My Essay: Cher and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Tour2I’ve never been sure to have such a personal response to Cher. It’s probably in there somewhere. I’ve been a fan since I was 4 or 5 and I’m now 50 so...psychologically speaking...

Recently an interviewer asked me what I’ve learned personally from Cher. This was hard for me to answer. I tend to think about Cher in terms of the stuff, or more recently in terms of her impact on culture. I struggled to find something to say, like maybe a lesson about letting small things go, (from Cher’s mother’s edict: “If it doesn’t matter in five years, it doesn’t matter”) or that you should always stay friends with your exes. (If Cher can do it…) Oh, and how to fluff my hair by flipping it upside down. Yes...that I did learn from the Cher show. But that’s it.

And when I think about any Cher essay (something for formal than a blog post), it always wraps around the idea of Cher lacking proper respect in pop culture. And maybe that’s personal in some way, like maybe I had two 70s-rock-loving older brothers who disparaged my taste in Cher or all those years being self-conscious about liking the things I like. This digs to the very concept about what rock and roll is, of which the Hall of Fame in Cleveland is but a part. Whether or not Cher is in the Hall is secondary, symptomatic. She’s not part of the insider’s club and that’s the issue, Chronically snubbed. The perpetual underdog. And this has been the case for much longer than the Hall of Fame has existed.

Cher is bigger than her sequins and Cher impersonations often fail for the lack of Cher’s personality embodied in them. You can slap a gowns on very talented boys and girls, but no dice. Cher is not, as previously claimed (over the last half a century), merely a clothes horse, a hanger, a shallow tower of sequins. She embodies those things and makes meaning of them. But shallow people do not look very deep. And they see shallowness everywhere.

What gives someone rock and roll credibility? Is it an outfit? Tight pants? A scarf? A stance? Is it creation of material? Is it hit-making? Is it breaking Billboard records? Is it a greatest hits compilations? Is it longevity with live shows and ticket sales? Is it respect from critics? Is it longevity across mediums and genres? Some would say it is this idea of authenticity. But can that be possible when so much of rock and roll is a pose and a cliché, a posture of coolness, a sales job.  

To me the idea of "authenticity" is a code for the real judgement: is it "cool."

Sonny & Cher weren’t accepted as authentically folk, authentically hippies, or authentically rock and roll. Maybe Sonny wasn’t but Cher was. Sonny wasn’t even considered to be a legitimate Hollywood mogul and now, ironically, Cher is considered powerful in Hollywood. What that really means though is they were uncool.

And who determines cool? Is it popular audiences, critics, cult followings? Is it a roundtable of select few who decide?

Cher has had Billboard hits in give decades, arena shows in multiple decades AND a cult, gay following, records sold, popularization of a music style (the controversial auto-tune), hits that have bled into our mainstream idioms ("the beat goes on"), a subversive influence in fashion, both in the 60s (flares and furs), the 70s (long, straight hair that thousands of young girls took to emulating with hair ironed on real ironing boards), red carpet fashion, her big circus shows are now imitated by younger pop stars, her tattoos are now ubiquitous on the ass of America...and so on.

But to me what makes Cher really cool is her otherness, her inclusion of various underrepresented cultures all in her one self. Not only did Sonny & Cher bring people of color and international cultures to their 70s television show, but Cher embodied those identities in her performances, and she did so with dignity and power.

She’s also a living example of a single woman taking control of her career in show business and having the audacity to survive and tell the story. She’s a survivor, making no apologies for any of it, crossing genres, moving from glitz to the realism (in shows and in movies). And that very realism that works in her movies is the same authenticity working in her music videos and in her live performances.

So can we stop with the authenticity thing?

Over the years my interest has gravitated to figuring out the gap between what Cher means and how she’s perceived by the rock-and-roll-establishment. Cher says it best herself: “Singers don’t think I’m a singer. Actors don’t think I’m an actor.”

Arguably there are fewer women at the top of the music business. Thus,  Brook Marine points out women make up only 13% of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There should be more.

It’s been rumored there is this issue of Sonny at play: Cher might be resisting nomination herself, preferring to be inducted as Sonny & Cher. I don’t know if this is true, but she does reference Sonny & Cher whenever she’s confronted with the lack of a nomination. It would seem a likely holdup. Cher has always felt Sonny was entirely responsible for her career. “There would be no Cher without Sonny” has been Cher’s mantra since the mid-1980s.  And they didn’t call him a Svengali for nothing. He had ideas about their inception and architecture, he created their act, as well as writing some of their music.

But Cher brought things to the table, too. She had ideas about their look that Sonny was game to pursue.

Cher also had the budding charisma, the sex appeal and that “special something.”

But arguably Sonny not only discovered Cher but set her up to thrive for five decades. Can you get into the HoF for that? Orchestrating a Cher?

They were a recording team and his influence was life changing (as Cher illustrates in her Broadway musical) and life-testing (you could argue Sonny was her drug).

Cher loves rock and roll. Elvis is an obvious influence. (Someone recently called her Chelvis;  but I prefer to think of her as the female Fonz.) Imagine how easy it would be for Cher to stand over Sonny’s grave and say, “Hey, I tried. They wouldn’t let you in. But hey, I got in!”

