Starting on The Sonny & Cher Show and Misty Water-Colored Memories

DefaultI’ve started to work on the last leg of our major project. It’s hard to believe but I made the first post on the first Comedy Hour show all the way back on January 15, 2019! At this rate, I should be finished in late spring of next year (minus a sprinkling of TV specials we can do).

I’m actually happiest reviewing these post-divorce shows. These are the shows I remember watching in 1976 and 1977. After we moved to St. Louis from Albuquerque, our time zone changed and Sonny & Cher tv now fell after a pretty strict bedtime of 8 pm. At the time I petitioned for and was granted a weekly exception, an exception that lingered after the cancellation of the show and enabled me to watch Solid Gold every Friday night with the delightful Marilyn McCoo.

To watch Sonny & Cher, I would go back into my brother Andrew’s bedroom (I didn’t yet have a TV in my own room) to watch the show all alone. He had a little color portable green TV my mother once received as a work bonus. I remember the hour would go by incredibly fast. Sonny & Cher always looked so good, I thought.

This was also right around the time my family staged an intervention on my Cher obsession. It happened at the kitchen table one night (and this is going to turn shortly into a sentimental story about my Dad).

I recall sitting at the table while one of my brothers, my mother and  grandfather Stevens all tried to talk me out of liking Cher so much. My Dad was sitting at the far end of the table, but I don’t remember him saying a single word that night.

I do remember my mother telling me I shouldn’t like Cher because her teeth were crooked. And by the way, you can always ID an old Cher fan because we invariably say things like we prefer Cher’s old teeth. I’m sure I immediately dismissed this argument as beside the point. Then my grandfather said I didn’t even know what political party she belonged to!

This was not a surprising tactic on his part because he pretty much had his own two singular obsessions, (possibly this is a genetic problem), which were (1) extoling the greatness of British shipping history and (2) notifying anybody and everybody about the tragic demise of American labor unions. (As an aside, when he found out I was interested in poetry, he told me I should read the 1930s labor poets and I was like I don’t even know where I would find those people and he said go to the library and I said well, that’s not gonna happen. Fast-forward to today and I found those people and am reading them as we speak.)

But his suggestion that I know Cher’s political affiliation was completely disingenuous anyway because the current opening segment schtick for The Sonny & Cher Show was an argument about Cher supporting Jimmy Carter in the impending presidential election and Sonny still supporting Gerald Ford. This might even have been when Sonny “came out” as a conservative. My family should have known this. And in fact, Ford’s eventual loss to Carter was all the more misfortune in Sonny’s slow slide into the shadow of Cher’s phoenix-rising and his own impending designation as a “flash-in-the pan.”

But at that moment my only response to my grandfather was “I dunno” because I didn’t even know what the political parties were…and that was because I was seven years old.

Yes people, this all happened when I was seven!

So anyway, my Dad is sitting at the table conspicuously not saying anything during this completely shocking intervention and so this leads me into a story I’ve been meaning to tell for quite some time, (me wanting to tell it while my Dad is still with us).

So fast forward 33 years later and it’s my wedding. Now my Dad is not someone who wants to be doing anything in front of a crowd of people. So a speech from the father-of-the-bride was right away just not going to happen And honestly, a lot of the wedding traditions I felt very ambivalent about, but the one thing I had fantasized about for many, many years was the father-daughter dance. And I remember in early conversations my Dad was not wanting to do this. He kept saying he wasn’t a big dancer.

It took some working from my mother to convince him to even consider doing a father-daughter dance and even then there was a separate round of negotiations around what that song would be. My first choice was “Take It To the Limit” because my Dad was a late-adopting but relatively new fan of the Eagles and the song kind of reminded me of him in a distantly, Western kind of way. But then my brother Randy convinced him that the song was essentially a love song (an interpretation I still disagree with) but then as it turns out my Dad would never want me to ‘take it to the limit’ anyway so the whole thing was a moot point. Bad idea on my part. As was the, in hindsight, misguided suggestion to use Lee Ann Womak’s “I Hope You Dance.” There is probably not a single line in that song my Dad would agree with. Not a single line.

So after months of back and forth and finding nothing, I suggested the song “Turn Around” and I sent him Cher’s version with the caveat that I didn’t like it. I rather preferred the Harry Belafonte version or the version that was on that Kodak commercial in the 1960s. Unfortunately in 2009 other versions of the song were nowhere online or in new or used record stores that I scoured for weeks. And that ended up being a moot point too because my Dad said he was only interested in dancing to the Cher version. End stop.

I was surprised by this, kind of moved and also a little dismayed (it’s really not a great version; Cher’s barely had time to “turn around” herself). But that was just too bad, because that was the only song he would consider. And as I recall he still didn’t commit to anything fully until pretty much right before the event, the night before which we spent with my former-dance-teacher mother showing us a simple waltz.

