The She-Shed Cher Shrine

TapestryOne thing I finished in April was the ‘shrine’ in the Cher She-Shed. Full disclosure, the story of the she-shed Cher shrine is a long and winding one. It began, one way or another, all the way back in 1998-9 when my friend Julie cajoled me onto the Internet and I discovered early Cher fan websites in the mid-1990s that mostly contained only copious amounts of pictures of Cher.

At the time I called those sites disparagingly 'Cher shrines.' After learning HTML for Ape Culture (Julie again), I secretly wanted to create my own Cher website but wanted to avoid a shrine. I came up with the jokey 'Cher Scholar' to pretend scholarly legitimacy. I’ve since come to learn you should be careful what you joke about. Jokes can overtake you. Sure enough, in 2010 I found a copy of the journal Camera Obscura with an academic essay on Lena Horne and I've been aspirationally scholarin’ since.

Around the same time I had moved to New Mexico which is composed of three large groups of people: Native American Indians, Hispanics (self-identified descendents from Spain vs Latin Americans) and Anglos. When I moved here I started  researching the major Anglo artists here, including the Taos and Santa Fe art colonies and the grand dame of Anglo art here Georgia O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe is important in New Mexico for two reasons. (I promise this will get back to Cher). First of all, she’s one of the very few female artists with a museum dedicated to her (thanks to heiress Anne Marion). She’s also a pretty good interpreter of New Mexico from the point of view of Anglo transplants. And there has been a proliferation of Santa Fe artists and writers that are descendants of her style (and lifestyle).

Back in the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s my grandparents accumulated a bit of American Indian art from my grandfather's career in the Indian Service. I had a somewhat advanced knowledge of traditional Pueblo arts in New Mexico and Hopi, Arizona. Meeting students and teachers while working at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and visiting their associated Contemporary Museum (the area’s most interesting modern art actually), I caught up on non-traditional artists. But knew little to nothing about the Hispanic arts in the area

Back in 2015, I started working at a community college in Albuquerque and I took a class on New Mexico Art History. It was the whole world of Spanish-influenced New Mexican arts that had an impact on the Cher shrine as it came to be.

New Mexico was a very remote area in the empire of Spain for about three centuries. As a comparison, New Mexico has only been part of the United States for less than 200 years. Some very unique arts and culture developed here due to area's remoteness (from Spain and even Mexico), particularly objects related to the Spanish/New Mexican Catholic Church, as well as the practice of speaking Spanish here that was so secluded, it 'stagnated' (or separated from the natural language evolutions happening in Mexico and Spain) and became a different dialect of Spanish that is spoken to this day in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.

IMG_20211120_182005Most of these arts were developed from lack of materials like gold, silver, wool and plaster. This includes fiber arts like colcha (lack of yarn), tinwork (lack of silver), straw filigree pieces made with wheat (lack of gold), and wooden altars they call retablos (lack of painting canvases) and bultos (or santeros), wooden saint statues (lack of plaster).

Anglo painters like Marsden Hartley even painted the retablos and bultos.

There are pre-historic and multi-cultural arts here that exist nowhere else on earth.

And here is where we come back to Cher. 

The idea to start a fake-shrine began when I acquired the praying-hands Cher blanket (at the Chersonian, we call it a “tapestry”) which was originally sold on her Believe tour. I thought immediately I could hang this up with a two-person pew beneath it. Fans could then pray "with" Cher if (hopefully not) "to" Cher. 

Then I found a little tourist retablo of Saint Cecelia in Santa Fe that looks totally like Cher in the 1970s. Catholic candles are very popular here (you can find them at every grocery store) and there are now Cher versions proliferating on Etsy. I snared one for the decades 1960s, 70s and 2000s. I then collected a few tin nichos (little nooks) in need of pictures so I downloaded some  Cher pics in prayer gestures and a very creepy Cher head transposed onto Jesus.

(click any pic to enlarge)

IMG_20220507_095851

At Spanish Market I ran into the booth of an artist who calls himself the “Picasso Santero,” Jose A. Lucero. His Jesus retablos had an uncanny resemblance not only to Cher in various colored wigs but they even uncannily indicated a Picasso-like post-plastic-surgery Cher. How great is that??

IMG_20220507_095844
IMG_20220507_095844
The Cher store at Caesars Palace put out Cher mints that serve a handy Eucharist. And then I found the handy fan-made kneeling pillow (to replace the pew, which there was no room for).

IMG_20220507_095910
IMG_20220507_095910

You may recognize the Vida scarf Cher designed a few years ago underneath everything.

One day I found a fan-made picture of the Divas Last Supper on Etsy. It arrived in the mail with a Britney Spears laminated card. I had no idea what this card was and asked Mr. Cher Scholar who informed me it was a Catholic prayer card. It took me literally a second to decide to design a Cher one with her lyrics for “Chastity Sun” serving as the prayer on the back. 

IMG_20220507_095536
IMG_20220507_095536
All that was missing were the bultos, the wooding carvings of the saints. 

I couldn’t very well ask religious artists at Spanish Market to make me a custom Cher bulto, although I’ve stood in front of many a vendor table contemplating it. “This Jesus is so cool but…”

For Christmas last year my friend Julie got me a little wooden doll of Cher carved with her "Take Me Home" outfit. She found a Palo Alto artist named Holly on Etsy who does various wooden pop culture figures and she has a whole suite of Cher dolls in iconic outfits. I suddenly realized these was technically tiny bulto figures.

And so the New Mexican She-Shed Cher Shrine was done.

It’s been a big unnerving to watch some of my more religious family members tour the Cher she-shed but I did find the "Sonny & Cher read the Bible" advertisement; so I hope that mitigates the sacreligiousness for them somewhat. The religious visitors don’t seem too disturbed, honestly.

It’s the straight men who experience adverse effects repeatedly. I’ve taken large family groups into the shed and the girls (gay or straight) all express surprise and delight (which is always a shock to me considering how dorkey the whole enterprise is). But after the initial pass-through, I will invariably look around and all the straight men will have disappeared.

I look out the door and they’re out on the lawn literally fanning themselves. I’m not kidding. I think they’re having a religious moment.

 

More information about New Mexico's Spanish arts and culture:

Spanish-nm Spanish-nm Spanish-nm


Famous Mononyms and Questions to Cher Scholar

CharoJPC

So while I was in Cleveland, we heard that the hip new song the kids are listening to, if by kids we mean my 5-years older-than-me sister-in-law (who is a trends-watcher nonetheless), is "ABCDEFU" by the artist Gayle. Looking her up online, Gayle is described in an article as a one-named artist "like Cher." 

Which makes me crazy right now because Cher hasn't been the only one-named artist since "like Madonna" or before that "like Charo."

And since "like Adele," it's become absurd to keep saying "like Cher."

But this reminds us that when Cher legally became a mononym in the late 1970s, people lost their minds over it (or rolled their eyes a lot). This is what brought to being Cher's nickname, "Just Plain Cher" or "JPC."

There are so many single-named artists now there are web pages listing them: http://www.namenerds.com/uucn/listofweek/onename.html 

So many in fact, someone has taken the time to rank the mononymed singers: https://www.ranker.com/list/best-mononymous-singers-and-musicians/music-lover

TV Tributes

CherbettyBetty White recently passed away short of her 100th birthday, which made everyone sad. Cher took part in the televised tribute, even singing the theme song for the tribute and talking about what a good friend Betty was:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5rfZ4olWyw

 

ChertinaLast year, Cher also contributed to the Tina Turner tribute when Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwUxoSLLtUk (Cher parts start at 6:30 and 10:45)

 

 

 

Questions to Cher Scholar

Speaking of Tina Turner, I recently compiled a list of Cher's appearances with Tina for a friend. 


