Cher Once Did Needlepoint; Now She Valiantly Defends the United States Post Office

Cher Works to Save the Post Office

Excuse my title up there. I really didn't know how to tie all these disparate stories together.

First off, fans have been delighted to see Cher fighting for the U.S. post office in recent protests, phone calls and Twitter pics.

Cherpo3

Cherpo1Cherpo2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope if she starts volunteering for the post office, Bob Mackie designs her some "sensible shoes."

Cher and Needlepoint 

Months ago someone was requested photos of celebrity needlepointers like Dinah Shore and Rosey Grier. I found as many as I could but one photo I remembered proved elusive to locate. Then Cher scholar Drew asked me a question and I went searching for the answer to that but instead found the missing needlepoint pic. Maybe someday I'll locate the answer to Drew's question while I'm looking for something else. 

Anyway, Cher once did lots of needlpoint. She did so much she joked, "Then I took up needlepoint—my God, I needlepointed everything. I could have made a needlepoint stove!"

Cher needlepoints on airplanes:

20200815_10501820200418_173755 20200815_105018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cher needlepoints circa 1978/9.

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I also captured an image of Sonny pretending to needlepoint in episode #49 of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour:

Needlept

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


And here are some needlepoints of Cher:

Sandcneedles Sandcneedles

 

 

 

 

 

Time Time

 

 

 

 

The Time Magazine pillow belonged to Bob Mackie and sold for $448 on Julien's Acutions.

You can buy the Moonstruck needlepoint pattern on Etsy with a companion Nicholas Cage!

What is a Silkwood Shower?

For the Chersonian Institute, I was filing old magazines and found something interesting. Remember when Entertainment Weekly did a Bullseye pieceon the last page? Do they still do that? Anyway, one I found had a disparaging arrow regarding a rumor that Bret Michaels and Miley Cyrus’ mom were dating. ET says the rumor has sent them “running for a Silkwood shower.” Ok, that's a big rude. And I wondered if that was like…a saying. Apparently it is. Urban Dictionary has a listing for it with this example:

“I had to take a Silkwood shower when I got home from that party since I smelled like an ash tray cooked on an open flame BBQ grill covered in hot sauce.”

So "snap out of it, Moonstruck eggs and the Jack speech are not the only iconic references from a Cher movie.

Here are some shots of a Silkwood shower. It's a pretty serious and scary thing and Meryl rocks it (as did Sudie Bond earlier in the movie). 

Silkwood2 Silkwood2 Silkwood2

 

 

 

1999showCher Concert Reviews

Concert reviews have changed. I've learned this lesson over the last year from various sources from current reviewers and from the deceased reviewers. Is this overwhelming evidence of capitalism taking over PR? Probably. Which is no such a great thing. Buyer beware, there are no objective reviews in the land of corporate conglomeration. 

So it’s good to look back at a positive review and interview from 1999 (when bad reviews still existed) and this one was by T’cha Dunlevy at the Montreal Gazette is one of those. She was 30 when she reviewed the Believe-era concert and said she

“regularly feels aversion to refuse-to-die ‘60s rock acts. I had no convulsions of revulsion at the Camp Queen’s coup. Maybe it’s her synthetic, timeless beauty or her go-with-the-flow versatility, but Cher has somehow kept her proverbial cool over her three-and-a-half decades in the spotlight…a repetoir of personae, including pop-ditty princess, serious actor, 'I’m-in-love-with-a-man-half-my-age' bachelorette, reactionary mother of a lesbian [remember this was 1999] and, in her 50s. back to the top of the pops without coming off like a circus side-show act.”

“...'How many fingers and toes have you got?’ she asks, queried about whether she’s ever thought of giving up. ‘(It happens) all the time. It’s frustrating. I’m a very mercurial, emotional person, more childish sometimes than grownup. I’m not very calculating. But it’s the only think I know how to do and really love.’”

The end of the interview also notes that both Cyndi Lauper and Wild Orchid were opening for Cher at the time, the same Wild Orchid that produced Stacy Ferguson a.k.a. Fergie Duhamel a.k.a Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas. 


Decoding the Time Life Sets

Chertime

So the new Cher TimeLife set is out (thank you to Cher scholar Michael for alerting me to this).

To purchase these:

The Best of Sonny & Cher (1): https://timelife.com/products/the-best-of-sonny-cher-carol-burnett
The Best of Cher: https://timelife.com/products/the-best-of-cher-deluxe-collection

These TimeLife sets come in two tiers (cheaper and much less cheap). When I received the first set, I enjoyed the booklet and the extras. I was disappointed that there was only one episode I hadn't seen before and that one was edited. But I was looking at it from an uber-fans POV. Also, I didn't rightly consider the episodes of the solo show that I hadn't yet seen in full, having seen only 1/2 episodes from VH1's most welcome rediscovery of Cher in the mid-1990s. So I finally sat down this week and compared all the sets to each other to see what we have here. If you've bought the original Best of Sonny & Cher series and don't consider the remake version in the Cher bundle, you'll miss out on a few extra episodes of Cher

The Best of Sonny & Cher – version 1 (2019)
You could bundle that with the a Laugh In box set which had only one Cher appearance on it (but that one was very good). It looks like the current bundle is with Carol Burnett Show lost episodes.

20200617_141648The Best of Cher (2020) + The Best of Sonny & Cher Version 2 (2020)
You can bundle the new Cher set that with The Best of Sonny & Cher Version 2. It’s not the same collection as Version 1. The booklets are different and the Cher episodes represented are not the same. The new sets come with shelf boxes. So that's nice. See version 1 and 2 in the picture to the right.

