Expert Bio: Mike Khouri has CD liner credits for various Cher compilation CDs on Geffen and MCA, as well as the 1999 re-issue of I Paralyze. He has DVD liner credits for The Sonny and Cher Show: The Christmas Collection and CHER: Extravaganza…Live at the Mirage. Mike has also provided artwork, memorabilia and/or consulting for various television and CD projects for MCA, VH1, A & E and the BBC.
Purpose of the Q and A: My focus for this was to dive into discussions on the ways we talk about Cher when we write about her, both as mainstream press and as fans -- and the differences between the two ways of looking at Cher, especially in terms of those aspects that don't usually get much ink,
Cher Scholar: Do you have a theory as to has Cher lasted so long?
Mike Khouri: I believe, without a doubt, the reason Cher has lasted so long is because of her honesty. This, along with her amazingly versatile talent, (singer, actress, comedian), has made her a loveable staple in American culture. You don't watch an interview with Cher and feel for a minute she is hiding anything. Her sarcastic humor draws you to her...and makes you laugh with her, not just at what she has said.
CS: Is there any common element that ties the music, movies, television and other Cher products together?
MK: Cher is a natural… at everything she does. When you watch Cher, or listen to her music, it is clear that nothing is forced. This is a statement of true talent. From her music, whether it be pop or standards, to her comedic timing and delivery, to her stage shows and dramatic acting roles, she makes you feel at ease with her performances.
CS: How would you describe Cher fashion through the decades and how important is fashion to the big successful picture?
MK: How CAN you describe Cher's fashion? She certainly has been on the cutting edge since her 60's beginnings. At that time Sonny and Cher's fan base loved to copy them. Then, in the 70's, she started making such dramatic moves with her TV show wardrobe that celebrities were also starting to copy her...and using Bob Mackie to help! But no one could carry off the outfits that Cher can...because, again, she is at ease with glamour, jeans, or just plain looking outrageous, (i.e.: Oscars or Viking outfit from her Believe tour). You don't sit and say, "Oh my God!" You just say: "She's done it again!"
CS: Do you have a theory as to why Cher has struggled to get respect for her recording career and yet her recordings are still in demand?
MK: My only theory would be that her music, wasn't very “serious”...especially her biggest hits in the 70's. (She didn’t include them in her shows until the Believe tour). It was great Pop music, (c'mon...how awesome is "Half-Breed" and "Dark Lady"???!), but she was competing with so many "singer-songwriters" at that time. The era was very big for that. Plus, she had many images...TV star, glamour girl, outrageous costumes, tattooed diva, etc. One thing can't be denied is her success in music over so many decades. Even when she had a lull, she always came back...bigger and better. And I don't think it's over!
CS: Do you have a theory as to why Cher appeals to the fan groups she does: the gay community (men and women), little girls, introverts, nostalgic boomers, any other groups?
MK: Well, I think, again, it's Cher's honesty that hits all these groups. I certainly know that is one reason I have so much respect and admiration for her. The gay community, the young girls, and the introverts, (truthfully I didn’t know about the introverts!), must love her because she isn’t afraid to be herself...to say, "This is me. Love me or hate me, I'm not going to change for anyone." That is a statement for all people to love...not just the ones mentioned.
CS: What are some under-estimated aspects of Cher -- or facets of her work/life that are interesting but never usually get talked about?
MK: Unless you really know about Cher, you don't know she is a shy and compassionate person. For the almost 30 years since I first met her, she has been nothing but warm and giving to her fans. She's even said she knows it isn't easy being a "Cher" fan and she appreciates that. And she remembers and recognizes the ones that have been around through hits...and no hits. She really is a wonderful person.
CS: What does the press always get wrong about Cher?
MK: Probably that she leads this wild lifestyle. From what I gather, it just isn't true.
CS: Do you see Cher's influence in any current music or theatrical performers? In any unusual suspects?
MK: I know I am going to name the ones everyone names: Britney, Madonna...look at the shows, the outfits, etc. It's obvious...but she did it first...and still does it better. I see her influence all the time in today's new artists like Pussycat Dolls, (Nicole even looks like 70's Cher!). I recently caught Lady Gaga on TV and thought, "It's all about trying to be as outrageous as you can.” But an act like this is blatantly trying to be outrageous. Cher never looks like she is trying. That is the comfort zone that she has over so many of these artists.
CS: Do you have any favorite iconic phrases for Cher (ex: Queen of the Red Carpet)
MK: The one that says it all: "JPC: Just Plain Cher"
CS: What are some single word adjectives to best describe Cher?
MK: Diva. Icon. Sarcastic. Warm. Real. Humorous. Brilliant. Boundless. Immeasurable. Infinite. Incredible. Extraordinary. Amazing. Survivor. And, well, I've used this one word so many times already: Outrageous. I think if you said that word to just about anyone and asked what celebrity you were talking about, you'd get "Cher" as your answer almost every time.