Cherish those wigs, sequins and Barbie dolls – only 40 days remain until Cher performs for the very last time on tour.
The very, very, very last time.
There are cynics who will say this is just a publicity stunt and that, after a farewell tour that has lasted three years and more than 300 performances (including two in Spokane), Cher is probably only taking a sabbatical.
But among the millions who idolize, fetishize, rhapsodize and otherwise believe in Cher’s supreme sequined wonderfulness, it’s not worth taking the chance.
They’re buying the tickets. They’re lemming it to Hollywood and East Rutherford, N.J., and points in between. If the end is near, they need to bear witness.
But can a 58-year-old icon who has spent her whole life before fans really say goodbye?
We have consulted an expert: Cher Scholar, author of the marginally well-known but completely authentic online Cher-centric advice column www.cherscholar.com.
Cher Scholar, aka Mary Ladd, tells us that the high priestess of kitsch is really saying ta-ta. And that it’s high time she did.
“I’m ready for the concert tour to end,” says Ladd. “And I would think she’d be bored with it too, doing the same set over and over.”
Ladd, a 35-year-old writer in Los Angeles, has been a Cher fan since 1977, when she was 7. She went to Sarah Lawrence College in New York and majored in English, and, given the intellectual standards on the campus, she had to hide her love of all things Cher.
How to explain the attraction to the woman who started her career at 16 as Sonny Bono’s hippie wife and ended up descending via chandelier onto a stage with enough wattage to electrify several Third World countries?
From “Bang-Bang (My Baby Shot Me Dead)” to “Believe,” Cher – born Cherilyn Sarkisian – has been unrivaled in the art of personal reinvention.
Go-go dancer, hippie, outcast, sitcom star, serious Academy-Award-winning actress and ultra Vegas glam queen with plumage, she shed stylistic skins like a python and inhabited new ones that invariably fit tightly.
“Many of her fans feel they are misfits,” said Ladd. “Cher made good even though she didn’t look like the typical buxom blonde. People admire her ability to survive the hard knocks of business and the critics, who have always been harsh.”
Ladd admits that the final, three-year swing has tested the loyalty of the faithful. Along the way, there have been a few false stops.
At first, a year or two ago, Ladd says, Toronto was supposed to be the last show. Then it was no, make that Las Vegas. Then no, no, this is so much fun, one more time in Las Vegas. Then well, since you insist, why not? New Zealand.
But now, she swears, she’s hanging up her bustier on April 30 at the Hollywood Bowl.
She chose it as her last stop because it was there, 40 years ago, that she first performed with Sonny.
“I will be sorry to see her go,” said Jami Whelan of Norristown, Pa., who went to four of the farewell shows – one in Philadelphia, one in Atlantic City and both in Vegas. “She looks great and sounds much better now than ever,” Whelan said.
It took Stephanie Floyd, a 34-year-old dental equipment supplier from Horsham, Pa., a whole year to save up $750 for a ticket to Cher’s April 13 concert in East Rutherford, N.J.
It will be her fourth time seeing Cher on the Farewell Tour. “But she’s changed some of her costumes and will be performing some different songs,” Floyd reasons.
“That’s the most I’ve ever paid and the closest I’ve ever been to the stage,” she adds. “Tenth row. On some Web sites, second-row tickets are going for $1,200 each.”
Floyd’s voluminous Cher collection includes 52 LP albums, cassettes, CDs, 21 signed photos that she bought on e-Bay, two Cher dolls, some concert shirts, all of her movies on DVD and VHS and some miscellaneous “stuff.”
Others are equally enraptured and even have impersonated Cher.
“I have seen the Farewell Tour six times,” Jeffrey Clagett wrote in an e-mail, which contained a photograph of him in Cher drag at an AIDS benefit.
Clagett, 38, a full-time student from Baltimore, owns Cher’s complete oeuvre and a Smithsonian-worthy collection of Cher dolls. He was drawn to Cher because he had an extremely difficult childhood and admired her irreverence.
“She has guts, talent and brains,” he wrote. “She would have never had the staying power that she has if she had listened to the critics consistently trash her.”
But as dedicated a fan as he is (he has two Cher-related tattoos), Clagett draws the line at bankruptcy.
“In some Yahoo Cher groups,” he wrote, “peeps are talking about taking out second mortgages on their homes to see the final show.”
“Cher Scholar” Ladd, who has seen five of the shows in the final tour, plans to get a ticket to the Hollywood Bowl appearance, too.
“I will go to it because it’s the last show,” she said. “If it is the last show.”
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