We’re Moving

It’s been a rocky year kids for reasons I can’t even begin to explain to you. But one of the final adversities this fall was the slow crashing of our dear webhost Typepad over the last three weeks, starting with their inability to display images on the site. Fortunately I was able to backup all (or most of) the many words but it’s been made clear by the downtime (and Typepad’s own homepage missive that they’re no longer taking new customers) that it’s time to move all the sites to more stable and supported pastures. That will take quite a bit of time and effort (and that’s after researching where we can even go). I don’t know if I’ll even be able to restore everything, but if not we can revisit old posts from time to time.

Brave new start.

So anyway I’ll be gone for a while which is kind of bummer considering I was within a shot put of finishing both the Cher TV shows and the Essay Project and was in the middle of a new set of Grammar poems.

The big irony here is that I had taken some time off blogging this fall (and off social media too, although I didn’t do as well with that). I had decided to just stop talking for a minute and start listening (but mostly just stop talking already). And when the weather changed last week I crafted some new posts about poets and madness, Cher's new Decades collection and a few other things that won’t see the light of day for a while.

Honestly, I’m one of the lucky ones in this hosting meltdown because at least I had most of my backups from 2007 and I’m not depending upon any of my words to eat. They’re provided free of charge. Since I’ve never felt this current life’s mission has been to make money or get ahead, I’m not suffering quite as much as some others at this time. (For anyone on Typepad who doesn’t have backups, try visiting archive.org, the Wayback Machine, and you can grab stuff there.) And Typepad most likely will stabilize again (fingers crossed) but this is a big wakeup call for us old-timers over there. And this whole experience just highlights how fragile an internet life can be and how it can all become destabilized and disappear overnight, just like Vint Cerf indicated all those many years ago when he warned us in a speech that a generation of intellectual property will probably be lost. Web companies come and go. The supports you take for granted can lose their way. It’s all part of the digital lifecycle.

It could be worse…always.

Which brings me back to my little goal of shutting up for five minutes. It might be longer than that. I will be taking this opportunity to watch one of my favorite movies, Into Great Silence. I will pretend to be a monk for a while until my little Chatty Cathy comes out again, which is inevitable.

In better news, ICANN has called everyone back into the office for the first time since they shut down in April of 2020. So oddly 2023 is feeling like what I expected 2020 was going to be. And that includes trips into the LA office starting January, during which I’ll see the Joan Didion exhibit at The Hammer Museum and will report back on that when the sites are all moved. This also means there will probably be no NaPoWriMo 2023 for me next year as I won’t likely be up and running by that time.

But there’s plenty of work for me offline and I hope to catch up with everyone down the line. I hope the rest of everyone’s year goes well and next year we can pick up with new books and fun Cher stuff. 


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."


My Rick Springfield Story

Untitled design (2)This story came to mind recently after a few nice people wrote to me about the Partridge Family/Cher post a few weeks ago. One was a music writer from St. Louis and I enjoyed her pop-culture writings on Cher, Cream Magazine and a very funny piece on Rex Smith. I also liked how she incorporated a representative music link at the end of her commentaries. And she reminded me how my two older brothers, solidly in the 1970s, St. Louis KSHE-radio rock-music demographic, once mercilessly made fun of Rex Smith.

This was separate and apart from their ongoing pressure for me to alter my music plays in the house. And even though my first instinct was to resist their suggestions in this area, in a few cases their influence did affect me unawares.

In the first case, they ruined Barry Manilow’s song “Mandy” by telling me the then-popular rumor that the song was about a dog. The second instance involved Rex Smith when my brothers mocked his single “You Take My Breath Away” one day while we were in the family station wagon because the song was basically the same two sentences sung over and over again into perpetuity. I had to agree they had a point there.

There was also their general, unspoken disparagement of pretty boys in all cases, (especially light-haired ones), which must have seeped into my consciousness somehow and pretty much made impossible any crushes I could ever develop on Rex Smith, Leif Garrett, Sean Cassidy, Jimmy McNichol and pretty much anyone from Duran Duran.

