Cher Scholarship in the Wild

Cher-2019-tour

This is a photo of Cher's latest arena tour, fifty years into her concert career.

It’s curious how many essays there were last year’s about Cher. Women and gay men have been writing stories about how Cher helped them be more assertive or survive hard times. But now we're seeing a surge of people writing about Cher as a phenomenon. There have been a few reviewing a song here or there, some reviewing her entire oeuvre, some quite-personal essay about how Cher influenced them in some way, or about how they never thought about Cher much until recently and are discovering things about her they find profoundly misunderstood or inspiring.

No one can even get at what she’s doing, really. She’s flinty and strong, hard and soft, but can we really parse the craft of it? The mystery of the mechanics of Cher? Writers are trying to figure out what Cher means.

Recently a friend of mine found a local course on Cher from a catalog called Oasis.

OasisOasis offers programs for senior citizens. I’m was very bummed that I missed it, but the offering, you bet I am going to cajole one of my 55+ friends into sneaking me into it. This teacher runs courses on multiple acts including Neil Diamond, Harry Belafonte, Cole Porter, Dinah Washington, Oscar Levant, Carly Simon, Bobby Darin, Sting, Tina Turner, Hank Williams (called the Hillbilly Shakespeare), and on categories like showtunes, African American music history, music and the holocaust, among other interesting topics. In the class description, she calls Cher out as a super-diva activist and philanthropist who has sold over 110 million records and has had a #1 single in each decade.

The evolution of Cher” by Justin Elizabeth Sayre had great commentary around authenticity and bling.

“I’ve never disliked Cher or thought of her as anything other than a dynamic and talented performer. But I have long taken Cher for granted. I simply assumed that many artists have had multiple hits in multiple decades, won Oscars and Grammys and been cultural icons clad in Bob Mackie for over 40 years. Cher was just one person of note on a short but powerful list….But the truth is that there is no list. There is only Cher."

Things Sayre singled out for what makes Cher particularly authentic, her immediate sense of presence: 

"Even on film, this woman was the real thing, the genuine article, poised, gorgeous, talented, brilliant — all things that mean Cher."

This is an important point because Cher has always been accused of being a false front, a clothes hanger, a fake hippie, a false singer, a false folk act and that her bling has been used simply to hide the falseness.

Sayre claims it was Cher’s authenticity that actually saved scenes of the movie Burlesque for him:

“The scenes with Stanley Tucci, who plays just the sort of gay men I like, were all funny and touching. The relationship between two friends who are deeply committed to each other, slightly in love, trying to keep a part of the world for themselves, was so genuine that my friend choked up. For the rest of the movie, Cher became a life preserver. I relaxed when she was onscreen, knowing full well that I would no longer drown in a sea of the average. It wasn’t camp, but it was good. Camp needs more of a threat.  It’s always about the push and the pull; it has the frenetic energy of failure mixed with the knowing achievement of beautiful destruction. In a way, Cher can’t do camp. That may be a strange thing to say, seeing how much camp is inspired by her, but I think it’s true. There is such a sense of authority in her performing (she’s Cher, dammit!), but there is also her undeniable sense of truth. In Burlesque, the song may be outlandish, the setting bizarre, but she somehow comes off present and honest in the eye of this glittery storm...Things that would appear garish or over-the-top on a host of other divas seem absolutely appropriate on Cher, even demanded. Cher deserves lighting. And glitter. This is how her world should be. And there in that dream, Cher sits down and sings to you about the joys and sorrows of life that you both share. She’s just like you, even with all that surrounds her.  And you believe it, because Cher is something real.”

At first this is what I thought might the the problem with all Cher impersonations and (before I saw it) the Broadway show: glitter without Cher just doesn't fulfill the Cherness. Gitter doesn’t hold you up even if you’re adept at doing all the Cher ticks. Because the glitter is an add-on and not the architecture.

