Chaz v. Chastity Bono

20200815_104846To the left is an article I found in the Chersonian Institute a few weekends ago. It was a prescient find because I'm up to about episode #50 in documenting the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and it was about episode #48 that Chastity started guesting in the Vamp sequences. 

Chaz Bono's appearances on her parents' shows and articles like this (predicting a very feminine future) always raise issues of transgendring and how to refer to the person of the past. 

When I started documenting Chaz on the variety shows I had to think about whether I should refer to him as her/Chastity or him/Chaz. I opted to use her/Chasitity only because back then Chaz was a cultural artifact of the show, a character as well as a person behind-the-scenes. This is further complicated by the fact that Sonny & Cher and the show's creative team tried to present the family as transparent, very what-you-see-is-what-you-get, not an artifice of characters. 

This was not only debunked at the breakup of their couple-hood, but is a practical impossibility of show biz. Everything is an artifice once the camera stars rolling. So the character Chastity on the show is definitely not the same as Chaz the person. Not only that, but eliminating her/Chastity might be confusing to some people who have strong memories of Chastity, the character. 

This is all to explain one thing I just noticed from re-watching the ending goodbye "I Got You Babe" scenes of the show, something quite extraordinary. Cher consistently pulls focus from everybody everywhere, intentionally or not, on TV shows, movies, at the airport. It's like a superpower she has.

There's only one person I’ve ever seen with the power to pull focus from Cher (aside from Sonny, occasionally) and that’s Chaz Bono.


Sonny's Solo Single of 1973

Rub-nose1Who even knew this song existed? Thanks to Cher scholar Robrt who informed me of its existence a few weeks ago, a Sonny solo singled called "Rub Your Nose." It was written by Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown.

The Cashbox review:

SONNY BONO (MCA 40139)
Rub Your Nose (3:15) (Levine & Brown, BMI, I. Levine, L. R. Brown)
Already picking up some air action, the not-as-pretty half of the Sonny & Cher team comes through with his first major chart item in some time as a solo. Reminiscent of the type of material that Cher’s been hitting with, this one looks headed for the Top Twenty. Flip: Laugh At Me (2:40) (Cotillion/Chris —Marc, BMI—S. Bono).

I don't think it made it to top 100. And how is this in any way reminiscent of the material Cher has been hitting with? Those would be hits produced by Snuff Garrett. This is a song produced by Sonny himself and Denis Pregnalato and arranged by future-Toto member David Paich, son of Sonny & Cher's musical arranger Marty Paich.

Here are the lyrics below that I have tried to transcribe. Does it provide any insight into Sonny's illicit and philandering ways? Or is it a critique of a famous wife starting to do the same?

Me and my woman, you and your man were having dinner
all together at the Chinese restaurant
Remember the signals, the ones that we made up in the laundry-mat [that's how he pronounces it]
where I held you and we stole a kiss or two?

Rub-nose2Oh rub your nose means I love you,
pull your ear means late tonight. [No, it means Carol Burnett saying hello to her grandmother]
While they're soundly sleeping we'll be doing it up right.
Tap your foot means you want me
right this minute if we could.
Oh, rub your nose, pull your ear, tap your foot.

Show your affection like I'm showing mine.
Pretend you love him.
You're an actress. [Yikes!]
Why you're almost fooling me.
Leave him an egg roll. I'll pass her the rice
and while they're eating in their frenzy
I'll {something, something} once or twice. [Oh dear, what is that he's doing once or twice?]

Oh rub your nose means I love you,
Pull your ear means late tonight. [No, see above.]
While they're soundly sleeping we'll be doing it up right.
Tap your foot means you want me
right this minute if we could.
Oh, rub your nose, pull your ear, tap your foot.

Oh what fun. Feel the danger in the air.
Careful, girl, 'cos you're starting in to stare.
Danger in the air!

[guitar bridge]

Oh rub your nose means I love you,
Pull your ear means late tonight. [No, see above.]
While they're soundly sleeping we'll be doing it up right.
Tap your foot means you want me
right this minute if we could.
Oh, rub your nose, pull your ear, tap your foot.
{whispers} Rub your nose, pull your ear, tap your foot.
Rub your nose, pull your ear, tap your foot.

Ok, who feels like Chinese food right now? Anyone? Give it a listen and help me decipher the missing words: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYPgxAKREGA


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. 

