Cher in Furs

We've all seen those iconic photographs of Sonny on the phone brokering business with Cher in the foreground in a black and white fur coat. I always thought maybe this was their house office.

Vogue67-alt1 Vogue67-alt1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, those photos are from the Vogue shoot from November 1967 as it turns out. And it also turns out that this room is “Sonny’s Sunset Strip office.” Well, what an affectation a Sunset Strip office is! 

The article says, “Sonny is all business, of course. He has to be, what man isn’t…” Apart from having two sentences needlessly separated by a comma, that casual sentence is hilariously sexist. 

What is Cher doing while Sonny is all business? “Cher diligently reads her fan mail.” Not business-related I guess.

Here are the actual photos that ended up in the magazine (click to enlarge):

20200805_18542720200805_185427

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cher is also shown in her Excalibur “tooling” around.

20200805_185447

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She’s also shown shopping at The Sunset Strip store The Psychedelic Conspiracy. The first picture is in the magazine, the second is an alternate image online.

20200806_102153

Chervogue67-alt2-store

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I must say I love these jumping pics though.

20200805_185502

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

BlackgamaAll photos display Cher wearing her fur coats and include notes on the stores where she purchased them. It reminds me of Cher's 1986 Blackgama ad.

I could be wrong, but it seems doubtful she would do a fur spread these days.

She seems much more furry-friendly and less fur-friendly now. 


Cher Eau de Couture Vs. Uninhibited

CpCher Eau de couture by Scent Beauty is still for sale. They're offering a travel atomizer now and a collector's edition which looks like the first edition with  chain-mail innards. Regrettably, the collectors detail page gives no indication as to what makes the collector's edition special. At that price point, that's not very motivating. I wish they would diversity into lotions and other products but maybe that's beyond the scope of this company.

For my friend Christopher’s birthday, I sent him an extra bottle of Uninhibited that I had lying around plus a new bottle of what he calls "Cher Perfume" or CP. I thought he could do some good comparisons and he sure did. These are his thoughts after wearing both scents for three hours.

He said of Uninhibited: it's “remarkable how assertive only two sprays are...the fact that it can retain that strength from a bottle 25+ years old…it dominates my personal space.”

CP is “by no means a duplicate of Uninhibited.” Uninhibited is “decidedly ‘female’ to me because it is highly floral…not ‘girly’ smelling….no sweetness…would classify as a more ’dry’ perfume….somewhat matronly quality (which is very odd because that is not a word one would ever associate with Cher)….because the composition seems somewhat old-fashioned/traditional insofar as the main quality is a musky/powdery note…perfumes that are ‘younger’ and/or more contemporary have gotten away from that angle, often emphasizing instead more gourmand profiles Preissue-perfume(food/bakery scents) or aquatics (lighter/saltier/more metallic)…there’s also a green or vegetal component that I can detect." He added that he's not much of a fan of this type of profile.

CP, he says, uses the basic profile of Uninhibited but "updates it in a number of ways…the powdery quality is sufficiently dialed down…tilting the scent more towards a unisex impression…green notes can be dark or dirty but these have a clean, bright quality…the scent is more complex…more multifaceted." He loved new perfume saying "The CP goes into rotation tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, a pre-issue bottle of Uninhibited went on eBay last week and sold for $399! So that perfume is still doing well as a resale.

 


Cher at Live Aid

On July 13, 1985 I did not, unlike every other kid in my High School, actually watch Live Aid (all day or for any part). My fan favorites weren't appearing. But since all my friends were at home watching Live Aid on July 13, 1985, I remember being very bored that whole long day. As I was trying to watch other TV, I kept running in to Live Aid and feeling very annoyed. Later, I got the Live Aid book and realized Cher was actually there.

Picture from my Live Aid book of Cher lounging backstage.

20200611_074201

Recently, Cher scholar Tyler posted about Phil Collins telling Cher how to crash Live Aid in Philadelphia.

Here is Phil Collins' story starting at minute mark :40: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orkMaiexPCw

Apparently Cher was on the famous flight Phil Collins took from London to Philadelphia (so he could appear at both locations) and she asked him what all the hubbub was about. He was like, if you don't know already...and then she asked if he could get her into the event and he basically told her to show up and she'd be let in. (Cos she's Cher dammit!) Anyway, his story has more detail but the moral of the story is that she got herself into the finale. 

Here are some screenshots of her singing "We Are the World." She comes and goes very fast. Here's video. (Don't miss Patti LaBelle!)