As my grandfather used to say, “she’s got the courage of her convictions” if she is, in fact, holding out for Sonny in the face of the prime accolade of one’s pop recording career. To take a stand against the defining group exercising power over the rock canon and Meriam-Webster defines establishment as “an institution or group in a society exercising power and influence over policy or taste.” The Hall of Fame as it sits in Cleveland is by definition a rock-and-roll establishment.

Yeah, she knows you don’t like Sonny & Cher even if you might begrudgingly like Cher. Standing her ground as a Sonny & Cher inductee could be showing all of her integrity and authenticity and, you could argue, an almost heroic love against the pressures of the in-crowd. To stand up for someone you love, particularly someone not many others appreciate, takes monster balls and a big middle finger to the powers that be. And even if Sonny & Cher aren't the issue and Cher is simply suffering the eternal, hypocritical debates around authenticity, to stand up for your sequins, to be apologetically who you are...if that isn’t rock and roll, I don’t know WTF we’re talking out.


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.””

 


Mixed Bag of Honors and Accomplishments


Moony2First of all Cher's Believe album will be out on vinyl in December.  

In Music

A few weeks ago Cher's album Dancing Queen made its debut on the Billboard album chart at #3. This felt disappointing as Cher and the fans were aiming for #2. Although the album did hit #1 in the list for Top Album Sales. And the song "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" reached #5 on the Dance Club Play chart. And the Gimme remixes were recently released

So it felt a bit short at the time but my Billboard guru friend tells me I was off my meds to think this way: Sos

"For me, I am super impressed with her position on the chart. The year is three-quarters done, so for her to have the largest week of sales for an album in 2018 by a female pop artist is a major achievement.  It means she sold more albums in her debut week than 20-something Ariana Grande, who is the hottest female pop star in the U.S. currently, when she released Sweetener a few months ago. It means that the only female in any genre to post a larger one week tally this year is Cardi B. Were this released four years ago, before they started incorporating streaming into chart calculations, she would have debuted at #1 on the Top 200 chart, rather than #3 (and #1 on the sales chart).  The last female pop artist to exceed this level of sales in a single week was none other than 20-something Taylor Swift who remains the biggest U.S. female artist of the last ten years.  Not shabby company to keep. The fact that it is a sales sum that has only been surpassed by one other pop artist this year (Justin Timberlake) is truly remarkable. 

Mary, please think of it this way--over 50,000 albums across genres are released in the U.S. each year and our 72-year-old beloved can in 2018 sell more in a single week than literally any other pop artist on Earth except one, and more than any other female artist on Earth except one.  That is stupendous."

So that perspective was great. But then in week two the album feel from #3 to #43. 

In Movies

Anyway, there was another Billboard list that made me feel better again: Billboards list of 100 top musician performances in movies. Cher ranks #1. J. Lynch has this to say:

Cher’s Oscar-winning turn in the 1987 romcom Moonstruck remains the standard by which you mentally check all others. Cher brings that mixture of reluctance and romantic recklessness to the screen with a self-effacing realism and millisecond-sharp comedic timing. Few performances are this irresistible, hysterical and believably low-key -- and the fact that it came from one of the 20th century’s biggest pop stars leaves us unable to snap out of loving Cher in her deservedly Oscar-winning performance more than 30 years later."

The Kennedy Honor

And then there's the incredible Kennedy Honor. Maybe not in and of itself but for the fact that fans and Cher-watchers have been lobbying so long for Cher's simple induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To be beset with yet a larger honor was fully unexpected. And a bit disorienting quite frankly. But what a big deal. As my friend Christopher described it, “the government's highest form of recognition for artists...its official intention is to identify and honor artists for their lifetime contribution to the culture of the United States. That is no small potatoes.”

Especially since nobody's been noticing Cher's lifetime contribution to the culture of the United States. 

The awards will be televised on December 26 on CBS at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Some articles about the honor:

Here is the 2016 batch with some unsmiling Eagles (I take that back, 2/3 unsmiling Eagles), James Taylor, Martha Argerich, Mavis Staples, and the incomparable Al Pacino. 

Last-year


Cher Conquers Music Again

Cherlove_dancingqueen_002Before we get into the new album, it should be mentioned Cher’s placement on Billboards Top Female Artists of All Time list. 

My Billboard sensei, Christopher, sent me this explication of the list’s meaning:

In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Hot 100, Billboard posted the list of the Top 60 Female Artists of all time on the Hot 100.  You will be glad to see Cher ensconced all the way up at #16, (and right beside P!nk, which I thought was a nice, appropriate coincidence). It's for real; no opinions factored in.  The ranking was calculated based on how many weeks each hit spent on the chart and at which positions.  It's a cumulative inverse point system. So, if you have a song at #23 on the chart, it is awarded 77 points for that week.  If the following week it climbs to #19, for that week it earns an additional 81 points, and so on and so on. This system thereby rewards both longevity and ascension.  It is the same system they use when determining the year-end charts.

The Dancing Queen Album

So this all happened really fast. Mid-year, we found out Cher was recording a new album of ABBA songs and by September, here it was. 