But that was all academic because I was too late a bloomer for Mr. Rex Smith. And I really can’t emphasize that enough. I was a late, late, late bloomer.

Screenshot_20220723-194805I was a perfectly happy camper being a kid with my girlfriends roller skating and playing waitress or teacher or famous novelist. We had our salacious sexcapades with the Barbies; we had incredibly complex township soap operas improvised around the Fisher-Price army of Little People and their building structures. We had board games, books, restaurant menu design, newscasts, pirating.

But the biggest thing was the Fisher-Price and Tree Tots villages we would create in our basements by pooling together our buildings.

Screenshot_20220723-194821My friend Krissy was a year older than me and we played this way for years…until she “turned.” Darcey Steinke explains “turning” for girls very well in her novel Sister Golden Hair. Turning refers to the change from girlish kid-hood into the adolescent tweens. Girls turn overnight, Steinke explained, and this completely jives with my experience growing up. Girls pass from childhood to adolescence overnight like a flipped light switch whereas boys could take months if not years to evolve into their adolescence. I don’t know how it was for gay or trans kids. Possibly something in between. But for cisgender girls, the change was Twilight-Zone quick. One day a girl had a kid personality, the next day that kid disappeared and the same girls were like zombies solely intent on finding out where the boys were grazing. It was unnerving if you were a late bloomer, kind of like watching a 1950s horror movie.

ImagesKrissy was older and so her disappearance was expected to some degree, although because she was in a grade higher at school, I rarely saw her again after that. But for the girls in my own grade, the loss of a playmate was much more egregious and painful because we would still be friends at school. We just weren’t spending our free time in the same way anymore. It was a confusing kind of loss. And in the condescending way of girls who mature faster than others, my friends were patiently waiting for me to ‘catch up’.

Screenshot_20220723-072550Jane in our grade went next. Boy crazy we called her then because she was a statistical outlier. But then suddenly all the girls started falling like dominos!

I made an impassioned case to save them, too. I said things like,

“Hey listen, I have two boys in my house! And first of all, they smell…like bad!

Secondly, they’re obnoxiously immature for like forever and it will be another whole year before one will even be able to have a civilized conversation with you.

Screenshot_20220723-194618What’s the rush anyway? You have the rest of your life to suffer over boys!

Let’s play a game of Life!“

As you might imagine, my arguments fell flat.

I remember my very last Fisher-Price friend. Her name was Chris and she was one of the last girls to turn. She wasn’t interested in boys yet because she was a tomboy, which I was not. I was just clear-headed and probably psychic about the prospect of a lifetime of love-drama ahead. I was also to into dollhouses and stuffed animals to be a tomboy. And I had no interest in climbing anything. A few times I did swear to my Screenshot_20220723-194506father that I could be a tomboy for 48-hours in order to finagle an invitation to the boys-only camping trips. But no luck; he never bought it. Not once. (And thus, an adulthood of compensation-camping for me).  

In any case, I was always willing to caucus with the tomboys if it came to that. And I thought, “okay here is someone who beats up boys at recess! She’s good for another year with this Fisher-Price stuff…at least.”

Screenshot_20220723-194539Her father did very well at a local company and so she got presents on holidays like Valentine’s Day. She had so much stuff, she’d give it away frequently. All my Michael Jackson albums were bequeathed to me when she got a full replacement set like on like Washington’s Birthday or some other non-gifting holiday like that.

So of course all her toys was great. She lugged them all over to my basement one day, all her Fisher-Price buildings, the airport, the cottage, the farm and the Holiday Inn (which I didn’t even know existed). Those combined with my farmhouse and parking garage and we had quite a metropolis.

Screenshot_20220723-194439And we were having a swell time in my basement when two days later she calls and says she can’t make it over that day.

(No worries. Everything’s fine.)

