History of the Cher Look

KimcherDiscussion about the Cher look has been all over the news over the last few months. It’s cray-cray.

Kim Kardashian did a photographic Cher tribute of Cher that made a big splash:

- Billboard
- Harpers Bazaar
- Daily Mail
- People
- The Today Show

And Cher approves of her “little Armenian sister"

 - People
 - US Magazine
 - Page Six

It’s odd to me the kind of sites that do Cher outfit reviews. It’s becoming the new click-bait.

JumpNow here is an outfit review with a point of view: the best jumpsuits of all time.

I even updated my own page of Cher in cowboy hats!

And various other articles posted giddy news about Cher’s health and beauty routines:

And in celebrity homes news...is the Sonny & Cher house haunted? It was back on the market with a new look (Architectural Digest)

Cher's Fashion Influence

 BurnettcherArticles continue to appear about the influence of one of Cher's past or present looks:


You'll Soon Be Able To Shop Cher's Glitzy Eye Look From The Billboard Awards (Refinery29)


12 Celebrities Who Channeled 1970s Cher With Their Ultralong Hair (Pop Sugar)

Red Carpets

From Cher to Susan Sarandon, older women are making waves on red carpets (The Sydney Morning Herald)

My favorite wig

Burnettcher2For years I've been trying to describe my favorite Cher wig from the plethora of wigs seen on the 1970s variety shows. It is the Bun-of-Buns wig seen here screen-captured from The Carol Burnett Show, even lovelier encrusted with jewels. Cher scholar Tyler also mentioned that the dress she wore in this skit also appeared in this torch number, "He's Funny That Way" from one of her other variety shows. (She's wearing another version of Bun-of-Buns there!)

Speaking of Carol Burnett, I recently read her new book In Such Good Company about her show.

And thinking about Carol Burnett and Cher reminds me of Mary Tyler Moore and my Great Women of 70s TV meditations. We recently lost Mary Tyler Moore and my favorite tribute was from Cathy Guisewite of the Cathy newspaper comic strip, surprisingly because I never liked that strip. 

Election Tweets, the Tabloids, I Paralyze and the Importance of a Good Wig

Trainofth2It seems I've developed an inability to blog in the month of July. And a lot seems to happen in Julys. Here's the recap:

Political Tweets: The Train of Cher's Thoughts

Cher attacks Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson in epic Twitter rant (Metro UK)

Cher: Trump a ‘f---ing traitor’ (The Hill)

Cher Just Shared a Hilarious Photoshopped Snap Of Donald Trump (Billboard)

Conclusive proof Cher is the greatest political commentator of our time (Metro UK)

I’m with Cher is the Anti-Trump Swag You Need (Paper Mag)  Get "I'm with Cher buttons because this fan wants to "Make America Cher again!"

Cher Fan Creates 'I'm With Cher' Campaign to Celebrate Singer's Political Punditry (Billboard)

The I'm With Cher page: http://imwithcher.com/

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Has Had Such a Bad Week Even Cher Is Ripping Her a New One (The Independent Journal Review)

I communicated like Cher for the day and people didn't know what to make of it (Mashable) - this was hilarious.


IpIn this news sent to me by both Dishy and Robrt Pela, the album I Paralyze is sort of getting a new re-release: Back On The Street Again: Vibe On Records Reissues, Expands Cher’s “I Paralyze

Céline Dion impersonates Cher, Rihanna on Jimmy Fallon's late night how.

Tabloids and Peripherals

Jennifer Aniston published a personal essay about the tabloids I thought was particularly good. Of particular note:

“In this last boring news cycle about my personal life there have been mass shootings, wildfires, major decisions by the Supreme Court, an upcoming election, and any number of more newsworthy issues that “journalists” could dedicate their resources towards.”

I couldn't find a picture of Cher and Jennifer but, as they knew each other in high school, there is a picture out there of Chaz and Jennifer.


Speaking of Chaz, there's an article out there on AOL where he "opens about his mom Cher's support and why he's finally ready for his big break in acting" and it lists his recent guest appearances.


In reading through all my old issues of Entertainment Weekly, I came across a Melissa McCarthy interview from the summer 2015 issue where she says:

“I always start with the wig. It keys everything for me. You look so different in a wig that it changes your posture, how you carry yourself.”