Cherliveaid

Cherliveaid

Cherliveaid


 

 


Look, she's right behind Lionel Richie!

Liveaid4


Odds and Ends: Believe Cover, Cher Hair Care, Acting vs. Singing, Fan Stuff

OkaykayaI've been collecting quite a big of odds and ends to report. My last few weeks have been tied up with doctor appointments and electronic poems. So here's some catch-up.

Believe

There was a new "Believe" cover in 2019 from Okay Kaya – and the pattern shows there's always the temptation is to slow that sucker down in the revamp. But it's a nice cover. 

Puzzle!

Meanwhile, Cher has come out with some new "Chicquitita" merch, including a puzzle and a face mask, both a must for Cher merch collectors during Covid.

Puzzle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I must admit, I sought out a bootleg Cher puzzle before this one came out. I'm not at all a "puzzle person" but I'm fascinated by people who are. And since puzzles are such a rage right now, I decided I should try it again. What else could temp me to do a puzzle, but a Cher picture. I found a picture of Cher that I love (from her trip to Armenia) and it took a very long time to arrive, at which time I found out it was from the Ukraine. (I'm probably on a list now). Other puzzle solvers I know laughed at me because it was only 175 pieces. But it was hellaciously hard because it was a mostly gray and black pieces. I could have sworn there were times putting it together I actually felt dizzy. But I did it and shellacked the finished product as a testimony to my hard labor. The new sanctioned puzzle also looks challenging with all the white pieces! I'll start on it as soon as it arrives.

20200711_182927

GqfanFan Psychology

If you're a fan of Galaxy Quest (that nerdy fan is so charming) you may also appreciate parts of the movie Cruise of the Gods although the fans are way less attractive in this made-for-Brit-TV movie with an unlikable Rob Brydon, a very likable Steve Coogan, and a very young and impressive James Corden. Sadly, I felt I could relate too much to the "scholarly fan" character and the "lovelorn girl fan." I've been very wary of fan cruises (and after covid, hell no) but this movie let me experience the scene vicariously.

Cruisegods

 

 

 

 

 

 

CherhairCher Hair

Filing stuff in the Chersonian Institute I  found this email from Cher scholar Tyler from 1999! That’s back when Cher fans were just finding each other on the Internets. Anyway….it was a conversation between Cher scholars Tyler and Meghan about whether or not Cher dyes her hair black (from the warm Armenian brown original color). He paraphrased an article he had from the 1970s, an interview with early Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour hairstylist Jim Ortel about how handy Cher was with her own hair with top knots and whutnot, and how she knows what styles look good on her juxtaposed with her nose, chin and teeth. She had the ends trimmed every three weeks back then and in between salon visits, she wrapped her hair overnight occasionally in olive oil!

In Cher Zine 3, we talked about beauty fads like this. Over the last few years, the fads were avocado and coconut oil and now I’m seeing Kelp and castor oil everywhere. When they move to little baby seal oil, I’m out.

Anyway, the end of the story is funny, the interviewer asks about the olive oil night wrap, “How does this set with her husband Sonny?” And Ortel says, “He’s Italian. He didn’t notice.”

That’s somewhere between an Italian slur and the fact that during this era Sonny probably wouldn’t have noticed Cher’s hair if it had been on fire. 

Tyler, if you see this, thank you. Were there pictures with the article?

Acting V. Singing

In 1999 Entertainment Weekly posted an online argument between Dave Karger and Jessica Shaw about whether “Cher is better suited for the airwaves or the silver screen.”

Imagine! Here are the pertinent excerpts:

Dave: “Watching her strut around with her unique reckless professionalism confirmed to me that the concert stage is where she belongs.”

Jessica starts by saying “Believe” going to #1 in 23 countries was “no great feat” considering Alyssa Milano and David Hasselhoff received hits in countries like Japan and Germany. (Really?) She says, “Cher’s acting, on the other hand, is purely her own talent and skill.” And she’s looking forward to Cher’s role in Tea with Mussolini playing an eccentric Jewish American.

Dave then says Cher’s Oscar win over Holly Hunter in Broadcast News was a “travesty” [ how about over Meryl Streep in Ironweed and Sally Kirkland in Anna?] and he mentions her real bad films like Faithful. He says more people watched Divas Live 99 than will see Tea with Mussolini.

Jessica then goes off on Cher’s bad concert banter, her collagen and face lifts, her “morphing into another person.” She says high viewership means nothing and trashes the Home Improvement TV show. She ends with, “I have one word for you: Mask.”