0230_McCray-LoRes-WEB_20091114And we did the father-daughter dance to Cher singing “Turn Around” and it went off without a hitch.

Later, my wedding reception was basically a mix-tape project with the DJ and I organized slow-dance numbers in two-song blocks because haven’t we all been at weddings where you find yourself in the bathroom when a slow song comes up and by the time you find your date and drag him out to the dance floor it’s all over?

And I didn’t use many other Cher songs at the wedding. I used the instrumental version of “I Got You Babe” as part of the arrivals mix and a fun radio mix of “Song for the Lonely” as part of the dancing reception…

…and my favorite version of “I Got You Babe” during one of the slow-dance two-fers (the Westside Room version to which I edited out all of Sonny’s preambles because what poor guests need to hear that?).

And when that particular song started playing my own date was off hobnobbing with some of our guests and I was a little disappointed (missing a dance to “I Got You Babe” during my own wedding and all). But then I turned around and my Dad was standing there and he said, “I’ll dance this song with you.”

Oh my.

This was one of the unforgettable moments of my life, I have to tell you. I don’t even know why really. Probably it was his willingness to dance to this iconic Sonny & Cher song with me at that moment. To this day it gets me very verklempt. I mean after all the protracted negotiations about dancing at all and then the history of my family vis-à-vis the Cher thing. And now I cannot extricate my memory of my Dad and me dancing from this version of the song itself, which every time I hear it has come to mean a sort of moment of acceptance and connection. If I had to do it all over again, I would probably pick this song for the father-daughter dance in the first place. It was probably the real one, unbeknownst to anyone there, which is just like the most awesome thing.

 I mean.

The other slow song I paired with it was Wilco and Billy Bragg’s cover of Woody Guthrie's “California Stars,” a cover which my Dad really liked by then too and so…

 …we kept on dancing.

 

"Good night everybody. God bless you. Thank you for being so cool. Good night and thank you very much."


Cher Shows Completed

Fashionweek2022Cher just made a big splash (or two) at Fashion Week in Paris:

Rolling Stone
The Guardian
People

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I’ve been keeping my nose in projects lately. On top of that, ICANN had a meeting in Kuala Lumpur so it was the nightshift for me last week. And now cleaning furiously for a visit next week from my friend Natalie (the real Lion in this story) is visiting and we’re taking a scenic train trip on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic from Colorado to Chama, New Mexico. We’ve been trying to plan this trip since Covid started. Sigh.

And I’ve been continuing to work diligently documenting Cher TV shows. Recently I finished the tour through the solo show. As part of that I watched the Bob Mackie interview in the Cher TimeLife DVD set. Here's a summary of that:

Mackie said he started working with Cher when she would ask for him whenever Sonny & Cher did early 1970s TV specials and Cher liked working with him because he was young. She was intimidated by old people in show biz, Mackie said. “I’ll never be older than 30,” she told him. “I’d be old then.” Mackie added, “look as us now.” Turns out death is kind of more intimidating that old age.

Anyway, Mackie says he saw S&C as a novelty group back then and that after the Beatles arrived they weren’t really getting booked anymore so they transitioned to a nightclub act.

He acknowledges Sonny & Cher were the same height, but that Cher had “a tall look.” He said for the first season of their variety show the network gave them no money and so Mackie had to recycle Carol Burnett dresses (they are the same size and measurements) and keep using the same basic white dress made over with embellishments. He said Cher always looked better than the models in his clothes. He said Sonny and Cher had a good PR agent and Cher was getting a lot of magazine covers.

Mackie says he was there for the first variety show planning session and he remembers the writers didn’t really know what to do with Cher. Was she like Keely Smith? No. Mackie could see Cher had something nobody else had. “She looks like nobody in show business.” Was she American Indian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic? He reiterates that he thinks her armpits are her best feature. He said she had a nice “soft six pack.” He said once the censors saw the show’s huge ratings, they relented on the belly button thing.

Mackie says they were always running late and pulling all-nighters on sewing outfits. Dresses would be hand-beaded and take hundreds of hours to finish. Cher was always very happy with bugle beads, crystals, feathers and rhinestones. Mackie’s favorite dress was the Time Magazine/Met Gala dress. “It looked like you could see something but you couldn’t.”

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He says Cher outfits have been experiencing Internet nostalgia recently and he sees copies of his dresses on young celebrities and drag queens everywhere.

He says their outfits were never vulgar, never trying too hard. Cher was “never posey” and could rock a t-shirt and jeans as easily as a historical costume dress. He said she was fearless with outfits and unlike other glamour girls wasn’t afraid to look silly. He said Cher was really laid back and easy and full of energy.

