starting last January I've been working out on a treadmill. I was finally ready to work out with Cher.
I didn't want to invest in a step yet (in case I hated stepping) so I simply used a small step stool. My Cher bands were also MIB (where they'll stay) but I did have some bands from physical therapy a few years ago.
The Body Confidence (1991) video packaging is odd in that Cher's body is all in shadow. Isn't that what we're selling here: Cher's body? The video's Wikipedia page says that Health & Fitness gave the video 5 out of 5 stars and that it sold 1.5 million copies by December 1992 in the US (350,000 in the UK) and has become one of most successful fitness videos of all time. Wikipedia disclaimer, however, says these facts are not substantiated and may be deleted soon.
Before the workouts, Cher gives good pep talks about having a lifelong commitment to exercise (too late), having faith and courage and being willing to work. I really like her emphasis on putting in the work. I also like how she admits she’s not the best at working out and defers to trainers instead of trying to be the Queen Exercise Bee. She says exercise isn’t her profession and she seems happy to be the student. She says it's ok not to be able to make all the reps (that's good) and you start where you’re starting. She says you don’t want to spend rest of your life in a gym but there have been advances in exercising. (There actually been many more advances since the early 1990s—the whole Pilates-yoga fusion craze). She says you should aim to slowly get strong. Here's a clip.
Part 1: The 38 minute step class is with Keli Roberts and Cher is over-outfitted in ruffles, a curly full wig up-do and makeup. She looks more like she's going out to party than attempting to work out. The videos are full of all women, no men, but there's a good feeling of female camaraderie.
There's always a Cher song to frame the tapes. For this one it's "Love & Understanding." The rest are covers of mostly 1960s up-tempo hits like "Born to Be Wild," "Get Ready," "All Right Now" and an 80s song thrown in, "Missionary Man." Cher provides many asides and smart-ass comments.
The class provides three workout levels. My step turned out to be too small and I couldn’t step over it. Longtime Cher pals, Dori Sanchez, Paultette and Angie can be seen as fellow exercisers in this segment, Paulette very demurely doing her moves. They don't show Dori Sanchez enough considering she's doing the non-step moves. You get a pulse check. Mine was within range but not spectacularly within range.
You can find grainy clips of this routine online.
Part 2 is 10 mins of back and abs movements. They do mostly old-style abs crunches. This is too hard on my neck so I tried Pilates variations. Cher called the course concise and challenging. Most of the camera work was with Keli Roberts and Cher. Cher looked tiny her in a suspenders outfit. View a clip.
Part 3 is 32 minutes of buns and thighs. This was a tough workout of mostly standing work and squats. I used a chair ala Jane Fonda’s old-people's DVD workout, Fit and Strong.
I liked the step routine more than I thought I would and went online to see if I could buy or make my own step. Used ones are still going for $40-50 (too much). If you’re a carpenter, you can make your own; but I’m not and neither is Mr. Cher Scholar. One hilarious website showed you how to to turn four boxes of boxed-wine into a step. You use extra cardboard inside the boxes for support and many wrappingss of duct tape around the boxes. I seriously considered doing this, (thinking the drinking part would be fun), and then realized it would cost me just as much to buy a damn step. So I found one on Amazon for less than $30 that will work fine.
Body Confidence (1992) is the second tape and according to Wikipedia, Health & Fitness gave it four stars. It has a better cover and plays scenes from the last video. They called video one award-winning but I couldn’t find anything online about which award it might have won.
You can get very affordable Gaim-brand workout bands in three strengths at Target. The video also advertised that you once could order extra bands from an 800 number at $9.98 (allow 4-6 weeks) from Tarzana, California. Send check or money order. Ah...those quaint days before PayPal.
Cher provides another pep talk about not believing in "no pain no gain." She says this tape will help sculpt muscles and burn fat. And don’t be too critical, you'll pick up the dance moves. She says she's never taken a dance class and is "just naturally good at my body." View a clip.
Hot Dance is 38 minutes led by Dori Sanchez (Cher's tour choreographer). Cher is in another over the top outfit (her HoleFit, believe it or not) and another wig up-do. This is like Cher as Dolly Parton making an exercise tape.
The music on this tape is framed by "Turn Back Time" and includes different 1960s music covers including "Pretty Woman," "Dancing in the Street" and "You Got Me" with the 80s addition of "Addicted to Love." I know many fitness fans care a lot about the workout music. I used to but these days I kind of zone out and don't even notice if the music is amateurish. Cher's tapes are better than average for music.
This workout is full of good Cher-tattoo sightings. And one brunette has an over-the-top level of enthusiasm. Myself, I never could “double it up.”
