Prizm News / February 1, 2019 / By Erin McCalla

Through this and previous farewell tours, the bond endures between the gay icon and her fans.


By Erin McCalla

There have been lengthy treatises written about Cher’s status as a gay icon. Even Liza once conceded that Cher would come out on top if someone took a poll of gay men.

But we’re not here to talk about why and how that came to be. We just want to enjoy the moment.


Cher is coming to Ohio this month for shows in Cleveland on Wednesday, Feb. 6 and Columbus on Sunday, Feb. 10. She’ll also perform February shows in Louisville, Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis.

In honor of her final farewell tour—she means it this time!—we spoke with three Cher fans about their unique experiences in her world. Because it’s Cher’s world and we’re all just living in it, aren’t we?

Cher shot the video for “If I Could Turn Back Time” aboard the USS Missouri in 1989.

Welcome Aboard

It was 1989, and Russ Goodwin was serving in the U.S. Navy. He had just docked in Los Angeles when a fellow sailor asked him if he wanted to be in a Cher video that was being filmed on the USS Missouri.

Russ Goodwin

For most gay men, there’s only one answer to that question—YES!—and Goodwin had been a fan since the 1960s. “I remember back in the 1970s, before I was in the Navy, singing along to ‘Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves’ with my friends. You know, young gay men.”

Cher was reinventing herself yet again in the late ’80s, and the video for “If I Could Turn Back Time” became legendary. Her fishnet body stocking became one of her most memorable looks. The video was initially banned on MTV but soon was allowed on—only after 9 p.m.

What Goodwin remembers most from the experience is that Cher was personable and gracious. “She was so friendly; she thanked everyone.”

He also remembers filming took all night and she wasn’t supposed to go near the big guns on the ship. But you try telling Cher no.

Because of her antics, which by today’s standards are quite tame, the U.S. Navy no longer allows music videos to be filmed aboard ships.

During the shooting, Goodwin mostly just manned a rail and enjoyed the experience. Since the sailors were all dressed the same, he has never been able to pick himself out.

“And I have looked at the video a thousand times,” he says.

It’s All About the Hair Flip

Shamus Dickinson has been performing for more than a decade as Veranda L’Ni, and in the first year he started cinching, tucking and highlighting, he started emulating Cher.

Shamus Dickinson as Veranda L’Ni as Cher

Shamus Dickinson as Veranda L’Ni as Cher.
(Photo by Bob Perkoski, courtesy of Shamus Dickinson)

Pulling off a good Cher impression is a pretty tall order, even for the tallest drag queen in Cleveland, who stands at 6-foot-7 without heels and hair. But for Dickinson, giving it a go was a no-brainer, and he donned the iconic duds because of Cher’s stature and status.

“She has been a gay staple of the music world, not to mention a cultural icon,” he says.

Dickinson thinks Cher is a drag staple because of her attitude. But what exactly makes a good Cher impression? Dickinson believes you have to marry style and attitude.

“Throw in a few humorously exaggerated mannerisms and you’ve got everyone’s attention, he says. “Also, the hair flip. You gotta add the hair flip!”

But obviously one Cher is never enough, and Dickinson believes you have to have at least two Chers in your repertoire. It depends on the show and the venue as to which version you perform.

“Personally, I love them all. However, the staple costume would be the ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ skimpy outfit, oversized hair combo,” he says.

Mannequins Dressed to Kill

Gary Scarbrough doesn’t consider himself a fan anymore, as much as a collector. He has been amassing Cher memorabilia since he was 11, when he would faithfully watch “The Sonny & Cher Show” on television.

“She was a force,” he says. “You couldn’t take your eyes off her.”

In 2006, his collection was elevated to a new level with the purchase of his first lot of Cher gowns by gay designer Bob Mackie.

Since then, Scarbrough has acquired 29 gowns that encompass some of her most quintessential looks. He gets most of them from high-end auction houses like Sotheby’s. He has purchased four in just the last two months.

Like picking a favorite child, Scarbrough has a hard time deciding which gown is his favorite. He has pieces from almost every era of Cher’s career, all recognizable even to a casual fan.

He finally decides upon a black and green number from a reccurring “Lady Luck” sketch of “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.” It takes him no time at all, though, to pinpoint the dress he hopes to one day own: “The gown on the cover of Time magazine. March 17, 1975,” he says almost immediately.

Time: March 17, 1975

On that cover, Cher is dressed in a see-through jumpsuit, resplendent with intricate, glittery beading and white feathers. She wore the garment to the Met Gala the year before, escorted by Mackie.

To display his collection, Scarbrough commissioned mannequins that replicate exactly what Cher’s makeup and hair looked like when she wore each ensemble. A few are placed throughout his Dublin home. Most are stored away, and it takes about three days to set everything up for a full showcase.

Scarbrough’s collection itself is fairly famous and was borrowed and photographed for one of Cher’s previous farewell tours. It allowed him to meet the Queen of Comebacks herself.

“Oh, she knows who I am… She knows my name,” he says.

Erin McCalla’s Cher impression: “Whoaaaa.” Nailed it. She is a writer in Columbus and is looking forward to seeing Cher again at Nationwide Arena with her sister Megan.

FIND OUT MORE

Visit cher.com and click the events link to check for ticket availability in Cleveland and Columbus and to get information on the rest of her tour dates.

If you don’t already follow Cher on Twitter, she’s @Cher. She often uses all caps and even more often takes aim at President Trump.

In addition to her other gigs, Veranda L’Ni regularly hosts drag bingo events at the Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland. Visit musicboxcle.com for those dates and times, and follow her on Facebook at Veranda L’Ni, on Twitter @verandalni or on Instagram @veranda_lni to catch other performances. You can see a gallery of Gary Scarbrough’s collection of Cher gowns at PrizmNews.com.