As we know, Mackie was doing the full suite of costumes for The Carol Burnett Show and only had the bandwidth to do Cher’s outfits on all her variety shows. Ret Turner took over, working with Mackie, on the rest of the cast including Sonny and Chastity. Turner and Mackie had worked together on lots of shows, Mackie said.

Of the Tina Turner, Kate Smith, Cher Beatles medley, Mackie says, “you will never see that again” and “you have to see it to believe it.”

He says the Laverne character is the complete opposite of Cher. He says he worked with Teri Garr earlier when she was a dancer on Hullabaloo. He said the 1970s was the Golden Age of Variety (which surprised all of us, Mackie said, “because we thought were at the end of the road.”) But never again would networks spend that kind of money on a big orchestra, couture-level costumes, sets and all-around glamour.

Mackie said in the recent Broadway show think-tank sessions Cher’s likeability kept coming up as a phenomenon. Cher wins you over, Mackie says, and people have an “odd fascination” with her. People “always wanted to know what Cher was doing.” He said it was “tough for the girls playing her. Nobody’s quite like her.”

ChershowI really enjoyed re-evaluating the Cher episodes in chronological order this year and I came to have more respect for what the show was doing: more overt feminism, trying to present Cher in her own right, a stronger focus on musical guests. There were a few cringy moments but there were just as many, if not more, really fabulous, history-making moments the show doesn’t get nearly enough credit for. It’s the show I was probably the least familiar with going into the project, having never seen any episodes before VH-1 re-aired some in the 1990s. I definitely could see a continuation of the cultural work the Comedy Hour was doing but with a bigger bang.

In some sense, the next incarnation of the Cher TV with Sonny would seem like a regression. But it wasn’t. After sweating it out on her solo show, Cher could now hold her own side-by-side with Sonny and it shows.

And any tension underscoring their post-divorce reunion may have turned America off (as the show’s ratings didn’t stay high), but looking back the show was nonetheless interesting in some entirely new ways.


Cher Show, The First Season

Cher-georgeThe first season of the TV show Cher is up: https://www.cherscholar.com/the-tv-variety-shows-and-specials.html

Like my experiences re-watching the Sonny & Cher shows, I am enjoying the Cher shows much better as I’m re-watching them. The half-hour Cher shows when they aired on VH1 seemed very thin and awkward; but watching full-hour episodes gives them some heft and I can see more significance in skits and threads developing as the show evolved. Which is a surprise to me. I was expecting to not like them just as much as I had previously not liked them except for a few crazy or amazing musical numbers. I'm even enjoying the Saturday Night skits a lot more than I once did. 

Here are some additional comments about the show and Cher from the TimeLife DVD interviews. In the George Schlatter interview, George says:

  • “Old ladies and kids all loved her...the audience loved her.”
  • CBS was always nervous: what would she be wearing and singing.
  • George tried to set Cher up with dancing and singing lessons (to add 2 notes to her range). But she disappeared during the break and never did any of them.
  • Bob Mackie was “such a genius.” Schlatter first worked with him on The Judy Garland Show, where he noticed Mackie was great at smoothing over pressures with the divas. They sometimes had to sell Cher on some of the songs on her show with Mackie's dresses. Cher was sewn into some of her dresses.
  • Jerry Lewis was not the easiest man to work with.
  • But everyone should have a Lily Tomlin in their lives. (I would go for that.)
  • They were always waiting on Cher to get her nails done.
  • Cher didn’t know some of her guests on the show. For example, Kate Smith and Cher hadn’t heard of each other.
  • "The learning curve with Cher was a cliff."
  • Cher was "a rock-and-roll phenomenon" although she was not a rock-and-roll singer but rather a personality. “Cher is an event...I’ve worked with everyone. Cher is truly unique” in her appearance, delivery, interests.

S-l500In the Lily Tomlin interview, Lily says:

  • She saw Sonny & Cher more as musical performers than as a comedy team.
  • Cher has likability, is funny, is part of our culture, is very honest, outrageous, a feminist.
  • "Her show was really fun...It was variety’s golden age. People didn’t tune in for the guests; they tuned in to see Cher doing something."
  • During Tea with Mussolini Cher asked Lily: “Doesn’t Maggie just scare the shit out of you?”
  • What makes Cher a great actress: empathy , she brings authenticity to the screen, she’s “kinda remarkable.”
  • Lily and Cher fight together for elephants who are in captivity and they’re friends. Lily says Cher will tell her, “you’re the best but I’m the greatest.”
  • Lily says Cher is down to earth, real, authentic. She’s also “got a mouth on her.” She’s "the real thing, audacious, original, disarming, artful, indominable."