I feel like Cher has said that before, too.

Chaz on OWN, The Leopard Moment, Feminist Anita Sarkeesian

ChazChaz on Own

Mr. Cher Scholar and I have been home sick for the past two weekends. So it was a home-bound surprise to find that my DVR had taped Chaz on Oprah’s Where are they Now? show (first air date: 2/6/206) a few weekends ago. Chaz looked good, talked about new ventures including a clip from a new movie. Orpah and Chaz also had further discussion on life before and after transitioning and whether Chaz’s experience reading as a woman gives him any insight into that gender (spoiler: no it did not). There was also an update in regard to his relationship with his mom (sounds much better).

Disappointingly, I find Chaz can be kind of Sonny-ish on the topic of women. Interviewers probably set him up for this, as if to say “you’re a man now…say something sexist!” For instance, his example about not understanding women involved a comment about how they are so mysteriously offended all the time. He still doesn’t have any more insight into that.

How many stoic women do I know in relationships? A lot. How many men do I know who get easily offended, much more so than their wives and are uncommunicative about why? A lot.  I’ve never heard Mr. Cher Scholar say anything like this. I rarely, if ever, hear my contemporary male friends say this about their spouses. I don't think I've even every heard my Dad make a comment like that. But I have heard some of my friends with same-sex partners complain about it with their partners. The issue seems to defy sex and has more to do with character and relationship dynamics. So it’s kind of an guy trope, this thing complaining about how sensitive women are, and an old-man trope at that.

Having read as a woman for so long should have provided Chaz with some insight into the idea of, shall we call it, female hysterics, simply for the fact of possibly once being erroneously accused of it. I simply don’t buy the idea that you’re born with male prejudices. You opt to have them. Maybe I know some extraordinary guys. Chaz has the option to be an extraordinary guy.

The episode also included an awesome update on Linda Blair where she revisits her feelings about The Exorcist. As you know, William Friedkin is one of our peripherals here because his directorial debut was the Sonny & Cher epic Good Times. In just over a decade he would go on to make his most iconic classic. I still maintain that if you carve out all the gore and bugaboo from this movie, the scenes are quietly and delicately constructed. It would seem Linda has made peace with that movie and is also working an adorably furry charity venture. Her eyes still creep me out a bit though! Watch the show’s trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31SUgyocMZo.

Cher History

LeopardRemember the scene in Cher and Other Fantasies  where they tie Cher's hair and outfit up into a tree? A good tribute to that popped up online last week.  I love how Cher specials are getting some well-deserved revisionist love.

Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.

Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900)

There's also a great new interview/dialogue between Cher and Zendaya where they talk about girl power and fashion as empowerment. Great candid and friendly tone from Cher.


Every few years my nieces or nephews will solicit me for magazines subscriptions for school fundraisers. I always purchase Time Magazine for a year and then spend three years reading it in the privy. In one issue from 2015 I recently came across a familiar name in their most influential people list: Sarkeesian. It’s only one letter away from Sarkesian! Amazingly I’ve been reading about this woman for years but have never put a name to a story! From Time:

SarkeesianAnita Sarkeesian, 31 year old activist  and gaming feminist advocate, one of Time’s 2015 most influential people. She became the “target of vicious, misogynist harassment, death and rape threats and pornographic vandalism on her Wikipedia page and an effort to have her Kickstarted flagged as terrorism. All of this because she wanted to have a conversation about the way women are portrayed in video games. Anita is just the latest women writer to prove the law coined by journalist Helen Lewis: that the sexist comments onany article about feminism justify feminism…Anita has refused to back down…As her detractors grow increasingly unhinged, we have proof that her efforts are working.” Written by Wil Wheaton.

Anita is actually Canadian but she went to college at Northridge in the Los Angeles area. She is the other Sarkesian you should be following. Wow. I never thought I’d have occasion to say that.If you don’t think we are still in need of feminists in the new millennium, just read her Wikipedia page.


