In a Pa­rade ex­clu­sive, we talk ups and downs, starts and stops, mu­sic, movies, moth­er­hood, ABBA, Broad­way, books and boyfriends with pop cul­ture’s prima diva.

Chattanooga Times Free Press - Parade - - Stay Healthy - By Jim Far­ber

BBack in 2002, Cher started what she called her “Farewell Tour.” Six­teen years later, not only has she yet to take her fi­nal bow, she’s busier than ever.

At 72, she finds her­self in a tsunami of ac­tiv­ity that be­gan over the sum­mer with her ap­pear­ance—as the hip grand­mother—in the hit movie Mamma Mia!

Here We Go Again, based on ABBA’s mu­sic.That in­spired her al­bum Danc­ing

Queen, which came out in Septem­ber, fea­tur­ing cov­ers of ABBA clas­sics. Add a tour; a con­tract to write her mem­oir; a new mu­si­cal based on her life, The Cher

Show, open­ing Dec. 3 on Broad­way; and a starry cer­e­mony in Wash­ing­ton where she’ll re­ceive a Kennedy Cen­ter Honor (Dec. 26 on CBS).

It all adds up to a “Cher-a-palooza,” crown­ing a ca­reer that has stopped and started more times than traf­fic on a rush­hour L.A. free­way. A STAR IS BORN

The girl born Cher­i­lyn Sark­isian in El Cen­tro, Calif., had an un­sta­ble up­bring­ing. Cher barely knew her fa­ther, John Sark­isian, whom her mother, Ge­or­gia Holt, di­vorced when Cher was 10 months old. By the time Cher was 9, her mom had di­vorced her third hus­band, with whom she’d had an­other child. She raised Cher and her half-sis­ter, Ge­or­ganne, with very lit­tle money. By age 16, Cher left school to pur­sue the show­biz ca­reer of which she had al­ways dreamed.

She made those dreams come true, and then some, by scor­ing a No. 1 sin­gle on a Bill­board chart in each decade from the 1960s through the 2010s. She won an Os­car (for her 1987 role in Moon­struck), an Emmy (for a 2003 TV spe­cial) and a Grammy (for Best Dance Record­ing in 2000 for “Be­lieve”).

You have some un­canny sim­i­lar­i­ties with ABBA. Crit­ics didn’t take ei­ther of you se­ri­ously in the ’70s. Now they do. What changed?

If you can last long enough, peo­ple take you se­ri­ously. It’s also im­por­tant to change. I’m a much bet­ter singer now than I was when I was younger. Also, when I was younger, crit­ics didn’t like some of the ways I pre­sented my­self. I was the only woman at the time who had a big show.They didn’t like it be­cause they thought if I was a “real singer” I wouldn’t be do­ing all those cos­tume changes. But I did my show to suit my­self. All the things that peo­ple gave me s--t for are the things peo­ple are now do­ing, chang­ing cos­tumes and wear­ing very lit­tle.

In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, you played the mother of Meryl Streep. Speak-

ing of moth­ers, what’s the great­est gift your mother gave you, be­sides life?

My mom gave me en­cour­age­ment. In­ter­nally, I knew from when I was 5 that I was go­ing to be Cher, even though I didn’t know how that would man­i­fest it­self, be­cause, at 5, what do you know? First, I wanted to be the Dis­ney char­ac­ter Dumbo. But my mom said, “Babe, you can’t be Dumbo. He’s an ele­phant.” Then I wanted to be Cin­derella. Also, when I was young I had a re­ally hard time. We were poor. I had dys­lexia be­fore any­body knew what that was. I’d bring home th­ese aw­ful grades and my mom would say, “That doesn’t make any dif­fer­ence.” I said, “Mom, I can’t even see num­bers.”And she said,“When you grow up, you’ll have some­body do math for you.”

Mom Ge­or­gia, now 92, en­cour­aged young Cher— and gave her great genes.

You met Sonny when you were just 16. And, of course, he was much older.

I went from my mother straight to Sonny.They both molded me. It was more than a mar­riage, She had an emo­tional re­union with for­mer hus­band and singing part­ner Sonny Bono on David Let­ter­man’s TV show in 1987. (Bono died in 1998.) more than a part­ner­ship. We have a con­nec­tion, still. If he walked through that door right now, we would be Sonny and Cher in two sec­onds.

Your life with Sonny, and ev­ery­thing else, will be restaged in Broad­way’s The Cher Show.

What will that be like for you?

You want to see the good parts, but you cer­tainly don’t want to see the bad parts. Stuff that hap­pened with Sonny at the end of our mar­riage, I don’t like to see. When I was watch­ing it, I thought, Why was I so hon­est?

But if you’re go­ing through the story and you skip over things, what’s the good?

You will also be re­vis­it­ing your past in your mem­oir. Why are you do­ing the book now?

I just made the deal, but I have no time frame. It’s go­ing to take me a while be­cause I have a lot to tell. It’s go­ing to be more dif­fi­cult than do­ing the play. I will grit my teeth through the whole thing be­cause I will have to be hon­est.

Speak­ing of mem­oirs, a few years ago Gregg All­man wrote his. You were mar­ried to him for nearly four years and you also had a child with him [Eli­jah Blue]. Did you read his book, My Cross to Bear? I didn’t read it be­cause his kids said don’t. Eli­jah thought it didn’t come off the way he knew our re­la­tion­ship was.

Gregg, who died of liver can­cer last year, wrote that you were very pa­tient with him at a time when he had se­ri­ous drug prob­lems.