Cher, The Partridge Family Album and The Great American Themes

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As I started working on this post last Friday, I wasn't sure which blog it would end up in (the Cher blog or the poetry blog). I feel the topic is halfway between writing the great American story/novel/movie/song/poem and the Cher blog where I could start to talk about Cher’s major career themes. I decided on the later since I’m starting to work on a Cher book divided by categories which are much more generalized and less specific than the Great American Themes but that are worth looking at through the kaleidoscope that is Cher.

To date I’ve finished reading 61 books on pop culture topics. Which is nothing, by the way, a drop in the bucket in the proliferation of pop culture scholarship these days. Academic Pop Culture Studies have exploded in the last 30 years, ever since “the Madonna essay.” We can get degrees in this now? Indeed. Not when I was a kid.

But pop culture pontificating has basically borrowed the existing think-tanking apparatus from the study of literature, which I did get a degree in so... yes ma, my indulgent book-club degree may just be of use here.

Here is a small sampling of the Cher-book categories to give you a taste of what the book will cover:

  • Feminism
    • Women on TV in the 1970s
    • Cher as Drag
  • High vs. Lowbrow Culture
    • Camp Culture
  • Appeal as Gay Icon
  • Movies & TV
    • The Male Gaze, MTV and the Female Gaze Looking Back
  • Power Pop/Girl Music
  • The Diva/Icon/Unruly Woman
  • Fan Culture

As of now there are 17 major categories. From the beginning I realized my weak spot would be writing about music, a category I don’t feel particularly knowledgeable about or good at writing about; so two years ago I started reading books around that, which led to a few minor obsessions: a search for Lester Bangs' essays, Lester Bangs' reviews of Sonny & Cher, and women writing about rock music.

It also lead to three rock histories, Good Booty by Ann Powers (a history of popular American music through the lens of sex), How the Beatles Destroyed Rock and Roll by Elijah Wald (worst click-bait title of a book I’ve ever seen…but nonetheless good alternative history of American popular music from a perspective of changing technology) and finally Mystery Train, Images of America in Rock and Roll Music by Greil Marcus. I was dissatisfied with the last book, only because the notes take up half the book and the meat of the thing only covers about five American themes:

  • Stagger Lee and the myth of the African American man as gangster
  • Everyman and freedom in the songs of Randy Newman
  • Pilgrims like The Band
  • Rags to riches and the country glamour of Elvis

But the book title does say "images" and not "themes" so my bad there. Anyway, this all got me to thinking about my own bigger list of the Great American Themes. And while I was wide awake last Thursday night it occurred to me most of the big themes are all oddly covered in the 1971 The Partridge Family Album.

TpfaBefore I launch into these themes and TPF Album, I want to say a few things:

  1. This was not my Partridge Family album. This was one of my brother’s albums. This thing came out in 1971 when I was 1 year old. Today both of my brothers refuse to cop to owning this thing but I am a witness to the fact that it was worn out by the time I got to it sometime in 1975. The cover was falling apart and the vinyl was worn and scratched already (and not by my parents, to be sure). Maybe it was neighbor kid Leewee's album (yes, that was his real name and we tend to blame him for things in situations like this).  In any case, this was the first non-Sonny & Cher/Sesame Street/Mr. Rogers/Disney Storyteller album I listened to. 

  2. PartridgeFor years I’ve been confused about why I still like it and looking at the back cover again today on the Googles, I can see why: it was essentially a Wrecking Crew album. The initial Partridge Family “sound” (and I would add, the initial very creepy sound) was based on the Ron Hicklin Singers and The Love Generation. But when everyone learned David Cassidy could sing, he was promoted to singer...for many obvious reasons. The album's non-Cassidy songs reflect the sickly-sweet foundational sound. 

  3. I was too young to be a fan of David Cassidy. He was old hat by the time later-day Gen X girls were crushing on singers and so Sean Cassidy was much preferred as was Kristy McNichol's brother Jimmy, which girls were losing their minds over as I recall. I've also never seen a single episode of The Partridge Family. It wasn't syndicated in St. Louis by the time I was watching copious hours of after-school TV. And these days, I can't look at that patchwork bus for very long before I start to get a headache.

So anyway, back to the themes. I made a table:

Theme

Partridge Family Album Song That Applies

Other Literature That Applies

The great American shoot-out, guns

 

Any western or gangster film

Reinvention, self-help
(Subtopics: failure, alienation, outcasts)

"Brand New Me"

Great Gatsby
Light in August

Upward mobility, rags to riches, class
(Subtopic: justice)

"Bandela"

To Kill a Mockingbird

The party, altered states, bottoming out

"Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque"
and "I Can Feel Your Heartbeat"

Infinite Jest

Nostalgia, the passage of time, the party’s over, loss of innocence

"Only a Moment Ago"

Blood Meridian

Driving, cars, wheels and rivers

"On the Road"

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The religious, spiritual quest, cults

"Somebody Wants to Love You"