Buttons2Shame, Shame, Shame (Cher show, 1975-6) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCncupnwYDQ

 

Resurrection2
Resurrection Shuffle (Cher show, 1975-6) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHq11PKfws0

 

BeatlesBeatles Medley (Cher show, 1975-6) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y62c6Cs07S4

 

 

CountryCountry Side of Life (Cher show, 1975-6) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8iXSUMeZGE

 

MusicMakin Music Is My Business (The Sonny & Cher Show, 1977-8) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK8SnJKiwhU

 

Divas2Divas Live (1999): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwE8oOuAjzI

 


OrprahOprah: (bad version) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_n33Tsdnj4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPwgIO1LhqU&list=PLeKeuge7TXP_Sl1JLeFsYO5UMDFt0fGLL


EtOn Entertainment Tonight Cher talks about Tina as a role model for her: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RadomvThxns

 

Cher and Tina Turner know each other going back to the 1960s when Sonny & Cher allegedly did caravan-of-stars style / soul revue tours when they were starting out, performing alongside big headliners Ike and Tina.

A Cher fan recently wrote to me asking for all the songwriting Cher credits. I compiled this list of wikipedia links for him:

Cherelton2https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-Breed_(album) - 1973 The "Chastity Sun" lyric rewrite of Seals & Crofts' "Ruby Jean and Billie Lee"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxes_(soundtrack) - 1979 "Bad Love"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Take_Me_Home_(Cher_album) - 1979 "My Song (Too Far Gone)" about her divorce from Gregg Allman.

https://www.lesdudek.com/Gypsy-Ride.html - 1981 "Don't Trust That Woman" with Cher's lyrics and Les Dudek's music

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leather_Jackets_(album) - 1986 "Don't Trust That Woman" with Cher's lyrics and Elton John's music

Cherles2https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not.com.mercial 1994 (writing) full album except for ""Born with the Hunger" (Sally Eikhard) and "Classified 1A" (Sonny Bono), released 2000

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Man%27s_World_(Cher_album) 1995 "One by One" (thanks to Cher scholar Steven for pointing this one out)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Believe_(Cher_album) 1998 "Believe"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_Proof_(Cher_album)
 2001 "The Music's No Good Without You" and "Real Love"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closer_to_the_Truth 2013 "Take it Like a Man," "Dressed to Kill," and "Lovers Forever"

 


Why Believe-ing Is More Important Than We Think

BelieveOk, this is going to be harrowing and arduous but I would just say hang in there. I think we will all get to a better place by the end of this. I’ve decided to blog about this song at length (something which would otherwise be a chapter in pop culture analysis) because I didn’t think all that much of the song myself until last week (sure it was fun and influential, but not substantial). But I’ve been educated a bit more on its inner workings and I now see much more clearly how those workings and arguments overlap very closely to my own arguements around other Cher products.

Which is all to say the song “Believe” was never a hill I wanted to die on. “Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves” is the hill I want to die on. But I finally had a chance to read the Cambridge University Press, Popular Music journal article from October 2001, “Believe, Vocoders, Digitalised Female Identity and Camp” by Kay Dickinson and I’ve had my head taken off. 

(I found the article recently by searching through the academic database JSTOR. And as an aside, I’ve come to believe a paid JSTOR account is a barometer of true nerdom. In fact, most academics get their nerdy essays for free through their academic institution's paid JSTOR [or the like]. You have to be a real hardhat nerd to pay for your own subscription.) 

Anyway, so "Believe." Not one of my touchstones. But I have found myself oftentimes forced into a defensive position relative to the song in certain fanboy circles, some of which reside in my own family. And in this blog I’m often writing from the defensive position and I’ve been thinking this probably has to do with coming of age while a part of marginalized  Jermainegroups (girl culture and socially, gay culture) and most certainly growing up in a house with two older brothers who tried to assert musical dominance over my campy appetites.

Dickinson's article forcuses on cultural meanings around the use of the vocoder, which "Believe" was falsely believed to have used for its "Cher effect." But we’ll get to that later. Her points about the vocoder are still germaine for their historical context. 

Dicksionson reviews how the vocoder was invented “in Germany in 1939 as a means of disguising military voice transmissions” and how the technology has been previously used mostly only by “avant garde male performers." Dickinson traces the vocoder as “a piece of analogue equipment” often used to signal over a keyboard or guitar track to “render it more sonically complex.” 

The Boys of Music

“Unsurprisingly, then, early pop interest in the vocoder came from (mainly) male musicials with heavy investments in types of futurism, artists such as Kraftwerk, Stevie Wonder, Deveo, Jean-Michel Jarre, Cabare Voltaire and Laurie Anderson. Later, the vocoder became a stalwart technology of early electro and has, since then, infused contemporary hip hop and the work of more retro-tinged dance acts such as Daft Punk and Air.”

And here’s the crux of the issue, according to Dickinson:

“Sooner or later during these exercises, the manipulated human voice bangs into some deeply rooted beliefs about expressiveness within popular music, beliefs which so often grow out of how we constitute ‘the human body’ at any given time…the vocoder’s sound then carries along certain questions about music’s position vis-à-vis technology and the bodily self, where one starts and the other stops….Evidently, there are conventions and conditions controlling what ‘real’ talent and ‘real’ music are at any given time.”

She quotes extensively from E. Leach from an article called “Vicars of ‘Wannabie’: Authenticity and the Spice Girls” and this marker for inauthenticity could easily be (and has been) applied to all of Cher’s musical outputs:

“Makers for authenticity in rock are the presence of a talented individual or small group formed organically from ‘naturally’ knowing one another, driven to write songs…who forge the music and play it themselves, typically in the standard musical arrangement of two different guitars, lead and bass, with optional keyboard, obligatory drums and a vocalist who might also be a guitarist, and is usually the songwriter…The fundamental White masculinity of these groups is epitomized in their organic unity and the way the group channels its identity through one singer who forms the expression of a group-originated song. Such a band should progress naturally as artists (rather than being an industry confection and being told what to do) and would be able to perform live (rather than requiring the artifice of technology or the commercialization of recording).”

Okay, so that’s a lot to chew one right there. I don’t think Leach (or Dickinson) is suggesting the configuration above is bad or wrong (and Dickinson later conceds the setup above is still a product happily engaged with by girls and gay cultures), just that it’s the dominant culture’s status quo, and although it was once a revolutionary design, it has since left out a lot of participants outside of its arguably, mostly, straight white-male paradigm. Basically, its assignments of authenticity are very, very strict.

Dickinson then says,

Believe2“These comforting and involving fantasies about value and meaningful expression have been and continue to be outrageously selective in their recourse to technology, labour and self-hood. Guitars and microphones—to pick the easiest examples—are somehow less intrusive in their mediation of artistic expression than other equipment, such as the vocoder…The convention of loading the notion of artistic authentic onto the human voice weighs heavily upon what the sound of the vocoder means….the expulsion of feeling through the voice, through visceral bodily vibrations, consequently bears the potential to trigger sentient responses within the listener too, responses which vary from elation to the threat of harm…

[that there is] a dichotomy between the vocoded voice and the more ‘organic’ one…crumbles upon closer inspection, most obviously both are presented as exuding from the same human source-point…..Cher’s voice in ‘Believe’ does not strike us as coming totally from within; nor though should any recorded voice which has inevitably been minced through various pieces of machinery before we hear it it, including those which turn it into and back out of zeros and ones, adding and subtracting along the way.