But then I get the same call again the next day and then the next day; and I know what this means. I’ve been here many times before. She’s turned. She’s still friendly at school and willing to do all the adulting things she’s newly interested in; but she suddenly has no interest in being a kid anymore.

So we’re talking on the phone a few days later and I say, “By the way, you’re going to have to come over and pick up all your stuff or I can bring it over to your house or whatever.”

And this is what she says to me, (and it still breaks my little heart to this very day). She says,

“You can keep it.”

Ugh!!!

(Flash forward a few decades and my mother kept all that Fisher-Price stuff, both mine and everything Chris left behind, and was a very popular grandmother as a result. All my nieces and nephews loved those toys as much as I did. Even the neighbor kid would come over. It brings me some kind of mitigating joy to know those things had those subsequent lives.)

But anyway, I was adrift then because you couldn’t play with that stuff alone. You needed to bounce your imaginative stories off each other. So Chris’ kid-defection effectively and forcibly ended my career with Barbies and Fisher-Price people forever.

Kid-business just ceased to exist for these girls. Roller skating now had to happen at a disco roller rink where boys could be skated in front of. No more Nancy Drew. It was now standing around at the shopping mall in a cute outfit. (Which, by the way: you couldn’t pay me.)

Over the years I’ve thought a lot about this turning business and my being so tardy with it. It’s like each girl in my grade became possessed with another personality overnight, all the girls except the ones who were never going to turn, like the ones who turned out to be lesbians. Every other girl turned before I did. Actually, most of the boys turned before I did, too. That’s how late I was. And it was a lonely year as far as after-school was concerned. I watched a lot of TV.

I have this theory that Gen X girls in my grade all turned during a three-to-six-month period of time in the early 1980s. And it was like they woke up one morning and said, “Hey, I like boys today!” and then they all went to the record stores all over America and said, “Hey look! There’s a boy!” and then they all bought that same, damn Rick Springfield album.

My friend Krissy was a perfect example. She was completely following my influence in her record album purchases, however questionable they were. Slowly in the late 1970s, Cher and Johnny Cash albums were stacking up in her bedroom. And then out of the blue one day she makes a renegade purchase and I find the Rick Springfield album lying there on her bed.

And it was like any disparaging thing I could say about boys would just result in a moony gaze at the Rick Springfield album cover.

It’s important to note here that this was a completely different situation than years earlier when one of my friends would put on a Sean Cassidy or Jimmy McNichol 45 record as we kept on playing with the Fisher-Price stuff.

I was like goddamnit Rick Springfield; you are making this so much harder for me! It wasn’t his fault, I suppose. If it hadn’t been him, it would have been someone else. So it wasn’t personal exactly.

It was a little bit personal though.

Of course, I did turn eventually. One day in science class two of my girlfriends forcibly made me pick out some rando guy to “like.” And what seemed like a perfectly safe and perfunctory choice in the moment turned into rent garments pretty quickly. Within days, I was so predicably swept away I couldn’t even parcel out all the incredibly deserved “I told you sos” to all my friends.

And from that day that I turned, I have no clue where all that Fisher-Price junk in the basement got stored away because, for the love of god, all that ceased to exist and within days the basement was repurposed into a dance floor where I was dancing to The Pointer Sisters and songs like “Let the Music Play” while daydreaming about stupid rando boy. I had a bathroom now miraculously full of makeup and hairspray, was giving a shit about what I wore to school every day, and even stinky socks and asinine immaturity seemed mysteriously surmountable and even immaterial and now possibly (alarmingly) even part of the new appeal!

I think we can all look back at this time and clearly see I was totally right about all of it; and if Rick Springfield hadn’t enabled the complete Gen-X-Girl Turnover of 1981 & 2, I would have had a fighting chance in talking sense into those precocious, hormonally-hijacked young ladies.

The Rick Springfield thing isn’t personal. It’s just a little personal though.

StateoftheheartThis grievance of course doesn’t include the Italian Rick Springfield. He’s a total hottie.