New Century, New Cher Model

26693831a9cbdc92d41ac670f7932ede9dcf8928It's always something. The last few weeks I was tied up with a big office move over at CNM. This summer is going to be busy I can tell you. I have a family reunion in less than four weeks, a few trips and then hopefully some peace and quiet for much of the rest of the year. We’ll see if that turns out.

In the meantime, Cher debuts as the model for Marc Jacobs! How fun! She's part of the new Marc Jacobs fall line along with Willow Smith (announced so far). So that’s why she attended the MET gala with Jacobs. Sweet, sweet PR.

Anyway, Cher is not the first celebrity matron to grace the covers of mega-designers of late. Joan Didon (one of my favorite writers...especially about all things California) was recently featured on something as was Joni Mitchell.

The Cher news esssploded on the Internet when it was released at the end of May. Here are just a sampling of the news stories, which were all positive by the way, about her new one-picture spread:

Fashion rags are saying she looks "fierce" and "as glamorous as ever." Lego-tweet

Speaking of fashion statement,I forgot to post this last time but Cher herself posted a tweet pic someone sent of her Legolified. Her Lego version is wearing the famous duct-tape Bob Mackie fit.

Mary Cheney's Comments About Drag and Blackface

RupaulCNN obtained a private Facebook post by Mary Cheney, the daughter of Dick Cheney where she equates drag queens with white people donning blackface. Read the story here.

She says, "If a man has all the right in the world to put on a high wig, sequined dress and a full face of makeup, why isn’t it socially acceptable for a white person to don blackface?"

Apparently, a commercial for the upcoming season of RuPaul's Drag Race sparked her question.

She continues, “Why is it socially acceptable — as a form of entertainment — for men to put on dresses, make up and high heels and act out every offensive stereotype of women (bitchy, catty, dumb, slutty, etc.) — but it is not socially acceptable — as a form of entertainment — for a white person to put on blackface and act out offensive stereotypes of African Americans? Shouldn’t both be OK or neither?”

Cheney is not the first woman or feminist to raise the issue of drag being anti-feminist but I'd like to take this apart for a moment. I've been reading quite a large amount of academic essays on camp and drag lately.

I first became interested in drag (and gender theory) when I started reading academic pop culture essays in anthologies and periodicals with a particular interest in applying what I was reading to Cher. Pop culture academicians kept calling her a 'female drag queen.' They called Dolly Parton one too. I went in search of what that meant. Was it a negative slur, as in Cher is a poor imitation of a real woman? Turns out calling Cher and Dolly drag queens just meant that their style of feminine dress was so over-the-top and exaggerated, it served to expose the "put on" nature of femininity. The artificiality of it.

This coincided with recent theories of gender being performative, the idea being you have no core gender self. You take on a performance character by choice. Being butch, fey, girlie, tomboy are all cultural and not biological ideas and as such are roles that can be switched, roles that are culturally-defined and arbitrary.

Right off, I imagined Cheney didn't accept performative gender theory. And because of this she wouldn't accept that that one's gender is therefore more perforamative and fluid (even hetero expressions of it) than is one's ethnicity.

Speaking directly to the issue of blackface, part of the offensiveness of it was the racism that accompanied it and how disparaging it was to black culture. The same is not true for drag. To equate the two is based on a false premise of intent. I do not read drag as dismissive, as some feminists do.

In fact, Cheny's own commentary betrays her. She takes on the the male chauvinist view when she says, "[they] act out every offensive stereotype of women (bitchy, catty, dumb, slutty, etc.)."  Gay men can be just as bitchy, catty, dumb, slutty.  So can straight men for that matter. Whose to say these are not just basic human diva traits? To assign them to women is sexist, sexist from men, lesbians or feminists. It's buying into the patriarchal view of women and refusing to see how powerful a glamazon character can be. It sends a message to both women and drag queens: tone it down; outrageousness  is not okay.

That is why is was so powerful to see a butch lesbian feel empowerment going thru Drag U. And for me, the show Drag U is what proves that not only do costumes drive feelings, (think a karate outfit, a policeman's uniform or a glamazon's couture), but that finding value in glamour isn't self-hating for women or anti-feminist for men. 

It's very different from blackface due to how women are being interpreted. This is not to say there aren't women-hatin drag queens. But they're rare. In any case, drag isn't really about "aping women." It's about finding your inner power. Its about taking on the character of the glamazon. No drag queen is performing an eek meek.