Moby Dick

Self-actualization, identity (may not necessarily include a reinvention), general Me-ness

"Singing My Song"

Invisible Man

Pragmatism

"I Think I Love You"

Pragmatism by William James, anything by Ben Franklin

Survival of the fittest, The American Dream

 

The Grapes of Wrath,
The Jungle

 

Anyway, the Cher-text does not cover many of these American themes, at least not in song lyrics. Reinvention (and its root-cause of failure) is certainly a career theme, as is alienation, social mobility, and nostalgia (through remediation of old material). The shoot-out cowboy does make an appearance (via Sonny’s songwriting) as does coming-of-age and the loss of innocence (in both Sonny’s cowboy and teen pregnancy songs) and Cher does have a few songs about traveling on airplanes.   

More to think about there.                          


Friends of Friends of Dorothy (and a Missing Swimming Pool)

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Last weekend I spent time with two friends on a trip partially to visit the Georgia O'Keeffe house in Abiquiu, New Mexico, something we all had tried to do back in March of 2020 but the pandemic started that weekend and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum closed (which resulted in the creation of this thing).

This time we stayed at a guest ranch in Pojoaque, a place my family has been visiting for many years. Because I had been there before I was excited about taking a swim as soon as I arrived.

IMG_20220625_135413Crossing the grassy lawn in my swimmies, with a towel under my arm and a big coke in my hand, I suddenly came upon this:

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Missing pool. Alarmingly missing pool.IMG_20220625_140544

Ten minutes later, while I was taking a very angry shower, I kept thinking "what does this remind me of? This reminds me of something."

And that's when it occured to me the missing pool, among a few other things that had delapidated a bit at the guest ranch, (the trail to the river was blocked by an ominous barricade of tumbleweeds), were reminding me of Sonny & Cher's cartoon visit to their honeymoon hotel with Scooby Doo. You know, the scene where Sonny is listing off all the amenities of the place (pool, tennis courts) and the caretaker is telling them all those things no longer exist?

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Anyway, the guest ranch was not that bad but it was also not as good as previous visits either. Nevertheless, the weekend was beautiful; it rained most of the time through the cottonwoods and we hung out with peacocks, bullfrogs, goats, rabbits, burros and some very grumpy sheep while we had some deep conversations about life. We tried to feed the goats the day we left and they stole my friend's bowl from her hands and we had to stage a bowl rescue involving hanging her over the fence while the goats weren't looking. Good times.

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Glamour shots of one of the bowl thieves.

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Anyway, it just so happens my two friends are a gay couple and so we talked about recent (and possible upcoming) developments of the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a Cher fan, I have many gay men friends (and lesbian friends who are Cher fans too, as a matter of fact). Fag-hags was the derogatory term for us in the 80s. And all sorts of ideas proliferated about why we hung out with gay men, affection and shared interests never being part of the imaginative equations.

I was on a TV show once with a friend and many people thought we were depicted there as a gay couple there so Julie and I took to introducing the show to our new friends as Who Gets the Lesbians. (Edgar did. Edgar got the lesbians.) And although neither of us are gay, this never bothered me because it was actually more exciting than what was really going on in my life at the time; and if we had been gay, we would have been a very fun and interesting gay couple.

So for a long time I've been thinking about straight people in close relationships with gay friends. It should go without saying that having gay friends doesn’t mean you’re gay or on your way to being gay or that gay people are trying to turn you gay. Unfortunately, there are still folks out there who believe this.

SilkwoodAnd this all came up again last week when Cher tweeted a birthday wish to Meryl Streep and recalled the swing scene from Silkwood.

Although Silkwood is a very dry movie, (albeit one with an amazing cast), it's an unheralded example of a sweet relationship between straight and gay people. It depicts a very intimate and close relationship (one sometimes fraught with conflict) between Cher, who plays Dolly Pellicker, and Meryl, who plays Karen Silkwood, culminating very movingly in the swing scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDP_4UqslnQ

While I was at the guest ranch, I also came across this news story about someone else I'm a fan of, "Barry Manilow pauses Newcastle concert after 'rude' reaction to lyric." Even though Barry Manilow is a gay man, most if not all of his fans are straight women, even ones like me who knew Barry was gay long before he came out.

According to the story, Barry Manilow was singing "Weekend in New England," and as he was singing "when will our eyes meet/when can I touch you" the girls in the audience started to holler. 

The article states, "Looking slightly flustered, Barry was momentarily speechless, before letting out a little chuckle and commenting: 'My hands are busy now!'"

If you watch the video, the aforementioned pause is miniscule, the rudeness is questionable and the comeback is quick.

Barrymanilow

Barry is used to the sexual innuendos in his shows. The Concert at Blenheim Palace in 1983 is a good example of the Barry tease and screaming girls. I watched it recently in 'slight' amazement that it worked so well considering didn't half of us know he was gay? His repartee was full of double entendres and the girls sounded like they were losing their minds while their boyfriends sat there stoically trying to go to their happy places.