 

And now…the closing Rick Springfield song.  
(I did buy this 45 single in 1985 so I couldn’t have been that mad at Rick Springfield.)


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

IMG_20220624_161519

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:

IMG_20220625_135544
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?

Brochure Brochure Brochure

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_20220626_104002 IMG_20220626_104002 IMG_20220626_104002

Glamour shots of one of the bowl thieves.

IMG_20220626_100456 IMG_20220626_100456 IMG_20220626_100456

 

 

 

 

 

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.


The Cherished Experience

CherishedLet’s just say you’ll never catch me saying any Cher album is a bad one. I just wouldn't do it. Of course there are ones I like better than others. But they all have something interesting to offer. I will say, somewhat lovingly, that this just might just be an album only an 8 year old would adore. And did. As did my other 8-9 year old compadres. My friend Krissy even bought her own copy and we would act out all the songs. So this is the only Cher album that has a sort of communal feel for me. The others were all very solitary pleasures. And hearing it now reminds me of all the tactile sensations of the late 1970s right down to the carpets and the couch fabric of our living room and Krissy bedroom stereo. At the time it was the most contemporary album of narrative songs from Cher we had and the stories really appealed to us.

This album also has the beautifully lush Harry Langdon photograph flowing from front cover to back. Cher wears jeans and a suede Native-American vest, which could also be read as shipwrecked-wench. The backdrop and makeup are glamourous yet earthy. Very Crystal Gayle. This is Cher's new, post-Elijah physique (a bit more fleshy as she admitted it was harder to lose weight this time). Her name is not on the cover because the title is a play on her name. "Pirate" was released as a single and it stalled at #93. "War Paint Soft Feathers" was also a non-charting single. Which is probably a fortunate failure in hindsight.

This is also the first album that referenced the Cher’s Friends fan-club in the liner notes. More on that below. You can believe that Cher didn’t like this album much because it's lacking in any personal liner notes. There are no thank-yous, no musician credits. Nada.

And this is an album about Los Angeles in many ways. There are lots of references to flying home to LA and recording and movie studios.

My love will only chain you down
The lead song "Prirate" is yet another Cher song about a man who knocks you up and then leaves town. Like similar Cher songs, the scandalous unwed-mother plot-point is revealed in the final verse. It all takes place in Biscayne Bay in Miami, we imagine, before it was so developed and urban.

The pirate is a perfect metaphor for the traveling lover but this is not Snuff Garrett at his best. A lot of these songs sound like demos, although Garrett does capture a genre here with the strings, the squawking birds and the squeezebox-sounding thing. The lyric is a mouthful if you're 8-years old and trying to sing "dark and handsome in his own way." But the song does evoke "the wind and waves and sea."

To act out the song, Krissy and I threw ourselves against our neighbor's hill (he was an Holocaust survivor) after an imaginary shipwreck and we survived on the desert island that was the tree near by backyard fence. We trucked out Krissy's little table and chairs and even our little kitchen dishes to enjoy the finer things on our imaginary island. I would have brought out my aluminum fridge but even we thought that was a bit much.

You have to admit the song is full of swirling, swarthy drama and Cher totally sells it.

The crowd made the magic happen; the band made the music play
This is a perfect lyric for a semicolon and these lines have been an earworm in my head since I started listening to the "He Was Beautiful" remaster. I loved the melody of this song and these were ballads little girls could enjoy. It’s a one-night stand story but like the man referenced in the song, Gregg Allman had long, golden hair. “The pale light of the morning sun./His golden hair had come undone so beautiful./He touched me with his fingertips,/bending close I kiss his lips so beautiful.” Due to various cues in the lyric, I’ve always thought this song was originally written about a woman and Cher turned in inside out.

Krissy and I didn’t enact this song. Well, maybe we did the "spinning around" thing; we were under 10 and very literal.