In fact, this discrepancy made me review all the Cher shows with more attention and I have to say, I’m more excited about them than I was at first. I’m not going to list out which DVDs have which episodes because you can see for yourself on the respective links above. I'm just going to survey the bigger picture, which episodes are new, which are mostly full episodes (unless they've cut skits) of shows we’ve seen on VH1 (1990s) but not on Get TV (2010s).

Sonny & Cher – version 1 (2019)
There are 5 Cher show episodes in this set. None are unique to all the sets. All these Cher episodes also exist on The Best of Cher (4) or The Best of Sonny & Cher – Version 2. The booklet in this set has 33 pages. They include pages on the Cher show. This set has the same extras as the The Best of Cher and The Best of S&C V2 combined.

20200617_143121 (1)Cher (2020)
There are 10 Cher episodes included. Of those, 6 episodes are unique to this set and 4 episodes are also on The Best of S&C V1.

The booklet is completely different, about 30 pages with different fonts and layout and many more pictures focused on Bob Mackie drawings and some historical photos of Mackie with Cher. There’s a new “feature” extra called "Cher: Then and Now" and some extras around the Mirage and MGM TV specials. This is first legitimate release of the 1978 and 1979 television specials and that’s a big deal. Someday I wish we also get official releases of the Monte Carlo and Celebration at Caesars concerts as well. There’s also an extra of one of the James Corden appearances, a Believe-era interview, and her Superbowl appearance. The rest looks like recycled shows and interviews from the S&C V1 set.

Sonny & Cher –Version 2 (2020)
There are 5 Cher episodes on this set too. Only 1 is a duplicate (from The Best of S&C V1) and 4 are unique to this set. All the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and The Sonny & Cher Show episodes are the same in both S&C V1 and V2.  The bonus features seem all the same as well. The booklet is only 27 pages and excludes the pages about the Cher show.

Taken all together there are 7 full Cher episodes on these sets that have only previously been aired on VH1 in half-hour segments. There are 3 episodes that have never been re-aired since the 1970s.

I'm looking forward to watching all the new Cher episodes when it comes time to explicate them like literary texts on Cher Scholar


Stuck at Home with Somebody Variations

Cherathome

Stuff to Hold Us Over

Cher tweeted the picture (right) of herself staying at home. Which is what most of us are doing right now, give or take an ocean view.

A small list of things cancelled on me recently:

- Cher concert in Kansas City
- My 50th birthday Rio Grande rafting trip
- A local family reunion
- Mr. Cher Scholar's mother's internment
- All plans to leave the house

It sucks to be human right now but you have to keep reminding yourself, it could be much worse. Crazy enemies could be bombing your house. That would be a lot worse, especially because you'd lose your internet connection.

We're so spoiled.

Anyway, this month was to be my first visit to see a Cher show this tour but, as we all know, everyone's everything was cancelled this season or postponed and all our plans were given wedgies. 

Maybe this will give me time to catch up on tour reviews. 

In the meantime, hopefully you aren't going crazy by forced inactivity. Like toilet paper and frozen pizzas, here are some things to hold you over:

20200330_104618A few year's ago Cher scholar Dishy sent me a song on a 45 record. I didn't have a record player at the time. I dug it out last weekend and played it, Sonny singing "I'll Change."  Cher scholar Robrt informed me recently this was originally a Don Christy (Sonny's pseudonym) track on Rush Records in 1961. It was released a few times after Sonny became well known, including this misleading 45 label indicating Cher had anything to do with it.

CfbThe lovely CR Fashion Book cover is out. Read the interview, see the pics here.

Along with the 45 above, I dug out all copies of my favorite Cher song, "Somebody." Here's a breakdown of the versions:

  • The LP version without the gospel wailing outro. I didn't know this version even existed until one of the compilations came out. My first LP had the outro, but I've since found LPs that didn't have it. 
  • The LP version with the gospel wailing outro and the single version (this is also the single version, the B-side to "A Cowboy's Work is Never Done"). My parents had the LP album with this version on it. So from my narcissistic viewpoint, this feels like the canonical version.
  • There is also a radio edit version that's so dramatically different it will blow your mind.

20200330_104602 20200330_104602

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, for years I've been trying to locate a picture of Sonny & Cher's wedding rings together. I know I had seen that somewhere. I was looking through the opening credits of the movie Good Times when I found it. Now I've totally forgotten why I was looking for this but...here it is. I'll remember someday and by that time completely forget that I left it here.

Rings


The Newport Pop Festival of 1968

NewportgrahicNot to be confused with the Newport Folk Festival of 1965 (where Dylan went electric and blew out a lot of mental amps) which occurred in Newport, Rhode Island or the Newport Pop Festival v.2 of 1969 (see below), we're talking about the first Newport Pop festival taking place in Southern California in 1968.

Dave Swanson wrote a good article about it, opening with “The era of the big rock festival is littered [punny!] with the legendary, the local and the forgotten. Woodstock [1969] and Monterey [1968] may have the cache, and Altamont [1969] the tragedy, but among the ruins of the rock-festival era sits an interesting curiosity know as the Newport Pop Festival. On August 3 and 4, 1968, the all-but forgotten festival took place at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California.”

Here are some of the factoid bullet points I've curated about this festival.