Considering RuPaul is the most prominent drag queen and a black man, I was particularly looking forward to his rebuttal. Unfortunately, he didn't address the drama of blackface directly. He just presented a history of the political history of drag: http://www.mediaite.com/online/rupaul-tells-mary-cheney-how-dressing-in-drag-is-different-from-blackface/

I was hoping for more but Betty Bowers had a good quote about it, one that assumes you know that Mary Cheney is a lesbian:

"Men in clothes traditionally worn by women is blackface, says Mary Cheney, wearing clothes traditionally worn by men."

More on performative gender theory


Cher's Angry Tweets, The Seventies: Glamour, Ratings & Concerts

Cherspecial2The New Year brings new apologies for the lag in blog postings. I've been on the new job for just about a month. No, I'm not teaching at my local community college. I'm continuing my day-job of web content specializin'. And I've been a bit more swamped with family reunion duties that I predicted. My novel-writing and blogging schedule has slipped all to hell!

But...I'm working in a communications department full of really interesting and creative people, our studio department has an animator and an award-winning director, our web team has two visual artists, two photographers, a competitive dancer and a soap maker. Similar to my experiences at ICANN, I've arrived just in time for a sweet web re-branding launch. It's been fun so far.

But anyway, time to move on to...

Cher's Angry Tweets

Cher made some tweets about Hitler and the cloud last month that hit many news outlets. My guess is the tweets were meant to be a joke but I didn't read into them too closely. These people made the attempts to sort it out:

  • PosterMediaite
    "It may not matter in 5 yrs, but Hitler Tweets are forever."
  • Tech Times
    "Our best guess is that Cher was expressing frustration with Apple's iCloud service. Or maybe she was commenting on the recent scandal involving nude photos of celebrities leaking from iCloud thanks to hackers."

Twitchy.com covers Cher's tweets about U.S. Congress. Cher Scholar's old friend Doug Wemple, who wrote a wonderful heart-felt story in Cher Zine 1 about coming out and his long, frustrating journey to try to see Cher in concert, gets caught up in the tweet sweep too.

Which all reminds me of the trailer I saw last weekend for a movie coming to my local independent movie house, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry. This movie reminds me so much of the situation surrounding Cher's tweets. The trailer chronicles the expression of anger from feminists in second and third wave actions and protests and how uncomfortable this made (and continues to make) some folks. People who disagree with Cher's politics consistently try to characterize her as a nut. It's not a new tactic as this film shows. Looking forward to seeing it.

Giddy Gossip

Lot's of gossipy stuff in the news:

Studio-margauxSeventies Glamour

Just finished the affordably-priced coffee-table book Seventies Glamour by David Willis. It covers all the icons of 70s style, including Margaux Hemmingway, who's photo at Studio 54 (not in the book) has forever fascinated me. She seems so "over it" and strangely comfortable in her pose.

SeventiesglamourThe zeitgeist of the 70s with its "tarnished luster" and the "complex broken mirror ball glamour" is covered. Cher is listed as one of "the beautiful people," a new version of the 1960s "jet set." She's listed in an uberclass alongside Liza Minnelli, Halston, Truman Capote, Divine, Hugh Hefner, Calvin Klein, Liz Taylor and Jackie O. Not too shabby. Although Cher is not cited as an influence or contributor to it, glitter and glam rock are discussed. Cher has one page dedicated to her with a picture of her Stars album cover of 1975 and the joyous color poster for Cher...Special in 1978. I found some groovy out-takes of that session online (above and below).

Cherspecial3 Cherspecial1  










Seventies Ratings

When I was working on my eBook about Writing in the Age of Narcissism, I came across an article by Lev Grossman called "The Beast with a Billion Eyes," Time Magazine, 2012. He said "for every minute that passes in real time, 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube." And this was in 2012! He talks about how YouTube, like cable TV before it, has challenged network ratings, chronicling the tumbling numbers, decade to decade, from the 80s The Cosby Show to the 90s Seinfeld show to 2008's American Idol. He says, "Obviously No. 1 isn't what it used to be."