He was stealing her father’s horses when he saw her standing there
What can I say about "War Paint and Soft Feathers"? We loved this one. It was so easy to perform. An Apache and a Cherokee couple hooking up in another illicit love story. But it's hard to get your historical head around the scenario. When exactly does it take place, pre-Columbus? During manifest destiny? Last week? We don’t know. But in our little St. Louis-imaginations, it was pre-Columbian. And even then Father's didn't approve and haters-gotta-hate.

The girl was also a blue-eyed Cherokee which complicates our theories. And there are lots of unfortunate stereotypes in this song: the chants, the reference to speaking tongues and crossed spears, eagles soaring above, the drumming. A lot had changed from 1973 to 1977...and to now.

But aside from these unfortunate stereotypical tropes, this is a sweet love story, a love across warring tribes that was "meant to be."  The lines themselves are very evocative: "moon-braided bits of silver all through her long black hair" and  "Now the leaves have fallen to the ground over and over again,/from a small oak tree grown taller/where once crossed spears had been./A young man rides his pinto horse and he stands there tall and free..."

A baby is again revealed in the last verse. My friend loved horses and a pinto horse was a very romantic idea in the 1970s; so yes, this song was big in our creative imaginations, although I am 100% sure we did not know that “doin’ what tribal laws forbid” meant sex and that we totally missed the innuendo of “his drums broke the silence of the night.” The song feels like a PC fail today; and by 1977, cashing in on Cher’s Indian-ness was a cynical move, but the lyrics are well written if you can overlook that buffalo in the room.

As sure as the stars shine above you this angel
I’m sure all of these songs got into my head at a very critical juncture in the formulation of my ideas about relationships with boys. And this song, "Love the Devil Out of Ya," was a big difference of opinion between me and Krissy. As memory serves, Krissy loved this song. I was much more ambivalent about it. I guess she saw herself more as a “sure as a stars shine above you this angel" than I did. I felt the song was a bit too much…accommodating. I guess that says something about me. But the song is thankfully short, just two minutes of loving the devil out of you. Which is good because that’s totally not my job! 

Everything she lives and breathes is written on an album sleeve
The Peter Allen classic "She Loves to Hear the Music" is probably my favorite song on the album. I would go on to love many Peter Allen songs but this and Melissa Manchester's "Don’t Cry Out Loud" were my first exposure. Surely I internalized the "Years will not be kind to her" too. This production isn’t much to make over and is in fact confusingly Romani-sounding for an LA recording studio story. But as kids, we loved the song even though there wasn’t much besides secretarial duties for us to perform. We did glamourize the job, as we did teacher, waitress, newscaster, book author and sea-faring explorer.

But all I saw were unfamiliar faces in the rain
All I can say is there’s no Liberace piano flourish whenever I book a plane reservation to Los Angeles.

We also loved "L.A. Plane, but the song strikes me as odd duck today with the horns, maracas and strings, which I guess is all supposed to sound international. She's looking for excitement on boats and trains and unfamiliar faces but, in the end, she's "tired of the pouring rain,/tired of just passing through." She wants a "Southern Californian morning where I was born./ Babe, I’m coming home to you." This is Cher as rock-and-roll man again (see “Long Distance Love Affair” from 1976), almost barely autobiographical in how Cher considers LA as "home" and was apart frequently apart from Gregg Allman due to work. Krissy and I would literally mime taking off like a plane. I kid you not. 

I don’t know quite what to say
"Again" is other ballad. We really liked it although it feels like a big sleeper today. Lots of vowels working here. It sounds Pop Goes the Country with that guitar mashing up with the horns and piano. (They hired a piano player and goddammit they were gonna get their money’s worth!) I think we liked this lighter singing, lovesick Cher. If we enacted anything here it was torch singer, which never failed to please.

Does the Mississippi still run free?
Actually, yes it does. Thanks for asking. "Dixie," not to be confused with 1974's "Dixie Girl," was the southern part of our schtick. "New York’s too big a city for me!...I’m gonna make you feel like a hell of a man." That bit about the Mississippi felt so local. And we even had "the sweet magnolia blossoms" in our own backyard. But even this song feels Hollywood somehow. It's the rough draft of songs like "Midnight Train to Georgia" and “Please Come to Boston.”

