Cos­tume queen who still dares to bare

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - NA­TIONAL MU­SIC WRITER

NO one does “nearly nude” like Cher. The most wor­shipped pop cul­ture style set­ter of her gen­er­a­tion has fab­u­lously flaunted al­most-not-there cos­tumes adorned with crys­tals, se­quins and feath­ers, to pro­voke con­tro­versy and ado­ra­tion in equal mea­sure for more than five decades.

In ca­hoots with cos­tu­mier-tothe-stars Bob Mackie, the 72-yearold pop su­per­star and award­win­ning ac­tor is still wow­ing fans and fash­ion­istas with her sin­gu­lar style. As she kicked off her Here We Go Again tour in Aus­tralia last week with an­other set of stun­ning out­fits, from Gre­cian god­dess to cir­cus ring­leader, Cher said her love af­fair with her sec­ond skin be­gan even be­fore she hit tele­vi­sion screens world­wide with The Sonny And Cher Com­edy Hour in 1971.

Rel­a­tively se­dately dressed in black pants and black jacket with white em­broi­dery, she said her love of cos­tumes was partly ne­ces­si­tated by a fear of bore­dom. And look­ing bor­ing.

“I like new ones. I started this be­cause I didn’t want to be bored,” she said.

“I didn’t want to just come out on stage and stand there and sing in an out­fit. I just didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do some­thing more fun.”

Af­ter fall­ing in love with Mackie’s work af­ter a guest ap­pear­ance on The Carol Bur­nett Show in 1967, she told the de­signer, “One day I’d like you to make me one of those beaded dresses.”

He was ready to do that when he called her two years later, as she and then-hus­band Sonny Bono pre­pared to launch their own show.

That early tele­vi­sion ex­pe­ri­ence no doubt trained her in an­other skill which would prove in­dis­pens­able when it came to her solo tours years later — the quick change.

“There were 13 cos­tumes per show. We had the open­ing, the op­eras, the big num­bers, I al­ways had a solo and the Vamp skit was four cos­tumes it­self,” she said.

“I still have some of them, Bob has some of them, some of them we have auc­tioned off — the ones I didn’t care that much about— be­cause we had so many clothes on Sonny And Cher.”

First she set the tone for the era with her hip­pie look — the bell-bot­toms, the fur vests and long, silky locks — as ev­ery­one else still sported bee­hives. But then Cher and Mackie caused a huge sensation in the 1970s when some of her out­fits re­vealed her navel.

Her scene-steal­ing out­fits be­came even more ou­tra­geous in the 1980s, most mem­o­rably at the 1986 Os­cars with her Big Bird black feath­ered head­dress and midriff­bar­ing se­quined hal­ter dress.

But the most iconic of all her out­fits is the barely-there body­suit and leather jacket en­sem­ble she sported for the If I Could Turn Back Time video in 1989 as she strad­dled a can­non on the USS Mis­souri. TV net­works banned it and MTV only aired it af­ter 9pm.

She was ap­plauded around the world when she wore a replica of

the out­fit at last year’s Bill­board Mu­sic Awards, the day af­ter her 71st birthday.

The look is reg­u­larly re­vived at fancy dress par­ties, usu­ally by men. Even this en­dur­ing gay icon has no clue why the boys love that body­suit more than any of her thou­sands of cos­tumes.

“What it was orig­i­nally made for was some sort of cel­e­bra­tion the mayor was hav­ing and I was go­ing to be one of the per­form­ers.

“I told Bob I wanted some­thing unusual and re­ally rock’n’roll. And that’s what he came up with,” she said. “I have no idea why men love wear­ing it … maybe be­cause it takes the piss out of you.

“It takes a sense of hu­mour to wear it; you are not go­ing to be se­ri­ous in that out­fit.”

One of her more de­mure on­screen out­fits was the white pantssuit in her re­cent star cameo in Mamma Mia 2. Her re­turn to the big screen was greeted with unan­i­mous approval and has fans clam­our­ing for more cin­e­matic Cher.

“I thought I was go­ing to be in Mamma Mia for five min­utes and no one will no­tice me.

“I got to sing Fer­nando — that was fun … peo­ple will en­joy this and then I’ll be gone. But peo­ple just seemed over­whelmed by it and I don’t un­der­stand it.”

As the scream­ing and cheer­ing con­tin­ues on her cur­rent tour — her first here in 13 years — one won­ders if this re­ally will be her farewell to our stages.

“I don’t know, it de­pends on whether I’m alive in 13 years. I didn’t know it would take this long,” the singer said.

Sketches and (left) Cher on stage in New­cas­tle. Pic­ture: AAP

CHER PER­FORMS AT WIN EN­TER­TAIN­MENT CEN­TRE ON OC­TO­BER 16, QUDOS BANK ARENA ON OC­TO­BER 18 AND 20 AND ICC SYD­NEY ON OC­TO­BER 21.Cher’s Aus­tralian tour in­cludes many dif­fer­ent looks. Pic­ture: An­drew Macpher­son

Cher as icon on her lat­est tour.

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