In "Weekend New England" most people miss the obvious sexuality and Barry performs the climax more lustfully than he gets credit for, which I assume is because he's become a performer most people assume has no sexuality. We love to rob people who are different or 'square' or a bit goofy of their sexuality.

“When will this strong yearning end...I feel brave and daring/I feel my blood flow."

Where did you think the blood was flowing?

It doesn’t matter that he’s now an outed gay man singing these lines to straight women. If Barry Manilow was caught off guard or flustered in Newcastle, (which I'm not convinced he was), maybe this was because he wasn't still expecting the straight reaction to his performance because it was occurring after he was outed; but the 'lewd' responses are still happening like clockwork.

And Barry Manilow is still responding with his old-school retorts. It's the very same thing, straight people in relationships with gay people and joking about sex and it gives me deep joy.


Cher in Andy Warhol's Interview, December 1974

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I'm not proud of it, but when I saw this come up on eBay a few weeks ago, after waiting decades for the issue to show up, I literally threw money at it with the dangerous Make an Offer feature. 

And after reading it I wasn't very sorry I did. I think this is an important interview for 1974, albeit annoyingly gossipy to the point of catty and status obsessed, as Andy Warhol's Interview could often be. (Andy and Bob interviewed her once again for the March 1982 issue)

Bobandy
In 1974, Cher, David Geffen (who Cher was dating at the time), Andy Warhol, Bob Colacello and Andrea Portago all met at the Hotel Pierre and they all mostly talk about shopping.

Every column or so of text had a list of shorthand topics that were discussed but not transcribed. An example:

"Liza Minelli
the wedding
Jack Haley
coming to town this weekend
Halston's giving a party"

Another especially egregious example is this one:

"serious economic situation
very depressing
stuff by the yard
1940s jewelry
so cheap now
vulgar, but big
Cartier's in Paris
the best
pull out their old stuff. Ask them.
Erte's book
designers today
any master craftsmen?"

Interview2However, there are some unique conversational events in this interview.

  1. Defending Sonny:

    (a) Cher has just found out earlier in the year that Sonny had slyly screwed her out of all her earnings over the previous decade. She has just discovered she was a paid employee in a company Sonny and his lawyer created called Cher Enterprises and Cher was entitled to none of the profits but three weeks of paid vacation (so that's something...but which she never received, telling the Warhol gang the act Sonny & Cher never took a vacation in all of the last 12 years). Sonny's contract also stipulated Cher could not work on any solo projects without his permission. So Cher had been out of work for most of 1974 while David Geffen used his formidable gray cells to liberate Cher from Sonny's contractual clutches. Geffen as Cher's knight-in-shining-armor was not appreciated by Sonny, who despised David Geffen for years afterwards with the heat of a thousand suns.

    Despite this drama, Cher refuses to trash talk Sonny in this interview. "I knew that we owned half of the show and I thought that Cher Enterprises was just a company you had to have because people are always forming companies--I really didn't even know why, you know. I just thought because we had a payroll, and the checks said Cher Enterprises...Now I get nothing....the judge gave me a certain amount of money each month to live on until I can have half of whatever it is..." (this never happened by the way; Cher ended up having to buy out her contract from Sonny which took her until 1977). When Andrea talks about how greedy that was of Sonny, Cher's response is "Well, it's a strange thing....Sonny was really angry. He said, 'You screwed up everything. I could have made all this money and...it's your fault so I should be the one who keeps the money and you should go out and work." I said, "That seems logical, but when I met you, you were a truck driver and I was doing nothing and we were nothing and now we have all this money and all these things, and you should take half and I should take half..."

    The next question is Andy Warhol asking Cher if she does her own nails.

    (b) Custody of Chastity: Sonny also fought Cher for full custody of Chastity "and then the judge ended up giving him less time to see her than I had always given him so he said, 'Well, I hope you're not going to stick to that' and I said, "No, you can see her whenever you feel like seeing her.' My goal in life is not to keep her from him."

    (c) Sonny's flopped variety TV show: Andrea asks Cher if she saw Sonny's 1974 show, The Sonny Comedy Review. Cher says, "Yeah, I did." "Did you like it?" Andrea asks. For the record, this show was handed it's ass in  1974 but Cher says, "Well, there were a lot of things about it that I liked. You know?" Andrea says, "I thought you were sorely missing and Chastity, too." Cher says "Well, a lot of people think that, but I think that if you looked at the show and you didn't remember the Sonny and Cher show, that it was a pretty good show." Andrea retorts, "But it was the same format. How could you not remember it?" And Cher says, "It was, that's true. Well, that's the producer's fault because they just kind of do the same thing over and over again and they've done it like five times but the only time that it actually ever worked was with us but I don't think they know how to do anything else."