I was pa­tient be­cause I loved him. He was a South­ern gen­tle­man, re­ally soft­spo­ken. He never swore and, of course, I swear like a sailor. I stayed with him un­til I knew I couldn’t be­cause I didn’t want the kids to be around it. He was the sweet­est man in the world, who hap­pened to do drugs.

A few years ago, Eli­jah said that you two had be­come es­tranged. Has that changed?

That hap­pened, but I’m not so

In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Cher (with Amanda Seyfried and Do­minic Cooper) helped cel­e­brate the songs of ABBA.

sure that par­ents and their kids don’t all go through that.

Your child with Sonny, Chaz, talked openly about be­ing trans­gen­der 11 years ago. At that time, fewer peo­ple spoke

about trans is­sues. Now it’s part of the main­stream con­ver­sa­tion. How do you feel

about that change? Young peo­ple don’t care about it. And their par­ents are let­ting them be.Thank God for this change, be­cause God knows what would hap­pen oth­er­wise. The young peo­ple give me a lot of hope.

In ad­di­tion to your Os­car for

Moon­struck, what do you think of as your other movie ca­reer

high­lights? I re­ally liked most of the films I’ve been in.There are flops that I loved, like Mer­maids. But Moon­struck is the best be­cause it’s a re­ally amaz­ing cast and ev­ery­one got along so well. What do you re­mem­ber about win­ning the Best Ac­tress Os­car? I re­mem­ber think­ing, I’ve

not won this, be­cause when Paul New­man opened the en­ve­lope, he took a breath. And you don’t need a breath to say “Cher.” And then he said, “Cher.” I went deaf and went up and lost an ear­ring and my cape flew off, and when I got up there I made a ridicu­lous speech. I didn’t thank any of the peo­ple I was sup­posed to thank. But now it’s fan­tas­tic be­cause every night [in my con­cert] they show a clip of it. So they can’t take that away from me!

How are your re­la­tion­ships

with your many exes? I’m on good terms with most of my ex-boyfriends. Val [Kilmer] just spent time at my house and it was fun just goof­ing with him. I talk to Robert [Camil­letti] all the time. Gene Sim­mons is one of those guys where, if I met him at a party, I would be happy to see him. He did change from the per­son he was, though. He took a hard right. When­ever I see Tom [Cruise], I’m happy to see him. And I was talk­ing to Gre­gory [All­man] un­til the end and I’m close with his kids. They all spent Christ­mas with me.

Any in­ter­est in a ro­man­tic

re­la­tion­ship now? I do, but not right this minute.Things have changed and pri­vacy is worth di­a­monds. Ev­ery­one’s got a cam­era now, so re­la­tion­ships have to re­ally be on the down­low; oth­er­wise it’s ru­ined in a minute. I had the best re­la­tion­ship ever with [Robert], and the minute I won the Academy Award, we were just hounded to death and it ru­ined the re­la­tion-

She calls South­ern rocker Gregg All­man, hus­band num­ber two, “the sweet­est man in the world, who hap­pened to do drugs.”

ship. You can only take so much in­fringe­ment, and now that hap­pens right away.

It’s been 20 years since “Be­lieve.” Is that your fa­vorite record­ing?

It was at the time. But I had records I re­ally loved that went nowhere. I liked “Walk­ing in Mem­phis.” In gen­eral, I’m not a huge Cher fan. I’d rather do the singing than lis­ten to it. You’ve had as many downs as ups in your ca­reer. Did you ever think at a low point, it’s over? Oh, there were so many! When I got dropped from my record com­pa­nies—twice! If you can’t get a record deal, it can’t be more over than that. It’s the idea that you worked your whole life, and then it’s, “We don’t want to waste our time on you.” That’s a big deal for a singer.The fab­u­lous ups I would have cho­sen, but I wouldn’t have cho­sen the hor­ri­ble downs.

Through­out it all, you’ve al­ways been in great phys­i­cal shape. I never had to worry about a pound un­til I was 50. I could eat what­ever I wanted. But af­ter that, you have to work out.

You have longevity in your genes. My grand­mother was 96 when she died. Two days be­fore, we were talk­ing and she stuck her foot out

Os­car night, 1988: So many things went wrong on the way to pick up her tro­phy, she says.

of the sheets and said, “I need a pedi­cure!”

Do you think you’ll ever truly re­tire? Oh, yeah! A friend of mine said,“Why are you do­ing all this?” I said, “Be­cause some­day I won’t be able to.” Katharine Hep­burn was al­ready old when I met her, but I re­mem­ber her be­ing re­ally vi­tal.Then, when I saw her years af­ter that, she wasn’t. She had been the tough­est woman. And she fi­nally got too old. That’s go­ing to come and I have more I want to do. I’m not fin­ished. Is there any­thing about you peo­ple don’t know? I think that my per­son­al­ity comes through a lot in my work, my in­ter­views and my choices. But there’s no way peo­ple can know ev­ery­thing. I’m a com­pli­cated per­son. So un­less you know me, you can’t know me.

What do you watch on TV to re­lax? I watched Feud [with Jes­sica Lange and Su­san Saran­don as Joan Craw­ford and Bette Davis in the early 1960s]. It was ge­nius act­ing. In those days, women had to go through a lot. At a cer­tain age, it was “Stick a fork in you, it’s over.”

That’s not true of women’s ca­reers any­more. Hello! I’m ex­hibit A for that!

Visit Pa­ to see in­side Cher’s orig­i­nal Bev­erly Hills man­sion.

“Sonny and I started with ex­treme fash­ion,” says Cher. “We were all wear­ing gi­gan­tic boots and glam.”

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