And for those who say authenticity is impossible to apply to a career involving auto-tune or plastic surgery, Sayre has a message for you too:

“Now, of course, there will be some who say that this is not an accurate assessment of Cher: How can you call someone “real” who has had that amount of plastic surgery, or used auto-tuning as she’s done? To that I would reply, “Who told you about those things? Cher did.” Cher has never denied having plastic surgery. She’s been upfront and honest about her “work.” She’s also been forthcoming about a desire to look good. And we love her for it, so why should we be upset when she does things to make herself look and feel great? As for the auto-tuning, she used it as an effect, not as a crutch. It was a sound, a look, almost, that turned “Believe” into a huge hit. The pipes are still there, trust.”

Anna Swanson did a movie survey with some great commentary, too.

“Cher’s work on the silver screen has reached across a wide variety of genres, from musicals and fantasy films to serious dramas. She’s worked with some of the most iconic directors in the industry, often portraying women who are difficult to pin down. Her roles frequently simultaneously play up her larger than life public persona and react against it, rendering it impossible to easily define her characters or to put them in a box.”

About Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean:

“The film, which also stars Sandy Dennis and Kathy Bates, has been frequently praised for its feminist themes and for its empathetic depiction of the character Joanne (Karen Black), a trans woman….Not only is Cher’s performance integral to the film, she also received acclaim for it and was nominated for a Golden Globe ”

About Silkwood:

In Silkwood she is stripped down and her performance is grounded in realism. In playing a lesbian character, Cher’s portrayal of Dolly offers an incredibly humane and nuanced look at the experiences of a marginalized woman.”

About Mask:

“Though the film is at times a touch schmaltzy, Cher’s performance is once again grounded and nuanced.”

About Moonstruck:

"In addition to being a romantic masterpiece, director Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck is a vehicle for Cher’s best screen performance to date, and the one that won her an Oscar. ...Cher has heartfelt and witty material to work with and she knocks it out of the park….Moonstruck, though it has just the right amount of melodrama, is also honest and unpretentious, especially in scenes with Olympia Dukakis as Loretta’s mother. Between Jewison’s direction, Shanley’s script, and the performances, Moonstruck is pitch perfect. Simply put, they don’t make rom-coms like this anymore, and that is a goddamn shame.”

About Witches of Eastwick:

“What makes this film most memorable is the relationship between the three women. Just as Miller would famously go on to do with Mad Max: Fury Road, here he foregrounds these complex women and the strength of their bonds. The women have their struggles, but it’s never doubted that they are at their strongest and their best when they are committed to helping each other.”

Matthew Jacobs takes another tour through her movies...

“Of all the pop stars who have attempted to act, Cher’s track record is arguably the best…As her post-Sonny & Cher solo career waxed and waned in the ’80s and early ’90s, Cher’s movie career flourished ― a true achievement, given the ostentatious displays that had made her a walking glitter bomb since the mid-’60s.”

He breaks her acting career into eras, the beginning (1967-1985), the gold (1987), the wobble (1991-1999), the redemption (2000). 

About Chastity:

Chastity, released in June 1969, tried to be a gritty derivative of the French New Wave, packing big ideas ― Bono apparently said it was about society’s sudden “lack of manhood” and “the independence women have acquired but don’t necessarily want” ― into a whiplash-inducing downer involving a lesbian romance and childhood molestation...But bad movies can be testaments to good actors’ skills. Cher is at ease in front of the camera, never letting her fame announce itself before she opens her mouth. The same qualities accenting all her best film work — a scrappy confidence that reads as a proverbial middle finger to anyone who crosses her — become the highlight of “Chastity.””

About Mask:

Mask proved her acting was bankable…. The role earned her a third Golden Globe nomination and the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious best-actress prize, but she was snubbed by the Oscars...At the Academy Awards, she donned her infamous midriff-bearing Bob Mackie getup, complete with a cape and a spiky headdress. The look was more punk rock than Tinseltown elegance ― an oversized fuck-you to the fusty Academy and an ebullient reminder that she wouldn’t tidy up her image to appeal to Reagan-era conservatism.”