Part 2 is 45 minutes of Mighty Bands. Bands work like weights without the full gym. I found for this class you really need two bands of each strength for the standing routines. Karen Andees leads us through this segment and there are major sound issues and correction dubs. The music is so loud you can't hear the cues. You have to watch.
The cast is full of the old players including Mark Hudson doing music (I can't stop thinking about Chaz's harassment story when I think about him); manager Bill Sammeth, director David Grossman, costumes by Van Buren. The exercising girls were: Karen Andes, Angela Arnaud, Anita Morales, Trish Ramish, and Michelle Rudi (although I could swear her name was spelled Rudy on the second tape), Dori Sanchez, Paulette Bettes listed as stylist, Leonard Engleman for makeup, Renata Leuschner for hair. The song credits were not listed.
At the end of two weeks I determined I really liked these classes. Which is really too bad because I won't be doing them again. Although Cher was actually fun to work out with, I don't want to wear out my VHS tapes. I went online this week to find other step and stretch workout DVDs I can keep doing.
Getting to Know our Teachers
Keli Roberts is from Australia and has worked with Kirstie Alley, Jennifer Grey, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Russel Crow and Faye Dunaway. She's a guru of step classes and has done over 40 videos. Her book Fitness Hollywood was popular and she's now a trainer in Pasadena. For more books and videos: http://keliroberts.com/products/fitness-videos/
Dori Sanchez is Cher’s longtime live show choreographer. She was in the movie Dirty Dancing and works on the TV show So You Think You Can Dance. Her father was a ballroom dance teacher and she’s also worked with Shakira, Peter Gabriel and Jane’s Addiction. She credits Cher with helping her though a brain tumor episode in 2011.
Karen Andees is a previous co-owner of a Gold’s Gym in Marin County and she writes about nutrition, balance, equipment, gym ettiquite, obsession with body and self-esteem. Her book, A Woman of Strength received mixed reviews. She now appears to be into yoga swinging at her San Rafael gym.
The exercise guru space is sure crowded but here are some other trainers I’ve come to like:
Joanie Greggains She is my first fitness guru. I worked out to her vinyl albums in the 1980s (literally the one on the right). She had a popular TV show called Morning Stretch and is still working on a radio show: http://www.joaniegreggains.com/
Denise Austin - I've come to really like her because she has a very friendly spirit and helpful website. She's very encouraging. I purchased her $5 video on walking from the back of a ceral box. Her Fit Forever program sounds suspiciously close to Cher's Forever Fit though. She started as a gymnast from San Pedro, California.
Ana Cabán is an LA Pilates guru who studied with Romana Kryzonowska. She has had studios in LA's Silver Lake area and in Miami. She was a dancer who injured her back and recovered with Pilates: http://anacaban.com/
Christa Rypins is a former ice skater who developed chronic pain and came up with a program of somatic movement yoga called "Yummy Yoga" which is a fusion of yoga, Pilates, and meditation. This tape isn't fancy but it's the only thing that relieves my carpel tunnel and chronic neck pain. She runs the Intelligent Body Movement Studio in Murphys, California: http://www.intelligentbody.net/meet_christa.html
Lara Hudson does those 10 Minute Solution videos. Often her Yoga is too fast for me but her Pilates video is popular. Fans say she gives clear and concise cues. She's a former acrobat and developed something called The Mercury Method which is again another fusion of yoga, Pilates and traditional training. She explains the difference between Pilates (non-nonsense muscle conditioning) and yoga (mental and spiritual well being with breath and poses): http://themercurymethod.com/lara-hudson/
Elisbeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito (husband and wife) work at Exhale spa in New York City and have trained Heidi Klum and Cameron Diaz. They provide yet another fusion of yoga, Pilates and the Lotte Berk method which focuses all Pilates and yoga on a stable core. Their video has lot of core work and some mind-body balance. They care about alignment and working one position for a long time instead of “mindless reps.” It's very challenging and I like how these two trainers trade off: http://acacialifestyle.com/exhale-core-fusion/c/360/
Maya Fiennes is Macedonian and a classical pianist who teaches Kundalini yoga classes. These are full of mantras and dextox yoga. I usually do this one twice a year: http://www.mayaspace.com/
I also found out today of all days that Namaste Yoga is starting their third season on FitTV channel (which I don't get anymore). I love this slower Ayurveda yoga (seems like there are a million types of yoga) with a big meditative quality shot beautifully and narrated by Kate Porter. The first two seasons are available on DVD: http://www.katepotteryoga.ca/namastetv.html
The European covers of Cher's fitness programs (but the DVDs don't play in the US)