I often don't know what these ratings numbers mean. Are they talking about audience share, Nielsen rank or actual audience views. When people talk about ratings, they never use the same measurements.

For instance, allegedly, Carol Burnett averaged $30 million people a week in her heyday. But in 2004, Nick and Jessica Simpson won their slot with 11.4 million. But it's complicated by the fact that fewer people were watching TVs in the 1970s. There were fewer devices at least. I decided I need to make a list of Nielsen rankings for Cher's TV shows that covers all three dimensions: total audience, audience percentage share and Nielsen rank. So far I've only found this source that lists each year's top 30 shows: http://www.classictvhits.com/tvratings/

The Sonny & Cher Comdy Hour 1971: http://www.classictvhits.com/tvratings/1971.htm

Rank #27, viewers: 12,544,200

The Sonny & Cher Comdy Hour 1973: http://www.classictvhits.com/tvratings/1973.htm

Rank #8, Viewers 15,424,600

In 1972 and 1974, they weren't in the top 30. Cher's solo show also didn't crack the top 30 in total. Nor did The Sonny & Cher Show of 1976-7.

TakemehometourA Topless 1979 Show?

When speaking to my cousin and Aunt a few weeks ago, they divulged to me that they saw Cher in Las Vegas during the 1979 "Take Me Home" tour. My aunt said she'll never forget it (in a negative sense) because the show featured scandalous topless dancers.

I started to say, "But I saw the show on TV and it didn't have...." and then I thought, well, of course it wouldn't.

Can anyone help me out there? Did Cher's 1979 Vegas show feature topless dancers?





Working Out With Cher

NewattCher 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.

Newatt1Part 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.

CrunchesPart 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.

BodycBody 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.

CherholeHot 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.”

BandsPart 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

FitnesshollywoodKeli 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.

AndesKaren 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:

JoanieJoanie 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

Tamilee Webb Yes I have a buns of steel video. Buns

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/

MayaMaya 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


Eu2 Eu











The European covers of Cher's fitness programs (but the DVDs don't play in the US)


Cher in the 1970s

CherengsteadCher’s life an career through the mid-1970s is what the book Strong Enough is about. It goes into the struggles the Sonny & Cher had from 1973 to 1975, including the fact that Cher grew up and Sonny’s fatal flaw was not recognizing the changes. Josiah Howard interviews witnesses to speak on how Sonny was behaving with everyone and the strain on the whole staff. He talks about their cancelled shows, what the tabloids were saying, the bloat (in many senses, including the title’s) of their last record album Mama Was A Rock and Roll Singer…

I appreciated how the book slowed down to really detail:

 - Cher’s appearances on award shows
- Cher’s Emmy and Grammy nominations and wins
- Details on their divorce (Cher used Lucy’s divorce lawyer) and how they behaved with each other at concerts
- How CBS and MCA responded to the drama
- How the lawsuits settled out
- Cher’s outings to concerts and parties
- Which major magazines she appeared on the cover of while she was a “newsstand staple.” We also learn how the tabloid The Star built itself on Cher stories around this time.

Cher's love life after leaving Sonny has been covered extensively through the years but this book goes into Sonny’s relationships with “models and dancers” and his long term affair with “secretary” Connie Foreman, how it was Sonny on his dates with Connie that actually blew open the story about his split with Cher. (See tabloid photos of Sonny & Connie)

The book also goes into more detail than I’ve ever seen about Sonny’s solo show and the press surrounding it. How they unfortunately tried to spin him as Chaplinesque. We also learn about Cher’s real reaction to the show. This biography is also the first one to deal with Sonny’s Mimi Machu scandal. And the first Cher biography to track more fully the struggles she had with her father at this time, although I felt there was a lot more to tell here. Did he work for Sonny & Cher (I heard he did), did he really try to make money off of his connection to Cher?

The book combs through all the starting players of Cher’s solo show, called simply Cher and not The Cher Show: George Schlatter, Art Fisher (and his affair with Sally Struthers), the head writer and the writing staff, set designer Robert Kelly (remember the Cher logo and the tongue set stage?), musical director Jimmy Dale, choreographers Tony Charmoli and Dee Dee Wood (I just saw that she did that unforgettable choreography for Mary Poppins), Ben Nye II doing makeup, her PR photographer John Engstead, producer Lee Miller, her unusual dressing room, the rock and roll guests she wanted on the show and who was unavailable, her sponsors. The book details the excitement at CBS during the first few shows with other stars and dancers dropping in.

