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A cabinet nearby displays impressive career hardware: a Grammy, Emmy, Oscar, Golden Globes. With these laurels, this luxury and an estimated worth of $600 million, it’s understandable that fans and showbiz pundits assume Cher slipped into retirement after her exhaustive and exhausting Farewell Tour ended three years ago.
As she has demonstrated for four decades, Cher is not the retiring type. Starting May 6, she’ll be center stage in The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, strutting sass and sequins in an audiovisual extravaganza. She’s leaving her seaside paradise and heading to Las Vegas with a high-tech, high-stepping, high-stakes gambol, daring detractors once again to declare her obsolete.
“On every list, I was always on my way out,” she says. It’s one reason the singer/actress/entertainer is particularly proud of her status as a gay icon.
“Gay men understand that I understand what it’s like to be an outsider,” says Cher, who’ll pop up Sunday as a presenter on the Grammy Awards. “To singers, I wasn’t a singer. To actors, I wasn’t an actor. I know what it’s like to fight for your place. Besides, gay men are very choosy, and they have great taste.”
She’s scoring fashionista points today for her flashy ensemble: sparkly tie, black vest and pants, fingerless gloves, lace stockings and leopard-print stilettos. At 61, Cher is not dressing, or acting, her age.
“How did this happen?” she says of her march into the Social Security zone. “I used to be the youngest one around. I remember talking to my grandmother when she was in her 80s, and I said, ‘How does it feel?’ She said, ‘I only notice it when I go to the mirror.’ She was up for anything. So am I. I’d better do what I can do while I can do it.”
Cher is especially determined to pull off a dazzling show after recovering last year from another debilitating bout of Epstein-Barr virus.
“I was sick a long time,” she says. “I went to Germany for some medicine and treatment. They have things overseas we never dreamed existed. When I was first diagnosed in the late ’80s, I had doctors telling me I was crazy. I was sick constantly and almost died from pneumonia. You never lose it, and it really takes the life out of you.”
Before she fell ill, Cher spent her post-Farewell days vacationing with friends, going to movies, watching TV (C-SPAN, History Channel, classic films), hanging out with daughter Chastity and son Elijah Blue and raising awareness and money for Operation Helmet. She also had a tattoo removed.
“It wasn’t a good one,” she says. “I might take some more off. When I got tattooed, only bad girls did it: me and Janis Joplin and biker chicks. Now it doesn’t mean anything. No one’s surprised. I got a tattoo right after I left Sonny (Bono) and I was feeling real independent. That was my badge.”
She also cleaned house, emptying her mansion for a Sotheby’s/ Julien’s auction that was expected to fetch about $1.5 million. The 780 lots, including art, jewelry, Bob Mackie costumes and a Gothic brass bed, brought in $3.5 million.
“I think about some of those things from time to time, but I don’t miss them in the way you miss a friend,” she says. “I have a soft spot for certain things and wonder where they are. But I didn’t let go of anything that really meant something. And I think it’s nice that people are taking special care of particular things they wanted. I found things or they found me, I had them for years, and now they’re on another journey.”
Cher’s journey has taken her farther from designer boutiques and deeper into activism. She and close pal Lou Dobbs often discuss politics. She has worked for Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and John Kerry. Though she’s committed to Hillary Clinton, Cher isn’t beholden to Democrats.
“I’m supporting her because I know her and I like her and she’s smart and a tough girl,” Cher says. “But I don’t have much respect for either party. I just think Republicans are worse.”
To gear up for Vegas, Cher is training on her beloved Power Plate fitness machine and plans to reintroduce yoga to her regimen. Once the show is rolling, she’s keen to record an album and perhaps direct a script she has eyed for years. She’s not dating but hasn’t ruled out a third stroll to the altar.
“I’m not looking for it, but I was never looking for it,” she says, noting that her taste in men hasn’t changed. “I like someone who’s really funny, kind, intelligent; the other things are less meaningful.”
She doesn’t consider herself unapproachable.
“I find that men are intimidated by who they think I am,” she says. “One night, Michelle Pfeiffer and I wanted to go out dancing, so we went to a club, sat down, and no one asked us to dance. I thought, this is crazy. Two of my gay friends came in and we danced with them for an hour. You have this baggage that comes with your image.”
Famous since 19, Cher only recently found alarming side effects of celebrity.
“The paparazzi have moved into my town,” she says. “I used to be able to run around in my sweats. Now I’m a prisoner. I think ‘scum’ is a perfect word for these people. They’re meaner now. Before, they would be happy to get a picture. Now they want something salacious or to make you look bad.
“Everything’s more mean-spirited now. My sister was telling me about a show that hooks people up to lie detectors (Fox’s The Moment of Truth). I don’t like reality shows. I saw American Idol one time and said, ‘Well, I never need to see this again.’ I thought it was boring. I wasn’t entertained.”
Cher’s confident she’ll reclaim an entertainment niche in a culture awash in trash TV and tabloids. But her shrine of shiny awards hasn’t entirely erased her misfit issues.
“In my business, you’re only as good as what you do today,” she says. “But I think people like me. People feel friendly toward me, maybe because I’ve been around most of their lives. And their parents’ lives.”
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