Full disclosure: everyone has their own ideas about music they like. Methods are either cold and mathematical (example above) or infinitely subjective. There seems to be no in between. Even Cher fans have different inclinations. My personal favorite albums are: With Love (1967), Backstage (1968), All I Ever Need is You (1971 and for highly sentimental reasons), Stars (1975), Take Me Home (1979), It’s a Man’s World (1996), Believe (1999) and Living Proof (2001). I could go into my predilections for melody or unity but blah-blah-blah, who cares.

Cher’s last album, Closer to the Truth, was good but not great. It charted high (on the backs of concert ticket sales) and a few songs played on adult contemporary radio ("I Hope You Find It") but there was not a breakout hit. I'm liking this album much better. But I'm finding it hard to say why. Could it be outside cultural influences are working on me, (although don't we all feel like we loved Stars in a vacuum?). For sure, the advanced interest in this album was very high. Even Billboard predicts another high-chart debut, again possibly on the backs of merch and concert tickets sales.

On the other hand, you can’t really miss recording these ABBA songs. Are some arrangements are more original than others? Sure. Are some critics going to accuse Cher of being an opportunist,? Yes. But it would seem hard to sing ABBA songs (as Cher herself has admitted), so here is where the effort sits in my mind: in the stretch to do it. Cher could have picked easier opportunism.

What’s interesting to me, reading all the reviews, is how trends are showing up around who likes which songs. Dance clubs are already springing to the beats of “Gimme Gimme Gimme,” other fans are gravitating to Cher's more original take on “Chiquitta. ” I also love the novelty of hearing Cher sing “The Winner Takes it All.” Not everybody does. Boys seem to like the “SOS” track. “One of Us” consistently stands out as a critical favorite. Trends like this show this album has gems on it. I don’t remember any similar consensus around “Closer to the Truth.”

And the critical reviews are mostly favorable, which is an odd thing to experience with a Cher album. I tend to want to deconstruct those things. Why is it happening? Is this really Cher’s best album of all time? You’d think so by the reviews. I break it down to three aspects of the current Cher phenomenon: (1) old white reviewers are all retired or dead and women and gay men are in positions of reviewing albums, (2) Cher has been canonized lately (a sub-phenomenon we can't get into right now), (3) the concept of this album is so juicy, it’s immediately lovable, (4) the album has one producer for the most part and feels very unified, and (5) during these political times, we crave "the happy, happy."

But what do I know? I do know this: Believe was a very good album with a magical-single attached to it and Entertainment Weekly still dissed it. Music critics were not inclined to like Cher circa 1999. And that means everything because reviews are perceptions always based on the trends of a larger culture or sub-culture (which makes decoding "good" all but impossible). Culture is arbitrary, capriciously suggestible and apropos of nothing true. I can both hide behind that convenient fact, as a much maligned Cher fan, but it also makes my many rationalizations about it meaningless. Ah, what fun.

So the good reviews feel amazing, no doubt. But they’re so packed with so much unrelated, Cher love going on right now, it’s hard to know how good the new album really is. Do I overthink it? Yes, but that’s what cultural study is. You can make the claim that these songs are just cotton candy to give us a respite of happiness, (a point made in many Mama Mia 2 reviews)but I hate to think that way. It short-shrifts the album and our human capacity to deal with bad political times. 

I love that Cher dedicated the album to her mom. I love that she thanked her bffs and her long-time assistant. And I dearly love “Chiquita.”

I have three ABBA greatest hits collections: one double LP, one cassette tape, one compact disc) and I still missed all the visual ABBA references in the “SOS” video and on the album cover. I had to read about video references in articles about the video and Mr. Cher Scholar pointed out the album cover similarity as we looked at a CD prominently displayed at Target last week.  

The album is predicted to debut at #2 on Billboard's album chart. “Gimme Gimme Gimme” is now at #8 on the dance chart. “Fernando” (the Mama Mia 2 version with Andy Garcia) made it to #22 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

More Chart News:

As I said, the announcement of this album was big news, the track listing was big news, the single releases were news:

Cher-cover-dqMore on this later, but Cher has also done general interviews for The Today Show, The New York Times and the L.A. TimesAll the songs have attracted a bee swarm of re-mixes. Search album song titles on YouTube and you'll find some, including a fabulous Madonna mashup with "Gimme Gimme Gimmie."

Gimmie News:

The mashup guy even got his own interview. One funny quote about the mashup from a fan, “This mashup has cured my diseases, watered my crop and saved my soul. This mashup has turned me 200% gay.”

And then the “SOS” video made news:

Here's the original ABBA video to compare to the Cher version. A good scholarship project would be to do screen-capture comparisons. No time for that right now but someday. Cher also performed the song on Ellen. And Cher is performing "Waterloo," "SOS" and "Fernando" in her latest New Zealand and Australia shows.

The following are excerpts from the reviews so far.

Continue reading "Cher Conquers Music Again" »


What Now My Love

WhatnowThis is my go-to Cher song when I’m feeling sadsack. I was supremely bored by the song when I was a kid, but experience has given me sympathy for this dirge to dependency.