About Witches of Eastwick:

“In 1987, at the critical age of 41, Cher landed a troika of commercial hits in which she was the centerpiece, starting with the delicious lark The Witches of Eastwick,...she held her own against Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jack Nicholson.”

He calls her Moonstruck performance “career-defining.”

Of the [Witches, Suspect, Moonstruck 1987] trifectata:

“In each, Cher captured a quotidian version of American life ― and what’s more transformative than Cher pretending to be quotidian?”

All the while, Jacobs reminds us, Cher was making pop-rock hits like “I Found Someone,” “We All Sleep Alone,” and “Turn Back Time,” hits that would “place her in the same league as Madonna, Paula Abdul and Whitney Houston.”

About post-Mermaids work:

“She was too decadent to disappear into the same down-home movie roles, and Hollywood no longer saw her as a profitable actress. Cher played along with the joke, though, portraying exaggerated versions of herself (see: The Player, Will & Grace, Stuck on You) even when she wasn’t actually playing herself (see: Burlesque).

The Redemption Jacobs considers as her appearance on Will and Grace:

“There’s no movie-star move more powerful than playing yourself with an ironic wink, and Will & Grace, like The Player before it, let Cher poke fun at herself in a refreshing way. She is treated as an empire, at once pointedly self-aware and deliciously aloof ― a perfect way to master her own narrative without being beholden to it.”

He concludes,

“If pop stars are meant to be mythological and actors are meant to be aspirational, Cher has mastered both domains. She did so by never shying away from how the world metabolized her iconography, and by forever laughing at the absurdity of fame.”

Abby Aguirre in Elle Magazine wrote a very good interview piece (actually a long one) with Cher in November and I thought this exchange was very indicative of Cher's attitude about achieving this level of notoriety after so many lean spells:

“Before I leave, I ask Cher why she thinks following fun and acting on instinct has, in her case, produced so many pivotal moments. “It doesn’t always,” she says. “Look, I’ve had huge failures in my life. Huge dips and ‘Oh, you’re over. You’re over.’ This one guy once said, ‘You’re over,’ every year for I don’t know how many years. And I just said to him, ‘You know what? I will be here when you’re not doing what you do anymore.’ I had no idea if I was right or wrong. I was just tired of hearing him say it.””

 


Cher as Indian

20180106_150355So this story (finally) broke last year at Christmas, controversy about Bob Mackie and Cher's use of the Half Breed headdress and Cher's presentation as an Indigenous American or American Indian. And I knew I would need to address this story next but I've been putting it off, not because I didn’t want to talk about it, (because I do), but because there is so much to say, so much complexity in this social situation. Could I even sort through it? It involves liberals attacking liberals, it involves conservatives stirring the pot, cultural appropriation, contested appropriation and hundreds of years of history.

20180106_145347I took this image above of the Cher doll as I was taking down my Cher Christmas tree. Amazingly, one of the headdress feathers became caught in the hand of "out-of-the-box" Cher doll, and the image uncannily expresses my ambivalence and sadness around this issue. I'm calling the picture "VAMP with Cultural Feather." That lead me to take this "Sad Stack of Cultures" photo to the right.

I also thought about starting a poll on the controversy but got stumped imagining what question I could ask. Are you Indigenous American or American Indian and offended? Sounds kind of offensive and who would take a poll like that? I’m just hoping for some essay from Indian Country Today to surface on the issue.

So let’s begin with full disclosure, I’ve been a Cher fan for a long, long time and when I was a kid in the 1970s, I thought Cher was and American Indian until I was about 8 years old. I finally found her biography in the local library in St. Louis. And so since then I’ve considered Cher to be half Armenian and half 1950s blond bombshell (although her mom was not a natural blonde). Do most people even know Cher’s heritage? How many have read her biographies? Probably very few. And many may still assume she's Indigenous American (I'm going to stick with that term).

