Herald Sun 2000

 

Cher

By Nui Te Koha, The Herald Sun

Cher may be a survivor, but she still bristles at the suggestion. “I think it’s meant in a positive way,” the 53-year-old star smiles, “but sometimes I wonder if it’s just a term that applies to me. I look at someone like Tina Turner and I doubt anyone has called her a survivor, but maybe it’s because the life expectancy in our business is so small. Survivor is fine to me,” Cher finally decides. “I don’t mind it, but it seems like a strange way to describe your life. It usually has a deeper meaning. Somebody who walks away from a plane crash is a survivor. What I do is the life I live from dad to day. I haven’t come through a disaster.”

In a business where career casualties are expected almost after takeoff, Cher, born Cherilyn Sarkisian, has come through four decades as an enduring pop-culture icon in and movies. My role model was Aundrey Hepburn because she had style and substance,” Cher says, “And she wasn’t a blonde. When I was growing up, the good girls or the stars were like Sandra Dee: all blonde. I worked with (photographer) Richard Avedon when I was really young and he told me: “No matter how many pages you get inside vogue, you can never have anybody with ethnic looks on the cover. Then I was on the cover – and it was successful. But it was true: where I came from, if you had brown hair and dark features, forget it. You had to have blue eyes, blonde hair and girl-next-door looks to get anywhere. Being ethnic looking or doing things differently, wasn’t to anyone’s great advantage.”

Significantly, this year, her 35th year of doing things differently, Cher relishing her reinvention as dance-music diva, is enjoying world domination through a bouncy pop masterpiece called Believe. The song has kept her on stadium stages between the US and Europe since it’s release in October 1998. It was the highest-selling song in the UK for 1998 and the US for 1999. “To stay in the game,” she says, “I think mostly takes an affinity with people, because you can be really talented- more talented than me, or even less talented- but people have got to like you. And even if they dislike you, or forget you, you’ve got to be able to come back and be thankful or be happy or take some sort of vested interest that you are back. It really is up to the people. I don’t think the definition of talent has changed. The fact is some have really deep talent, and others have superficial talent: it goes from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Laurence Olivier. One is very light on talent, the other is very heavy, but they are two actors picked by the people as popular. That’s why I say it takes that connection with people. It is really up to them whether you stay.”

A recently release greatest hits collection- roping in songs from 1965 (her first hit, I Got You Babe, with husband Sonny Bono) to her current dance sound- is best evidence of Cher’s staying power. “It’s strange because the styles of have changed a lot, my voice has changed a lot, and it makes me remember the times these songs were recorded,” she says. “When this is what you do from day to day, it’s hard to look at your career as a whole. But when I’m handed the track listing for a greatest-hits album, that’s when you look at it and think: “Wow! So this is what I’ve done with my life.” The Sonny and Cher sessions, she says were “pretty raw”. “It was more a ‘sound’ because Sonny had this idea where I should sing the melody underneath him and he should sing the harmony because his vocal range was limited.” She has no revelations about her 1960’s recording sessions with wildcard producer Phil Spector. Those sessions included her first recording experience- singing backing vocals on the ‘The Ronettes’ Be My Baby. “He was crazy back then, but he wasn’t out to get the legend he later acquired. He was nuts but I had a strange relationship with Phil, because I didn’t put up with his s..t, so he was kind of, not frightened, but he didn’t give me any problems. He f….d with everyone else, except me,” Cher laughs.

She considers Believe a real triumph because for her, the song defines perseverance. “The original lyrics were not that astounding The song was only great in the chorus. Even after we got the words right and we recorded it, it still sounded s..t to me.” That changed after a ‘vocoder’ effect was thrown over Cher’s vocal in the song’s verses, “It made the song sound so alive, then, when the chorus kicks in, it’s brilliant hook .” Is she sick or the song yet? “Every time I think I’m sick of it, I never am. There’s something about it that reminds me of I Got You Babe in some strange way. I’ve done that song for such a long time and it was one song I never got tired of singing.

The accomplished actor in Cher wants to resurface again next year. “Though I’ve never thought of myself as a singer that acts, I guess I’m lucky in that people accept me for doing both. “Acting gives me a certain responsibility to bring across a character and strive for honesty and something meaningful.” And, on a personal level, she has a strong relationship with daughter Chastity, who paints Cher in an unflattering light in recently released autobiography. Cher, Chastity writes, was confused and angry when her daughter revealed she was a lesbian. “I think Chastity has a great story to tell, but when I first read it, I said: “Chas, I feel like I’m the villain in this book.” And she said, “Thats not true. Look at how great the outcome was…” “The book is going to be great for people who don’t know how to react to feelings that may be gay and, if they are, how to tell their parents. I learned a lot from the experience.”

Cher who has dated a string of high-profile men such as Richie Sambora, Val Kilmer, Gene Simmons and model Rob Camaletti, says she has no special male in her life. “At the moment” she says, “I don’t have a life. I’ve been public about the men in my life because what have I got to lose? I don’t live my life so much for what other people think of me, or I would have lived my life a whole lot differently.”

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