..in vocoder tracks, the vitality and creativity inherent in the technologies in use stand centre stange, pontificating on questions of authenticity and immediacy….many of the current vocoder tracks are shrugged off as meaningless gimmickry because they spring from that lowlier, more ersatz genre, pop….seen as a sparkly bauble….(it is read as being done to, rather than done by, the artist’s voice)…questions circling some tenuous notions of single-handed musical genius.”

The Girls of Music

In any case, Dickinson says her main goal is to investigate how the vocoder as a technology might actually be empowering, now that it's being considered as part of female or more marginalized music forms, and what access to technology itself means to women and gay culture,

“which types of tehnological mastery garner prestige and which do not (knowing one’s way around Cubase ranking significantly higher than being able to work a ‘domestic’ or sweat shop tool like a sewing machine) are telling here.

Pop, maybe more than other genres, has seen many skirmishes over artifice’s actual meaning and worth, but, although pop has economic clout here, its ideas often go undear in the bustle to cynically cash in without admitting any actual faith in the genre’s politics…..’It is only pop and the vocoder is just another means of pulling a wool spun of talentlessness over the eyes of the gullible.'”

Dickinson lightly touches on theories of cyber-feminism and how their readings might apply here. Which brings us to my other life durrently studying dgital poetry and in this part of the essay, ideas overlap around the failed promises of the Internet:

“Thus, while the computer technology seems to promise a world beyond gender differences, the gender gap grows wider….increasing polarization of resources and means…..and the proliferation of all kinds of differences through the new technologies will not be nearly as liberating as the cyber-artists and internet addicts would want us to believe…the alleged triumph of high-technologies is not matched by a leap of the human imagination to create new images and representations.

[Which is to say slurs against marginalized groups and stereotypes have become accelerated on the Internet, not diminished. I’ll be stealing this quote for my other blog, thank you!]

The question that now arises is whether certain uses of the vocoder sympathize with a reactionary or an empowering configuration of femininity...

The vocoder’s popularity may well lie in the symbolic bridge it is seen to form between the vacillating perceptions of the person and the machine….obviously, anything which draws attention to borderlines might also help elucidate old-guard distinctions which have been drawn up in the past.”

Dickinson talks about how the female voice “serves as an emblem” in dance music with its “stark automation” and its focus on instrumentation and how "Believe" differs here because although it uses a “trancier end of techno, it’s stylistically linked to disco, Hi-NRG (and thus “certain gay subcultural histories). She says the vocals are “uncharacteristically high in the mix—as they would be in a pop track” making the song a hybrid of genres, “it dwells on borderlines.”

She says the vocals evoke “a sense of the multiplicity and incoherence of the self through the voice” ...which is why I feel it so destabilizes people’s ideas around the self and the voice.

At the same time, the lyrics deal with very human emotions of suffering ("believing and loving") reinforcing the humanity of the vocalist.

Dickinson also explores the idea of prosthetics, a kind of addition to the human self which is acceptable with “such accoutrements as guns, guitars, spectacles and tooth fillings.” But not vocal add ons. It's in this context, she explores Cher's plastic surgeries, how Cher’s own public identity “encompasses many of these ideas about the body and technology and gender and so the some can’t help but become 'a feminist concern'...her plastic surgery calls to bear “debates surrounding representation, production and the perception of women. " She says this is undeniably a “Cher” song that contains all the baggage of Cherness, however “assembled” we interpret that to be.

She goes into more detail about plastic surgery, which is a separate thesis in itself, but the main point is that Cher is comfortable with prosthetics. This article fails to mention Cher's underwritting of various plastic surgeries for children with Craniofacial Dysplasia which (1) illustrates how Cher’s investment in plastic surgery goes beyond her own face and (2) how society finds plastic surgery and prosthetics desirable (even if occassionally elective) for "correcting" issues beyond the scope of aging.

Believe3This article simply maintains that some feminist read elective surgery as another body transfiguration and that despite any alterations Cher has made to her voice (which is iconic) or her body (ditto),

"she has not lost her coherence. She perpetuates a very firm sense of self and, whilst she mutates from time to time (as all good technology does), she is engineered according to principles which equate with notions of autonomous choice. This seems largely possible because of her position within the genre of pop (so often seen as disempowering space).”

Isn’t that amazing?

It’s certainly a challenge to deciphering what authenticity means. As we discussed recently, Cher has always faced this challenge of authenticity throughout her career, and yet simultaneously is so much herself she's stubornly imbued in her freaking doll! (See A Cher Doll Story) Cher also challenges the idea of a core artistic self and proposes the opportunities of multiple creative identities.

But what about the male producers?

“Are Taylor and Rawling just other types of surgeons moulding ‘Cher’ into something which cannot help but represent masculine dominance and the male resuscitation of a waning female singing career…male producers chopping chunks out of a woman’s performance”? Or is there still a lot to be said for the fact that pop’s systems of stardom place the female Cher at the song’s helm?”

She quotes B. Bradby as pointing out the typical “transient position” of women in dance music, women who are “often ‘featured’ rather than a secure member of any outfit.”  

But she ultimately disagrees: Cher’s “fetishization has encased her in a kind of armour—she has been ‘technologised’ as it were and the end result works more in her favor” [and cannot] outshine what Cher has to offer the re-negotiation of women’s musical presences”

And what about women wielding (or appearing to wield) technology?

“TBelieve4he vocoder strongly prompts us to think through some newer possibilities for women’s profitable social mobility through music…

…as I have argued, women are usually held to be more instinctive and pre-technological , further away from harnessing the powers of machinery (musical or elsewhere) than men, so performers such as Cher can help but putting spanners in these work… [people] often refer to it by terms like ‘that Cher noise.’ This attributes mastery to a woman, even if she was not part of that particular production process and here the benefits of pop stardom become evident…she does become a metaphor for what women could possibly achieve with more prestigious forms of technology.”

Dickinsom maintains that previous efforts at feminism in pop music have only extended to looks and behaviors in videos, on stage and in personal gestures:

“Cultural studies have long applauded women who engage in gender parody of a visual order—such as Madonna and Annie Lennox—but, in some ways, this can lessen the worth of the work they do within their careers as musicians. A vocoder intervenes at an unavoidable level of musical expression—it uses the medium as the message—encouraging the listener to think of these women as professionals within the practice. Interestingly, the voice is a sphere where a lot of female artists with complex philosophies about masquerade maintain a particularly staid paradigm…”

The Other Boys of Music


C3poDickinson then explores the intersection between technology, camp and gay culture. She points out how “the camp markers of fussiness and nisppy asides “ have been attributed to many automated characters in movies: HAL (2001), KIT (Knight Rider) andC-3PO (Star Wars).

I had never noticed that. Very interesting, that.

Cher is “a recognized icon with gay male culture and "Believe," says Dickinson, “invokes a theme familiar to gay dance classices: the triumph and liberation of the downtrodden or unloved….[with the lyric] 'Maybe I’m too good for you’, Cher conjures up certain allusions to the vocabularies of gay pride.”

“One of camp’s more pervasive projects is a certain delight in the inauthentic, in things which are obviously pretending to be what they are not and to some degree, speak to the difficulties of existing within an ill-fitting public façade.”

