When Cher sweeps into the Penthouse Suite of a West Hollywood Hotel, she requires all members taking photos to be seated in the third row.
You wonder why, because she looks fabulous, and at 72 she’s as sharp and forthcoming as ever.
She’s had so many careers that I once asked her if reinventing herself was the secret of her success. “I don’t think I reinvent myself.” she responded. “I am myself. I’m not any different than I was the last time we saw each other.”
Among the many hats she’s worn include actress, singer, director, Las Vegas show stopper, creator of hair products. Her latest film is Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, in which she plays Meryl Streep’s mother. I remind her that it’s been over 30 years since they first appeared together in Silkwood for which both were nominated for an Oscar and she won a Golden Globe.
Both stars remained friends. In fact, Streep surprised Cher when she was shooting one of her Mamma Mia scenes.
“I was on the set one day, and I was doing my song, and then I saw this kind of shadowy figure lurking around. She had snuck onto the set to watch me do my song, and then afterwards she squeals and we were laughing and hugging each other,” Cher remembered.
You look fantastic. What is your fitness regime and tell us your beauty secrets?
Well I’m never going to give that up. But other than that. I really work out all the time and I eat sensibly.
I’m a healthy eater … I always have been. My mother was a healthy eater because we didn’t have a lot of money, so we didn’t eat meat because we couldn’t afford it. But my mother was from the South so she made fabulous vegetarian things.
I take care of myself, and I try to take care of my skin because I know that that’s the first thing that kind of says how old you are. And I think I live pretty healthily. I don’t do drugs, I’ve never done drugs. I don’t drink and that is what ages you. And I don’t smoke and that ages you too.
Looking back at your life do you have any regrets?
We don’t have enough time, but yeah there are. But I think failure is highly underrated because when you are having success, you never go, “Oh my God, why am I having this?”
But when you’ve just had a failure, you think about it, you ruminate, and you want to explore it, and I think it makes you be better.
How is your love life at the moment?
Well, I had one not so long ago, but the truth is, having any kind of boyfriend today, with the press following your every move, only leads to tears; it’s never worked out well.
Do you think your voice is better than it was when you started?
I think it’s a hundred times better. I’m surprised that I haven’t had to drop my keys. My voice is so much stronger. It’s been this strong now for awhile, and it’s not diminishing. That may sound kind of pompous, but it’s true.
I still love singing. It may sound weird, but one of my favourite things to do is when we’re rehearsing on stage in an arena, I stand and sing because I like the sound of; I like the feeling of my voice coming out of my body because it’s so big.
You were part of a famous duo with Sonny Bono (whom she was also married to for six years) for years. Do you have fond memories of the Sonny & Cher years?
I have a good feeling about it because we were so excited, everything was so new. What we lacked in artistry we made up for in enthusiasm. And rock ‘n roll is one of the few art forms where it’s not about perfection, it’s more about emotion.
When I listen to those songs (we recorded), I hear that I’m a much better singer now, but those are my roots. That’s where it started.
Is there a favourite song?
I guess, I Got You Babe. It’s such a meaningful song for me.
What would you say was your first breakthrough?
Well, my first big breakthrough, I guess, was my mother, because she was so encouraging.
From the time I was four years old, I wanted to be what I am today. I went to see Cinderella, and I knew then that’s what I was going to be.
My mum was always encouraging, even though I was dyslexic. I’m still dyslexic. I didn’t do well in school. But my mother assured me, it doesn’t make any difference. She’d say, “You’re really smart, you’ll get people to do all that stuff when you grow up, and you won’t have to do it.”
And then I went from my mum to Sonny, and those were my two big breaks.
Were you ever a victim of the casting couch?
I had one incident with a very famous producer who I will not name. I was really young at the time, about 28, but you have to realise, I met Sonny when I was 16 and left him when I was 27 and hadn’t really grown very much in those years, so I was kind of immature.
I wanted to do a movie, and (this producer) called me to his house to do an interview supposedly. And when I got there, several things happened, and I just realised because my mother had told me a lot about the casting couch, because she had worked as an extra.
Still I wasn’t anticipating it at all because I was already famous, so I couldn’t believe that this guy was trying to come off with this kind of crap. So, I just told him, “I’m feeling really sick, and I have to go home. I’m really sorry but I can’t continue the meeting.” And I left.
When I got home I thought, “How can he feel good about himself? How can he not know how inappropriate that is?” And he was very famous, I’ll tell you that.