  • This was the first music concert with over 100,000 paid attendees.
  • Kids were passing out from the heat, getting sprayed with water and playing in the mud (this was pre-Woodstock mud wallowing).
  • Food and drinks ran out halfway through day one.
  • Everyone got sunburned.
  • Kids with no hotel reservations squatted overnight on the lawns of nearby houses. Promoters had to put together an emergency campsite.
  • David Crosby (who just left The Byrds) started a pie fight with Jefferson Airplane and 250 cream pies.
  • Sonny & Cher flew in on a helicopter getting lots of attention. Helicopters also flew over dropping flowers on the crowd.
  • Sonny & Cher were the act that got booed on stage.
  • It cost $5.50 to get in and one fan said “it was well worth it.”

SonnychernewportThe festival had an amazing lineup in which Sonny & Cher did not mesh with at all, and shows how quickly music was changing between 1967 and 1968. Here it is:

Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish, Eric Burdon and the New Animals, Iron Butterfly, James Cotton Blues Band, The Butterfield Blues Band, Canned Heat, Electric Flag, Steppenwolf, among others.

The newbies at the festival were Tiny Tim (kinda out of place if you look at him as a novelty act but Swanson claims at the time he was a “genuine troubadour” and the crowd loved him) and a band called Alice Cooper with its headliner then known as Vince Furnier.

Swanson writes about Sonny & Cher, “whose star had been fading fast” and “were repeatedly booed by the crowd.” Swanson says, “the duo’s last hit, ‘The Beat Goes On,’ was more than a year old.” (Yikes! One whole year?) Swanson is disdainful of Sonny’s then attempt at psychedelia, a song called “Circus.” With that I would have to agree. Sonny, steeped in 1950s rock-and-roll and R&B was completely not suited to be a southern, Chicago or British blues songwriter and was lost in the field of psychedelic music. As expected,  “it went nowhere,” Swanson says and although he's writing in 2015 you can't help but hear it as “nowheres-ville” and “it went nowhere, man!” 

In another article about attendee reminiscences, Marsha from La Habra remembers Sonny & Cher “playing and no one paying attention; I think they were booed at times.” Susan from Santa Ana remembers Sonny & Cher circling overhead in a helicopter as “so exciting!” When Canned Heat left the stage and Sonny & Cher came on, Terry from San Dimas remembers leaving with his friend and his mom.  Terry says Alice Cooper opened the show without any response or attention, even boos.

According to Swanson's article Sonny told the L.A. Times around this time, “I know we’re not considered the ultimate in hipness anymore.” Which is quite the understatement when swallowed up by that lineup.

Swanson ends his story with, “it remains a mystery as to how, or why, they were part of the event.” I'd also add my own question here about why this was billed as a "pop" festival and not a blues festival or a psychedelic rock festival. And if you look at some of these poster assets, Sonny & Cher are listed pretty high up in the marketing space.

That would be the real story. Why were they included here? But there are other unanswered questions: how did the bands backstage treat them? Did they play a shortened set as a result of the audience response? What was their set list eliciting these boos?

Newportpic2 Newportpic1 Newportflyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newport #2 was called "Newport 69" and took place June 20-22 in Northridge, California. 200,000 attended that one which ended becoming the more famous of the two. The lineup included Jimi Hendrix Experience, Ike & Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Taj Mahal, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Credence Clearwater Revival, Eric Burdon and War, Jethro Tull, Steppenwolf, Booker T & the M.G.s, The Grass Roots, Johnny Winter, Marvin Gay, Poco, The Byrds, The Rascals and Three Dog Night among others.

Why do we go into such a not-so-pleasant piece of Sonny & Cher's history? Because this is an interesting part of 1960s history and exemplifies the dramatic changes happening in rock music and also illustrates how publicly painful that incident probably was for other pop and folk acts at the time.

And also, it illuminates an irony: how many of those bands are still around and touring in arenas? The world is a capricious and wily place.

Newortprogram2Links:

How the Newport Pop Festival Brought Together a Diverse Lineup (by Dave Swanson)

1968 Lineup

Readers reminisce about Newport Pop Festival of 1968

The Newport Pop Festivals (Wikipedia)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newport_Pop_Festival

 


Cher in Show Biz 2020

ChertimeI went out looking for collages of Cher through time and turns out there are a ton of them! This was the best.

Anyway, I have a bunch of random thoughts today and couldn't figure out what umbrella to put them under. This is all about Cher in show-biz.

The Pop Star Crisis

My friend Christopher sent me this older article from 2017 from the Wall Street Journal. It's about an identity crisis with today's female pop stars. The article contains interesting statistics about what’s selling on streaming these days (R&B and hip-hop) and what’s not selling as well (rock, pop and even country is declining).

The article gets under my skin a bit when it talks about “the pop playbook” being unpredictable (you think?) and when it mentions that women are criticized for hosting hip-hop artists on their albums but male artists are not. (And the difference would be?)

And it confounds me that in the post-Cher and Tina Turner era music execs are still saying things like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus “may simply be past their hit making primes.” My friend Christopher tells me that female artists still disappear at the ticking time bomb of middle age! Oy. 

The 1% of Touring Acts

Here is another older Wall Street Journal article from Christopher about how large arena acts are eating up all the concert $$$. And due to the fact that streaming is making record-making less lucrative, smaller acts depend on concert revenue.

It feels so much like large corporations swallowing up their competition.

In any case, to consider Cher in this 1% list is downright bizarre. If you would have told me back in 1980 that Cher would be one of the 1% of popular touring acts in the late 2010s, I would have thought you were a crazy person. This is the artist who has been on a zillion record labels with a disproportionate amount of bomb albums and a bad reputation with just about everybody from hipsters to squares. Which is why it drives me nuts when people accuse Cher of being a mainstream artist. Where is this mysterious stream?

