Cher is an internationally renowned singer, actress, author, beauty and as a matter of fact – wit. She regards her mind as her best feature. Her first hit single, with her late ex-husband and former partner, Sonny Bono, was 1965’s “I’ve Got You, Babe.” She’s hosted two TV shows, and she won an Academy Award for 1987’s Moonstruck. But you knew all that, didn’t you? Anyway, she has had numerous hit songs, starred in many notable films and appeared in a video with Beavis and Butthead. Still, Cher sees no benefit to being over fifty. Last year she published her autobiography, The First Time, and she currently has a monster smash with the exuberant dance groove “Believe,” which recently became Britain’s best-selling single by a female artist of all time, ever. Madonna has expressed interest in directing her next video. This spring she will return to the big screen in Franco Zeffirelli’s Tea With Mussolini, in which she co-stars with Dames Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith.
I just read your book, and it seems like it’s not always easy being Cher.
No. I chose it, though, didn’t I?
In a way. In a way it was thrust upon you.
No, it’s just that it’s one of those things where you don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for – you try to make an impact on people, and then you do make an impact, and then you’re screwed.
As they say, more tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.
Or as Don Henley said, “Fortune smiles on some and lets the rest go free.”
When you started in movies, you couldn’t get cast because you were Cher. Do you still encounter assumptions about who you are?
It depends on the year, basically. It would be a good study, because it’s been weirdly extreme. Some years I’m the coolest thing that ever happened, and then the next year everyone’s so over me, and I’m just so past my sell-by date.
When people have Cher preconceptions, what are they?
I think it hit home for me the most when people thought I was acting at Sonny’s funeral. That’s the definitive experience of people getting it so wrong that you just don’t know where anybody’s coming from. I was so blindsided by that. And that day, I actually did give a thought to packing it in and saying, “You know what? Fuck all you guys, you don’t get it anyway. I’m out of here.”
It’s brutal to be in the public eye nowadays. What do you think of Hillary Clinton?
Boy, she’s got a fucking backbone. If I was in a foxhole, I’d want her there. She’s got an unbelievable amount of guts. I think she’s pulling it off really well. Actually, I think they’re both pulling it off really well – I mean, you just find yourself in a world of shit and you find a pony in there? I’m sorry, it works for me.
Barring the current one, what’s your favorite Cher single?
There are two, and neither one of them was a hit. One was “I Paralyze,” and the other was “Save Up All Your Tears.”
And what do you like about them?
I don’t know. I just like them. When I listen to music, it’s mostly the sound that gets me first, and if the lyrics are fabulous, well then, that’s a bonus. But my favorite song is “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” by Procol Harum, and I still have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about.
I don’t think they have any idea what the fuck they’re talking about. It is a beautiful song, though.
The moment the organ comes in, I’m just toast. But I’m pretty eclectic. I like Marilyn Manson, too. I look at Marilyn Manson like a mother would, like I’m sure his mother looks at him. I don’t make a moral judgment; I just like the images. You know, I don’t like the content very much, but I think it’s a phase he’s going through.
Do you, as your song asks, believe in life after love?
Definitely. I’ve experienced it. It’s been a long time; I’ve never been alone this long.
What do you think are the pros and cons of being single?
Well, the pros are, you don’t have to brush your teeth before you go to bed, and you don’t have to shave your legs for weeks at a time, and you can go home and just veg out and have control of the clicker. And the cons are, there’s not someone who tells you how adorable you are and rubs your head and goes into a crowded press conference and stands at the back and winks at you so that you think, “I can get through this.”
So the pros are that you don’t have to get a bikini wax, and the cons are that you don’t have anyone to admire your bikini wax. In general, it seems like you stay friends with your ex-boyfriends.
In general, I do.
That’s an unusual quality. Why do you think you can do that?
Because I usually like them before I fuck them.
You’re a club icon. When was the last time you went to a nightclub?
Well, lately I’ve been in them a lot, playing. But the last time I went to dance was a while ago. It was at a club in Los Angeles they had retro nights I used to go to that had every kind of dancing, from Stevie Wonder to Gloria Gaynor, but then they stopped it, so I stopped going, and I haven’t been dancing since. I would meet my girlfriends in town, and I would just dance until my hair was wet and then I’d go home. That’s always the way I’ve done it. I dance until my hair is wet and then I go home.
But for you, that could be a while. Regrets? You’ve had a few?
Too few to mention. No, I’ve had lots of them, but it’s the old “You can’t cry over spilled milk,” because you can become your own regret archivist, and who’s got time for that? Try to just log it somewhere and not repeat the mistake too many times.
Do you have a favorite Sinatra song?
“The Lady Is a Tramp.”
This story is from the April 15th, 1999 issue of Rolling Stone.