We learn again more about the beauty regimen: about her skin problems at the time (due to pancake makeup, Kleig lights, stress and bad eating), her Christina Smith eye lashes, lighting tricks used to hide acne, her hair darkenings (from warm Armenian brown to black), her Minnie Smith manicures, Jim Ortel hair and Renata Leuschner (Rena) wigs.

The book also confirms CeeCee Bloom’s character from Beaches was based on staff-writer Iris Rainer’s experiences working with Cher.

We learn about all the skits (in fine detail), what skits never aired, which were “banked,” and how the show fared in the ratings and with the press as the weeks progressed. I found it ironic that CBS typically cut songs for original airings (famously for Raquel Welch, Bette Midler, The Spinners) and when the show finally re-aired on VH-1, the majority of the skits were cut out.

One thing I could never get used to was Cher’s move from the cut-up bitch on her show with Sonny to the hip-talking, ingratiating  nice girl on her solo show. "Far out man." "That’s cool!” This slangy, wanting-to-be-liked was ironically unlikable. Everyone seemed to prefer the stoic tough broad.

From the start, the show seemed to have dysfunctions built in: staff fighting, the star’s missed rehearsals and troubled private life encroaching on the schedule, inconsistent material, the show always suffered a lack of a strong point of view. Either because of this or encouraging the sense of something missing, often tapings occurred without a live audience.

Although her femme fatal characters were mostly gone, the show did profess power to the gals with memes such as “Girls are smarter,” women behind the men, and “Trashy Ladys” skits.

The book talks about how variety Shows were starting to decline around this time as detective shows were on the rise.

RockfordThis is why I find it interesting each time I hear a Cher reference on The Rockford Files (a show which I watch obsessively when I can):

I’ve seen two Cher references so far since I’ve been re-watching them on ME TV: one episode was about the cut-throat LA real estate business. A real estate agent tells Rockford that he just sold a house to “Cher and Gregg.” Interesting that viewers would know what that meant. Would they today? The other episode was about tabloid journalism and Rockford was hiding out at a tabloid on a private investigation on a burglary. Rockford bemoans the potential lack of privacy in hospital records and warns about the dangers of coming across “Cher’s last physical.” The tabloid office eventually burns down.

Oscars73Sonny & Cher presenting Best Original Song at the 1973 Ocsars; watch them present pretending to be couple-y.



Grammys74The 1974 Grammys appearance, Cher’s first public appearance without Sonny.









Camille Paglia on Miley Cyrus

CamileCamille Paglia: you love her or you hate her. She's outspoken and strident and I tend not to agree with her politically or critically and she was not supportive of Chaz's transgendering and has both been critical of Cher's plastic surgery and supportive of Cher's persona on occasion.

But recently my friend Christopher sent me a really good Time editorial by Paglia about Miley Cyrus' recent scandalous performance and it echoes many of the concerns Cher initially had. Her editorial also made many good points about the history of pop music and Madonna, as well:

"...the real scandal was how atrocious Cyrus' performance was in artistic terms. She was clumsy, flat-footed, and cringingly unsexy, and effect heightened by her manic grin.

How could American pop have gotten this bad? Sex has been a crucial component of the entertainment industry since the seductive vamps of silent film and the bawdy big mamas of roadhouse blues. Elvis Presley, James Brown and Mick Jagger brought sizzling heat to rock, soul and funk music, which in turn spawned the controversial raw explicitness of urban hip-hop.

The Cyrus fiasco, however, is symptomatic of the still heavy influence of Madonna, who sprang to world fame in the 1980s with sophisticated videos that were suffused with a daring European art-film eroticism and that were arguably among the best artworks of the decade. Madonna’s provocations were smolderingly sexy because she had a good Catholic girl’s keen sense of transgression. Subversion requires limits to violate.