Just an interested gentleman caller
Although the music is way too pleasant for the subject matter, we loooved "Send the Man Over." It was so sordid and adult like a bodice-ripping paperback novel. We totally knew what was going on, a man coming up to her room with “script and the cash.” One of us had to be the guy with the script and the other this sad yet hopeful, on-the-skids actress. "I know an actress has to make sacrifices,/but what a price to pay.” Can you believe NBC got a callout from a CBS girl? This is another mixed-race runaway too (like "Half Breed" and the gal from "War Paint Soft Feathers"). And like "We picked up a boy just south of Mobile" in "Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves," here we have "a Georgia drifter came/and we made it to LA."

I loved the part where Cher says with plaintive innocence, “You say there’s nothing today?” It was the first time since the cancelled TV show that I heard Cher’s speaking voice and it sounded so high, such a perfect counterpoint to her singing voice. Cher-as-actress was such a novel idea back then. "Hopefully Cher herself will escape this fate now that she’s trying to become a serious actress." Imagine Robert Altman or Mike Nichols even trying this shit with Cher. What a performance of innocence, this song! "A young actress must give her all,/pay her dues, play her role.”

Those footsteps in the hall of that dingy room above the Hollywood bar! So tense and scary. What will happen next?

I swear I heard the north wind call your name
I can barely ever even remember "Thunderstorm" every time I hear it. The song feels like the typical 1970s glam-country sound that was in vogue at the time. The deep background vocals are pure Olivia Newton John backup singer from "Let Me Be There." We get more thunder and lightning in this song, situating it with I’d Rather Believe In You's "Knock on Wood" and the upcoming Allman and Woman' song "I  Love Makin' Love to You." Okay, we get it. Sex with Gregg Allman is like lightning and thunder. Electric, stormy, lethal. Love as tornado chasing. TMI.

I’d love to know who played on this album. There are lots of good photos from album shoot. (Click to enlarge.)

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And that’s not all. This was the first Cher solo album tempting us all into the official fan club, Cher's Friends. I found the album at our local Styx, Bear & Fuller department store in 1978 and I already felt way behind the curve on joining up. But I immediately wrote out a letter for my mom to post and received this missive back (note the postmark):

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I cut out the application form (as you can see) and sent in my five bucks (or at least believed my mother mailed the cash). But nothing ever arrived back. I kept the order form as a reminder to keep waiting. 

So when I joined eBay in 1998ish and an elderly gentleman posted the fan club packet for sale, I won the auction for 35 bucks. And then again, nothing came. (And back then eBay didn’t reimburse you; it was all buyer beware.) Lots of us got “scammed” by this fellow but then someone sent around an email to all his buyers (you could do that back then) saying he had passed away and his widow wasn’t willing or able to finish doing his eBay business. Sigh. I chalked it up to a donation to funeral expenses. Then I waited another year or two and another fan club packet popped up and I did receive this one with the following items.

A cool folder, a welcome letter, a poster.

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A biography booklet, some pictures, a quiz and two very conspicuous textbook-covers.

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The bio had a very short discography on the back. There was also a reprint of the 1975 Time Magazine article with a special note from the publisher on the back.

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Other fans had received these additional items which were not in my initiation folder (stationary and a club card).

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And without the card, I feel so unofficial right now.


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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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


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. 

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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. 


Updated: Cher and the George Floyd Tweet

PhoneUpdate:

What are the odds that the day I posted this summary of the Floyd tweet,  Cher would get embroiled in another Twitter-snafu (another Twitterfu)?? All you have to do now is google "Cher apologizes" and there you get:

Cher apologizes for confusing Sinema, Gillibrand (The Hill)

Same (CNN)

You kind of think maybe Cher should run all tweets by someone and then you think, nah, this is better. Uncensored Cher is a better thing.


