It was sure to be the New York moment of a lifetime. Cher, singer of “I’ve Got You Babe,” “Half-breed,” and “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves;” Cher, wearer of those outrageous wigs and outfits; Cher, the first woman to show her belly button on TV (and to call David Letterman an a–hole, in public anyway); Cher, mother of Chastity and widow of Sonny (Mary Bono who?); Cher was going to be signing copies of her book, The First Time at the Barnes and Noble in Chelsea. It was just too good to be true.
Now anyone who knows me knows my pet peeve is the celebrity-turned- author. I am sick of people who can’t put a sentence together being paid mega amounts of money for a book they didn’t even write. How would Madonna feel if I got paid more money than she’d ever see in her entire life to lipsync “Like a Virgin?” But forget all that. We’re not talking your run-of-the-mill celebrity here. We’re talking the Goddess herself. We’re talking Cher.
The evening before the great event, I called the bookstore.”Yes, Cher will be here,” the bookseller said. “She’ll start signing at 12:30 sharp.”
“What time should I arrive?” I asked.
“We open at 9:00.”
“I’ll be there.” I hung up and dove into bed for my beauty sleep.
At 8:30 the next morning, I left my pied-a-terre and started walking up Sixth Avenue. I arrived at Barnes and Noble at 9:15. There was no evidence of a line anywhere. I even had time for a cup of coffee. Just to be sure though, I asked at the information booth.
“Cher? Oh yes, she’s still coming. You buy your book first, then take it outside and get on line.”
Outside? I quickly made my purchase and left the store to join the mob of fans snaking around the block.
“Did you really get here at 9:00 this morning?” I asked the woman up front.
“No,” she said. “I got here at 9:00 last night.”
I made my way to the back of the line, which was full of gay men, much to this fag hag’s delight. I joined a crowd of especially fetching fellows, figuring if I was going to stand out in the cold for two hours, I might as well enjoy myself.
“What did you do, take the day off?” I asked the boys.
“I lied to my boss,” said one whose name was Scott.
“What about you?” I asked the guy standing next to him.
“I am his boss,” he replied, extending his hand.
“I’m Rob. And this is my boyfriend, Tony.”
“I’m Brent,” said an unusually pretty lad.
“I’m Deanna,” said the woman to my right. “I don’t even like Cher.”
“You don’t?” The crowd was ready to pounce.
“No. I’m here for my friend Rocky. He met her once, years ago.”
“He met Cher?” Deanna, who was almost dog meat two seconds ago, was now the envy of the crowd.
“She was trying on shoes in Bloomingdales,” Deanna said. “And she asked Rocky what he thought of them. I’m sure she’ll remember. Look, here’s his picture.”
As we all gathered around to gawk at Rocky, a panhandler came up to us.
“What are you on line for?”
“We’re here, we’re queer, we’re waiting to see Cher!”
“Cher? Sonny died. Oh Lord have mercy, Sonny died.”
The panhandler started moaning and groaning until a cop shooed him away.
At 12:00 some people from the bookstore came out and handed us The Rules. “Huh,” I muttered. I’ve been signing books for over a decade and I’ve never had any rules. But this was Cher and her rules were:
- Cher will only sign two items. (For the mathematically impaired, two means two books, two CD’s or one book and one CD.)
- Cher will only write her name. She will not write a personal inscription.
- Cher will not sign any memorabilia and you may be asked to surrender these items at the door. (“Not on your life,” Rob clutched his 1965 Sonny and Cher “Look at Me,” album to his chest. “They’ll have to kill me first.”)
- Cher will not pose for any pictures.
As everyone contemplated the rules, I thought of the rules I would like followed at my next booksigning:
- Everyone must buy multiple copies of each one of Lesléa’s books. (For the mathematically impaired, multiple copies means six or more.)
- Lesléa will personally inscribe your book if you pronounce her name correctly.
- Lesléa will not sign any memorablia, and you may be asked to surrender these items as well as your jewelry at the door.
- Lesléa will be happy to pose for pictures, but only for Hollywood agents.
At exactly 12:30 the line started inching forward and the press descended upon us.
“We’re from WSLEEZ. Do you think Chastity is a lesbian because Cher smoked pot in the sixties?”
Scott laughed. “Honey, if that was true, we’d all be lesbians.”
The reporter thrust a mike in Scott’s face. “If Cher would go out with you, would you change your sexual preference?”
Scott rolled his eyes. “Dearheart, I don’t want to sleep with the woman. I want to go shopping with her.”
“What about you?” The reporter turned to me.
“I wouldn’t have to change my sexual preference,” I told him and waved right into the camera. “Hi, Mom!”
Two hours later, my little group finally entered the bookstore. Deanna went first. “Do you remember Rocky?” she asked.
Cher studied the picture. “I’m sure I do,” she said, “but I don’t have my glasses.” Oh how gracious was the Goddess!
Brent went next. Cher signed his book and then blew on the ink. “Be careful, baby, it stays wet for a while.” Brent swooned and crawled out on his knees.
Rob and Tony presented Rob’s album together. “There’s no fan like an old fan,” Cher said, signing away.
Then it was my turn. I thought of all the things people have said to me at booksignings. I like your work. You’re not as good-looking as your photo. Is your hair real? I didn’t want to sound like an idiot. But what could I possibly say? “Cher,” I whispered.
“Yes?” Oh that voice!
“I…I…” And then to my tongue-tied horror, I burst into tears.
“It’s okay,” Cher said, reaching out her hand. Should I kiss it? Press it to my breast? Thank God, I came to my senses and shook it. Then a guard politely showed me the door, which I floated through. In fact weeks later, my feet have yet to touch the ground. Who cares if I waited six hours to spend six seconds with my idol? I’m still in Cher Heaven and I’m never washing my right hand again.
© 1998 Lesléa Newman