Dave: He brings up Cher the actress who gave us hair infomercials.

Jessica: “And your hair has been looking much better since you invested." [snap] 

And the squabbling went downhill after that.


Cher in Vogue, December 1965

20200623_083725Just six months after their first hit in July of 1965, Sonny & Cher are already appearing in Vogue magazine in a column called "People are talking about…"

Who else were people talking about that issue? Sarah Badel, a stage and film actress, and Theodore C. Sorensen, a presidential adviser and speechwriter for John F. Kennedy. The section on Sonny & Cher is headed in bold. Cher's name is fully accented all through the blurb. 

“Sonny & Chér Star Folk-Rockers

Look at them, Sonny and Chér. Everybody is. Love singers from California, they are married, positive-protest thinkers whose LPs and singles, I Got You Babe, Look At Us, But You’re Mine,  sell in the millions, have pitched them around the top of the disc charts. “I can only play seven chords,” says Sonny Bono, twenty-four [!], who plinks out most of the hymns to marital bliss they sing on marathon one-night stands, on television, in Europe, and in a movie they will make. Disarmingly baffled by their spiraling success, he said, “Everything’s out of sight, man.” Now the darlings of the transatlantic folk-rock kingdom, these two have countless hoarders of their records [how much could you hoar back then?], copiers of their clothes, Sonny’s lionhart haircut, his knee-length buckskin boots, his possum and bobcat jackets. Chér’s waterfall of dense black hair, her pale deep-eyed radiance, her hundred pairs of below-navel belled pants. (Nineteen-year-old Chér doesn’t own a dress). In the folk-rock idiom, Sonny & Chér pound out Love. Around Sonny’s hammering twang to let-us-be-what-we-wanna-be lyrics, Chér’s pours a plaintive low loop of sound.”

Interesting to note these two are "positive" protest thinkers, not pesky negative ones. Sonny was already 30 in 1965. With all the hippie-suspicions of older people, I guess you can see why he would lie about his age. I guess nobody did fact-checking in those days. As because this is Vogue, much is made over their kooky clothes. And this must be what makes the cher-stare so powerful: "her deep-eyed radiance." 

The picture is very telling too. Sonny stares straight at he camera, slightly ambitious looking. Cher is carefree, innocent and looking at Sonny.


Cher in Black Glass by Karen Joy Fowler

BlackglassA good friend of mine sends me lots of good books for birthdays and Christmas, some of them collections of short fiction. I've accumulated so many I need to start reading them to clear off a book shelf. Not all of them are my cup of tea so I usually attempt to read each story at least. If the writing doesn't grab me right away, I move on to another story or book. I keep the ones I really like. 

So it came time to read this one, Black Glass by Karen Joy Fowler and Cher was a prominent feature in the first three pages of the title story. Here are some screenshots. It's too much to retype.

The story opens in a bar. The Cher part on page one reads:

"Rows of cut-glass decanters filled the shelves. Schilling ran his towel over their glass stoppers. In the corner, on the big screen, Cher danced and sang a song for the U.S. Navy. Schilling had the sound off."

20200623_083340

The reference on page two: 

A drunk man comes in requesting booze. "'I don't have any money,' said the man. Cher closed her eyes and opened her mouth."

20200623_083448The reference on page three:

People are drinking, minding their own business: "A second shaft of sunlight appeared in the room, collided with the mirrored wall. Inside the sunlight, barely visible, Cher danced."

Then "a nightmare in the shape on an enormous post menopausal woman" comes in holding a hatchet and a rock and she "hit the big screen dead center with the rock. The screen cracked and smoked, make spitting noises, blackened." 

End of Cher in the story.

20200623_083558

This was actually nothing against Cher, this woman smashing the monitor. She was a Fire-and-Brimstone messenger come to scare the patrons over the evils of alcohol. After all the violence in the bar which runs for a few pages, we switch to a scene with a DEA agent and I lost interest here. I ended up not finishing any of the stories in the book.

Sometimes when you have too many books, you gotta make some tough choices.    


Decoding the Time Life Sets

Chertime

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

To purchase these:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


New Cher Scholarship Discovered: Cher's 70s Hits

JstorBecause I am a nerd, I am very familiar with the academic essay searching engine Jstor. Two weeks ago I was running a Difficult Book Club night on B.S. Johnson's The Unfortunates and looking for essays on the book for discussion ideas.  And whenever I go into Jstor I always check for new Cher essays, too. And bingo! This search pulled up Michael Morris’ “Cher’s “Dark Ladies” Showbiz Liberation" chapter from his book “The Persistence of Sentiment: Display and Feeling in Popular Music of the 1970s,” a book which also has Karen Carpenter and Barry Manilow essays inside. 