And this is a small explaination of Cher’s gay following that I feel has not been articulated quite this way before, jubilance in the face of oppression:

Believe5"[Cher’s] “jubilance, despite not belonging, loops back into camp and certain strategies of queer everyday life.”

“Hand in hand with this enjoyment of the unconvincing comes a partiality for things which are maybe out of date, which have fallen by the wayside, and this, again, shows support for the neglected undersdog….'Believe' may have had to jostle particularly hard for political attention because it is a product of a more derided genre. Not so in the mainstream of queer musical aesthetics where pop…disco, the torch song [are] the most politicised musical forms..

Esentially camp….gives its objects subversive qualities without worrying about whether they are ‘authentic’…in the first place….camp has long been a shared pleasure within gay communities, a way of coping within a culture which marginlises you…[and this] might include female musicians and female fans.

Camp may seem to make light, but that does not mean it is to be taken lightly.”

And yet there are precious few other strategies for actually falling in love with the mainstream and keeping one’s political convictions intact. By pushing current (largely straight male) standards of pop, perfection, fakery and behind-the-scenes mechanization in unusual directions….a vocoder might complicate staid notions of reality, the body, femininity and female capability…Camp has always been about making do within the mainstream, twisiting it, adorning aspects of it…wobbling its more restrictive given meanings.”

Yes, yes and yes.

Auto-Tune and the Adorability of T-Pain

Ok, so the main problem with Dickinson's essay is that Mark Taylor lied when he said he was using a vocoder. This essay came out in 2001 and the truth about "Believe" wasn’t out yet. Taylor used the now infamous Auto-Tune pitch correction software with the Retune dial set to zero.

But here’s the thing, does that change much about Dickinson’s argument about political and aesthetic uses of technology in pop music for marginilized cultures? Just go back to the top of this whole diatribe and replace every use of word vocoder with Auto-Tune and see what happens.

But you don’t even need to do that because we have Netflix’s This is Pop series and its episode on Auto-Tune, which also incorporates the historical flack over the vocoder. It’s all of a piece, it turns out. And as we will soon see, the show illuminates beautifully the politics around the idea of the borderline (human/machine, man/woman, black/white, pop/art.)

T-painThe show begins with clips of all the jokes and commentary surrounding Auto-Tune: it's evil, it has destroyed the music business by editing the human element out, it's bland, stale and boring, how Usher told his friend T-Pain that he had “fucked up music for real singers” and how this led to T-Pains four-year depression (T-Pain comes across as adorable in this documentary, I have to say, as does his wife).

In this episode, we first meet the 1996 inventor of Auto-Tune and learn about his interest in the mathematics of sound, which was interesting in itself. We then meet engineer Ken Scott who talks about producing the Beatles and David Bowie. He says David Bowie was the best singer he's worked with in 55 years, how 95% of the Bowie recordings were first take. “It’s a performance,” he said but “very few people have that skill” in his experience.

The software plug-in was used surreptitiously until Cher’s use of it in 1998 which made her voice sound somewhat alien. This was a willful misuse of the technology that the inventor laughs about and claims never once occurred to him as a possible use-case.

We then talk to Robin A. Smith, orchestral arranger on "Believe." He says the pressure for perfect vocals came with the synthesizer. A clip of Mark Taylor then shows him talking about how the setting he used bends notes. He plays Cher’s vocal with and without the effect.

Then we pivot to T-Pain and his solo career trajectory from a singer in a rap group to developing his solo career in the early 2000s. He claims he first heard the vocal effect on a piece of J. Lo audio. For a year he researched every preset of every plugin to find Auto-Tune.

We then return to the 1980s to visit previous criticism of the vocoder under the use of Roger Troutman and in an old video Troutman explains how in live performances the use of the vocoder got people excited and dancing.

We then talk to “award-winning electronic music pioneer” Suzanne Ciani. She talks about how there is a backlash for any new technology, especially ones “not tethered to a reality,” ones that are a challenge to what we already know. We see her on David Letterman explaining her voicebox and enduring dismissive comments about sounding weird. She says she has always considered her voicebox/vocoder a new instrument, a tool. She says she uses her voice to shape an electronic sound.

T-Pain talks about how Auto-Tune wasn’t respected until an artist already considered to be a musical genius, Kanyee West, used it and then a lot of rappers started using it. T-Pain even says West predicted to T-Pain this would happen even as they were recording.

Music critic Julianne Escobedo Shepherd then talks about all the backlash and derogatory commentary that resumed.

I have to stop here to say how easy it is to get defensive when confronted with some "new thing" or something contractitory to one's own project. This is true for all the arts. I have felt it myself. You either think "Aww, I wanna do that!" or "Should I be doing that? I don't wanna do that." It’s hard not to wonder 'how does this reflect back on me?' But I keep reminding myself, sometimes it’s not all about you.

Shepherd puts this very succinctly when she reminds us of Death Cab For Cuties attempt to get a boycott going against Auto-Tune: “Nobody is trying to hear you sing with auto-tune anyway, dudes.”

Next in the episode, we turn to the satirical YouTube viral videos from Gregory Brothers (Schmoyoho), their "Auto-Tune the News" videos, particularly videos with then-Vice-President Joe Biden and the similar video Very Thin Ice with Katy Couric. According to brother Michael Gregory, the Internet loves the satiric and the accidental and having Biden and Couric accidentally sing the news with auto-tune fit the bill perfectly.

We then talk to musician-writer Jace Clayton who says the history of electornic music is the creative misuse of available tools. He talks about the rap DJ practice of misusing record turntables in scratching and layering. This is the seat of creativity, Clayton says and he says Internet access to the Auto-Tune tool was part of its appeal.

And interestingly he also points to the popularity of auto-tune in countries like Morocco and in Arab music generally due to a very specific appreciation of the call to prayer, which Muslims have heard five times a day for the last 1,300 years. The call to prayer usese the melisma singing style where pitch is pushed up and down across one syllable. Clayton points out that this is also popular in African American singing tradtions and R&B. He uses the opening bars of Whitney Houston’s version of "I Will Always Love You" to visually illustrate this. It’s helpful here to compare Houston’s version in this way to Dolly Parton’s version(s). Clayton says a diva is often known as someone who can hit these notes, make these pitch runs and that auto-tune does a version of this.

We then return to T-Pain who insists the “modulation passing through me is me.” Asked why, in the face of all the adversity and his own desire to throw in the towel, did he decide to keep going with auto-tune, he said his wife told him it was fine.

(Aw! Now here is where I start to swoon).

His wife is of mixed race (a borderline) and she said she received “shit from both sides” about who she should be (“you should be this…you should be that”) “I’m just me,” she said. (OMG!) She had already been through it, she says, and told T-Pain “You don’t have to fit to what a singer is supposed to sound like.” (!!!!)

Then in 2014 T-Pain did NPR's Tiny Desk Concert without Auto-Tune and the Internet lost its mind with the realization that his was a good songwriter and singer. T-Pain said this just made him more angry. As if “all my success was just some software plugin” not the writing, producing and the rest of it.

Suzanne Ciani says technology is its own language, not a substitute. Jace Clayton says Auto-Tune is the most “important musical tool of the 21st century because it’s an active and complicated engagement with a machine at the level of the human voice. It’s using us as a carrier…a tool [that makes us] rethink what it means to be a human today. That’s a lot. You just can’t shake it off as a sound that’s goofy.”