SNegraince the 1960s Cher has been interested in and wearing Indigenous-American-inspired clothing, sometimes on stage, sometimes to major events, sometimes at home. When Sonny & Cher started appearing on variety shows in the last 60s, they started theming their jokes around Sonny’s Italian-ness and Cher’s Indian-ness, to use their word. This was ramped up in their own television shows of the 70s. Cher also moved in and out of other culture areas in her TV performances, including French, Hispanic, American Indian, Japanese, Chinese and African American. Diane Negra talks about Cher’s fluid ethnicity in her book Off-White Hollywood, American Culture and Ethnic Female Stardom. She essentially labels Cher as ethnically indeterminate and therefore map-able to many ethnicities. The cover of the book boldly advertises Cher in the Half Breed headdress.

This flexibility is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending upon if you want Cher representing your community or not. And the gravitas around the issue has evolved over the years. Before the 1970s, ethnicity was avoided on TV or un-apologetically appropriated. In the 1970s, consciousness was being “raised” about the value or “coolness” of ethic differences and this was often explored on hipper TV shows. Looking back now, from where an authentic identity has much more bitcoin, exploration and celebration look very similar to the earlier appropriations.

For years I’ve been wondering how Cher’s identification as Indigenous American and her choices to wear Indigenous-American-inspired clothing has landed from decade to decade. Older Native Americans seemed hesitant to weigh in. But younger activists seem to be taking more offense, but still below the level of what Paris Hilton (Halloween costume) and Wayne Coyne (stage costume) received a few years ago.

The issue is complicated for many reasons:

  1. There’s the song “Half Breed” from 1973 that no one seems to be taking issue with because a) it’s a song about harassment of minorities and b) it’s a bad song living nine lives due to its camp factor. On the one hand it has cheesy drum beats that might indeed be too ridiculous to offend. On the other hand, it showcases details like the offensiveness of calling an Indigenous woman a “squaw.”

  2. HeadlresslesscherThen there are Cher’s stage "costumes" which are the most visible element, the Half Breed headdress Cher has been wearing since 1974 is actually modeled after a male war bonnet and some in the Indigenous American community have equated it with wearing an unearned purple heart. And from their point of view, the bonnet is no more part of a “costume” than a Catholic clergy cassock is part of a “costume.” People don’t like to hear their religious objects demeaned by words with trivial connotations. Regardless, over the years this headdress became an “iconic outfit” for Cher, right up there with the Turn Back Time leather strap-on and the fur (possibly bobcat) vests of the mid 1960s. The controversy over the headdress exploded in December and Cher has since stopped wearing it in her Vegas shows (see a fan's picture to the right). Cher is still wearing the Bob Mackie design that goes with it. It’s interesting to me that the December scandal raised the issue again now when Cher has been wearing the headdress in her concerts since 1999. There may be a reason for that.

  3. Then there's the issue of Cher presenting herself as Indigenous American on her TV shows. And although Cher presented herself as many international and national archetypes on the shows, she was most notably "Indian." A clear story has never emerged with documented proof about Cher’s alleged Cherokee identity. And documented proof is itself a controversy (see below).

  4. And then there was the Twitter fight with the activists, starting from a statement coming out of Donald Trump’s camp. Conservative and liberal politics added another layer of frustrations and communication misfires between Cher and activists and you'd think there would have been a statement ready from Cher’s public relations team, like crafted 30 years ago.

The Trump connection further complicates the issue for sure. (from Jezebel.com)

“In 2017, nobody in their right mind would take this seriously as an emblem of Native American cultures......except Trump’s new Canadian/American pop star appointee for Native American Ambassador on the National Diversity Coalition! Former Pussycat Dolls member Kaya Jones!”

Some American Indian activists took issue with Jones’ claimed heritage:

“Since the December 8th announcement that she will represent Native Americans on the national stage, Jones has been tagging herself as a #Halfbreed along with claims that her father is Apache Native American. When asked, she can’t name the reservation her father lived on or his tribal origins...but what she can do to represent Native American peoples is channel Cher. So now people previously unfamiliar with “Half-Breed” are taking Cher to task.”

Those being millennial Indigenous Americans. I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with their feeling what they feel. Why should they remember cultural work that may or may not have happened in their lifetimes? All they see is Cher appropriating.