So it’s time to blog about this year’s Cher twitter controversy (or this season’s maybe). I've been putting this off until I could get my thoughts written out. And I was worried I wouldn’t get it right. But this fear of saying the wrong thing can't shut the conversation down so here we go...

As a reminder, here are some of the stories about the tweet that broke Twitter:

Cher divides Twitter wondering if she could’ve prevented George Floyd’s death: ‘Maybe if I’d been there... I could’ve helped’ 

Cher apologizes for 'not appropriate' George Floyd tweet 

And this rough read for a Cher fan: Cher’s George Floyd tweet of white fantasy is part of a dangerous pathology 

During the murder trail of police officer Derek Chauvin, lots of people around the world were expressing horror at the details of George Floyd's gruesome death. Cher herself said this: "Maybe If I'd Been There,...I Could've Helped." Some tweeters (both white and people of color) defended Cher and others expressed disgust and annoyance. Some examples on both sides:

“Oh yay another White person centering themselves around blk ppls pain. I wish I was there to stop you from tweeting this.” (@Iconiecon)

“If I Could Turn Back Time, I would stop Cher from tweeting this.” ( @geeta_minocha)

“I mean — maybe she could’ve helped. We’ll never know. Lots of us wish we could’ve done something to change the outcome. Lots of things to be mad about but this tweet ain’t it.” (@flywithkamala)

“She could have worded it differently but I think her intentions were true. She wishes she could have helped. She’s an ally. People need to let this one go.” (@CDonatac)

As part of the turmoil going on last year, the company I consult for provided us with free LinkedIn inclusivity training. One of the people who really impressed me was corporate trainer Mary-Frances Winters and so I bought her book Inclusive Conversations, which I’m still in the middle of reading. Anyway, she talks about being an ally for your co-workers who feel marginalized and she says being an advocate as a white person means more than silently supporting them, but actually speaking out on their behalf, among other things. And for this to happen, we all have to create a safe space and have patience when people make mistakes while speaking out. If not, advocates won’t speak out and our friends will feel completely or inadequately supported. Allies can't be too afraid to say something wrong.

I feel Cher has always been an objectively strong ally, albeit an imperfect one. She has always braved the trolls on Twitter and spoke out for communities in distress. She makes mistakes yeah. Unfortunately on Twitter, groups on the extreme right and left have a zero-tolerance outlook that makes allyship particularly harrowing. It’s to Cher’s credit that she hasn’t stopped for long. She just apologizes and perseveres.

That’s not to say white savior syndrome isn’t a real thing. Just watch some well-meaning white suburbanites descend on an inner-city school with a list of sure fixes, with no comprehension of the experience of poverty or diverging cultural factors. White saviorism is a thing. It needs to be checked. But there are worse things. Much worse things.

This is also not to say celebrity narcissism isn’t a real thing. Cher has admitted her own narcissistic tendencies and I for one believe she does better in this area than many other celebrities of her stature and iconic, practically mythmaking, category. She was just cast as God in a Pink video. For the love of...

And some of that was probably all in that tweet. But it’s not all white savior celebrity narcissism. They way we can tell is to replace George Floyd in the tweet with an Armenian or a white woman who was murdered. Although this isn't as likely and this scenario is not part of the national crisis, it does happen and we can explore the whole tweetstorm again in this light. 

There is this very human element in play, one not based on race, gender or orientation, a human ideal we’ve all had in the fantasy crisis of our own mythmaking minds, this absolutely firm belief, especially strong when we were young adults, that we will be the kind of person to help a person on the street, a person who would stop for an accident on the road, someone who would rescue all the lost dogs in the neighborhood.

But then decades roll by and you see all the accidents, street dramas and wandering dogs you didn’t help. There are reasons: you once heard a story about that guy who got shot helping a stranded motorist, maybe the dog isn’t lost by a free-roamer, and are you going to get yourself killed doing this Good Samaritan thing? The mind scrambles with doubt when the situations actually present themselves. The hard, cold fact of life is that enough of us don’t stop. We all feel this commitment to stopping but stopping isn’t easy. We need to learn to do this. Bravery needs to be modeled and learned, the same sad way we’re now learning to throw our cell phones at madmen in Active Shooter training.