Michael Gregory says the tool is not inherently good or bad but that it’s bad for people to constantly expect people to be perfect.

And it can't be overstated, not every artist should pick up every tool. But we should definitely check our own prejudices about something as innocuous as a knob on a software plugin.

Does it really rise to the level of evil and why should you think so?

Thinice


Cher's Cameos in Respectable Rockumentaries

LgbI watched the documentary Janis Joplin Little Girl Blue two weeks ago. I've seen quite a few Janis documentaries over the years and each one seems to be a bit more revealing, especially about her sexuality. In this one they interview one of her former girlfriends. I liked how this doc described her as a person with “Huck Finn innocence.”

Anyway, they spent a lot of time with the letters Janis wrote back home to her parents. I was really tired the night I watched this and so I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw one of her letters with the word Cher scrawled on it.

Back when I was a kid perusing magazines at the local paperback bookstore, I got really good at finding the word Cher in columns of text on the pages of teen magazines. But that skill has waned considerably. So the fact I noticed this was unusual.

I did a freeze frame and read the full sentence and then really was even more flummoxed and had to ask Mr. Cher Scholar to confirm I wasn’t losing my mind. Then I looked up the sentence on google and sure enough…Janis writes,

“I don't really know what's happening yet. Supposed to rehearse with the band for the first time this afternoon, after that I guess I'll know whether I want to stay and do that for a while. Right now my position is ambivalent. I'm not at all sold on the idea of becoming the poor man's Cher.”

IMG_20210812_180134

This letter was written on June 6, 1966 before Janis (a committed blues singer) joined Big Brother & the Holding Co. Meanwhile, Sonny & Cher are not yet a year into their fame as a folk-rock/pop duo. Cher has only released two solo albums by this point, basically folk-rock collections with a bunch of Dylan covers. "I'm not at all sold on the idea of becoming the poor man's Cher.” The idea that there is a sentence like this in the universe makes me insane. Janis was no more in danger of becoming a poor man’s Cher than anyone in the history of anything. And the fact that she thought this thought is just mindboggling. In fact, it’s hard for me to get my head around the idea of a universe where Janis is even thinking this much about Cher, both women are doing such completely different projects. But then you wonder if maybe there weren’t that many women for Janis to relate to. If you do a search for “1966 rock stars” on google, it’s a real boyfest.

Here's a transcript of the full letter: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1999-08-01-9907310220-story.html

LlwOn Britbox there a documentary about the last interview from John Lennon and in the middle of it there’s inexplicably a Cher and David Geffen picture. I think in this sequence they are discussing partying at Studio 54, as if this is an indicative picture of such things.

IMG_20210518_185115


New-Old Cher Releases, Sonny Bono Dinner Party, Cher in Vogue 1971

13

Re-Releases!

First things first, Cher has been rereleasing her classic 70s-era Warner Bros. remastered on her YouTube channel. First Stars was released a few weeks ago: https://www.youtube.com/c/cher/videos

Today her channel announced that I'd Rather Believe in You will be next, coming out in August: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQc8H3CgeD8

This is happy news for fans who, although stocked with bootlegs, have been pestering for an official release for over two decades. The remastered Stars sounds pristine and hopefully the albums will someday be available on other streaming platforms or in physical form (with some scholarly words of perspective). Very happy July surprise!

In other music news, the single copy of the Wu-Tang Clan album with the Cher vocals on two songs, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, has been sold by the feds. Follow the story here. The second buyer paid millions once again and their identity will possibly be revealed in a few months. The Wu-Tang Clan wishes that the album be played only in small groups for 88 years from the date it was first sold to the nefarious Pharma Bro back in 2015, which means most of us will not live long enough to hear it. That is unless the resale contract was interrupted by federal confiscation. 

Sonny Bono Dinner Party

July has proven to be busy for Cher Scholar. I've started listening to KCRW again (lots of great stuff I’ve missed over the last five years I’ve been away) and I've thrown three small parties in as many weeks, and learned how to use my new braille machine.

For my upcoming birthday I received some meditation/introspection playing cards from a friend and the first one had the question: What makes you weird? I have a million answers to this but the one that pertains here is the fact that last Saturday I threw a Sonny Bono Recipe dinner party. And what's even more weird is the fact that it's not the first one I've thrown. I did it once before when I was 12 years old as a last-hurrah to my Sonny & Cher fandom, right before I decided it would be somewhat less weird in the 1980s to go solo with Cher. 

But last Saturday I invited my friends Priscilla and Mikaela over and they were gamely willing to test out a few of these Sonny  recipes. Mikaela also came over to teach me how to use my new braille machine. The fact that I just bought a braille machine is also a little bit weird. 

I made the recipe for Sonny Bono's Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce from The Dead Celebrity Cookbook by Frank DeCarlo.

IMG_20210724_141008

IMG_20210724_160728

IMG_20210724_175033

Mr. Cher Scholar made Sonny Bono's Pollo Bono from the Baltimore Sun.

IMG_20210724_163048

IMG_20210724_163307

IMG_20210724_161257

 

 

 

 

 

He made a vegetarian, fake-chicken version for me.

IMG_20210724_175036

IMG_20210724_121125

 

 

 

 

 

Cheap table wine: check. Everyone liked the results. The biggest critique came from me, which was to say the fake chicken was rubbery (but very tasty). Mikaela said the chicken was "fantastic, excellent" and she loved the spaghetti too. She said she especially loved watching the video I showed them before dinner of Sonny & Cher cooking on The Mike Douglas Show (thanks to Cher scholar Jay for that). Priscilla said she loved the Pollo Bono too and is usually very picky about her chicken.

Mr. Cher Scholar said, "I like his recipes because they’re authentic stuff made at home, not over-the-top elaborate. Simple ingredients. Simple process." Afterwards he said he would make it again for his brother. "It's not hard."

Alterations: Our chicken breasts were huge. Monstrous. So he ending up baking them for 50 minutes at 375 degrees. 

IMG_20210724_205749Spinning up the braille machine wasn’t so easy. Mikaela works at a school for the blind and she was able to bring me some braille guides. She showed me the basic concepts of the braille “alphabet.” We had a paper-loading issue which was solved by my googling "braille paper-loading issue" and getting the result "How do I load paper into the ^*#! brailler?"

Then we had an issue with the carriage return that caused us to take the whole machine apart, which Priscilla did with our drill. We all then looked at inside and provided speculative theories about the problem. Mr. Cher Scholar saw some "teeth" inside which needed to catch the return. He adjusted the margins and then it worked.

He usually avoids fixing stuff like an allergy so I asked him later what inspired him to do that and he said it was working with a manual typewriter all those years as a show-biz writer. So this was a real four-person team effort.

Then Mikaela taught me how to use the braille keys! Which are very cool and insanely complicated at the same time. I have to practice, she says, before I start typing out poems on the thing.

Perfect Pork Chops (Correction)

Another early birthday present I received yesterday was Celebrity Recipes, a newsstand publication from the 1980s judging by the big Heather Locklear, Linda Evans and Michael Douglas pictures on its cover. Anyway, on page 32 it claims that Perfect Pork Chop (the recipe I also have from Singers & Swingers in the Kitchen, The Scene-Makers Cook Book by Roberta Ashley) is actually Cher's recipe. 

Cher in Vogue

IMG_20210729_104538The following spread is from Vogue, September 1, 1971. This was the same year their first live album came out. while they were still on the nightclub circuit. 

