Cher poses in the press room at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
By Patricia Sheridan Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Cher has been entertaining new and old fans for five decades. She began her career sharing the spotlight with her then husband, the late Sonny Bono, singing numerous hits, including "I Got You Babe," on their popular television show, "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour." Their daughter, Chastity, underwent a sex change operation and is now Chaz. Cher also has a son, Elijah, with ex-husband Gregg Allman. The multitalented entertainer went on to win an Academy Award for "Moonstruck" as well as appearing in "Silkwood" and "Mask." Now 66, she is coming out with an album later this year and on Friday at 8 p.m. will join Robert Osborne as a guest programmer to debut TCM's "Friday Night Spotlight" series with "A Woman's World: The Defining Era of Women in Film."
Do you remember the first movie that really moved you?
"Dumbo." I was 4 years old. It changed my life forever because I looked up on the screen and said, "That's what I'm going to do when I grow up."
So did fame turn out to be everything you thought it would be?
Actually, I didn't think I wanted to be famous. I mean, at some point obviously I did. I looked up on the screen and I wanted to be up on the screen and be an actor. I just knew I wanted to sing and dance and be silly up on the big screen and have everybody sitting in the audience clapping.
So has fame been what I thought? I had no [expletive] idea what it was going to be, you know? There are a lot of times it's wonderful, and I get to do things I would never be able to do and meet people. Like last night, I was working on my album and I was in heaven because it was so much fun, and I still love that. I still love acting. I love being on stage. I love it. And it has some really bad down sides, too.
When you don't want the attention and it continues.
And you go someplace and you totally forget. Like you don't think and all of a sudden there are people everywhere, and they ruin your life. They ruin it for you and everyone else who is with you. You forget. I forget. I'm always forgetting.
Wow, that's pretty great that you can forget after being in the spotlight for five decades.
I really do. I do. I just don't remember. I walk around and never ever think that I'm famous. I mean, if I pass by my Oscar I say, "Oh yeah, I got that" [laughing]. But that's about it.
People always want to come up and hug me. You know it's very strange. It's kind of a strange fame. I know I used to be poor and I'm not now.
You have done thousands of interviews like this in your career. Do you feel you are constantly being probed with people wanting to know everything about you?
When I am doing the thing that I'm doing, it's the only thing I am doing. It's like I am not concentrating on anything else but what we are talking about because otherwise I would not be able to enjoy one thing of my life. I could answer every question that you ask and you still wouldn't know me. I would still have my privacy. I wouldn't lie to you. I always tell people, "Be careful what you ask me because I will answer." Still, I have such a private core that only my friends know that. Really not all my friends know it.
How much did your mother's desire to be an actress play into you getting into show business?
It certainly was a motivating factor. When I saw "Cinderella" I came home and I was singing all the songs to it -- I must have been 6 or 7. I remember my mother punched my father in the arm and said, "John, listen, she's singing the songs." That had a huge impact on me. My mother was the one who kind of kept the spark alive, always.
There was really nothing about me in my younger years that would say to any outside people that I would be able to do this. Of course, I put on little plays for my mother all the time. She laughed hysterically, and she and I sang constantly together. My mother and I would sing. My grandfather would play guitar. My uncle would play guitar and we just sang. That was just something that we did. But there was nothing about me that was special, except my mother saw it.
Were you nervous when you made the transition from singer to actress?
No, I always just kind of take what's in front of me. I like to do different things, you know? I like writing and I like editing. I mean, I get enjoyment out of a lot of different things. Like the thing I did with Robert Osborne ["Friday Spotlight"], that was as much fun as I've had with anything.
I always like things to be fun, and that's the way I get myself into a lot of trouble. Someone said, "Do you want to sing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at the Super Bowl?" and I went, "Oh, that sounds like it would be fun." Just as I was about to go on I thought, "I would rather stick needles in my eyes than do this." I was so terrified. I'm always pretty much terrified whenever I do something.
Knowing how everything works, can you still watch a movie and enjoy it like you used to?
Oh, yeah, but it has to be a real good movie [laughs]. I love to go and be swept up in a movie. That's a great joy to me. And woe be to the film that's not very good because then I will just start going, "Well, that lighting is wrong. Look at the way it is hitting her face. Who wrote that dialogue, and what's going to happen when they try and go back and that doesn't make any sense?"
But if it's a really good movie -- even movies that aren't hits -- if it's great I can watch a movie 15 times. After I watch it a couple of times just for my own entertainment, I sit and watch it for every single thing: How's it edited, is it flawless?
I'm kind of over it now, but "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," I got into that late and just saw it one night and said, "OK, this is it." I just ran it and watched the performance that Judi Dench gave and Maggie Smith gave and after I devoured their performances, then I started looking at the shots. I love being entertained. I love it, love it, love it. I love going someplace and having someone sing or act or whatever.
Can you entertain yourself? Do you sing around the house?
No, I never sing around the house. I don't think I ever sang around the house. Maybe I did when I wanted to be a singer. I actually drove my one friend's mother crazy. She just said one day, "Cher, we love you but you have to stop singing in the apartment." One of my favorite, favorite things to do in life is when I'm in rehearsal and I'm standing on the stage and singing. I'm singing kind of for myself and the band and the group, and I'm just in heaven that I can open up my mouth and this thing comes out of my chest. I wish everyone could sing because it's so much fun.
When you sing on stage, do you become the character in the song, or do you know them so well it's automatic?
Some of them I know so well it's just, I do them. It's done mostly through the presentation. How cool can we present it? I act them out because it is like me being a gypsy or me being whatever. I like to act out songs because I think it brings something extra to them, and it's fun for me. I like to do both things [sing and act] so I can put them together. The thing about being on stage is that you are more real on stage than if you were doing a performance. Because it's not exactly a performance; it's more of a heightened version of who you are.
And you are the brand, the product.
I know, but it's kind of a drag because when people hate you they don't go, "Oh, I hate that so-and-so." They go "I hate Cher." So when you are the thing that people love or don't like, it's always kind of difficult ... because you are your product.
But when people come to see you perform they come because they love you. That must be amazing.
You know what, it's a very strange thing. You kind of become one entity for that time period. You bring everyone together in a place, and they all have a common goal or bond for that two hours or whatever it is, and you are like, you are steering the ship. So it's an interesting concept for me.