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#BornThisDay: Ultimate Icon, Cher

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2017 Billboard Music Awards, screen-shot from “Entertainment Tonight” via YouTube

 

May 20, 1946– Cherilyn Sarkisian Bono Allman:

“Until you’re ready to look foolish, you’ll never have the possibility of being great.”

Cher and I have something in common, and I don’t mean sleeping with David Geffen or turning back time. We have both been on our Living Proof: The Farewell Tour for the past three years. Cher’s tour is the most successful tour by a female solo artist of all time. I felt lucky to book a gig in my own backyard.

She is in her 70s, already enormously successful, so does Cher kick back at her place in Malibu and take a hit off her vape pen? No, Cher goes out on tour, plus there is the Chicago pre-Broadway tryout of The Cher Show, a new musical about her life.

The Cher Show uses three actors to play Cher at various points in her career, exactly the same device currently used in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical on Broadway. With Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, perhaps each Broadway season can introduce another one of these shows. How about You Light Up My Life: The Debbie Boone Musical, autumn 2019?

Yet, The Cher Show shows promise. It has a book by Rick Elice who did Jersey Boys, it has Stephanie J. Block playing Cher in her prime, and it has the legendarily extravagant, 78-year-old costume designer Bob Mackie designing a costume for the character Bob Mackie. How meta!

Not enough Cher for you?  She is also part the cast of the film Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, her first film role since 2010. The sequel to the 2008 film Mamma Mia!, it brings back Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, and Dominic Cooper from the original film.

Cher plays the grandmother of Seyfried’s character, and the mother of Streep, plus she sings the ABBA hits Super Trouper and Fernando. I did not care for Mamma Mia when I saw it on the first day in the theatres a decade ago, but, I must say, I will be back to see this one.

In March, Cher headlined the 40th Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Tickets sold out within three hours after Cher hinted her performance on her Twitter account. Cher announced her Australia-only Here We Go Again Tour, for this fall (spring Down Under). Cher:

“My visit to Sydney’s Mardi Gras reminded me how unique and beautiful Australia is. It’s been 13 years since I toured there so I thought ‘let’s do it one more time’.”

Cher dropped out of high school at 16-years-old and moved to L.A. She had her initial taste of Hollywood stardust when she was involved in a minor car accident with Warren Beatty on her first day in town. He then seduced her. Cher remembers the encounter as “a disappointment”.

With Sonny Bono 1966 via YouTube

 

Cher has won an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, and three Golden Globe Awards for her work in film, music and television. She is the only female solo artist to reach the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in each of the previous five decades.

I think she showed serious acting chops as early as the funny sketches on the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour (1971-74). Cher was absolutely terrific as a lesbian in Mike Nichol‘s Silkwood (1983) opposite her friend Meryl Streep. She received her first Academy Award nomination for that one. She has made 18 films, often playing off her public image as a rebellious, sexually free, and self-made woman. Most of her films are excellent. Moonstruck (1987) is on my list of Top 10 Films Of All Time.

Cher’s career had some ups and downs, to say the least, but all the downs were always followed by another hit record or another first-rate acting achievement like Robert Altman’Come Back To The 5 And Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982).

The longevity of her musical career has brought Cher some really amazing stats: she is the oldest female performer to chart a Number One hit, with Believe in 1999 when she was 53-years-old. It was the first commercial recording to feature Auto-Tune, the audio processor originally intended to disguise and correct off-key mistakes in vocal music recordings, as a deliberate creative effect. Her first hit record was I Got You Babe in 1965, and she had a hit with Song For The Lonely in 2002, that’s a span of 37 years! Cher also holds the record for the longest gap between Number One songs, from Dark Lady in 1974 to Believe in 1999. With a recording career lasting more than 50 years, Cher has sold over 300 million records.

2008, screen-shot via YouTube

 

Cher returned to Las Vegas in 2008 where she performed her show Cher at the Coliseum at Caesar’s Palace for five years. Cher and Las Vegas are a perfect match. She played the MGM Park in Las Vegas last night!