Their live album cover is unusual in that the gatefold only shows a large photo of Sonny & Cher facing each other, a kind of extravagant gesture for a gatefold of recording artists on the skids. The photos are also very shadowy and almost abstract, especially the front cover.

Coverlive

 

 

So it's good to see another shot of Cher in the album outfit and have it described by the scribes of Vogue magazine.


Cher Streaming Stuff Catchup

DatelineI went to categorize this post as "Television" but I don't even know what the word means anymore. Sigh. 

Anywhere, there's been a ton of Cher content in the last 6 to 9 months. Here's a partial catchup. Last week Cher was on Dateline: White House with Nicolle Wallace. It was a great interview about Celebrity civic action and Cher and Dr. Irwin Redlener's mobile Covid vehicle. 

LonelyCher's documentary Cher and the Loneliest Elephant came out a few months ago on Paramont Streaming/Smithsonian. It's not yet available on other locations but hopefully it will end up on Amazon Prime or DVD eventually.

It was a very moving story, mostly focusing on the trials of Dr. Amir Khalil from the Four Paws animal rescue. Despite the title and trailer, Cher has only a peripheral role in the movie. Which is why it's good to also watch the For your consideration video which is a solid hour of Cher and the film's producer. It's an incredible behind-the-scenes conversation about the many of the challenges both Cher and the filmmakers experienced before cameras started rolling, many challenges not even mentioned in the documentary. You come away thinking it was a miracle the film ever happened at all, let alone the rescue itself. It shows the power of perseverance and Cher's mantra of not taking no for an answer (which is a mantra reiterated in all three video clips here).

Hsn3The lightest appearance was HSN's Beauty Report talking about Cher's 2020-Fifi-award-winning new fragrance. Apparently the Fifis are the Oscars of fragrance. Far from saving the world with COVID vaccines or elephant-rescues, this kitschy girl-fest felt very personal yet still newsworthy. 

In all the clips Cher says she loves the people she works on these projects and she loves making things. They discuss the fragrance's color (Cher doesn't like the whiskey look) and  the notes, the bottle corset with the little baby studs.

The whole thing feels like fun girl-time (no matter your gender preference).  Listening to fragrance nerds talk about smells is funny (and interesting) but funny. They ogle the purse-size's twist-top bottle (so it doesn’t leak in your purse). Then they bring out Theo Spilka from Firmenich Fragrance who says they went through 57 trials and it took 4 years with 2 perfumers working on it. He says Cher knew what she wanted and he Hsn2described her initial conversations about an Istanbul incense she liked and how she "rolled up her sleeves literally." He said Cher is so loved all over world Clement Gavarry (the perfumer) was able to get quality raw ingredients like:

  • Orange flower and jasmine from France
  • Neroli from East Africa
  • Bergamot from Italy
  • Sandalwood from Australia

Spilka says it's hard to verbalize what you want making perfumes, but that this perfume is 150% Cher.

Cher drops hints of some Christmas surprise that doesn't sound like a Christmas album although she admits she would do one. She says her favorite Christmas song is (still?) "O Holy Night." 

Cher says she doesn't plan anything and that she was "talking to Herb Alpert the other night" and they both agreed that luck played a large part in their careers. 

Cher tells a story about how she was told a woman with brown eyes and dark hair would never make the cover of Vogue. As we know, Cher soon afterward was on the cover of many Vogue magazines. She says charity blesses the giver and that she really wants to tour again but she wants people to be safe. She says, "I have as good a time as you do." David, the Cher fan talking to her right then says, "I don’t know about that." They talk about a nail polish bottle Cher helped designed for Deb, her manicurist. They talk about how Cher's mom is still stunning in her 90s.

Cher-stare-kunisCher's biopic was also officially announced recently and people are speculating on who will play Cher. Because Cher is completely inimitable, (as drag queens and impersonators have scientifically proven), this will be a challenge. Talented as she may have been, the Cher cast for the TV movie And the Beat Goes On, (yes, this will be Cher's second biopic), was completely off-the-mark. 

For years I've been thinking Mila Kunis would be a good Cher although I have no idea whether she can sing or move like a groovy coolnick. She's got the comedic sense and she has a similar je-ne-sais-quoi quality, part of which is the deadpan Cher-stare.

 


Stinky Cher Words

Review"It hugs my body and caresses my soul"

This is the subject line of the latest email from Scent Beauty on Cher's Eau de Couture. "It gives me peace and comforts me. It makes me happy and gives me strength."

I'm all for aroma therapy but this ad sounds like we're pitching a magic, superfine, sunshine elixir!

"Now gather round folks. I heard you say you wanna pick-me-up that won't let you down. You're looking for a cure?....It's gotta relieve your sore bones, your aching tones and your runny nose!"

It's a good scent. But it does not exactly 'caress my soul.' In fact, this advance on my soul is not required from my beauty products. 

IMG_20210616_100953__01

My mom recently sent us boxes of keepsakes from our childhood, including art attempts, grades, our birth announcements... all that stuff. I've slowly been working through it. I can only take small amounts of my little-shit self so I have no idea how my mom put up with me. As the budding writer in the family, there are copious amounts of notes requesting sleepovers with Krissy (who lived behind us) and petitions to redress unfairnesses unspecified. 

The above letter was written on clown stationary and I had a vague memory today of covering it with the balloon stickers it came with. The letter starts by introducing myself to my mother (in case she doesn't remember me) and then launching into my Christmas wish list, which includes the overbearing request depicted above for "a sher doll" and a dog and a cat. I go on to concede that a cat is unlikely (some of us were allergic), but this was probably just a negotiating tactic on my part to leave room for bargaining down to the doll and the dog. I proceed to explain to her how much I like her and then attempt to illicit from her some positive feelings toward myself. 

I have to report the scheme worked as I did get 'a sher doll' that year. And Sonny too. But we already had a dog and I didn't get another one. 

Which is all to say I've been a fan since before I could spell Cher, which makes my appreciation almost pre-verbal. Almost. Clearly, I already had a very big mouth. 


Cher, Big Data and Influence

The Cher Hot Sheet below was created as fan art by The Hot Sheet on Twitter. What a great piece of data visualization!

Years ago the visual-data software company Tableau gave a demo to Central New Mexico Community College and included an amazing public interactive visualization of some Beatles data with headings like What Are Most of Their Songs About and Which Songwriter Has the Largest Vocabulary. You can even roll over their cartoon heads with your mouse to see which Beatle wrote which hits. Big data, maps, trees and graphs! Nerdy fun! It was so awesome in fact that CNM couldn't afford it. But I always hoped someday there'd be a Cher Tableau. 

The Cher Hot Sheet below is the next best thing: albeit static, it aggregates the data (which is some kind of objective reality, you have to admit) and continues to beg the question as to why artists with lesser numbers are in the Hall of Fame but not this stealthy trailblazer. 

(click to expand)

Hotsheet

In my mind the relevant numbers are this:

  • Cher ranks 16th on Billboards Top 100 female artists of all time.
  • Cher ranks 47th if you include the boys.
  • Her chart span is 38 years! Including 19 years of actual chart activity.
  • She has spent an accumulated 420 weeks on Billboard charts.
  • She is the oldest female to achieve a #1 hit (still, after 20 years!)
  • Cher also holds the record for longest gap between first and last #1 hits (24 years and 355 days)
  • These numbers don't even include Sonny & Cher's contributions (their act had 18 entries of their own).

Thank you, Twitter Hot Sheet person! This is an invaluable contribution to Cher scholarship.