And yet, the people do come out to her shows in those ginormous, block-sized buildings. 

How. Did. We. Get. Here???

Although Cher is not listed as one of the highest grossing acts of the 2010s, she is named as #11 for highest grossing in 2019, ahead of Mumford & Sons, Michael Bublé, Paul McCartney, Garth Brooks and Ariana Grande. And I'm sure all of those acts are more popular than Cher is.

But why am I complaining. This is great. Finally, right? I’m actually very conflicted about it. Popularity: good. Monopoly: Bad.


Gary-jerryEvil Geniuses

I recently came across a clip of Gary Lewis (of Gary Lewis and the Playboys) and his father Jerry Lewis singling together on the show Hullabaloo. That prompted me to look up what kind of relationship they had. As it turns out, Gary and all his siblings from Jerry Lewis' first wife were all disinherited (as a group!) and Gary has called Jerry Lewis "a mean and evil man." I don't know how Cher really felt about Jerry Lewis but I've read he was always nice to Cher on her variety shows and she seemed to like him. She's never came out with any trash talk about him in any case. Mr. Cher Scholar, like a large population of the country France, considers Jerry Lewis a comedy genius.

Likewise, Cher had no rough encounters with the homicidal Phil Spector, holding her own against his in-studio verbal taunts. Many consider Spector a producing genius of the early 1960s.

And that reminded me that Sonny’s running mate for the Palms Springs Mayoral race once called him a “mean little Italian.” Others have mentioned difficulty working with Sonny too, but Cher enjoyed working with Sonny. She even seemed to forgive him for his egregious business scams involving Cher Enterprises. Her beef with him concerned mostly personal marital and control issues. And on a recent Good Times movie DVD, the director William Friedkin called Sonny an unqualified genius. And although this is maybe not a popular view of Sonny, I would argue he was probably a promotional genius of the scrappy kind. A lot of his ideas about career longevity and independent/guerrilla promotion were before their time by at least 30 years.

And all these things taken together, you might wonder if Cher has a high tolerance for dysfunctional male geniuses.

Cherjerry Cherjerry Cherjerry


Cher's Latest Tour Getting Universal Raves

Set
So much to catch up on, it’s been kind of discouraging and I’ve been avoiding it. Now that I’m getting back into a routine with work, we can get back to this multi-year-long period of Cher awesomeness.

The concert tour is doing very well, both sell-outs and fill-ups. View the attendance and receipts.

It's been a challenge for me to describe Cher-mania these days. I’m enjoying it but it feels so suddenly over-the-top. Like if we had gradually gotten here...I don't know. Maybe for fans so used to rooting for this underdog, praise never fully lands. I mean outside of acting raves (which were a new venture) Cher has never received raves for her concerts or albums.

Not that it’s undeserved praise, but still odd to get your head around it, historically speaking.

I mean, when a reviewer says “Cher’s still got it!” the first thing I think of is "when exactly did you admit Cher had it in the first place? I'd like to go back to that time and enjoy it." So why now are we getting a kind of make-up history that Cher has always been "triumphant." And there's a tone in the press that they've always thought Cher was great (which is complete revisionist history). I mean, I'm so glad we're finally here but I don't think they should be so self-satisfied in their phrase. Pretend like all that shade didn't happen.

I think what’s really going on is a new generation of people are reviewing Cher shows and possibly making the assumption that prior reviewers must have seen the obvious amazingness.  They did not. So, if you’re writing that Cher is dazzling, triumphant, fantastic, timeless, tour-de-force, force of nature, camp queen, fierce (my favorite compliment), masterful, bringing the sass and style, triumphant...(all from current review headlines), if she's indeed slaying the dragon, this is all news to me. Not that Cher is doing it, but that the press is saying it.

I keep thinking of this alleged quote from Willie Nelson: “If you fail at something long enough, you become a legend.”

Truer words could not apply to what we're seeing right now.

I've caught up on my concert reviews and if you want to bask in some good Cher press, here you go: https://www.cherscholar.com/concert-reviews.html

Warriors


Cher Honored at the Kennedy Center

Cher-honors1I'm way overdue to be blogging about this. I watched this show with Coolia in Los Angeles on a 10x10 foot screen but it was something I wanted to watch twice.  (click all pics to view larger versions).

When the curtain came up there was an ear-to-ear grin on everyone but Wayne Shorter, who was probably conserving energy, and Cher, who seemed stoically uncertain about the whole thing. But by the end there are tears like this:

Cher-kennedy-center-honors-tears-1545950757and  smiles like this:

Cher-georganne-laughYou can see Cher's sister Georganne behind her. Very sweet to take your sister to the Kennedy Center Honors!

It's tempting to fast forward to all the Cher parts but that would be bad, bad. There was a lot of stuff on this show to experience. Gloria Estefan hosted and talked about the Kennedy Center mission statement, to break down barriers, be trailblazing, a cultural phenomenon and how after all the dust of wars settles it will be those who contributed to the human spirit we remember. (Something to ponder after Adam Lambert's performance). 

The Wayne Shorter tribute was a good lesson in American music history. E. Epatha Merkeson did an mesmerizing performance of Philip Glass' "Knee Play 5" from the 1975 opera Einstein on the Beach. All clips have been taken offline sadly.