While I was researching this diatribe on Cher's "Carousel Man," I came across the original French version of the song “What Now My Love,” which was recorded as “Et Maintenant” by Gilbert Bécaud in 1961. I really like that version. Maybe better. 

Here are the French lyrics, followed by the more literal English translation.

 

Et Maintenant

Et maintenant que vais-je faire
e tout ce temps que sera ma vie
De tous ces gens qui m'indiffèrent
Maintenant que tu es partie
Toutes ces nuits, pourquoi pour qui
Et ce matin qui revient pour rien
Ce c oeur qui bat, pour qui, pourquoi
Qui bat trop fort, trop fort

Et maintenant que vais-je faire
Vers quel néant glissera ma vie
Tu m'as laissé la terre entière
Mais la terre sans toi c'est petit
Vous, mes amis, soyez gentils
Vous savez bien que l'on n'y peut rien
Même Paris crève d'ennui
Toutes ses rues me tuent

Gilbert-becaud-et-maintenantEt maintenant que vais-je faire
Je vais en rire pour ne plus pleurer
Je vais brûler des nuits entières
Au matin je te haïrai
Et puis un soir dans mon miroir
Je verrai bien la fin du chemin
Pas une fleur et pas de pleurs
Au moment de l'adieu
Je n'ai vraiment plus rien à faire
Je n'ai vraiment plus rien

What Now My Love

And now what am I going to do
All this time that will be my life
Of all those people who cared about me
Now that you're gone
All these nights, why for who
And this morning that comes back for nothing
This heart beats, for whom, why
Who beats too loud, too loud
And now what am I going to do
Toward which nil will slip my life
You left me the whole world
But the land without you is small
You, my friends, be kind
You know that nothing can be done
Even Paris is dying of boredom
All its streets kill me
And now what am I going to do
I'm going to laugh at not crying anymore
I will burn whole nights
In the morning I will hate you
And then one evening in my mirror
I'll see the end of the road
Not a flower and no crying
At the time of farewell
I really do not have anything to do
I really do not have anything

Songwriters: Gilbert Francois Leopold Becaud / Pierre Delanoe

The lyrics and title in the official English version were written by Carl Sigman. The recurring musical motif in the background is Ravel's "Bolero."

You can see this is a very different song in French and English. The English is more sad and depressed. The French more angry, almost vicious.

Sonny-and-cher-what-now-my-love-et-maintenant-atcoThe French version was a number one hit in 1961. Bécaud recorded the “What Now My Love” translation in 1962 but it was Shirley Bassey’s version that became a #5 hit in the U.K. It’s considered one of Sonny & Cher’s greatest hits, although they only reached #14 with in in the U.S. It’s been covered a lot more than I had previously assumed: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Et_maintenant

And currently the song is still popular on the French singing competition shows, the most arresting being this version by Dominique Magloire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoDl1duwUOE

And I also found this: Becaud singing the English with Nina Simone. Wait for it. Becaud he does the French first: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkKQb6izVGQ

As I'm looking for these, I'm getting YouTube ads for Mama Mia 2 and it's confusing me. What was I searching for again? Cher on YouTube: c'est un trou de lapin!

Sonny & Cher live performances of "What Now My Love"


Cher Summer 2018

JcMama Mia 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cher Singing Fernando

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

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

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

Interviews from Australia

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

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

Cher Concerts:

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

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

Cher in People Magazine

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

Mary--

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

Congratulations, Cher!!!

Christopher


Cher Sings Fernando (and Carousel Man)

Fern

So we found out Cher’s featured number in Mama Mia 2 is the ABBA song “Fernando.” You can buy it on Amazon. Go do that.

I’ve always loved ABBA. I may be one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t think “Dancing Queen” is overplayed. I actually found the song hard-to-come by on 80s radio. It was one of those songs I sang for years without having my own copy. My favorite songs change over the decades, but "Fernando" was definitely a childhood favorite so it’s a treat to hear Cher’s version.

It’s also always a thrill to hear Cher sing the place names of my home state. This probably suggests something disturbing about the degree of my celebrity obsession (that it can arise from the singing of a place name) but what can I say?

For those who don’t yet know, (you’d be surprised), New Mexico is a U.S. state and has been once since 1912. I was once getting electrolysis on my bikini area when I lived in Pennsylvania and the technician there, (who was in her 40s), asked me about my vacation and I said I was traveling to New Mexico. She exclaimed, "Oh, you’ll be by the beach!" I said, "Oh no, you’re thinking of the country Mexico" like maybe I hadn't enunciated properly. "I’m talking about the state between Arizona and Texas." She looked at me confused and asked, “Is there an Old Mexico?”

When I left LA, I tried to keep my bank in Los Angeles and I called them to see if they had any partnerships with a local New Mexico bank. They transferred me to International Accounts. Talk to New Mexicans and they all have stories like this.

In fact, when the Kardashians visited Santa Fe, the media were making fun over their lack of knowledge about U.S. states and where New Mexico was, my co-worker commented hilariously,  “get those bitches out of my country.”

Anyway, when Cher sings, “the frightful night we crossed the Rio Grande,” it’s lovely. LOVELY!