But rock-and-roll isn't about numbers, Missy. It's not all about sales and breaking records. I hear you.

Then your suggesting it's about another kind of influence metric like inspiring other artists?

To which I would say,

I loved Cher's appearance in this video although I would have preferred she be cast as something on the level of the protective pookie-bear, something short of a God figure, the religiousness of which undercuts the influence argument by being too much worship. And a little less spouse abuse would be nice, although this is probably meant to be a metaphor or hyperbole, both of which are sometimes lost on people unfortunately and are dangerous to use in conjunction with violence.


Cher in the Time of Covid

WalkaisleSo where the hell have I been? Well thanks for asking. As I said in my last post, my 80-something parents (right, 1958 in Carson City, NV) came down with Covid in Cleveland mid-November. I spent the end of December through the beginning of February (alternating with my brothers) helping them get back on their feet. When my mother was on death's door  back in November, I promised her that if she made it home I would learn to cook (finally, after 50 years) and make her a bunch of Hello Fresh dinners. And that's what I did, in the process learning the many joys of a bubble whisk.

I anticipated catching up on all-Cher-things while I was gone but that did not happen. In fact, the whole experience made me question fandom entirely (and not for the first time). I asked myself what purpose it serves, does it make my life better, does it make the world better? And because of all of the most recent events in the world, the answer was a soft no. Not that much different from stress shopping, I figured. But then I came around to the idea that in some way, like a carrot on a stick in front of a mule, it gave me something to look forward to, some relief of entertainment just slightly up ahead. And that was comforting in the trenches of things. 

New Video

Stopcrying1I will be slowly catching up over the next few months. So much has happened, first of which was the video release of "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" which I loved. Although I could not follow it's directive, I really loved the perfectly-edited video, which felt oddly cohesive considering all the personalities involved:

Stopcrying2You can still donate:

Stopcrying3

New Movie

IMG_20210220_181043Then last weekend I finally watched Bobbleheads: The Movie:

This felt like a watered-down Toy Story with bobbleheads. There wasn't much background on the cartoon family but that the parents were theme park designers in a world that looked like the cheap cousin of Pixar. But this is a good movie for kids under ten (and hopefully Cher’s brand can successfully extend into this demo).

Some oddities: these were scary parents who kept a fish tank on the coffee table and no baby gates at the top of the stairs, fully expecting their tween daughter to deal with it. There was also a Cher poster inexplicably in the office. Who is the fan here? The wife, the husband, both?

The story is basically the bobblehead toys avoiding pitfalls in the house like  a visiting dog and nefarious relatives squatting there. Lots of references to collectors of the bobbleheads and collector culture. There’s also a sub-world bobble creed and anxiety around the toy's relationships to their real life prototypes, some protos who have let down their bobbles and some protos who bobbles cannot live up to.

This is where it gets weird because Cher is a real life prototype to her bobble equivalent (meaning she really exists in real life) but the other bobbles are fictional characters to their fictional prototypes. The rules of the world bobble here. It probably would have been better for all protos to have been fictional.

Cher’s bobble appears in spaceship (in reference to her big concert entrances) at the toy's darkest hour and gives the group a mentor of bobblishiousness (very similar to her role in 2017’s Home: Adventures with Tip and Oh and even in Mama Mia 2 to some extent). She comes as a representative of The Bobble Council.

These are flat roles that are getting old for fans but maybe helpful in introducing Cher’s brand to new generations. This makes me wonder if this is what it felt like for original fans of the great Mae West getting flat 1970s facsimiles in later years.

All that said, there are still some good messages here. Cher clarifies the bobble creed: "Bobbles bobble and bring joy" which sounds a bit like Cher's own entertainment ethos. She also has this good advice: "Don’t be prototypes, be you." Then she tells the cat he’s one of a kind and to embrace that. "That’s what my proto did,” she says.

Over the credits, Cher’s bobble tries to teach the other bobbles to be dancers in her live show. They’re all flat feet, so to speak.

New Cover

KaleoAfter listening to the Cover Channel on SiriusXM for a few years, they finally played a Cher cover, "Bang Bang" from the Icelandic band Kaleo. It starts slow like a lot of the Sinatra-esque versions already out there but then it starts to veer away with new embellishments, then unfolds into its own unique, less controlled thing. Great cover.


The Spirit of Katharine Hepburn Award

On October 3, 2020, Cher officially received her Spirit of Katharine Hepburn award, including an interview with Ann Nyberg at Cher's house. You can watch the full program on the KATE YouTube site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtIVjM1oUOI&feature=emb_logo

The fifth annual event was held virtually this year from Old Saybrook, Connecticut. "Believe" was the keyword organizers gave everyone to slip into their speeches. Donation were also accepted during the event. It kicked off with great quote by Katharine Hepburn: "Life is going to be difficult, and dreadful things will happen. What you do is move along, get on with it, and be tough." The quote actually ends with this, "Not in the sense of being mean to others, but being tough with yourself and making a deadly effort not to be defeated.”

They gave a short intro on cher and talked about her bold independence in 6 decades of show business. They aired a very short video retrospective of her work in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and "the naughties," ending with her 250-million-grossing Farewell tour, highest grossing tour by a woman, they said.

Sponsors came on to congratulate Cher. The Governor of Connecticut came on and then the selection committee raised their Believe bellini drinks. At this point the fundraising was up to 34k.

IgubJerrod Spector and his wife sang a cover of "I Got You Babe." She almost could be auditioning for the traveling show but she was pretty good. Jerrod called Cher his “stage wife sort of” and refers to Cher as “the madam herself.” Donations jumped to 38K while they were singing.

The Senators of Connecticut spoke next, Blumenthal saying Cher "has been enriching our lives so powerfully." Murphy says he’s been a fan for a long time and thanks Cher for helping people in need during the pandemic.

They talked about the KATE's live events and the camp for kids. 

Eileen Ivers talks about how Cher testifies in "Believe." She says "we are strong enough!" and then does a great "Believe" cover on the fiddle. Lucy Arnaz  congrats "my friend."

EdEd Asner says congratulations to Cher and calls her "the most lovely lady on creation. She certainly deserves it. She’s a live one.” I actually got emotional when Asner said "She’s a Live One!!" His Emmy award is prominently displayed behind him. Donations jumped to 41K during his speech.

PeterPeter Asher talks about working with Cher while he produced some of her records. He said "I admire her enormously…she’s quite a remarkable woman, very versatile, hard working, determined, unreasonably talented, with a uniquely remarkable voice…she can be scary from time to time” (right?!) which he said could also be said about Katharine herself in the same way.

JimmyJimmy Webb calls Cher “the brightest, quickest thinker I have ever known and a Backgammon hustler par excellence…most of all a talented and soulful vocalist” (right!!??) and an unquenchable sense of humor.” (I’ve never thought of senses of humor being quenchable?) He says they were working together when Cher appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. And “long before feminism was a thing, I knew you as the formidable representative of women’s rights.” (Solid props there!) “You most certainly have the spirit of Katharine Hepburn. I loved you then and I love you now. I have always 'believed' in you. Call me.” He actually said that. Call me. Incorporating believe is getting annoying but those are some accolades right there.

Then they went through all the past winners giving their congrats to Cher.

Dick2014-Dick Cavett: "Oh am I happy to be here tonight” for someone special whom he has always loved. (I love his enthusiasm.) And he says: “No one has ever said I met someone just like Katharine Hepburn and no one has ever said I met someone just like Cher. What a team.” Perfect!