Cher's tribute was last because she's...well, she's a showstopper. Remember when Cher won the Billboard Icon award in 2017,  Gwen Stefani called Cher "truly the definition of an icon," praising her inspiration as a musical trailblazer, cultural influencer, humanitarian and fashion trendsetter?"

This year Gloria Estefan described Cher as a world-wide superstar, an Academy Award winning actress and social activist. WhoopiWhoopi Goldberg quipped she raided Cher's closet ("and I'm award she wears it better") described Cher alongside Elivs and Sinatra, which seemed to surprise Cher herself but then Goldberg clarified that meant by one-name recognition. Oh. Almost a big compliment there. Then Goldberg went into a list of Cher's all the things, ending by saying not only does Cher "march to the tune of her own drummer, she's a one-woman band." Yeees.

The stage photos were a tryptic of Cher in 80s chainmail, a current ABBA performance, and a caricature I couldn't make out. No one has posted the montage yet. Those are always inspiring for Cher fans. In this one, Goldberg described Cher as "one of the coolest women who ever stood in shoes," an icon, a survivor, the mother of reinvention, a master of TV variety, an actress with one of the "biggest breakthrough film careers in history." Whoopi called out the powerful trio of Cher, her mother and her sister. Great, great stuff. 

Little-big-townThe band Little Big Town countrified Cher's hits, "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves," and "I Found Someone." Women in the audience can be seen singing along, including Kristin Chenoweth. They also sang "Baby Don't Go" and the Hamilton gang were clapping along.

Amanda Seyfried also gave a tribute, talking about working with Cher recently in the ABBA movie and mentioning her LGBTQ activism. "You make people feel the world is a safe place" Seyfried said.

Adam-cherThen, Adam Lambert stopped the show with his version of "Believe." There were two performances that riveted people: Lambert's and Merkerson's Philip Glass tribute.  This got Cher very teary and she showed visible appreciation for his big, big, big note at the end. What I love about Adam Lambert (all the way back to American Idol) is his sincere ability to move between Queen and Cher with real cajones. 

And they all stood up when he finished. Cyndi Lauper then did her show-stopping tribute to "Turn Back Time." Girls really got up for this one, most notably a trio of gleefully dancing women which included Reba McEntire presenter Kristin Chenoweth and Philip Glass presenter, Angélique Kidjo. They all high-fived at the end.

Dancinggirls

There was also this strange former honoree clapping very affectedly. Does anybody recognize her?

Strange-clapper

And Lauper and Lambert closed the show with "I Got You Babe" complete with replicas of the iconic Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour set. Reba McEntire sang along and couples danced together and it was really sweet although very few covers of that song work, including this one.

Adam-cyndi

More links:

The Hamilton guys and Phillip Glass meeting Cher beforehand. Look how smiley meeting Cher makes Philip Glass. Philip Fucking Glass!

Meetingcher

42682efd4b239297_114058_3806
Congratulations Cher. You deserve this.


The Here We Go Again Tour Reviews

Cher-Here-We-Go-Again-Tour-Dates-2019-_1This may be the first Cher tour I will miss on purpose. Cher is so popular right now with the young people, tickets seem pretty expensive. But I'll see what it looks like when west coast dates are added. Cher rarely comes to Albuquerque so I'd have to travel to Phoenix or Denver. With a few songs popping in and out, this seems structurally like the same show she's been doing for decades and the set seems aesthetically similar to her ongoing Las Vegas show at the Monte Carlo. Compare them yourself. So I'm okay with sitting this one out. And anyway, I'm coming to see Cher concerts as an experiment in resiliency against concert reviewers. If you accept that the show is basically the same show since the Believe tour, you'll see a transformation in its reception. Reviews for the show in 1999 were not great. They accused her of being all style and no substance (as they always try to do) and this same show has lasted two decades, outlasting all those critics. It's the same damn show, people. 

Reviews I've seen for this edition have been unanimously canonical. Let's follow the tour...

Michael Lallo of Melbourne calls the show “a masterclass in high camp.”

Lisa Rockman of Newcastle says “Cher proves she’s still a class act,” saying in Melbourne a “packed house is by no means guaranteed." She calls Cher "a woman who has had to reinvent herself to survive in a cut-throat industry. And she did it all with poise and wit.”

Belinda Cipriano also calls Cher “a class act and, at 72, a performer without peer.” She calls the show a “visual feast...the ageless diva had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand.”

An un-credited writer from Sydney said that show "sent fans into a frenzy...the show was suited to fans of all ages….an iconic show that will be hard to beat by her pop star successors, truly proving why she is the goddess of pop.”

Jackie Lymn of Adelaide said “what a show!” I choked on my hot chocolate when Lymn said the third act “got the 15-year-old in me screaming with delight” and was talking about Burlesque. Uuuugh. I’m...so...old. Lymn goes on to call the show “something spectacular" and that "the world is a more colourful place with this woman in it. She is an icon. A religion. A queen.”

Snap!

Harriet Howard Heithaus of Naples Florida said “Cher brings a show, not a concert. If you want to see the creator of the sax licks behind her version of ABBA’s “Waterloo” and more than a short riff-fest from her lead guitarist while she’s offstage, this is not the show for you.” She mentioned Cher's “quick-change cos-play” (I had to look that up) and insisted Cher's ballads were taped but that she “still works hard to make [the $500 front row seats] worth the money.”