But more important, Madonna, a trained modern dancer, was originally inspired by work of tremendous quality — above all, Marlene Dietrich’s glamorous movie roles as a bisexual blond dominatrix and Bob Fosse’s stunningly forceful strip-club choreography for the 1972 film Cabaret, set in decadent Weimar-era Berlin. Today’s aspiring singers, teethed on frenetically edited small-screen videos, rarely have direct contact with those superb precursors and are simply aping feeble imitations of Madonna at 10th remove.

Pop is suffering from the same malady as the art world, which is stuck on the tired old rubric that shock automatically confers value. But those once powerful avant-garde gestures have lost their relevance in our diffuse and technology-saturated era, when there is no longer an ossified high-culture establishment to rebel against. On the contrary, the fine arts are alarmingly distant or marginal to most young people today.


With their massive computerized lighting and special-effects systems, arena shows make improvisation impossible and stifle the natural rapport with the audience that performers once had in vaudeville houses and jazz clubs. There is neither time nor space to develop emotional depth or creative skills.

Pop is an artistic tradition that deserves as much respect as any other. Its lineage stretches back to 17th century Appalachian folk songs and African-American blues, all of which can still be heard vibrating in the lyrics and chord structure of contemporary music. But our most visible young performers, consumed with packaging and attitude, seem to have little sense of that thrilling continuity and therefore no confidence in how it can define and sustain their artistic identities over the course of a career.

What was perhaps most embarrassing about Miley Cyrus’ dismal gig was its cutesy toys — a giant teddy bear from which she popped to cavort with a dance troupe in fuzzy bear drag. Intended to satirize her Disney past, it signaled instead the childishness of Cyrus’ notion of sexuality, which has become simply a cartoonish gimmick to disguise a lack of professional focus. Sex isn’t just exposed flesh and crude gestures. The greatest performers, like Madonna in a canonical video such as “Vogue,” know how to use suggestion and mystery to project the magic of sexual allure. Miley, go back to school!

Read the full piece: http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/27/pops-drop-from-madonna-to-miley/

What Paglia does here is to maintain that sex has always been a part of pop music and that the raunchiness of Cyrus' performance wasn't the issue. It was the emptiness of it. She makes similar critiques of Lady Gaga. From the UK's Sunday Times, Paglia said that

Gaga is a "manufactured personality" who rips off her music and fashion from "Cher, Jane Fonda as Barbarella, Gwen Stefani and Pink." Paglia also disses the star's attractiveness, saying that "Drag queens, whom Gaga professes to admire, are usually far sexier in many of her over-the-top outfits than she is." Her sex appeal, or lack thereof, is quite a problem for Paglia: "Furthermore, despite showing acres of pallid flesh in the fetish-bondage garb of urban prostitution, Gaga isn’t sexy at all – she’s like a gangly marionette or plasticised android. How could a figure so calculated and artificial, so clinical and strangely antiseptic, so stripped of genuine eroticism have become the icon of her generation? Can it be that Gaga represents the exhausted end of the sexual revolution? In Gaga’s manic miming of persona after persona, over-conceptualised and claustrophobic, we may have reached the limit of an era…"

This is the enduring issue I have with Gaga, not her unsexiness (do we all have to be sexy?), but her flatness, how her artistic gestures are shallow and blatant. I just don't get a message there.

I like how Paglia compares the vapidness of shock for shock's sake between the pop and the art world, and how both fields need something to play against, "subversion needs limits to violate" like Madonna's transgressions against the Catholic Church. Likewise in the art world, if there is no establishment to rebel against, rebellion seems valueless.

I'm also interested in Paglia's concerns about arena shows and how computerized elements "make improvisation impossible and stifle natural rapport." I hope Cher keeps in mind a balance between cool technology and bling-bling effects and allows a spot of unplanned-out intimacy in her new show, understanding the fact that she is beloved to her fans and she could sing on a stool in a pretty dress and charm us all well enough. She is truely much more than "packaging and attitude" (or trust me, I would be bored to tears and would have jumped off the Cher wagon years ago) and defines, all by herself, the "thrilling continuity" of pop music's lineage. I hope someday she takes ownership of that.

She's also naturally sexy (sister to sister, you're time-tested) and thankfully doesn't need to bump and grind a teddy bear.