When Cher was on prime time American television she was a cool, hip superstar and giving airtime to images of minority women rarely seen elsewhere on prime-time, glamour television. Young girls and boys were seeing that and influenced by it. But that was cultural work done then, a perishable credential.  Some day we may look back on the cultural work of Will and Grace and see it as stereotypical, too. 

I’ve always had this gnawing feeling that Cher was somehow “getting a pass” on her “Indian look.” Why, over the last 50 years, was nobody was calling her out on it? That's not to say I didn't like it. But it’s impossible to believe that there have been no American Indian ticket-holders to the last two decades of live shows that have included the song and the headdress.

This was a bizarre related incident. I went to a show in 2013 with a white, Gen Y girl who became greatly offended by Cher’s Eastern Indian sari worn for the song “All or Nothing.” But she had no strong feelings whatsoever about the ceremonial Indigenous American headdress. (I've included a few existing articles below.)

I’m guessing here that Cher’s Indigenous American fans are older and this makes me think younger fans are feeling more offended because they have zero context to Cher’s persona in the 1970s. I could be wrong about this but there does seem to be a response difference in age groups. And newer kids have no context to “the way things were,” which has always been a thin-ice defense as it is.

Quite possibly the idea of Half Breed has outlived its previous pass. Which is making older fans feel very sad because they believe Cher as Indian was doing cultural work. (But maybe it’s also doing cultural damage now.) Older fans also feel the headdress is beautiful and they nostalgically love it and feel bad hearing that their love of something has been construed as bad or wrong. Do they then not have agency to love or appreciate? I feel for the fans here, too.

And that the whole issue beginning as a continuation of anger over Trumps position vis-a-vis Indigenous Americans just makes it all the more tragic, because the headdress issue has been lumped in with frustration over the status of the Keystone Pipeline struggle, Trumps dismissive Pocahontas comments, and his choice of an ambassador a woman with dubious claims to Indigenous American heritage.

And then there’s the very real issue of proving your Indigenous Americaness, which has controversy even within Indigenous American communities and leads to issues like blood quantum and time spent growing up on the reservation, how you get excluded and included even in your own communities.

“If you're Native American, there's a good chance that you've thought a lot about blood quantum — a highly controversial measurement of the amount of "Indian blood" you have. It can affect your identity, your relationships and whether or not you — or your children — may become a citizen of your tribe.” (NPR) 

So what a mess it all is. How can we even separate out all these issues for a second. Again, I keep waiting for a good essay on the Cher problem to appear somewhere. I want a method to proceed, guidelines, context, a way forward. But unfortunately life doesn’t always work that way.

As a word nerd, I’m inherently interested in the evolution of offensive words, including a word like “costume.” We learn in etymology class, that culture is impossible to promote, protect or contain. That’s why it’s so hard to get everyone to use a certain word or not use a certain word, like “costume” or "Native American" or even more offensive words like whore and retard. It’s also why we keep wanting to “dress up” like nuns and ceremonial chiefs for celebratory events. Sometimes when you’re trying to learn or appreciate another culture, you try to wear another man’s hat.

You can say tone means a lot, but quite often even the tone is all wrong. And policing tone is full of problems. It’s unfortunate but culture has a massive mind of its own. Not that we should just let that stand and endure. But we should recognize that not everyone gets the memo, literally. But even emotionally and intellectually. Teaching empathetic understanding takes work, much of it teaching concepts that are abstract and painful to deliver and receive.

The fact that many conservatives dismiss word politics has to be addressed here as well. I have no doubt that if Cher was a member of their circle, they would be defending the Half Breed headdress to the ends of the earth, as part of their ongoing fight against the “scourge of political correctness.” In this atmosphere, other liberals become easier targets because they care at all. Which makes the headdress another casualty of the recent heightened awareness of Trumpian offenses.