Vicky Sullivan of Orlando says “demographically it was such a mix of people, all I can say is that everybody was there….a full house that didn’t leave to beat the traffic.” At Cher’s descent, “it was one of those “wow” moments, you could literally hear people gasping looking up at her."  This article also interviews new guitarist Joel Hoekstra (fans are snapping and posting pics of him on Twitter so I knew he was a thing)...who played part of the Vegas dates and has been working with Cher for about 2 years, along with Whitesnake. Hoekstra says “I’m really honored to be part of her band. They are all amazing musicians. Some blessings in the music business you never see coming and this would fall under that category.” Aww. I wanna snap his picture now.

Melissa Ruggieri of Atlanta says “Cher is still here and still fabulous.” Ruggieri had reviewed the Farewell tour and joked “Hello, Mr. Elephant.” But she still enjoyed it and appreciated Cher's choice of opening acts. [This tour has Nile Rodgers opening], saying  “Cher has always appointed ideal tour mates (Cyndi Lauper and Pat Benatar most notably)”

...actually she used to appoint comedians and that was pretty not awesome. But she did hire Wild Orchid back before Fergie was a household name.

David Mencomi of Raleigh said her open was “as fabulously gauche an onstage entrance as you’ll ever see.”

Rachel Bules of Columbus Ohio says “Cher delivers” and “I need to take a minute to talk about the physique and stamina of this woman. At 72 years old, she was dancing around on stage flanked by a squad of dancers at least 40 years her junior...The concert was a strong testament to strong women.”

Jerilyn Jordan of Detroit said “Cher made us believe in more than just life after love at Little Caesars Arena” and said the show was a “delightfully campy romp.” She continued with a good assessment of the show as it is: “throughout the night, Cher limited herself to minor dance gestures and toggled between stomping across the stage (in sensible footwear, mind you) and stationarily basking in the spotlight while supported by a bevy of dancers and elaborate choreography. Her voice, however, seemed virtually unaffected by her 50-plus-years as a performer and yes, her vocals were live (she laughed during a verse of 'The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)' and it was incredibly endearing) though, again, supported by some strategic backup singing....Closing out the evening, Cher gave everyone what they came to see and hear: "Believe" — her empowering autotune-heavy dance banger about second chances that is, even today, ahead of its time. Wearing a red wig, and a bejeweled, flapper-style, barely-there dress, and nude bra, and using less autotune than she did in 1998, Cher left us believing in something bigger than life after love, or anti-aging wizardry, or the power of reliable nipple pasties — we left believing in Cher.”

Some called her descending pedestal a “beautiful swing” others a”chariot-of-the gods-looking contraption."

Predistal

"What’s your grandmother doing tonight?" is one of Cher's show quips now but...it's a big outdated because I’m actually old enough to be a grandmother now, which means Chaz is old enough to be a grandfather, which means...yeah. Cher should be saying, “what’s your great-grandmother doing tonight.”

Anyway, you can find links to all the reviews (so far) on my concert reviews page.

The summary of tours is also available on the main tours page.


The Cher Show on Broadway, Part 2

AdOk. I’ve seen the show and I’ve completely changed my mind. Hey, I would fully admit if I didn’t like it. I didn't really like Mama Mia. I really didn't like Burlesque. Didn't even find it to be lighthearted fun. But I liked this musical. Not only that, but the people I took with me liked it too, and one was a serious non-Cher-fan going in.

What I Experienced

At intermission I turned to my friends and said, "I actually like this" and then I bought some wine from a wine vendor, (to be honest, for the Cher cup it came in), and he asked me if I was enjoying the show. I responded with an enthusiastic “yeah” and asked him if audiences were liking it. His eyes went wide and he said “Oh yeah, people love it!”

We saw the show on the day of the Women's Marches in NYC. One of my friend's reviews: "I really enjoyed the Cher show. I thought it was quite feminist and a good bookend to the day that began with the women's march. I liked the device of 3 Chers at different ages having dialogue with herself and they did a good job showing her journey to becoming independent from Sonny. I liked the way they wove the songs from different eras out of order by matching them to the story line."

I also listened to comments as we excited the theater that night and the day after when we were taking pictures of the Neil Simon Theater when the matinee let out. Our evening crowd had been typical, elderly theater go-ers with a sprinkle of Cher fans. The matinee was almost solely young and middle-aged New York women. I overheard some great comments, my favorite being the very Brooklyn sounding, “It was better than Donnah Summah!”

And I personally didn’t enjoy it because it was light fun. I cried four times. That’s not fun. The complexity of its structure made me a little anxious because I wouldn’t be able to watch it over again to dissect it. The transitions were very interesting, the thread of the story unconventional and fluid, and the stage sets very creative. Mr. Cher Scholar and I talked about those things for hours the next day. A former playwright himself, he called the gaggle of Cher’s conferring with each other (which, alone, ranks the show high on a Bechdel Test) "psychologically sophisticated.”

And any Broadway show will have the best singers you’ll ever see so hearing Cher songs re-envisioned with these big voices was quite amazing, to hear an in-tune Sonny, and an even larger-note Cher! And unlike many impersonations of Cher, this time I didn’t miss her because these actresses weren’t trying to reproduce Big Cher. They were trying to unveil a Little Cher. And that was news. That was why I wasn’t bored hearing the 'same ole, same ole' plot points about her life. 

PlaybillWas it all about her boyfriends? Not really. It was about her love and her navigation around love and career, her struggles to be assertive in work and love. Her relationship with Sonny was given revealing nuance and exposure unlike we’ve ever seen. Worth the price right there. 

It was creative and thoughtful and useful in the present #metoo moment.