 


A Great List of Sonny's Achievements

MayorI found this article while looking for stories about Sonny Bono and Little Richard (when that icon of rock and roll died last week):  You Don't Know Sonny, a blog post from 2018 by the record collecting/radio DJ married couple Laura and Casey. The site is called Runout Numbers and this was a great piece summing up the achievements of Sonny. To my surprise the article even mentions Cher Scholar!

Here are some highlights:

“Sonny Bono died 20 years ago today [this must have been January of 2018]. If you’re a rock and roll fan, you should care. I f you love a good American bootstraps story, you should care. And if you’re looking for an inspirational story of persistence,  he’s your guy.”

The post describes how Sonny never let people’s opinions stop him (or judgement about his lack of qualifications): “the one thing that never got in his way was whether or not people thought he should be there.”

 This blog also calls out Sonny’s work with Sam Cooke, Larry Williams and Little Richard, all on Specialty Records.

Sonny-haroldAnd she mentions Sonny’s monetary and personal support of Dr. John’s first album Gris-Gris, his collaboration with Harold Battiste and Jack Nitzsche, Sonny's association with Phil Spector and why Spector eventually fired him, the connection between Sonny & Cher and the Rolling Stones, the many covers of Sonny songs (The Rolling Stones, The Searchers, The Ramones, Stevie Nicks, Jackie DeShannon…to that I’ll add David Bowie and Marianne Faithful, Stevie Wonder, Paul Weller, Dalida….).

“Most of Sonny’s main contemporaries…from former bosses, collaborators, and artists he worked with are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—even his godson Anthony Keidis. Phil Spector, Darlene Love, The Ronettes, Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Leon Russel, Art Rupe, Dr. John, Sam Cooke, Little Richard, Hal Blaine—the list goes on. I’m not arguing that Sonny belongs in the Hall of Fame anytime soon [I am], but he was working directly alongside titans of popular music and still isn’t seen as any time of a figure in rock history.”

To her list I would add Atlantic Records and Atco head Ahment Ertegun.

Ahmet-ertegun
By the way, Laura points out that “Sonny remains the only member of congress to ever have a #1 hit single.” She says, “Sonny-philHe wasn’t only almost a hit songwriter, or almost a Congressman, but somehow he’s seen as only almost an important figure.”

I also appreciate how this article also acknowledges Sonny’s shady deals and unpopular political decisions.

To speak to the comment about my link in the article, I do agree Sonny did a solid performance in the movie Escape to Athena. In fact, Cher Zine 3 has an article called "Going Solo with Sonny" where I did reviews of all his movies I could locate at the time:

  • Troll (1986)
  • The Vals (1985)
  • Airplane II (1982)
  • Balboa (1986)
  • Hairspray (1988)
  • Escape to Athena (1979)
  • Murder on Flight 502 (1975)

I also list highlights of his congressional voting record. Thinking about Escape to Athena inspired me to look up images of the movie. Click to enlarge.

Athena2Athena2 Athena2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, the Deacon Dark Facebook is still posting funny stuff, including a bunch of funny coronavirus related posts: https://www.facebook.com/deacondark

Decondark


From the Chersonian Archive: Joni Mitchell Lyrics

Mitchellgeffen

Apologies to the Cher scholar who brought these lyrics to my attention. I printed them out to look at later and then years and years went by and I recently dug them out of the Chersonian Institute's messy archive.

There's speculation that references to Cher can be found in the lyrics of two Joni Mitchell songs. Here's what we do know: Joni Mitchell, Cher and David Geffen lived in the same house for a time while Cher was dating Geffen in 1973-74. Mitchell and Geffen are quoted mentioning this situation. When Cher left Geffen for Gregg Allman, Geffen admits he was distraught to distraction and had to seek therapy. He also states Cher was his only girlfriend. So the pool of possibilities here is very small (like Cher) if in fact Mitchell is referring to David Geffen in these two songs.

Let's take a look. Good sleuthing Cher scholar!

From her song "Love or Money" from the 1974 concert album Miles of Ailses.

Full lyrics: https://jonimitchell.com/music/song.cfm?id=190
Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfplwJaBN1E

Specific lyrics that seem David Geffen related:

The firmament of Tinsel Town
Is strung with tungsten stars
Lots of forty watt successes
He says where's my own shining hour
He's the well kept secret of the underground
He's in debt to the company store

Specific lyrics that seem Cher-related:

His only channeled aspiration
was getting back the girl he had before…

All because that ghostly girl comes haunting
Just out of reach outside his bed
And she kicks the covers off his sleep
For the clumsy things he said
She commands his head she tries his sanity
She demands his head tonight unknowingly

Vaguely she floats and lacelike
Blown in like a curtain on the night wind
She's nebulous and naked
He wonders where she's been
He grabs at the air because there's nothing there
Her evasiveness stings him
With long legs-long lonely legs
Bruised from banging into things

One day he was standing just outside her door
He was carrying an armload of bright balloons
She just laughed
She said she heard him knocking
And she teased him for the moon...

he tried but he could not get it down
for love or money

This song was recorded in March and August of 1974, in the turmoil of Geffen and Cher's relationship.