So yeah, it’s 2018 and we’re focusing on micro-aggressions, which should be a good thing. We’re finally getting to the micro stuff, unintentional but still hurtful stuff. Problem is we’re losing focus on the macro-aggressions, which in no way have been wrapped up: discrimination in marriage, jobs, housing, physical violence, bullying at an all time high. Our energy seems frayed and raw right now. Do we keep finishing work on the macro but not stop work on the micros?  Will the macro ever resolve itself? Will racism ever stop happening?

Another issue with liberal call-outs is when critics offer no way through. What is acceptable behavior between cultures? What are we working toward? We need examples of that and we need it on TV. What was so great about 1970s television as it began to integrate, (projects of which Cher was a part), was the fictionalization of race issues and examples of how to behave correctly. We’ve completely lost that with network and market-designed segregation of television programming and the self-segregation that occurs with too many segmented channel (and online) choices.

But if there’s no way through for offenders or victims, what could possibly change? Confusion and paralysis sets in. “I’m drowning here and you’re describing the water,” misogynistic Melvin Udall says in As Good as it Gets. At some point, calling out all the drownings becomes absurd. 

But I can hear the response: “it’s not my job to find a solution to the world’s problems.” I wonder whose job it is. And if it’s nobody’s job officially then it’s everybody’s job. So it is your job, long story short. And adding one more voice to the chorus of complaints will do nothing but ensure all our future suffering, and the suffering of all our friends.

 

Some discussion of the issue to date:

  • Native or Not (how controversial was “Half Breed” and were there protests?) (2008) From Mental Floss
  • "Is Cher Indian" (2013) from Waiting to Get There
  • "Cher in a Headdress Again" (2013) from Newspaper Rock
  • "The Controversy of Cher's Heritage" from Native Arts
  • Recap of the December 2017 drama on Jezebel.
  • "My Strange, Strange Holidays Arguing with Cher, yes, THAT Cher" (2017) from TiyospayeNow
  • "Why is Cher Arguing with Native Twitter" (2017) from Storify

Cher Mags, Shows, Movies, Music, TV, Fashion, Merch

Linda_CherWhat a Cher year it's been, starting all the way back in January with "Prayers for this World."  It's a bit overwhelming and I can't believe I haven't blogged since Halloween! My own Fall has been crazy with three sets of house guests and the production of a new political poster for the my art action group ArtBrawl (we decided on a name last summer). We also recently launched a Facebook page that has been tracking our goings-on. Two weeks ago we started screen printing.

For Cher this seems like a critical mass era where she’s producing a plethora of new things, all while older work is getting re-evaluated constantly (her fashion, songs and movies).

Tributes  

Bob's Burgers did a tribute to Cher on their Halloween episode. Technically Linda is dressed as a "Cher-iff," a sheriff dressed like Cher (or Cher with a badge). 

Linda explains her costume as having “handcuffs, a badge and a body that just refused to age!” She also wears a diminutive cowboy hat. “OH, I LOVE her!” she says and then says to Bob, “Snap out of it! From the movie!”

Linda stays in her Cherfit for the whole episode. The outfit is basically the Turn Back Time V-fit with extra Linda coverage, darker stockings and the leather jacket and Cher’s own latter-day boots. I appreciate that the cartoonists put Cher in the original Turn Back Time V-fit and not the concert version hole-fit that everyone now associates with the song.

Some clips:

- Linda explaining the costume
- The family trick-or-treating

While searching for show clips I also came across this story about Ellen wearing the hole-fit version a few years ago. They're very different outfits and now when Bob Mackie talks about designing the Turn Back Time outfit I have no idea which outfit he's talking about.

  VideotbtCher-ellen

 

 

 

 

 

 Magazines

CloserCloser magazine came out with a Cher tribute issue in November which is pretty good. Some new pictures and stories inside. There have also been some new online articles about Cher like these on motherhood and retirement.

Cher scholar Tyler also located this Travel Girl article on Cher: http://travelgirlinc.com/cher-glamorous-gorgeous-still-going-strong/

 

 

 

Charity & Social Causes (Twitter)

Cher has been busy with social and charity causes. She's working with Ben Stiller and others to get supplies to Puerto Rico:

Cher also took part in an auction for veterans on Veteran's Day.

