This could be called “My Life in Cher Years,” but we’ll stick with the format and go with “The Beat Goes On.” I highly encourage you to click on the link and skip through the advertisement to the vintage Sonny and Cher performance. Cher’s youthful, earnest voice of the early years is naively charming, as opposed to the belting diva style that came just a few years later.
But no matter the voice she’s been an influence from the beginning. As little Laura Cartwright, I pored over her photos and beauty tips in 16 magazine (she was the brunette counter-balance to Pattie Boyd’s blonde beauty). I loved Sonny and Cher’s hippie look, as well as their music.
The only way to escape Mother’s chopping off of my bangs, which I hated and which destroyed any possibility of a mod look, was to grow them out, which I did in the fifth grade. But that was just the first step of my youthful fashion rebellion. Sometime after school photos in the sixth grade, I got my hair cut into a swing cut (shorter in the back, longer in the front) with very long “bridge” bangs.
(I always thought that term referred to the shape, curving down around the face like a bridge arch, but today I read that it referred to bangs that come to the bridge of the nose. Hmmm ….)
Mother gave up the battle, though she often mentioned that she didn’t see how I could see through those bangs and that I looked just like Cher.
Bingo – that’s what I was going for, though for an 11-year-old it was quite a stretch.
Mother liked Sonny and Cher, too, though, enough to make wigs from dyed mop heads for her and Daddy as part of their Sonny and Cher costumes for a party they held. Photos are somewhere; if I find them, I’ll share. I know Daddy wore wild pants or a wild shirt (or both), which was not him at all. (Wild pants were very Mother, who was always a fashion plate.)
We all loved their TV show, and when Sonny and Cher came to Little Rock to do R-rated standup comedy, as well as songs (which were secondary by then), my boyfriend Jimmy and I were there on the third or fourth row of the right wing. His dad got VIP tickets to major shows, and at Barton Coliseum in those days, some shows had three-sided surround stage. We were super close.
I’m reasonably sure it was the summer of 1972, though it could have been early 1973.
David Brenner, who recently died way too young, opened for them. They were all hysterically funny and naughty – and Cher was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. TV and photos had not done her justice. She wore fabulous wigs and Bob Mackie dresses, but for the final costume change, she let her real hair down. Shimmering and divine it was, even with the fold line from being ponytailed to fit under the wigs – her hair deserved its own award, in my book.
Fast-forward 20 years. Cher’s an Academy Award-winning actress, for Moonstruck, a diva and an all-around hot commodity. I had used the Lori Davis TV-mail-order hair products Cher hawked for a while. (I’d seen her hair live, remember?) That’s rather a faded memory that just this sec came back to me. Crazy. The hairspray, which I never used anyway, was always defective (the pump clogged), and you had to get the whole set. I gave up after a maybe a year??
Can’t believe I’d forgotten about that.
In 1992, Cher released CherFitness: A New Attitude. Cher was not the instructor, she was a wise-cracking student (and hostess) in a step aerobics class taught by Australian fitness guru Kelli Roberts. Long a home workout maven (I had the original Jane Fonda workout on LP), I bought it immediately.
And fell in love with Cher all over again. She was so funny and humble and gorgeous and inspiring. I’d give anything to have that workout on DVD (not available) for the 10-minute ab/core portion alone. I was still doing it regularly in 2002 when John, and I met and it was my go-to ab workout as long as I had a VCR.
But I hadn’t gone to see Cher live again until now – I’ve always been a fan of Cher, not her singing, and concerts have always been about the music for me. This time, though, Julia and I decided to go. How could we not? This could be Cher’s last concert. And Cher, the wise-cracker, the gifted actress, the chameleon, the comeback kid, the activist – one of my childhood idols – Cher was someone I wanted to see again.
So how could we forget to buy tickets? Suddenly it was March and we were slapping our foreheads. I told Julia I’d start watching for some good deals, but they just weren’t coming.
I logged into Ticketmaster and looked at seats a few days out. The best available were almost the same seats we had for the Avett Brothers, which were pretty damn good, on the side, not too high – but something told me to wait.
A couple of days later, a week out, I logged in again, looked at “Best Available,” and fourth row, seats 20 and 21, popped up – dead center. As in X marks the spot on the stage in front of seat 20.
Oh, my gosh, did forgetfulness pay off. You can read the reviews – I’ll just say it was a cross between Broadway, Vegas and Cirque du Soleil. Mind-boggling. And Cher was just a few feet away. Julia and I were blown away by the audaciousness.
And graciousness. Cher has a kind spirit. You can feel it radiating from the stage.