So W.T.F. with these reviews? As I reconsider them, and I was so inclined to agree with their ideas, they seem oddly harsh compared to the reality of the show. At best they want the show to be more Cher-like-bigness and yet more realism...at the same time. 

Feminism

Cher herself said there was no theme she could think of beyond having a good time. In retrospect I find this statement highly disingenuous. The theme was argued loud and clear and stated a handful of times by our "Old Cher" M.C. Don't give up gals when it gets tough or scary. Keep going. Walk through the great fear. If Cher can do it, you can do it. 

What I Was Anticipating

I was prepared for a big spectacle, a Cher spectacle. I was prepared to be off putt by too much glitz. And I like glitz but I also like substance. The stage was smaller than every other Broadway show I’ve ever seen with less emphasis on a blingy set, with a much more modest cast. And the costumes were a notch below Cher-bling, I thought. Reviewers made the outfits a bigger deal than they were. Not to say that there weren't a lot of them. The non-Cher fan asked me if she really wore all those outfits and I had to admit, yes...but her versions are even more outlandish.

I was prepared for bad jokes. What can I say? The audience laughed at all the jokes, which were Broadway-level jokes IMHO, not cutting-edge comedy club jokes. They landed. People clapped throughout the show and even stood up at the end.

I was prepared for a bad Sonny: and when I say nobody gets Sonny right, this one comes pretty close. They made him less of a boob and emphasized his creativity, but gave him a dash of meanness. And yes, the audience did applaud when  Jarrod Spector first captured that Sonny kind of nasal-twang while also singing very well.

I was prepared for oddly used songs but they were all creatively re-purposed. Come on: Gregg Allman and Sonny Bono singing "Dark Lady" to each other. I really love the balls it took to do that, on many levels. 

I was prepared for dissatisfaction with three Chers: Seeing "Young Cher" weave in and out of the story was very powerful. It explored what makes a person feel small and feel out of control.

I was prepared for a dull Festival of Brand and what kept it from being a total brand-fest was how self-deprecating the Chers were and how exposed they let themselves be.

OutsidePoint-by-Point Response to Bad Reviews

The New York Post claimed the show was full of "dopey dialogue" and "skin-deep dramatization" and that it wouldn't "surprise those with even a passing knowledge of Cher. Or access to Wikipedia.”

Ahem. I have more than a passing knowledge and have read Cher's Wikipedia page. I've seen more Cher documentaries than you, reviewer-guy. And since this show held "more than a passing interest" to me, I'm assuming you've been practicing that line ever since Funny Girl. 

And speaking of Funny Girl, Mr. Cher Scholar and I saw a few parallels: little girl not being taken seriously, trouble with husbands, struggle with fame and love. Did Funny Girl delve too deeply into Nicky Arnstein's gambling problem? No. Because it's a freakin' musical.

The first review of the New York Times called the show a "maddening mishmash...all gesture, no craft...dramatically threadbare, trying to solve the puzzle of its own concept, whitewash[ing] her most interesting problems."

Which problems were these? Nicky Arnstein's gambling problems again? I hope this isn't a double standard. 

But then NYT says there were "too many character arcs and agendas to serve  — three Chers, several careers, 35 songs or parts thereof — the show’s creators can serve none well."

Again, I was skeptical about a plot covering a 70-year life myself. But this show was more a weave of feelings and fears than it was a hero conquering a task. If they couldn't pick an emblematic episode of her life, than at least they did a good job pulling emotion through a series of life scenes. 

Variety said the show "lands as flat as the jokes."

Neither seemed to be the case at the show I saw. Shit was landing.

They go on to say, "the script never quite finds a satisfying style — or a genuine hear...rarely does is get real, despite the tell-it-like-it-is attitude of its subject. It only takes itself semi-seriously, keeping genuine emotion at arm’s length." 

I couldn't disagree more wholeheartedly. I found it much more revealing than Cher herself has historically ever been. She's a magician of straight-talking in interviews but never emotionally revealing. True, this wasn't a gush-fest but who wants that? 

Variety sensed a "cool aloofness of its protagonist"

...and self-deprecation is what I saw.

Entertainment Weekly disparaged "thin plotting" and "costumes changes subbing for character development."

This is a bell-ringing charge against Cher. She's a clothes hanger, she's all costume. Blah. Blah. Blah. There were a lot of clothes, don't be fooled. Don't be fooled. Or don't be unwilling to look deeper. 

They wondered "why not go see Real Cher who, at 72, looks and sounds at least as much like her younger self..."

Yes, it's hard to argue with this one except that the show was not about Big Cher. This is about Little Cher. They are not the same. That's exactly what the show is revealing, the difference. It's like you're saying the normal-person-Cher isn't big enough for you?

CastRolling Stone said "at times it feels like glitzy Las Vegas revue" 

First of all, have you been to Vegas? It feels ridiculous to compare this to that. But in a way, that's not an unfair comparison either. Cher is not unlike a glitzy Las Vegas revue sometimes.  

...they go on to say, "if you were to squint, could easily be the best drag show of all time — although it lacks any actual drag queens."

There’s so much going on culturally in a drag show, this oversimplification now strikes me as off and offensive. 

The Guardian said the show "highlights the lack of imagination elsewhere and the show’s need to gloss over – sequin over, brilliantine over – anything too uncomfortable or hard.”

Again, we're overstating the sequins by many yards and what hard stuff was missing? Going into what’s hard was the show's freakin' theme!

Vulture called the show "a garish, obvious pastiche, such an unabashedly soulless explosion of wigs and trite memoir wisdom."