What’s awesome is that this writer knows his music AND his pop culture sociology. I bought the book, if only to see his back notes on the Cher article, which weren’t included in the jstor download of the chapter.

PersistMorris starts by discussing Cher’s longevity during her farewell tour. He goes into detail about the design of the tour logo and the tour book by LA designer Margo Chase, how it “reflected an attitude of memory distilled into excess….the wings symbolize the enduring spirit of Cher’s music, while the cross refers to the religious symbols used in the stage production…the cross also nods to the gothic, Cher’s most recognizable style…the front cover, all blue and platinum blonde to represent the ‘angel’ Cher, contrasted with the red and green ‘devil’ Cher on the back.”

Blue

Red

 

 

 

 


All that seems a bit much...if not a sales pitch from an ad exec.

But the essay then starts cooking: 

“it’s the mythology surrounding the incomparable Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPiere that pugs these songs [GT&Th, HB and DL]  up into fluffy, airy bits of pop, into songs that continue to soothe and inspire us, not because of the music, but because of who is singing it.”

YES…Cher is bigger somehow or apart from the music. That’s why dressing other women in Mackie costumes and doing Cher karaoke fails to work properly.

“The cult of Cherness is about much more than the lavish goddess worship….It was the sheer endurance that grounded that delirious hail and farewell of the [LIVING PROOF] tour. But it raises the question of what it was, amid all the feathers, the spangles, and the wigs that was supposed to be doing the enduring….it is worth searching for a few more details concerning its core of resonance.”

He then goes on to discuss Cher references in:

  • The 1995 Canadian film Dance Me Outside where a mixed group of First Nations/Native Americans and a white male relative all sing Cher’s “Half Breed.”
  • “The Post-Modern Prometheus” episode of The X-Files
  • References to Cher on the show Will and Grace

Morris says there are all texts which explore ideas about originals (or aboriginals) and imitations. Morris explores how Cher’s three songs, “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves,” “Half Breed,” and “Dark Lady” provided Cher with a mythology that was both real and fake, and were all (1) explorations of “social anxieties about racial mixing, class conflict and sexual irregularity” and also (2) blatant entertainments, two things which seem, on the surface, “almost always contradictory.” He calls these songs “the imagistic core out of which her later reputation grew.”

I would agree with that. He points out that we audiences rarely think of Cher songs as autobiographical. And they probably haven’t been very personal outside of Sonny or Cher’s own self-penned lyrics. But listeners still grant a song’s mythology to its singer. And here is where the Cher effect becomes a commentary on “realness.” Morris says,

“…a persistent problem with ‘realness’ is at the root of Cher’s glorious manifestation of diva-hood and the attractions of her and her songs. The questions circulating around the play of appearance and essence in Cher’s performances have provided her with powerful ways of connecting to a huge cluster of issues circulating in American culture and beyond, precisely to the degree that they cannot be permanently resolved. She is faking, we know that she is faking, but we are not sure how much she is faking because although she knows we know she is faking, she keeps us uncertain about the precise degree to which she is faking. Or does she? When authenticity—or rather the illusion of authenticity—is held in abeyance for such a long time, it’s rewards begin to seem paltry compared to the energy coming from the juicy sense of permanent masquerade.”

Yes. Juicy masquerade. 

He then goes into Cher’s real history from El Centro, California, her Arkansas/Armenian heritage, pinpointing her sort of “non-white” cast of features.

“The ethnic complexity of Cher’s actual background is significantly tied into her family’s economic disadvantages; taken together they place her in a liminal place. She counts as white—but not that white.”

Then Morris juxtapositions Cher’s ethnicity with Sonny’s working-class Italian background from Detroit and Hawthorne, California, connecting him with other Italians interested in early rhythm and blues music.

“During this period [1950s], ethnically marked whiteness played an important role in mediating between black musicians and white mainstream audiences. Consider the way doo-wop groups, when not black, where usually visibly ethnic-white (often Italian) and blue-collar.”

Morris then traces the rise of Sonny & Cher through the 1960s into the late 1970s. And this next part blew my mind, where he quotes "a journalist" about what Cher-sing is. 

“Cher-sing is an interesting concoction, the foundation of which is actually soul, believe it or not…Because a young Cher imitated everything Sonny, right down to the whoop, you might say Cher-sing is actually a genetic Armenian contralto imitation of an Italian interpretation of Soul.”