I was just as thrilled when Cher sang “one night in Santa Fe” in the middle of the song “Carousel Man.” CmI first learned that song when I was six or seven and like all of Cher's story songs, I loved it. I eventually grew up and started to worry that the song’s writer, John Durrill, himself didn’t know the difference between Mexico and New Mexico. I tried to rationalize that maybe the story in the song occurred before the state was ceded from Mexico in 1848 but that was ridiculous because our leading lady in the song wears blue jeans and the traveling show follow "county lines," which sort of indicates a rural U.S. environment. Here are the lyrics as Cher sings them (listen along):

I had a taste of bitter life
at sweet sixteen.
I was growing up too fast
if you know what I mean.
Met an older man
who taught me his own way to live.
And all I had to do to keep him
was to give and give

[Chorus] The carousel man
kept me going around and round.
The carousel man always knowing
I'd stay around.
The carousel man
wouldn't let me off his merry-go-round.

I followed him around in traveling shows
along the main county lines.
Watched him drinking his mind away,
not ever knowing my name at times.
Each night when the show closed down
he used to tell me of his dreams.
He was wearing new French suits
while I mended my torn work jeans.

[Chorus]

Then one night in Santa Fe,
the horses stopped going around.
There he was my poor rich man
lying on the Mexico ground.
All the sad music of his life
is still spinning in my mind.
The carousel starts up again
and I found my place in line.

[Chorus]

The lyrics online clearly say Mexico [forget the grammatical issue of Mexico vs. Mexican]. And why her producer Snuff Garrett, (from Texas no less; he was even a DJ in nearby Lubbock!) didn’t catch this is beyond me. You can kind of convince yourself that Cher is singing “New Mexico ground” instead of “the Mexico” ground. But I know. She isn’t. It’s a mistake.

Sante Fe hasn’t been part of Mexico since 1848. And back then there were no torn jeans or carousels visiting Santa Fe along county lines. It’s hard to look around that. I mean, obviously, most people can.  

But the pleasure of hearing Cher sing “one night Santa Fe” is now is compromised by the fact that this historic town is considered part of Mexico in all the minds of everyone writing, producing and singing the song and that makes me sad a little bit every time. A little thrilled and then a little sad. Every time.


The Cher Show Hits Chicago

Robbie-chicago-showThe prospect of a Cher Broadway show has never much filled my heart with glee. I think this is because Cher's not in it, which always takes the rest of pop culture in the universe down a notch for me. So talking about it last year felt kind of obligatory. But now that I've read about the actual details of the show, I feel a sense of new excitement about it. Because this is scholarship in action. This show is trying to make meaning of her life story. This isn't The Beat Goes On movie, part deux. Broadway artists are working on strategies to try to conceptualize Cher, structurally in a story and aesthetically with visuals and sounds. It's a cool thing for a Cher nerd after all.

The show opened a few weeks ago and there haven't been many reviews, mostly because this is a soft opening to a work in progress. A try out. Some Chicago papers have been doing feature stories on the show, like the Chicago Sun Times. Some interesting excerpts:

"...producer Jeffrey Seller, who is also the producer of “Hamilton” (playing a few blocks away at the CIBC Theatre), which tells the tale of, well, another iconic American. 'Who ever thought you could put Hamilton and Cher in the same sentence,' Seller said amid hearty laughter. 'America would not be the same were it not for Alexander Hamilton and Cher. And that is inarguably true. … People who are tenacious often are people who change the world. Alexander Hamilton unquestionably changed the world, and I think Cher, over the past 50-plus years, has absolutely changed the world"

Cast"'The idea of presenting Cher as a girl group was fascinating to me as a writer,' Elice said. 'You could have one of them argue with the other two, take sides against someone else, show how the three of them could support each other and evolve together over the course of the show. So, it’s not the cinema’s solution of here’s the young one, here’s the middle one, here’s the old one. They’re on all the time together so that we see sort of a refracted image of a personality onstage, which struck me as being a great way into a life that is so varied.'”

“'[The young ‘Babe’ Cher] is fearless but yet vulnerable and optimistic,' Block said of Elice’s unique character concept. '[Midlife ‘Star’ Cher] is confidence and poise. And I’m [as Lady] the wisdom of it all. I think the audience will really be taken aback that it’s not the young one who passes the torch to Lady who passes the torch to Star. We kind of liken it to a Russian nesting doll: There is the one doll, and then you open up and there’s the second and then the third. But yet when you put them all together it makes a complete Cher. And we’re hoping the audience really grasps and takes a hold of that because it’s not only theatrical but it’s very special and moving. … It’s this gorgeous, theatrical Cher therapy session.'”

There have also been interesting articles about the cast (ew.com and Playbill and CBS Local), the promo, Ru Paul's Drag Race put on an unauthorized Cher Rusical that was very smart and politically aware. Carol Burnett attended the opening show to support Bob Mackie.  We saw behind the scenes photos. 

I haven’t seen many official reviews yet (see one at the end of this article) but both Cher fans and theater fans have written some very good commentary on the show’s highlights and drawbacks.