 

Form "Off Night Backstreet" from the 1977 album Don Juan's Reckless Daughter.

Full lyrics: https://jonimitchell.com/music/song.cfm?id=169
Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yrsub53A9EE

There are no overt references to David Geffen in the song but these are the possible Cher-related lyrics:

You pimp - laughing and strutting her to my chartered seat…
now she's moved in with you
She's keeping your house neat
and your sheets sweet…

who left her long black hair
in our bathtub drain?

This is a much later song, the album was recorded in 1977 and could be referring to another Mitchell relationship and another mysterious girl. 


Val Kilmer's New Book

KilmerLast week Men's Health ran an interview with Val Kilmer called "Val Kilmer Doesn’t Believe in Death."

It's a typically shocking statement (taken out of context as it turns out) that the press loves to print about Kilmer who is a Christian Scientist. The interview also took place someone unusually because Kilmer has lost his voice due to his recent throat cancer.

Anyway, turns out Kilmer has a new memoir that came out this April 21. The cover is oddly self-published looking  but it’s a Simon & Schuster book. And there's lots of Cher in it (I bought a kindle copy so I could peruse these sections first), which is a good thing because that love affair between Cher and Kilmer remains somewhat mysterious in all Cher lore. When did it start? When did it end? Kilmer's never talked much about it that I've read. Neither has Cher. But he has extremely nice things to say about her in this book, especially her assistance recently during the throat cancer where he lived in her guest house after selling his house in Pecos, New Mexico.

Myself, I've always been torn about Val Kilmer. I do like that he’s a Lit nerd who totes around books like Ulysees (whether or not Cher thinks that's pretentious) and he also did a one-man show about Mark Twain. But I can’t identify with much about Christian Science (or any religion created by a 20th century novelist) and stories from the set always focused on how difficult he was to work with. So I expected a similar ego in this book and I have to say, I didn't hate the Kilmer in this book. He doesn't come across as the completely off-the-rails media creation.

The book also talks a lot about New Mexico. And I once lived very close to Pecos, NM, where his house was. Mr. Cher Scholar also worked with people who lived in Pecos. So this is the local Val Kilmer story.

GreerSome background: Actress Greer Garson once married a cattle rancher and moved to Pecos, New Mexico. When she died she gave half of the property to her son and half (with the Pecos Indian pueblo ruins) to be designated as a federal historic site (great place to visit; Garson even did the audio in the park movie). Greer Garson's son then divided his land and sold part of it to Jane Fonda. She came to town and threw a party for the locals and they loved her for it. Val Kilmer bought the other piece and, as the story was told to Mr. Cher Scholar from some Pecos residents, Kilmer refused to give a local kid an autograph (forget about offering a party) and the locals hated him after that. Who knows if this is true but I can attest to the fact that there was graffiti scrawled on a Pecos overpass along I-25 for years that said Val Kilmer Go Home.

I did find this story online about locals being unhappy about his references to local problems in New Mexico and an article about the sale of the house, which he says in his memoir he was forced to do because of the financial crisis of 2008. He also claims to have invented the saying, "land of entrapment" in satire of the Greer-Porchstate's motto "land of enchantment." I don't know if that's true. It would be an interesting etymological study. In any case, Kilmer doesn't seem to harbor any ill will towards Pecos or New Mexico after all of that.

So the moral of the story is: visit Pecos, New Mexico, (you can even tour Garson's house designed by John Gaw Meem) and enjoy Kilmer's memories of good times with Cher.

Val and Cher: Then and Now

Valcher Valcher


Cher and Gene, Billy and Christie

I came across a picture of Cher and Gene Simmons from the late 1970s that reminded me of the paparazzi pics of Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, the joking way the couples dealt with the press. This was before the craziness of late-80s aggro paparazzi.

Back then Gene Simmons did not appear in public without is KISS makeup on. So when the couple went out or did publicity, Gene would have to obscure his face or hide behind Cher.

Chergene4 Chergene4 Chergene4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this snapshot, Cher is obscured but seen to be joining in the game of wearing a handkerchief. 