So I greatly sympathize with Cher’s impulse in the tweet, which ultimately all feels sadly human and heartbreaking.

It goes all the way back to our response to tragic fairy tales like Hans Christian Anderson’s “Little Match Girl.” Surely this girl would not have frozen to death under our feet. I used the Anderson story to process this whole situation in a poem for NaPoWriMo 2021: marymccray.com/napowrimo-2021-by-mary-mccray.html#april7

  


Cher, Elizabeth Taylor and Helen Hardin

IMG_20210315_193844 Notice the caption in the image to the left ("anticipates Cher") from an Elizabeth Taylor biography. 

I'm doing a poetry/story HTML project right now for a class on Digital Literature and I needed to beef up on the subject of Elizabeth Taylor for it. I was never a huge fan because (a) this was my mother's era and (b) Taylor was on somewhat of downward slide when I first learned about her in the late 1970s. But I've gained a lot of respect for both Taylor and Richard Burton since reading more about them.

CleolikeSo it's come as a bit of surprise to see some natural parallels between Cher and Elizabeth Taylor, especially considering Cher doesn't call out Taylor as a major inspiration like she does Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn, aside from the obvious references to the movie Cleopatra: Cher's eyeliner methods and Sonny & Cher first calling themselves Caesar and Cleo.

But there are a few other connections I:

  1. Elizabeth Taylor loved to make big entrances in shows and in life. Many times in books, people mention her "big entrances." This might go back to the biggest entrance of all in Cleopatra.

  2. She pushed some fashion envelopes. See above. The big headdress screamed Cher when I saw it in one book. The second book I picked up even calls it out. 2.b Costume Changes: apparently Taylor broke a record for most costume changes in a movie with Cleopatra, a record eventually broken by Julie Andrews.

  3. Elizabeth Taylor embraced the good and the bad about being famous and was able to cope with it. Cher often expresses the same kind of ambivalence but not bitterness about having to deal with mobs and the wheels of show biz.

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I didn't find a lot of Cher-Taylor mashups online but Cher did appear at Taylor's televised 68th birthday bash.  See the photo below of Taylor and Michael Jackson clapping to Cher's comments.

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And here's a link to a 60s-era photo of Sonny, Cher and Taylor

Interestingly, the tabloids were also trying to get rumors going about an affair between Cher and Richard Burton, which seems funny in retrospect.

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1714750Also, I finally came across this picture of artist Helen Hardin on the cover of New Mexico Magazine with her late 60s wings. This photo always reminds me of Cher's wings in 1968:

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And in 1969:

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Moonstruck for Christmas

MoonstruckOy vey. Good grief. All the things.

I feel like I've been living in a funhouse for the last month and a half. Some of the scenes have been a complete nightmare (like the Trumpers post election still denying covid, the day when we thought we were losing my mother for good) and other things amazingly good, (like being home with my parents for Christmas today). But by the end of it, I'm not sure I'm the same person anymore.

My elderly parents both came down with Covid-19 in mid-November and have been in the hospital literally on death's door (more so for my mother with her breathing ailments).  Thankfully, miraculously they both made it back home in Ohio and are slowly on the mend. I'm now in the Cleveland area helping them out. 

So I've missed pretty much all the Cher stuff. Which has been quite a few things I will need to catch up on in the coming months: the Cher tour cancelled, Cher on The Late Late Show, the "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" video, all the Kaavan stuff,  the bobble-head movie, all the press interviews, the scam gargoyle I got on eBay in a moment of weakness, a piece that was purportedly a Sanctuary item but is nowhere in the catalogs and is assuredly nothing Cher would have in there. All the things.

But I didn't want to let Christmas go by without a Moonstruck post. It's been such a success this year.

Continue reading "Moonstruck for Christmas" »