Because these is long, I'm creating a post break for you.

Continue reading "The Cher Show Hits Chicago" »


Breaking the Band

BthbWhen I checked off the tags for this post, they were 'music' and then 'television." I also wished I had a tag for "reality television." Because Sonny & Cher were early music-television and reality-tv before its time. And reality TV with all its baggage of falsehoods. "Seemingly real" is what it is. And the more real it seems, the better its reenactors are.

Cher Scholar is suffering, dear friends, Cher chickadees and zombies. This is a high Cher tide and I'm so woefully behind with it. This whole year has been quite a shit show. First my department reorganized and the work seemed insurmountable. Then I hit a season of traveling that won't end until the end of July. And on top of all that, I'm spending the majority of my free time preparing the new book of poems, which involves endless rounds of editing, cover design work with an art designer, getting my photo done in a tintype theme, and taking care of all the business aspects of the book. 

Meanwhile, Cher is out there with concerts, planned tours, a Broadway show, TV docs, a new album in the works, a new movie and new publicity around all that. So much stuff I would love to indulge in and can't fully. So, so frustrating. 

But I will drop everything for a Cher documentary. And one came on last Sunday on the Reelz channel. I wasn't expecting much. It's the Reelz channel after all, full of shows like "Autopsy: [enter celebrity name]. Salacious and thin shows that seem exploitative. 

This was the first documentary on Cher that sprung for re-enactments, which was very funny. And reinforced for me why Cher and Sonny re-enactments always fail, and fail for all the same reasons. Bad impersonations. Bad outfits.

Let's start with the clothes. Seemingly a simple and innocuous thing. However, with Sonny & Cher these things are crucial. All of their cool cred was tied up in their clothes. You could say this is true for any music personality or band. The only difference between rock outfits and pop outfits is that rock singers try to play it off as authentic and organic and pop singers freely admit to using the device. The clothes on these impersonators, as in all Sonny & Cher re-enactments, looked cheap and ill-fitting. Save up all the money you would spend on a set and put it into the outfits. In comparison to these impersonators, you can see just how good Sonny & Cher looked.

The second issue is the faulty impersonations themselves. This is more complicated. Why is Cher, and surprisingly Sonny, so hard to impersonate well? They always cast for a 60s Cher and then expect her to be able to pull of 70s, 80s, 90s, etc. Cher. It's never been done. Not even professional Cher impersonators try this very often. And this is why the new Broadway show on Cher has split them up.

And then there's Sonny: he's always cast as a doofus. Just compare the Sonny re-enactor to the photos of Sonny in the documentary. The serious, competitive, intense Sonny staring back at us bears no relation to the impersonated buffoony Sonny, which tries to cast his TV persona (admitted dim) into their private scenes. The problem is the enactments are always cartoony, a caricature of the TV show characters. 

Maybe I'm just overly sensitive to a celebrity I know more about. Maybe all impersonations are bad everywhere. But I think the difficulty in impersonating Sonny or Cher (and often the discomfort we sometimes feel watching it) proves how multifaceted Sonny and Cher are as performers and people. This goes against the common critique of them since day one, that they are shallow and fluffy. But the problem of impersonation exposes problems in that theory.

The show also had some great new talking heads:

  • Don Peake, their guitarist during the Wrecking Crew days
  • Michel Rubini who was part of the Wrecking Crew and worked with Sonny & Cher into the 70s doing arrangement work and playing the piano and harpsichord
  • Cher biographers Randy Taraborrelli and Josiah Howard
  • Sonny's ex-wife and wife-after-Cher, Susie Coelho. Say what you want about Susie Coelho but she always provides eloquent, even-handed commentary and she has a unique perspective on Sonny right after he broke professionally with Cher.
  • Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour producer Allan Blye
  • Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour hairdresser Gary Chowen - hairdressers, they know stuff. 

I learned a few new things too. I didn't know, for instance, that Cher's unhappiness around their TV show was anything more than the quality of the music they were singing or the conditions of overwork. That Cher called herself Queen of a Mediocre Medium and wanted to be as big as the Rolling Stones is surprising. What boy-girl duet could ever have a shot at beating a rock band? It's inconceivable. But if anybody could have make a couple duo look cool, maybe it would have been Cher. But is she even that all-powerful?

The show also provided good commentary on what changing Cher's look and sound might mean to her soul, and her ability to grow out of Sonny, and how Sonny was smart enough to be aware of this. I was also surprised Cher offered to stay in the act for a deal of 50/50. We all know Sonny thought Cher's career would tailspin without his guidance.  And we all know how wrong he was. Gary Chowen's comments were good reinforcements around the idea of Cher’s growing up and standing up for herself. This is fresh new narrative that makes mince meat of the idea that Cher outgrew Sonny for ambition.

Chowen also illustrates an iconic irony about Cher when he comments how private Sonny and Cher were around their relationship struggles. Here they were pretending to be a reality-TV like open book onstage and in interviews, but that was all smoke and mirrors, not just their relationship status, but the entire facade of being candid performers to begin with. It was a fake intimacy Sonny had cultivated since their early days. And it's the same fake-frankness, or rather the "strategic frankness that distracts " which you can see Cher practicing even today. 

