Cher at 71 Makes You Believe in Life after Love AND after 70
by Leslie Combemale
Where will you be when you’re 71? Anywhere, celebrating life, is the right answer…however, It’s pretty unlikely you’ll be appearing on TV, telecast all over the world singing in pasties, with a full compliment of scantily clad male dancers behind you. That’s what Cher, the music and fashion icon we love, is doing, right now, in her seventies. She proves women over 70 can legitimately claim to be the originators of #zerofucksgiven, or as the kids call it, #0FG.
Now, some people on the internet don’t like when we gals curse. I can appreciate that. (Also, I DGAF). However, if there was ever a time to holler into the sky in throw-your-hands-up-in-the-air style, seeing the singer-turned-actress show up vibrating the energy of owning her own skin would be it, no?
Drag-Careers—the woman referred to as “The Goddess of Pop”—in a shining fuschia-tipped platinum wig and a skin-tight sequin-adorned catsuit does my heart good. Bang! Bang! This baby shot all expectation of women meekly disappearing into the background after a certain age down.
Cher was performing her notorious “Believe” and “If I Could Turn Back Time” at the Billboard Music Awards, in her first awards show appearance in 15 years. She was there to accept the Billboard Icon Award and Cher is the third woman to receive the honor since it was established in 2011. Anyone who has followed her life in music and film, knows she has had a unique career, and has always walked her own unusual path. Cher, who said she knew she wanted to be famous when she was 4 years old, has shown she had the talent, savvy, and work ethic to be worthy of her fame, and stay successful. She is the only artist to have a number one single on the Billboard charts in every decade from the 1960s to the 2010s. That explains why she has fans spanning every age group, from folks in their 70s, to kids still in high school.
I remember as a kid in the 70s, seeing her on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, and thinking she was portraying a new kind of glamour. From the first time I watched movies, I had been a fan of old flicks from the 40s and 50s. Actresses like Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl, and Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall in How To Marry a Millionaire had already filled my head full of ideas about femininity and what it meant to be a woman. Along came Carol Burnett and Cher, both of whom had their own shows, to blow all that out of the water. They were funny, and unusual, and brash. Since I had also been born an opinionated feminist, I loved how they expanded what it meant to be a girl in the world. Were there tons of other funny women in the history of TV and film who did that as well? Of course. Eve Arden for one, and Lucille Ball for another. But Cher, with her navel showing, her hair flipping, her contralto voice and weird vibrato, always in spectacular costumes, was so perfectly emblematic of 70s girl power glam, she gave me further permission to step into my own sass.
I remember, too, when Cher shifted focus to acting, and I threw her some teenage side-eye, expecting her to promptly fall flat on her face. I should have known better. I had no idea how hard she had been working on it, or how passionately she wanted to learn and be good at it. Directors Robert Altman, whom she credits for giving her her first real break in film, and Mike Nichols, who cast her in Silkwood, believed she could grow as an actress. They were also both known for recognizing raw talent. They were right. She went on to win Best Actress at Cannes for her role in Mask, and a Best Actress Oscar for Moonstruck. At this point if anyone thought she couldn’t act, they’d have to ‘snap out of it!’
In the early 90s, Cher created a line of home furnishings you could order by mail called Sanctuary. I immediately bought an incense burner, and some wall sconces from it. (It was all I could afford at the time.) Imagine items from the set of Game of Thrones, priced for the Hollywood set.
In her late 50s, Cher embarked on a world tour that had over 200 dates, and it became the most financially successful tour ever by a woman. It was in 2002, and was supposed to be a farewell tour. She lied. She was just at the MGM National Harbor in February of 2017, and she was spectacular.
No one gets to 71 without being complicated, especially living in the public eye. She has been criticized for multiple plastic surgeries, dating men half her age, and parading around with her tattooed cheeks exposed. It all seems not only tame compared to the antics of current so-called celebrities, it also examples a double standard not leveled at the likes of Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. I say live and let live loudly.
Speaking of living out loud, apart from the many other philanthropic endeavors to which Cher is committed, it must be said Cher is a powerful ally to the LGBTQ community. Yes, she has family that bring the importance of acceptance home, but it’s clear she would have been a champion either way. She also tweets up a trippy storm, and if you ever want the strange, badass, no-holds-barred female empowerment alternative to our current president, look her at her Twitter, @cher. I’d say, based on her writing there, we should add the moniker Queen of the Emoticons to her titles.
Last night I was reflecting on the fact that all enduring gay icons have at least one thing very much in common. They all work their asses off. Cher is no exception. The gay community sees and recognizes that on the whole, women, whether famous or not, succeed by metaphorically dancing backwards and in high heels. Add some pasties and a glam wig, and you’ve got a woman that lives by her own rules, and shows us we can, too. At any age.
Cher at 71=1 skin tight catsuit, 2 flamboyant wigs, 2 Pasties worn, Hashtag ZeroFG.