And (thanks to Tyler again) here's a found clip of Cher's interview at the One Young World Conference where she launches Free the Wild and talks about how she's been working with Bob Geldof's manager to launch the animal rescue charity. She talks about her fake fur and a few rescued elephants.  She also says the song "Walls" was from "Believe" producer Mark Taylor.

In the Twittersphere, Papermag has also offered "A close reading of Cher and Rihanna’s Twitter Exchange"

Cher Shows

Las Vegas: There's Las Vegas and then there's the original Las Vegas. I went to them both in the last few months. The older one is actually in New Mexico, an old west town rougher than Tombstone. Mr. Cher Scholar got his masters in archaeology there a few years back (which is why we live in New Mexico now). We took Mr. Cher Scholar's brother to The Plaza Hotel there to do some ghost hunting. Mr. Cher Scholar's brother even has ghost hunting gear. There also happened to be a Halloween party there that night.

20171027_174238 20171027_205646 20171027_203500

 

 

 

 

 

A few weeks later we went to the other Las Vegas where I finally saw the November 11th Classic Cher show. Our seats were not as close as the cancelled show seats we had in spring, but they ended up being better seats than I thought. Cher opened her monologue with "You've probably planned a long time for this." Tell me about it! I was shell shocked the whole weekend worried about a cancellation. Sigh. Sometimes I think I just want it too much. Cher talked about mid-era Sonny & Cher days working show rooms and living in Motel 6 like motels with Cher attempting to cook their diners in the rooms.

It was a great show. I particularly liked the new graphics for "Walking in Memphis" and "The Shoop Shoop Song."

20171111_223432 20171111_223655 20171111_223701

 

 

 

 


I really loved the faux Cher Vegas sign. So retro and fun!  

News about the show:

Broadway Show

There's a page for the Chicago shows of The Cher Show. It would be nice to see a bit more of the performers involved and a better logo. An article from Junkee on the show which captures a lot of her tweets related to it.

Cher Music

"Ooga Boo" is now for sale and when you buy through smile.amazon.com, money goes to charity.

Cher did an interview for the BBC ostensibly about her new song "Walls" but the interview is kind of fluffy and truncated before we get to discussing the song.

Music History

Cher scholar Robrt found this 2016 commercial that uses Cher’s 1967 song “It All Adds Up Now.”

Cher scholar Tyler found this clip of Cher lip synching her way through "I Found Someone in chain-mail-fit"

Cher Movies

It was announced that Cher will play the part of Meryl Streep's mom (in flashback) in the sequel to the movie version of Mama Mia.

OrgasmicMovie History

A great article about Witches of Eastwick seen from 30 later.

 

Television History

CbMy favorite Cher wig is the multi-bun. It's best seen on The Carol Burnett Show. Here's a clip of the sketch.

I heard news that the Get TV Cher shows were coming back. But there's no sign that they will air any new episodes. Last night they played the same Christmas show they aired last year.  This run of shows has been mildly disappointing.

But we can console ourselves with this: Cher scholar Tyler located an opening segment of Laugh In with Sonny & Cher. See Sonny in his groovy scarf. And wow! Some Cher eyelashes there! Cher also gets on a bike. Here's another Laugh In segment with Cher and Tim Conway.

And the full episode of Sonny & Cher on The Glen Campbell Show

And another tribute to Sonny & Cher on David Letterman 30 years ago!

Fashion Influence, Peripherals and Stuff

Ode to an Idol: https://www.image.ie/fashion/in-ode-of-an-idol-the-iconic-and-timeless-wardrobe-of-cher-88368

The New York Times ran a story about a republican mayoral candidate who happens to be a big Cher fan.

Cher is planning to release more Christmas merch on her site soon. See the products on her Twitter. It looks like the themes will be Chercophanie and Black Rose. You can still buy scarves, too!