Wow. When I saw that quote a few weeks ago, I read it to Mr. Cher Scholar. We were both duly impressed by this piece of Cher scholarship. I was even glad the full book was coming because I would able to go into the back notes to trace the cryptic  attribution. I was feeling lazy when I wrote this post and almost didn’t look it up, although I was in the same room as the book. (It’s been a long week.) But when I peeked through his back notes I quickly saw I had been quoted somewhere in the essay. How cool is that? So then I matched the footnote to the attribution. And…

it was ME!

Surely some mistake, right? So I rechecked the attribution. I still didn't believe it. So then I searched the text online and one of my old Cher tour reviews came up. I still didn't believe it! I have no memory of saying this. So I searched the text on the article. Sure enough, I said this thing back in 1999: http://www.apeculture.com/music/cher.htm.

This caused some real confused guffaws for about 20 minutes. I’ve been scholarin’ so long I’m scholarin’ people who are scholarin’ me! It’s always a shock to see some half-baked thing I’ve said in a “serious” book. When I say "Cher Scholar" it's so tongue-in-cheek. As a Cher fan, how else would I?

Morris even called me a journalist (which is generous). Feel free to let me know how sound you think my "cher-sing" theory is. Personally, I think it's only half as brilliant as I did when I thought someone else said it. So anyway, Morris continues to say,

“Once again the spectacle of the 1960s soul, with its attachment to showbiz display, underwrites an intertwining of imitation between ethnicities. The farrago of styles and strategies points up a joyous musical promiscuity common to this region of the industry. What matters is what entertains, what diverts, and it is worth noting how much closer Sonny & Cher’s aesthetic was to Elvis Presley and especially producers like Berry Gordy, Jr."

GypThen he talks about "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" specifically and how Snuff Garret was looking for a “Son of a Preacher Man” for Cher.

“Already many of the crucial mythologems are in place. First, there is the artist herself: a power-alto with mysteriously cross-racial affinities, fond enough of costume to keep us aware at all times that she is projecting n image while still tempting us to believe it.”

Morris even suggests Cher’s depictions of poverty and even a southern-white-trash poverty, race and class struggles and illicit sexcapades are believable and might even reflect the “tragic mulatto” or the “fallen women” stereotypical mythologies. Morris talks about the issues with the term of gypsy instead of the more appreciated reference of Rom or Romani and the history of their persecution in the United States, which apparently was still an issue in the early 1970s.

The explication of the themes in the music and instruments used is where Morris sets himself apart from other pop-culture academics. He goes into the song structures, the vamps, chords, motives, countermelodies (shows pieces of musical notation)…all things outside my sphere of knowledge but illuminating nonetheless, what connotes gypsyness, despair, the sound of being trapped and the parts of the song which “uncover proof of deep feeling.”

“To a correctly sentimental listener, the music’s struggle between rigid determinism and failed visions of freedom is quite poignant….the song’s picture of an eternal wheel of abject femininity…an echo chamber of shaming…we enjoy the spectacle all the more because we are to some extent at risk ourselves….but the vicariousness of our identification also suggests that the song is simply flattering our narcissism while allowing us to indulge in a voyeuristic thrill….we’ve been hijacked by the opulent fun of the arrangement and its too-muchness.”

HbreedThen we move on to "Half Breed:"

Morris goes into the history of miscegenation laws from Reconstruction era, various issues around Indian identity  and the activism happening among American Indian groups in the early 1970s and how that affected Cher’s identity presentation on her TV shows. Here he highlights the 1971 movie Billy Jack. Morris says Cher’s last name wasn’t generally known at the time and her early 1970s claims to be “part Indian” coincided with public service announcements Sonny & Cher did for the Alaskan Native Land Claims Settlement Act.

The lyrics of Cher’s song “focuses on the ‘here and now’ problem of prejudice against people of mixed race without letting any desires for accuracy get in the way.” Like the prior song, Morris deconstructs the structures of the music, including the stereotypical male “heyas,” the drum patters, all which belong to “the Hollywood Indianist strain.” But Morris also hears “proto-disco countermelodies.”

“Cher’s vocal style….sits somewhere between Indianist ornament, bargain-counter verismo, and a country-western larmes aux voix. It picks up the spectacular elements of the arrangement perfectly."