Glen2017-Glen Close: She says she’s “totally, wonderfully thrilled for you Cher. How deserving you are to get this award because you are iconic yourself. In some ways I think you define the word iconic. You are part of our lives, part of our DNA. You are a fierce heart, a beautiful human being. You are an icon for women and I’m sure men as well.” She asked Cher to “feel loved and celebrated and deeply appreciated for who you have been and what you have done for your entire career. Bravo, bravo Cher” 

Ann2018-Ann Nyberg: she says Cher is alone in her class” (so true) and talks about “your drive and your moxie would make Katharine Hepburn proud. She carried out her own path and so have you. Thank you for all you have given to the world of entertainment and for all the kindness you have shown to so many throughout your life who needed your help” (me: including elephants!) “Keep shining your light.”

Christine2019-Christine Baranski: she said, “Ms. Cher, darling, you embody the beauty, the talent, dare I say the balls, of the late Ms. Katharine Hepburn, except for one thing, you sing way better than she did. Congratulations Cher."

We then met the artist who made the award and what photos she used and what the process was for creating the clay statue, making a mold, customizing the individual pieces, forging the statue and the pictures used to design the piec.

Photo Photo Photo

 

 

 

 

 

StephanieStephanie J. Block then talked about how she portrayed (past tense??) Cher in The Cher Show and how in the Chicago run Cher asked that they retool "Believe" to sound different so that people could hear the lyrics. Block said they turned the song into a soulful ballad but keeping the “intensity and fire” of the original. Block indicated that when “it’s safe to perform again…” but then she didn’t finish that thought. Urg! Block called Cher “unexpected and totally impactful” at “moving people” and “touching people.”

NileNile Rogers then talked about “the phenomenal, fantastic, fabulous Cher. [Katharine Hepburn]  is one of the coolest American icons and certainly Cher fits that description. Since I’ve been working with her, I have to say she is probably the coolest boss I’ve worked for. I also win a lot of money playing bingo. No one ever in my life played bingo with me and I don’t think I’ve ever won before. Seriously, she’s multi-talented. Her heart is as big as they come. The most altruistic, coolest, awesome woman and a wig truck that will put anybody to shame, maybe even Diana Ross. It’s ridiculous. You totally deserve it. You are one of the coolest people I’ve ever known.”

This is a common theme of late: people describing Cher as THE coolest of the cool. And yet anthologies of cool don’t include her at all? But I digress...

AndersonAnderson Cooper shows off his baby boy and tells Cher the award is “so well deserved.” He tells Cher he’s playing her music to his son (and someday her movies).

AndyAndy Cohen then talks about Katharine Hepburn’s fierce independence, strong personality and her paving the way for women. “Cher, you represent all the great qualities of Hepburn and more. Could Hepburn sing Believe? Survive Sonny? Wear Mackie Outfits” That’s unclear he says of the latest question. “You are my number one.” The 'surviving Sonny' was a bit much considering Sonny is part and parcel of even later-day Cherness.

BobBob Mackie then talks about Cher as a “gorgeous creature” and “what a perfect honor,” how Cher is “like Katharine Hepburn in so many ways and yet nothing like her.” He says nobody can look like Cher; “they’ve tried.” He says she’s a “warrior goddess” Like Cher, Katharine Hepburn was always Katharine Hepburn, a perfect movie star. Mackie says he’s “thrilled to be here” and calls Cher a “true partner.” He says “We were both children when we started. Still are in our brains.”

Before introducing Cher, the event announcer says Cher is an icon of her time like Hepburn was an icon of her own time. And that Cher challenged the rules and the norm just like Hepburn did and brought a one of a kind approach to her own talent. Katharine Hepburn bucked the trends and took control of her own career.” They then played Cher’s TMC tribute to Hepburn with her story of meeting Hepburn and being light-headed, sweating and feeling like a complete idiot.”

ChazChaz then talks about “my mom’s career over a lifetime. It’s pretty amazing.” He talks about how he has connected as an actor to her struggles to be taken seriously as an actor. “It’s my favorite thing that she does” he says of her acting. He says as a parent she is amazing and that she’s been there for him and “come to everything I’ve done” even to visiting him on sets. He calls her “an inspiration” and that he’s “so proud of her and happy she’s getting this honor.”

The last part is the interview with Cher. Ann Nyerg arrives at Cher’s house in Malibu. They do an elbow wave.

CherdoorCher admires the pictures of Hepburn they’ve put up in her house. They do a social distancing interview. Cher talks about watching Hepburn movies with her mom, along with Bette Davis, Ava Gardner…women who were “magic onscreen” and as actors who “carried you farther.”

Cherward
CherwardNyberg asks Cher about aspects of her career. Cher says films are harder but TV and the stage are “a snap.” I always said I’d never make many movies.” She said she loved Broadway because she didn’t have to look at the audience. She always has to calibrate “how am I doing” in her concert shows. She talked about her favorite scenes: on the swing in Silkwood when she stared crying and the late-night scene with Vincent Gardinia in Moonstruck. She says her good scenes are “few and far between.” She admits she doesn’t give herself much slack. She talks about wining the Oscar and how good it feels to be a nominee of awards but then if you lose you’re just a loser. She really thought Holly Hunter was going to win that year. She talked about saying “shit” on the way up to the podium to get her Oscar and how she forgot to thank the director.

Cher said TV liberated her. It’s where she figured out “this is who I am” and that “I was really funny.” She said she took to it more than Sonny did. They talked about her dancing with The Jacksons on the Cher show. “I wasn’t a dancer" she said and wondered, "Where am I gonna find them in me?” She talks with pride about her West Side Story skit from her TV special in 1978.

When asked about any advise for her 25-year old self and she said it was the same as her advise for her 74-year old self: don’t sweat the small stuff.

We’re up to 79k in donations now.

When asked about any famous BFFs, she asks her assistant Jen who suggests Meryl. Cher then tells the story about stopping an assault/burglary in Manhattan with Meryl and about Meryl doing her own ironing to stay grounded and how they’re not alike in any way.

Cher talks about being introverted and shy as a person. But how she got used to performing, saying "there’s nobody my age on staging singing…at least wearing no clothes."

She talks about two great movie scripts that Covid curtailed, one to perform in and one to direct. Grrr.

Does she feel a kindred spirit to Katharine Hepburn? She feels women in those days had it harder with the studio system. “I didn’t fight at first. I learned how to fight.”

She talks about her favorite movies of Hepburn: The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen and putting her makeup on before concert performances to Desk Set and Pat and Mike. (I love Desk Set…it’s nerdy). Cher says there is something different about Hepburn that resonated with her. She could be sad or hysterically funny. She then talked about meeting Hepburn twice, once at the 1974 Oscar tribute to Spencer Tracy. Cher sat in a group of famous people and Hepburn passed them on the way to the stage and to Cher said “Hey kid.” And then Hepburn at one time wanted Cher to buy her house but Cher couldn’t afford it. And she once had a conversation with Hepburn in the office of a throat doctor they had in common. Her doctor set Cher up to meet Hepburn as a surprise. Cher was tongue tied.

They talked about Tweets and Cher defended her use of all caps and emojis. She talks about dyslexia and spelling and her good memory. 

Her one word for Kate was two: my hero.

The ended on a pan of Cher’s award shelf! Grammys, Golden Globes, Emmys, Oscasrs.  By this time the fundraiser has gone up to 103k.

Cherward2
Cherward2
Cherward2