    So kids...this was the apex of Sonny's assholery toward Cher (going for her share of a fortune and full custody of their child). So when in 1998 people ragged on Cher at Sonny's death for jumping on a grieving-widow-wagon because she had spent decades trashing him, this was just more of the same anti-Cher bullshit made up over nothing true. For all Cher's softball insults about Sonny over the years ("I traded one ugly man for another"), she defended him just as often and always came to his aid when summoned, like when he opened his LA restaurant and needed publicity, when he was running for mayor of Palm Springs and needed publicity which precipitated the David Letterman Show reunion. This interview is the sterling example of how hard, if not impossible, it really was to turn Cher against Sonny. Not even Sonny could do it.

    Sonny & Cher outside of the Santa Monica Courthouse in 1974 where Sonny slipped Cher some tongue for the paparazzi:

    Courthouse1 Courthouse1 Courthouse1









  2. Being a Slave to Fashion, Andy Warhol vs. Cher:

    They're discussing people who wear whatever they see in Vogue Magazine. Cher defends people who need help figuring out complete looks with magazines. Andy Warhol then says, "And the fashion editors spend millions finding the right things, and they are right about what looks good; whatever they show is really right-looking, and they do work hard at it so people might as well take advantage of it."[Andy Warhol: Fashion Apologist!] Cher then says, "there will always be people who won't follow this. Sometimes I buy a 3-piece suit but then I just wear the pants because it makes me feel strange to go out in something that's pre-set already for me. I kind of like to screw around with it...I think there's really no such thing as what's 'right' in fashion now and I think that's good."

    Another thing Cher gets no credit for: her risk taking 'looks' that say fuck-you to fashion more often than catering to it. Some 1974 Cher looks:

    19743 19743 19743












  3. Laverne vs. Ernestine:

    This is short but interesting, Cher's conception of her character. When Andrea says Cher's Laverne character "is a little bit reminiscent of Lily Tomlin's telephone operator," Ernestine. Cher says, "I guess they were both strange kind of ladies, but then Ernestine was so square and Laverne was so broad...she played around a lot."

    Laverne and Ernestine never met in TVLand like Laverne and Geraldine did.

    Laverne-geraldineThere's still time.

  4. Meeting famous people:

    It's always interesting to hear famous people talk about meeting other people they consider more famous than themselves. David Geffen says, "your fantasies are bound to be destroyed upon meeting almost anybody. I'm sure if we met Clark Gable we'd be very disappointed" and Cher says, "Yeah, because we all have an idea of what we think of Clark Gable, right? and we'd make him fit the mold of filling our insecurities, our neuroses or what we need of him as our star..." and then Andy Warhol says they just met Joan Crawford and she was great, "fit the bill" he says. Cher doesn't seem to buy it and tries to quote something about legends and men and David Geffen remembers the quote more accurately, "When the Legend is bigger than the Man, then print the Legend."

    Cher's celebrity obsession was Audrey Hepburn, by the way, and I don't think she was disappointed. Speaking of which, this picture I just found on Pinterest is captioned, "Audrey with Cher Hair."

    Audrey
  5. The Famous and the Famous:

    Cher's recent Aspen trip proving celebrities sometimes really do hang out together: Cher is talking about having dinner plans that night with Ara Gallant and how Cher had just been to Aspen with Ara and "Angelica, Brit Ekland, Apollonia, Ingrid, myself....And David, Lou, and Jack. We had the most wonderful time. We had a ball. I mean we just blew it out. Skied all day and danced al night."

    As you would expect. Then Bob tries to talk Cher into going shopping that Saturday for 1940s jewelry. (We gotta get in on this hanging out with Cher thing.)

    Aspen
  6. Cher in Movies: 

    Andy Warhol tells her her movie was "so great. It was really good comedy." And Cher says, "What? Good Times?" She then acknowledges both Good Times and Chastity as being "much longer ago...let's see, I was 20, so that's eight years ago." (Ages!)

    Gt

Andy, Bob and Andrea leave the Pierre and talk about how good Cher looked without makeup and how "she'd be fun to shop with--she loves all the jewelry." 


Starting on the Cher Show

NewlogoSo back in March I promised to start reviewing Cher's solo show after April work ended. So here we go. The first episode has been posted along with some context.

Trashy3Other fans mentioned last year that, disappointingly, the Timelife episodes were cut, in this episode's case even more heavily than those that appeared on VH1 back in the mid-1990s. So that's kind of a drag. Since the songs cut from the first episode were jazz and Broadway standards, it's hard to blame the high cost of pop songs.

Episode two coming up soon.