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)


Media History With Cher

GtI’m like a kid in a candy story with all this Cher scholarship out right now. Two more articles last week:

Cher Is Still Changing The Conversation In 2017 (BuzzFeed)

“Cher is still making headlines, after more than five decades in the spotlight, because she’s never stopped finding and mastering new outlets for her creative expression.”

The article talks about her “fierce tweets,” her “Cher-style viral disruption,” her ability to project an expression of a 'real' person, her outspokenness, her flamboyance, the way she “tends to downplay her hard work,” her history as a fashion trend-setter, a comedian, an actor, a “cross-genre, cross-generational pop artist,” her ability for “generating memes and moments for decades” and “meme-generating outfits.

Um, meme wasn’t even a word back when Cher was doing it.

The article credits her for a style that “that would eventually almost become commonplace on red carpets.” There’s a funny quote from her 1970s manicurist, Minnie Smith, who said, “What the hell different can you do with fingernails?” They found something.

According to BuzzFeed’s culture writer, Pier Dominguez, Cher has a “reliable self-awareness” and is able to maintain “a kind of “authentic down-home appeal” unfiltered and has become a “larger-than-life movie star” engaged in a “defiance of aging.”

He links to that crazy 1975 television duet with David Bowie. This clip has become a popular reference point since David Bowie died. For years I’ve never been able to decide whether these song mashups were brave or ridiculous. Probably bravely ridiculous.

And this NPR story by Desire Moses, Shocking Omissions: The Resilient Reinvention Of Cher's 'Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves' (NPR).

This piece talks specifically about the song “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” as a vehicle for Cher’s “signature contralto” and androgynous vocals and that was a step away from Sonny’s “straightforward, cheerful music.”

We are reminded here that Cher lost a Grammy for this to Carole King’s Tapestry (not too shabby). Moses explicates the song  as ”a story of classism, sexism and racism,” and Cher's performance “whose strength lies in her embodiment of the character.” It’s the story of a woman who has been “shafted into the same life as the generations of women who came before her.”

I feel like a whole new generation has discovered this song.

“Cher’s emboldened drawls [a perfect way to describe her singing style] transformed the song into an urgent, beguiling pop smash” and “established a pattern of storytelling reliant on exoticism,” Moses says, in reference to “Half Breed” and “Dark Lady.” Moses calls Cher a “red-carpet trailblazer” and the “poster child of 70s glam,” an innovator one step ahead of the times.

This year's statements, my Cherfriends, are not things that have been typically said about Cher by the press. This feels like a pretty big shift toward sainthood.


Cher Slays the BBMAs

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

The 71st Birthday Tributes

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

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

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

Our Favorite Quotes (Biography)

Cher: A life in photos

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

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

Cher: See Her Top 10 Most Outrageous Outfits Ever

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

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

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

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

Billboard Sweetness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RaptureWhy Cher Is More Musically Radical Than You Think

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

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

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

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

A Look Back on Her Film & TV Career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cher's 10 Best Trump Tweets

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

Older related links

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

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

Press Before the Show

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

After the BBMAs Coverage

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

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

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

Spend an afternoon with Cher GIFs!


Cher and Madonna, Kate Hudson, Bang Bang

MadonnaThe blog Cher News came back with some tidbits in August:

- David Shelley, one of Cher’s guitarists passed away. The story has pics of Cher singing with him.
- A good compilation post of anthemic Cher mixes (listen at work!)

In the news...

It seems Kate Hudson has come out saying she's been inspired by Cher. I don't really see it but...

My friend Christopher sent me this clip, Buddha Bar’s chill-out version of “Bang Bang.”

Mads2Cher tweeted about people comparing her to Madonna. Here are some concepts for scholarship so you can do your own comparison (play the fun home game version!):

  • Amount of reinventions over how long a period of time
  • Likeability, relatability
  • Types of personality qualifications (TV, film, music, stage)
  • Video presence versus variety show presence
  • Voice conventions
  • Beauty conventions
  • Acting reviews
  • Intellectual/cultural point of view, something to say
  • Types of Billboard success
  • As gay icon