This isn’t a biography. It’s a Broadway show. What wisdom do you get from them that is deeper than memoir wisdom? This isn't Samuel Beckett but than neither is it Rodgers and Hammerstein or Les Miserables (which I totally love). 

And then this: "I’ve gotten more real enjoyment out of watching old Cher videos as research than I did in the theater."

Well, duh. Big Cher is a joy to behold. But this is not that. Again, do you want exposure of the real person or the spectacle. These reviews argue for both at the same time.

The show is claimed to be "disappointingly guarded"

Again, I just didn’t see this. Maybe I'm so used to a guarded Cher, this felt spectacularly unguarded to me.

...and was  a "directionless attempt to squeeze Cher’s many lives into a bordered, formulaic dramatization of her career."

Point taken. Cher has had too many lives for the Aristotle arc. I don’t know how to solve that and neither do you.

ArtworkConclusions

Broadway musicals often remind me of silent films; the level of exaggeration demands actors play it big and simple. This is not a dramatic movie of realism or a documentary. Singing and dancing loosen up the energy. Not that you can't go deeper with song but a jukebox musical just isn't an intimate format. There is no original book of music where emotive themes could be created and carried through. And you either accept the form or you don't. Why send a reviewer who hates the horror genre to review the latest horror film? 

And here’s the real irony to this thing: here we have a show with a sub-theme about not being taken seriously, (...even the Robert Altman character explains in the show how he’s going to be skewered by reviewers of his first play, especially if he picks Cher to be in it. And he does; the man had balls) and critics fall right into their same-old complaints, failing to even acknowledge how the show self-references them. Cher has consistently been receiving bad reviews for reasons beyond the product (Stars, Believe, Sonny & Cher as a whole), getting snubbed for good, early performances (Silkwood, Mask),  getting laughed at in movie trailers, all before breaking records, gathering swarms of fans and maintaining longevity. Another set of bad reviews about a show about getting bad reviews becomes a loop of absurdity. Like it’s still f*%king happening!

It’s fascinating to see time rolling up on itself right now, Cher continuing to create new interesting things, while music and film historians are re-evaluating her past things. See Rolling Stones'  own review of her cover of "Mr. Soul."

What a crazy phenomenon it all is. And I'll be talking more about frustrations around Cher's perceived authenticity and credibility in my next post about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

In The Meantime

I talked to the merch vendor and he said a cast recording might be coming soon. 

Stephanie Block’s website has a great news feed on the show: https://www.stephaniejblock.com/news

And my mom sent me this article about how Cher stalked Rick Elice until he would work with her.

Anyway, I know what fluff is. I hate fluff. Cher stuff is not fluff. Stop saying that it is. I loved this and can’t wait to see it again.


Cher Summer 2018

JcMama Mia 2

The new release date I’m seeing for Mama Mia 2 is July 20 here in the U.S. I'm afraid I’m going to have to wing it because I doubt I’ll find time to watch Mama Mia, the first. She's started to promote the movie.

Entertainment Tongiht: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RSiR6Enovk

James Corden: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1I8IJ4PLlI - What charmers they are; this show caused a slew of media stories about Cher eating cow's tongue instead of saying something nice about Donald Trump. Note: Cher swallows. James doesn't.

Cher was also on Graham Norton. Here are some clips:

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABG5GOoU_lQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gR9hI0lbWU 

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6mjfge (full show, but backwards)

Mama Mia 2 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MammaMiaMovie/

Cher’s version of Fernado was released and she sang the song live at Cinemacon. Article about it: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/cher-performs-mamma-mia-here-we-go-again-song-at-cinemacon-1105788

Cher Singing Fernando

Cher talks to Entertainment Tonight about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AK5QX2am-M

People Magazine: http://people.com/movies/new-mamma-mia-2-new-trailer-cher/

GnOn Graham Norton, Cher has confirmed she's working on a new album for the Australian tour. Rumors are it might be a full ABBA album.

Interviews from Australia

The Andrew Denton Australian interview was particularly good but it's hard to find online. How old fashioned of them. Good way to keep people from watching your good interviewing. See the trailer in any case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StiKQPwTymY 

Another Australian piece: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-5720905/Cher-71-speaks-candidly-getting-older.html 

Cher Concerts:

Cher’s Vegas show continued to see news this spring and she scheduled dates for an Australian tour:

  1. Keyboardist D. Laurent Smith (Broadway World)
  2. Perth Show news
  3. Cher on iTunes Chart
  4. Tour Announcement

Cher in People Magazine

My friend Christopher sent me this happy Cher news. In his own words:

Mary--

You will be thrilled to know that in People's new "100 Reasons to Love America" issue, timed in celebration with the 4th of July, Cher finds herself ensconced on the list at #57 [reason:  "A living legend"]. It's worth pointing out that Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Madonna and Aretha Franklin did not make the cut; nor even Dolly Parton and Betty White (glaring omissions both)!  Then again, to keep things in perspective, #58 is "Lawn Flamingos" and other entries include "As Seen on TV Gadgets" [#31], Target's Opalhouse home decor line [#39] and Cardi B's catchphrase "Okuurt" ("'Okay' when spoken like a cold pigeon"--whatever the hell that means) [#88].  I, however, will choose to associate Cher's inclusion with the more luminous choices, such as 60 Minutes [#17], the National Spelling Bee [#41], the Liberty Bell [#43], the Rescue Dog movement [#71], Crayola Crayons [#79], the Parkland High School student activists [#82], and the best ice cream in the world [#100].   

Congratulations, Cher!!!

Christopher