"Lookit! Lookit! Who am I?"
My little brother and I (ages five and six, respectively) are jumping around naked and wet from our bath (together, and most likely photographed for future humiliation). The sopping towels are bigger than we are. Wrapped around our heads, hanging down our backs past our butts, they are lime green terry cloth signifiers. We flip our heads around and pretend to brush it all back past our ears. Like Cher. We love her.
We love her because she insults her ugly hamster-faced husband on TV and everyone laughs. We love her because she is the Half-Breed and everyone should feel sorry for her. It doesn't matter that neither my brother nor I know what a half-breed is. We know she's in pain with that huge headdress on and we can feel it. (1)
I groove to the magic of Cher. Some would suggest that this is because I'm a big fag. But I say Cher is good for everyone, like a big chewable vitamin of glamour and fun, fun, fun! And even if you resist, you can't escape her. Cher adapts to hostile surroundings, and thrives. Witness how no artistic stone has been left unturned in the Cher path to superstardom: She was the last word in TV variety shows. (2) She had that guy from KISS with the gymnastic tongue. She was a no-apologies lesbo in that Meryl Streep movie. She did an infomercial when she didn't even need the money. She was the most outspoken celebrity advocate of Roller Disco. She made a work-out video and commercials for Equal. She got an elaborate tattoo on her ass and then showed it to a bunch of gay marines on MTV. She had tons of plastic surgery to change her cool big nose and to eliminate a couple of pesky ribs, and she didn't care if you didn't like it. You can kiss her tattoo, because she's Cher. (3)
And now she's even a P-FLAG mom. (4) My very own mother met her at last year's national P-FLAG conference and said, "My husband is a big fan of yours." And Cher asked, "And you're not?" My mom stammered, "Um...well, I don't listen to that much music, and Cher yells, 'HA! Me neither!'" But this is a lie. Cher is the chick Elvis. Like the dead king before her, she musically morphed and kept on movin'. You don't accidentally shift gears from bubblegum (I Got You Babe) to radical/ethno/message bubblegum (Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, Half-Breed and Dark Lady) to disco bubblegum (Take Me Home) to Bon Jovi Hair bubblegum (We All Sleep Alone) to Beavis and Butthead bubblegum (I Got You Babe: the 3-way version) to Junior Vasquez Tribal House bubblegum (One by One) without having at least one ear glued to Top 40 radio. The Cher explanation for her success? "Because I'm cool." (5)
And just like my little brother and me, you can be her if you want. You can order Vampira home accessories from her catalog. You can be a drag queen and put curly horns on your head and lip-synch I Found Someone. Or you can lift your voice and belt it out along with The Chick Elvis, her husky hubba-hubba voice so ripe for impersonation. Why not try it right now? You can be cool, as Cher is cool. C'mon. You know you want to.
(1) My friend J.F. recounts a similar, if more elaborate, drag scene from his own childhood, in which he would really dress up like Mrs. Bono and sit on his family's piano and sing the "V.A.M.P" song from "The Sonny and Cher show." J.F. believes this caused his homosexuality. Not me. I know that my own queerness was caused by Erik Estrada.
(2) Technically, "The Donny & Marie Show" was the true last word in TV variety entertainment. However, since they were never intentionally funny, they do not count. See also: "The Brady Bunch Variety Hour" and "Pink Lady & Jeff."
(3) And just in case Cher herself reads this, I would like to suggest a theme park, like Dollywood, as her next project, with stuff like Gregg Allman's Wild Ride.
(4) Hetero people might know this group as Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Unless you are too dumb.
(5) Rolling Stone interview from some issue in 1996. I forget. I read it at the record store where I work.