“In showbiz it takes time to be really good and by that time, you’re obsolete.”

Few in the history of showbiz have had a career with the range of Cher’s. She has been a teenage pop star, a successful television star, a rock star, a pop singer, a respected Broadway actor, an Academy Award-winning film star, a disco sensation, and the subject of just a little bit of press coverage.

Cher has been a Fashion Icon since the 1960s when she popularized the bohemian hippie look. In 1967, she began working as a model for photographer Richard Avedon after Vogue Magazine editor Diana Vreeland discovered her at a party for Jacqueline Kennedy. Avedon took the famous photo of Cher in a beaded and feathered nude gown for the cover of Time Magazine in 1975.

With her 1970s era television shows, she became an ultimate sex symbol wearing inventive Bob Mackie gowns. Cher was one of the first women to expose her belly-button on television (the American Code of Practices for Television Broadcasters prompted network censors to ban navel exposure on television in 1951). Mackie has stated:

“There hasn’t been a girl like Cher since Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo. She’s a high-fashion star who appeals to people of all ages.”

Cher is the mother of a trans-person and she is an active member of PFLAG (Parents, Families And Friends Of Lesbians And Gays). She has even admitted to having had affairs with women in the 1970s (but who of us has not?).

Never one to hold back her opinions, Cher has a very active Twitter account. If you don’t love her like I do, Cher’s Tweets might come off as the unhinged ramblings of a celebrity desperately in need of the help of a publicist or personal assistant. If you are not familiar with her Twitter account, Cher, who is dyslexic, produces Tweets that seem barely decipherable. She pays no attention to grammar, punctuation or sentence structure. She is indiscriminate with her capitalization. She loves the emojis. Her favorites include the birthday cake, prayer hands and the American flag, often not even relating to the subject matter. They are the type of messages that you would typically associate with a celebrity who is on verge of a breakdown.

But if you read her feed every day, the Tweets have a logical message despite the chaos. Cher seems healthy and happy these days. She affectionately refers to her followers as “my little chickadees”, using a baby chicken emoji with “adees” tacked on. She has really taken on POTUS. Last year, she donated thousands if cases of water to Flint, Michigan where the city’s water supply contunues contaminated with lead, and she encouraged other celebrities to do the same. Here is one of her tweets:

“Creating an IMAGE, GIVING a

PERFORMANCE, ACTING a PART, PORTRAYING a

CHarCTER, HIDING tru self , EaRNS U OSCAR, noT

PRESIDENCY #OSCARGOES2TRUMP”

I follow her on Twitter and The Facebook and Cher never lets me down. Online authenticity is a carefully curated myth. Cher brings a kind of emotional nakedness and honesty that is rarely celebrated on the social media. Just yesterday, while I was composing this #BornThisDay, Cher tweeted this accompanied by a dozen money bag emoji:

“Of Course trump Was Dealing With Russia‼He Was Pumping Up HIS SAGGING BRAND, Calling Racists,Putting Poc & Their Children In Separate Internment Camps,Helping Jared & jail🐦 Dad Strong Arm Qatar Into💰💰💰For 666 Buldg. HE DIDNT WANT 2BE PRES,HE WANTED ‘TRUMP TOWERS MOSCOW!’ “

“Walking In Memphis” 2006 video, via YouTube

 

It is my understanding that Gay People love Cher and Cher loves them right back:

“I love Gay men especially. They either love you or they don’ even notice that you’re on the planet. I think what they like is a strong woman that’s having a breakdown constantly, and that certainly is me. Judy Garland’s got nothing on me.”

Cher claims that her love of gay men is from her early experiences of meeting them:

” I was nine years old and my mother had these two friends who came over. They were hairdressers, of course, who came cha cha’ing into our front door, and in the beginning I thought gay was code for fun, and I said to my mom, why are these guys so much more fun than the rest of your friends?”


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