Inexplicably, the show kept calling David Geffen’s LA club On the Rox. On the Rox was the private lounge on top of his club, The Roxy. There's the club and the lounge within the club. 

 Check Reelz channel for future listings. Here's the trailer. 


Cher On the Verge

Chermama22Between last November and today, lots of Cher news has happened, is happening. These days I feel like my posts are just roll-up lists of links. It’s kind of amazing (and daunting), but all these major categories below are all in play right now, not only with new stuff but the constant consumption and evaluation of old stuff! It's like her career is rolling up on itself.

Movies & Music

The new movie,  Mama Mia 2, is set to open July 20, 2018. I still have yet to see MM1. And I bet everyone has seen this already but here is the trailer

Christine Baranski recently talked about working with Cher on Live with Kelly & Ryan. Cher apparently sings "Super Trooper" (with the cast) and "Fernando" (solo). I got overly excited about this news last week. I love ABBA and I also love imagining Cher singing improbable covers; but to put these two interests together never entered my head, even after it was announced Cher would be the movie. Either I’m very preoccupied right now (which is true) or this was a big imagination fail on my part. I still can’t really picture Cher singing ABBA.

More stories:

Mamma-mia-Ci-risiamo-1280x500

Old Movies: Here's a story about "How Moonstruck got Italian Americans right." I was just in a new book club at a local tea room a few weeks ago and met a couple, Irv and Di, who had retired to Albuquerque from New York City and I asked them what movie they thought best captured New York City. The husband said he had never thought about that before and asked me what I thought and I said I didn't really know but that Moonstruck perfectly captured the Italian landlords I once had in Yonkers. He heartily agreed about Moonstruck and then came up with "Crossing Delancy" and "The Chosen."

Moonstruck-Cinderella-at-the-BallBill Maher also mentioned Moonstruck in his February 16 episode as part of his New Rules segment covering conflicting messages men get about women from popular movies. Basically Maher was saying women seem to want more aggressiveness from men in movies, judging by the latest movies that are popular with women. In fact, women seem to want sexual advances from men outside of movies too, but only from those particular men they want advances from and not from the ones they don’t want them from. Arguably, this is an unsaid truth of the #metoo movement. And the obvious problem, Maher says, is that men don’t know which of these categories they fall under. Another unfortunate truth. Who can argue that human relationships confuse and contradict easy political solutions. Yeah, it sucks…and it sucks for everybody including women making advances and gay or bisexual men and men women trying to figure out who’s allowed to make advances to whom. Maher then lists some popular movies among women, movies with problematic plot lines such as:

  1. Marrying your boss
  2. Stalking is romantic
  3. I hate you and then I love you …and he lists Moonstruck here.

And this list was very upsetting to me only because Moonstruck was the only movie I recognized! What are all these movies about even? So I can only speak for Moonstruck, a screenplay written by a man and directed by another man. So, clearly the story is a male idea. Women may have liked it (although I don’t remember that) but women certainly didn’t like it as much as they liked Dirty Dancing that year, (I had the unfortunate experience of working in a video store then  and can't begin to describe the absolute frenzy surrounding the lack of enough VHS rentals for that movie), or Thelma and Louise a few years later. I particularly liked Adventures in Babysitting at the time even though I had never babysat in my life and babysitting seemed as scary as the movie confirmed it would be.

But in any case, even if recent mainstream movies with un-PC plot lines have been popular among women lately, it’s not like we've had a lot of space on the marquee lately, in between all the apocalyptic and superhero titles. And if you punch in “popular movies for women” on Google, you get none of those mysterious movies on Maher’s list. “Legally Blonde” pops up first, followed by “Sense and Sensibility,” “Chocolate,” “Julie & Julia” (there’s not even a love story in there, is there?), “You’ve Got Mail” (I should really see that one), “Miss Congeniality,” and “Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion” among others. The only truly disturbing title on the list is “Pretty Woman.”

Anyway, this is not a new conundrum really. Alan Parson’s Project wrote a dramatic song about it in 1979, a song I sometimes fantasize Cher will someday cover. And since I’m on the topic of random songs I’d like Cher to cover, this guilty pleasure song is on the short list too. I’m not proposing Cher should make it with an over-emoted, shirtless video. But it’s inspiring in its way and sometimes very helpful messages come in over-the-top six-packages.

Other music stuff:

I found this brilliant video of what Cher sounded like to us when we were seven years old and had shitty record players.

And recently, The Los Angeles Times opined that if Cher’s song "Prayers for this World" was nominated, we could enjoy Cher dazzling us all on the red carpet this year.  But then nominations came out and the song was not nominated.

Remember that Cher track on that recent Wu Tang Clan album that sleazy pharmaceutical guy Martin Shkreli bought in 2015 for two million and wouldn’t share with anyone? Well, he’s about to lose it to the U.S. government which means we might someday hear it: https://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/article/bj543d/cher-wu-tang-clan-u-god-album-2018.

ScsanremomariannefaithfulAnd here’s a thing! A video for "Il Cammino Di Ogni Speranza," the song Sonny & Cher sang during the San Remo festival of 1967. They met Marianne Faithful for the first time at that festival (see right).