Chergene

 

 

 

 

 


Which reminded me of this shot of Christie and Billy (I actually remembered this pic from seeing it in the 1980s!):

Getimage


The Clinger Sisters on The Danny Kaye Show

Clinger1The Christmas season is upon us. And this reminds me that two years ago my friend Natalie spent Christmas in New Mexico. We watched one of her favorite movies, White Christmas with Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby. Natalie, turns out, is a big Danny Kaye fan. So we watched a lot of his clips on YouTube that month, including one with some young girls named The Clinger Sisters on Danny Kaye's variety TV show (1963-67).

I don't know why, but I looked them up on Wikipedia to see what became of them. Well, Peggy Clinger became a songwriter and wrote a song for Cher on her 1971 album, the song "I Hate to Sleep Alone."

Cherlp

 

In other news, check out this cool Christmas photo shoot with a Cher doll.


Bob Etsy RIP

TakemehomeOne of Cher's major producers from the late 1970s recently passed away.

Bob Etsy also produced big disco classics such as Donna Summers' "Last Dance." Here's his obit in the Hollywood Reporter.

And here's an interview where he talks about working with Cher.

Bob Etsy was a big part of the two 1979 Casablanca albums, Take Me Home and Prisoner.  He produced Prisoner entirely and shared production of Take Me Home with Ron Dante.

From Take Me Home he and with Michelle Aller wrote "Take Me Home," "Wasn't It Good," "Say the Word," and "Git Down (Guitar Groupie)." FromPrisoner Prisoner he and Michelle Aller wrote "Shoppin'," "Hell on Wheels," "Holy Smoke," and "Outrageous." He also co-wrote "Mirror Image" with Michael Brooks.

These Prisoner songs contained one-of-a-kind biographical lyrics meant to give people a view of Cher's life at the time. 

 

 

 


Murder in Music City

Murder2So I finally had a chance to watch Sonny's 1979 movie, Murder in Music City, sometimes known as The Country Western Murders (I don't know where or why two titles were used or needed). And I never realized before now that this was an NBC TV movie. It aired on January 16, 1979.

Is it me or does his head look Photoshopped (or whatever they called it back in 1979) oddly to his body in that ad below. 

It opens with Sonny running from some bad guys. He plays a songwriter named Sonny Hunt (you hear two lines of a song) with a very spunky, likable girlfriend, a supermodel allegedly. They get caught up in a murder mystery because Sonny is so successful as a songwriter that he needs to put his money somewhere and his manager suggests a failing detective agency.

It could happen.

These two kids actually have chemistry and this would have been a better series, like a Hart to Hart. It's not as bad as you might think. Sonny does a pretty good job. He just doesn't have that elusive 'it' as an actor but this performance is far from embarrassing. The script was pretty much what you'd expect a TV movie in the 1970s to be. And considering this is Sonny's only starring movie role, it's worth a watch.

MurdersHe's shirtless multiple times. I should come up with a Sonny-shirtless-in-movies scale chart because he seems to be shirtless quite often in movies.

And remarkably (since this is a movie about Nashville after all), there are lots of country cameos including Mel Tillis (singing AND stuttering…I love me some Mel Tillis!), Barbara Mandrell (adorable per yush), Ray Stevens singing with Ronnie Milsap, Larry Gatlin, and an unrecognizable Charlie Daniels. Plus you get Morgan Fairchild, Claude Akins, Lee Purcell and that adorable character-actress Lucille Benson as the kooky secretary.

Even more remarkably, this flick was directed by Leo Penn, father of Sean, Chris and Michael.

The interactions between the country singers and Sonny are interesting and unusual. You had to wonder what everyone was thinking. Sonny was a fading hot commodity post breakup with Cher and their TV shows. You got the idea that Cher was more of a country music fan than Sonny (who was all R &B and Soul) and Barbara Mandrell was flying high on her hits "Sleeping Single on a Double Bed" and "If Loving You is Wrong (I Don't Want to Be Right)" and on the cusp of her own variety show. There's a hilarious interchange between Sonny and Barbara where his character doesn't know who Mandrell is. Okay, Sonny Hunt. 

The Thrilling Detective website had this to say about the movie:

Murder1“Full of logical inconsistencies (Sonny has to break into his own business), wisecracks that don’t so much crack as slither, and a slew of country music celebrity cameos that pretty much define “gratuitous.”

This is the 1970s. Gratuitous has no meaning here. And it was very funny when Sonny broke into his own business. Therefore a fan of Rifftrax, I submitted this movie for their astute consideration.