 


And Then The Thing Was Done: The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour

LogoWhew. The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour review is done: https://www.cherscholar.com/the-tv-variety-shows-and-specials.html.

Huge milestone!

I looked at my publication date for episode 1 and it was all the way back to January 25, 2019!! And here I thought I’d finish the whole series in a little over one year. (There are 52 weeks in a year, right? 67 episodes. No problem.) It took me 3 years and 2 months.

I remember starting the project sitting at my old desk at the Central New Mexico Community College job, happy as a clam. Shortly afterwards, I was unfortunately promoted to a job I did not want and went back to ICANN, COVID happened and now possible nuclear antihalation is on the horizon. But hey, at least we’re halfway done with this project! Smiley face.

The 67 Comedy Hour shows are done. We have 63  shows to go (29 Cher shows and 34 Sonny & Cher Show part deux, plus a handful of TV specials). I’m going to take a little break for NaPoWriMo 2022 but then I’ll be back to review the Cher shows, some of which I’ve still never seen, even though they come out on the Time-Life series two years ago. I was waiting to review them here right after watching them. So looking forward to that.

Last night I actually had a dream about the last episode I just posted, #67. I dreamed I was going to write about how this was a typical “clips” show, or “greatest hits” type show we’re so used to seeing now, the retrospective. And I had always read that this was a cobbled-together finale of clips.

But I dreamed a young producer met up with me to set me straight. Btw, none of the show’s producers are young anymore; some are not even alive. And he told me this the last show was assembled from never-before-seen clips that were cut from earlier episodes and thus, new to us. But in any case, not rerun clips.

I thought ‘how novel” and I looked forward to reviewing the episode today to see if this was, in fact, true.

It was!


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"

 


Cher Takes Over Smells, Slippers, Cosmetics and More

WisdomHappy 2022, Cher fans. Taking a moment to catch-up on all the great Cher stuff happening right now.

WisdomofsoundA few months ago Cher contributed to the 2021 Wisdom of Sound with her Miley Cyrus song "I Hope You Find It." This was a benefit concert for the Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery and Nagi Nunnery in Nepal. Cher made an appearance, Richard Gere hosted and the live-stream included Laurie Anderson (also love; where else could Anderson and Cher appear together??), Jon Batiste, Norah Jones, Angelique Kidjo, Steve Miller Band, Gregory Porter, and Maggie Rogers.

Last year Cher also released an offshoot of her Eau du Couture line, scents from the decades (60s, 70s, 80s, 90s) for sale at Walmart in a larger bottle and small roller-ball bottles. I've been asking my friends to do blind smell tests to identify the decades. How bizarre this seems to locate a certain scent for an entire decade. I'm curious to know if there is consensus on this wild experiment. More on that later (I'll be testing family members in Cleveland soon). So far the younger kids are doing better at guessing the decades although they weren't around for some of them. 

F187cd8b-6cb9-40d1-b7ed-6ce86f4d5ada.5c9b1b75e3c084d13ed6874e3bf0d9ec F187cd8b-6cb9-40d1-b7ed-6ce86f4d5ada.5c9b1b75e3c084d13ed6874e3bf0d9ec

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cher has also done big things for Ugg in just one week. Here's their Cher page:

Ugg

Here's the tweet on the power of Cher:

Ugsspike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More ugg pics:

Ugg2 Ugg2 Ugg2

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ugg ad in Cher's Malibu house: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ei5cc_isx60

But that's not all. MAC Cosmetics this week has also unveiled a big campaign with Cher and the rapper Saweetie:

Macad1 Macad1 Macad1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The MAC ads:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_gsH9yLNuw

https://www.tiktok.com/@cher/video/7049723316873088262

And that's not all! Late last year Scent Beauty released a body lotion for Eau du Couture and Cher went on HSN to promote it. Frustratingly, you could only get the lotion in combination as part of a set. But then they offered it as a one-off if you purchased other Scent Beauty products, so I bought my friend a few of the new Dolly Parton perfumes for Christmas and snared my body lotion that way. Now it seems you can just buy the lotion separately. It was like a Christmas shakedown.

Hsndec21 Hsndec21

 

 

 

 

 

Cher on HSN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbFVoSzjGjU

 

OwnwordsI was reviewing my date calendar from last year (it's full of quotes to inspire) and found I missed this Cher quote from April 2021: “If you really want something you can figure out how to make it happen.”

I have no memory of this quote by Cher, at least in the famous quote pages and books…yes there’s a book of Cher quotes.

 

 

Mrms-2And best news of all, after over a year of hiatus I'm finally back on track with the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour episodes with what I think is a very good lost episode, #56 from December 12, 1973. There are only 11 more episodes for this first variety show series. Then we move on to Cher solo shows.

https://www.cherscholar.com/the-sonny-cher-comedy-hour-episode-56.html