Covers of Cher:

Judy Hill from the band Girl recently posted videos of the performances she did at CherCon 2002 at the now-demolished Riviera in Las Vegas:

Her band's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/girlrocksyourworld/

Cher Scholar Michael forwarded me this great clip of Liza Minelli singing “You’d Better Sit Down Kids.”

Television

CherfireCher, along with other artists, did a video for the Grammys spoofing readings of the book about Trump, Fire and Fury. Cher-scholar Tyler then reminded us that in 1966 Sonny & Cher were nominees for best new artists along with Herman's Hermits, They Byrds, Marilyn Made and Tom Jones (who won). 

Cher scholar Tyler also found a clip of Sonny & Cher enduring comments about their hipness on The Carol Burnett Show.

Broadway, Las Vegas, Australia & Old Concerts

"Experiencing Cher in Las Vegas" by Naomi Gall: "Not only was she worth travelling half way around the world to see but I’d do it all again – in a heartbeat."

An article in the New York Post about how the producers of the new Donna Summer musical are worried about the opening of the Cher musical. There was also an open call for the Broadway Cher show. Cher scholar Laura P. sent me this list of characters with descriptions from a Broadway casting site. The show has a new logo and early commercial. Tickets also just went on sale for the Chicago pre-shows.  It feels very meta, how they recognize Cher as a process. I like it! Here's a story about the designer behind the logo.

Cher scholar Tyler also found me this clipping about Sonny & Cher’s visit to Abilene Texas for a concert in 1967.

Australia2The big story last week was Cher's trip to Australia for the Sydney Gay Mardis Gras:

Style

More Cher style retrospectives:

Every year for the past few years Cher has been selling Christmas merch on her website. For some reason this year that made news in Vogue and Good Housekeeping:

My friend Julie got me the "Ho Ho Bitches" ornament this year.

And like Linda on Bob’s Burgers, Mandy Moore dressed up like Cher for Halloween on her show.

Activism

Cher’s animal group made a video about Animals in Captivity.

She endorsed an Idaho politician.

She spoke at the January Women's March in Las Vegas:

Cher helped produce the short film Edith & Eddie which was nominated for an Academy Award for best short documentary film. Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 won. Here's the trailer for that interesting one about an LA artist named Mindy Alper.

More stories about Edith and Eddie:

House & Cars

The Sonny & Cher house in Bel Air on Carrolwood is part of a Ponzi scheme controversy.

Sonny & Cher’s famous mustangs are back on sale. They go on sale so often, I’m convinced they must be haunted by Sonny.

Peripherals

The 1970s girl band Fanny has been making news again with a reunion record!

(Thanks to Michael and Mr. Cher Scholar for those links.)

Two-time Cher co-star John Mahoney (Suspect and Moonstruck) recently passed away. Read his New York Times obit.

Elton John referenced Cher in his Farewell Tour announcement.

Chaz Bono talks about his acting experiences and projects.

Cher is suing the owner of the LA Times.

Cher in Media

Hashtags connected to Cher has been coming up lately, including these two:

#CherStrong
#CherIfYouAgree

Las Vegas also honored Cher recently by choosing "Believe" as one of the songs that will play during the Bellagio fountain show. I have to admit the light show song combo is more moving that I anticipated. The boom-boom-boom you can feel viscerally even in these fan video captures. Cher’s in some rarefied company for this Vegas institution.

Believe-fountain

Stories and video:

Family Guy did an episode that was basically a satire of three directors: Wes Anderson, Michael Bay, and Quentin Tarantino. The Wes Anderson spoof is at minute 7:14 and it satires his quirky pop covers with a German version of “I Got You Babe” at minute 11:02. The song is “Bleib Bei Mir Babe” by Wirtschaftswunder. (Here's a more contemporary live version.)

DictaphoneDoing research for a novel, I was reading a cheap anthology of short stories about ghosts and came across one called “Dead Media” by Nick Mamatus. In the story, a girl named Lenore goes to a Liberal arts college called Miskatonik. She meets the college A/V nerd named Walt who attempts to help her trace back an audio file of a chanting ghost through all sorts of media platforms. They go from an archive of mp3s to DAT tapes of a cassette of reel-to-reel tapes of a 78 record of a dictaphone cylinder. At first, the author had me enraptured with this very nerdy premise and commentary on every-changing media. The characters ended up recorded a voicemail to a dictaphone cylinder in order to debunk the

“vibrato buzz of the sort that made Walt’s molars cringe in his mouth, like auto-tune, a nail on a chalkboard. Walt didn’t hear it so much as feel it.”

Ugh. Auto-tune snobbery inside this fun technology ghost story. What a bummer.

At the end of the story, the author changes the point of view from the nerdy Lenore character to a girl who went on the same search back in 1977 and is now a ghost who murders Walt and Lenore on behalf of Mi-Go aliens

“from Tche, a great, gas giant in the Oort Cloud, a cold and squishy minor planet like Pluto.”

It takes four pages at the end to basically say the aliens did it, the kind of plot cop-out and genre whiplash that always makes my molars ache.