He also deconstructs Bob Mackie’s 'Half Breed' dress, commenting “the fantastic nature of the getup is apparent even to the most casual viewer.” The spectacle is disorienting however because Cher’s apparel is male, “a kind of double-drag—and the effectiveness of the costume depends on the history of Wild West Shows and Indian Princess pageants, rather than the kinds of pow-wow regalia to which it ostensibly refers.”

Costume is an unfortunate term here but it may apply to Cher and Mackie’s re-suse of solemn, religious clothing: Morris talks about the problems of ethnic drag but wonders,

“Could it be any other way? The kind of identification that the song means to foster is sentimental in the best traditions of melodrama. There is no place for the complexities of authenticity in this tale. Hence the music, like the clothing, must be unreal. The song is not about actual Indians; it is not even really about actual white persecutors. It is about those of us who sympathize with the narrator’s plight.”

DladyMorris ends the essay by looking at Cher’s Vamp characters, the best of which he considers to be the “Dark Lady” character:

He reviews the term “vamp” and silent film star Theda Bara's movies and ideas around a threatening “female sexual power.” He also gives historical context to the character of Sadie Thompson from a W. Somerset Maugham novel. (Who says Cher isn’t literary?) Morris talks about the ironic power of those performances:

“Lampooning ironically reinstates its object as a source of strength. By making such a joke of her sexual power as Sadie Thompson, Cher reinforced her own ethnic glamour.”

He also covers Cher’s Take Me Home era, culminating in this feminist position:

"...the strategies of unreality that were so central to the effect of her early 1970s hits….the obscured lines between reality and spectacle…these became the basis for Cher’s real celebrity life because in casting her as an abject, marginal figure, her self-presentation has made it possible to enact a narrative of progressive emancipation and self-ownership. This kind of autonomy was not exactly like that imagined by the 1970s women’s liberation mainstream, of course. Cher’s dependence on Hollywood/Vegas archetypes violated the restrictions on bodily display that seemed necessary at the time in order to neutralize sexism.”

TmhomeHe then talks about the Take Me Home album cover. He even mentions “her direct glare at us…the fourth wall…. so  crucial to the mechanics of voyeurism is relinquished in favor or reciprocal confrontation.”

The song, he reminds us, is a command, not a plea. He talks about divas and their history and their “archetypes of female abjection or defiance...audiences love her most for her ability to keep going…the stigmata of a diva are crucial to her appeal, for they are the points at which the investments of an audience at the margins (almost certainly the most passionate part of the public) can be most easily attached.”

He then points to Cher’s film roles, her earthy, lower-class characters and their own dark lady personas and how her acting further complicates the real/fake dichotomies:

“Was she acting when she portrayed these characters, or merely uncovering some prior truth about her interior self? How could we separate fictions of fictions from fictions of realities?..thus duplicat[ing] the interpretive instabilities already put into place in the ‘dark lady’ songs...And so what? Fiction-versus-reality are surely dime-a-dozen in the careers of overtly theatrical artists like Cher...It is useful to discuss them as a way of reminding ourselves to be suspicious about claims to truth and reality in musical performance.”

THANK YOU.

He ends with this gem:

“Cher’s ‘dark lady’ songs sought to put questions and attitudes into play in a way that turned out to be especially important to the politics of gay liberation. The stigmata of mixed race and class disadvantage were translatable into those of sexual marginality. Cher’s enactment of triumph over her initial abjection could be taken as an allegory for the successes of the gay and lesbian rights movement, as well as for the general project of sexual liberation in the late twentieth-century North America.”

THANK YOU!


I think this is the best essay on Cher I've ever read. And not just because he quoted moi. 

Moi


Cher's Travelin' Musical Delayed

PlaybillIn May, the travelin' Cher Show announced they were postponing the U.S. tour until Fall 2021. Sad face. I really wanted to see that show a few more times, but it's understandable. Many cities and states have not yet fully opened up for large gatherings and may not for the rest of the year.

Will all the original actors be available then? Probably not. Another sad face.

Thanks coronavirus!

https://tourstoyou.org/2020/05/11/the-cher-show-national-tour-delayed-to-a-future-season/


Lost TV Land Commercial with Sonny

SonnyfunnyI've watched a lot of bootleg Sonny & Cher shows from TV Land but thankfully the commercials had mostly been removed, which is a shame because I never saw this gem of a TV Land commercial: https://youtu.be/vZINMYfiHGg

Recently a Cher TV scholar sent me an clip of an episode I hadn't seen before and this commercial was stuck in there too.

It made me very happy to think of Sonny enjoying his reruns on TV Land.

In related news, there's a new Cher TV Time Life series to buy. More on that in an upcoming post.