Above: A gallery of 14 Cher shots!
As of yesterday morning, I was not going to the Gay Pride Pier Dance to see Cher perform. I regretted not buying a ticket, though. I've never been a huge fan of her music (I do adore her for her TV series and think she gives GREAT interview), and yet I felt like this might be a good opportunity to see her in a setting more intimate than, say, a Vegas casino.
At the last minute, I asked a friend who'd had extra tickets, but he'd sold them. Another friend had one cheap, but I'd have to get to TriBeCa for it. A third was begging off and offered to sell it to me when we met for brunch, but then I skipped brunch when I realized eating it would have meant missing the entire Gay Pride Parade.
Luckily, I caught up to him at brunch's end and snapped up the $75 ticket. This, in turn, led me to lackadaisically inquire with her publicist as to when she would actually hit the stage—the event was scheduled to run from 3PM to 10PM. I was not expecting it, but I was then bumped up to VIP status and told to expect Cher around 9:30PM...things got interesting!
After cabbing (!) along the West Side Highway for what seemed like an hour (not a great mode of transportation during Gay Pride and with LGBTQs running wild along the river), I was dumped near-ish to Laight Street, the entrance to the event. It was around 7PM, and opening act Deborah Cox was just beginning her set. All the fans had to walk around a city block to get to the entrance, then were third-degreed by some cops—no ticket, no entry, so I was lucky I hadn't relied on my VIP status alone. (Meanwhile, keep in mind this is a massive migration of hundreds of shirtless, clone-like hardbodies who could recite random episodes of Designing Women, and me).
At the media table, I was told I had VIP access, but that when the show started, VIPers would need to exit the special area and fend for themselves in the crowd. This sounded like we could get Sebastian Venabled, but I kept a positive attitude.
Once inside, I and my sparkly VIP wristband made our way forward, past every body type imaginable, from superfit to superlean to superbuff to...wait, there wasn't actually much variety, was there?
I ran into the delectable Andrew Glaszek, who informed me that in order to get into VIP, I'd have to circle back behind the Port-o-Potties. Makes sense that at a gay event you have to cruise the johns to get to where you're going. Along the way, I spotted adorable actor Matthew Wilkas, who was so effective in Gayby. He later Facebooked me his amazement that I'd gotten a good candid of him without his knowledge. It's a gift. That I give myself.
It was a little tough fighting my way in VIP, what with queens stacked five deep to catch a glimpse of Ms. Cox, but I have to say everyone was nice considering it was 100% humidity and many had been plastered in place all day. Once into VIP, which was a roomy area completely behind the stage, I spotted Billy Porter (feeling no pain...and the girl deserves to feel no pain!), Michael Lucas and lots of high-class tail.
Cher's PRs gave me a coveted pass that would get me in the pit directly in front of the stage. Realizing I was totally unworthy didn't stop me from hurrying to take advantage of it. I tried getting there the easy way, but was sent into the crowd from the side and told I had to make my way to the front. Imagine sliding through megafans who've been holding their spots desperately for ages? Yeah, it was not easy. Then, I was told I had to go back! The guards were politely but firmly turning down my offer to hop the barrier ("If you do it, everyone will" sounded to me like, "If you can do it, who couldn't?") when BOOM! I was rescued by the fairy godmother of the pit, who led me around and into the right spot.
As I passed the dancers' tent, a fucking gorgeous dude in a loincloth was leaning out to see how the crowd looked. "Can I take your picture?" asked, ironically, in a flash. He posed happily and I moved on, winding up seated in the pit feet from where Cher would make her return to live performing.
Being in that pit was just crazy. First, it was almost empty! And I had cold water (one fan behind the barrier teased me about it, making me feel somewhat Marie Antoinette). From my vantage point, I had unparalled views of the quirky dancers who warmed us up after Ms. Cox split. One was the incredible go-go boy whom I'd just shot. He turns out to be a famous dancer named Geronimo Frias, and chico is he my type. Not to mention his mesmerizing dance moves, which consisted of shaking his dick in that loincloth until I had whiplash. Beautiful guy. Much more of him here. (Work Unfriendly)
The others weren't half bad either, and the women were gussied up as gay unicorns. Giddyup.
Best of all, my buddy Sergio joined me in the pit. He's as much of a starfucker as I am, so we always have something, or someone, to talk about just having gotten or just not having gotten. Neither of us has met Cher, but baby steps, baby steps: We were about to watch her perform so close to us we could smell her. (For the record, I'm not sure what she actually smells like; the Pier Dance smelled overwhelmingly like scrotum, pits and...was that a hint of Uninhibited?)
I also spotted my Madonna pals Jim and Marquan, together four years (so they might still even be having sex—together—at this point), in the front row. They're adorable so I included my pictures of them. Marquan is the bigger Cher buff; he even teared up when Cher's choreographer briefly appeared in the pit. Everyone loves her! I don't think of Cher as requiring choreography, so wondered if her job consisted of clearing a path and getting out of the way. But as it turns out, Cher leaves nothing to chance with her movements—superVIP attendees (my pals Adam, Mark, Joe, Jeff and others were there) who stood actually on the stage behind Cher for the performance could see that along with lyrics, her TelePrompTers offered instructions on when to "fist pump" and "wave." This choregrapher, who has a sultry, ripened Yvonne DeCarlo look, must be a lovely, lovely lady, because her very presence melted the front-fow bitches.
Finally, the stage went dark and Whoopi Goldberg emerged to briefly introduce "the reason you're all here." A melange of Cher tunes began, most prominently "If I Could Turn Back Time." Then, there was Cher.
Looking how she should've on The Voice, Cher strolled out in a '90s red wig and amazingly elaborate, layered outfit (credit goes to designer Ashton Hirota of label Ashton Michael—she wore an Ashton Michael leather jacket, kilt, trousers and leg warmers) that looked like chain mail met a kilt on Grindr and suggested a three-way with a vest. In other words, perfection.
It was staggering being so damn close to the living legend. At 67, as someone pointed out, you know she's had "stuff done," but she sure looks incredible. I was getting a hint of Joanna Gleason, and the hair brings Kathy Griffin to mind. But Cher is still Cher, an original.
Gettin' into it, with Broadway Bares dancer Jamal Story (left).
She kicked things off with "Strong Enough," preached to the choir with "Believe" and wrapped with her throbbing, Oakenfold thumper "Woman's World." Yes, there was a track, but you could definitely hear her voice, too; oddly and wonderfully, she appeared to actually sing the echo, "after love, after love, after love" in "Believe," which reminded me of when Madonna did the repeated "Co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-c'mon" in "Causing a Commotion" on Who's That Girl.
Cher apologized for her voice, claiming she's been having trouble with it and admitting she was thinking, "Oh, fuck! It's not the best and it's not the worst, and here we are." Cher radiated the same charm and warmth she was rockin' at Marquee, but again, she was ruthlessly brief in her remarks. (As much as everyone dug 15 minutes of Cher tunes, they probably would've been just as geeked to get 15 minutes of Cher chatter—which isn't the case for most popstars).
The only other substantial comments she made were that she was taking her jacket off, a funny joke that "we've never actually gotten together in a big group like this!" and "Have a great night!"
When it was all over, everyone looked spent. (Perhaps a few were; no one had been paying close attention to anything but Cher for 15 minutes, after all.) As the Pier fireworks exploded, I had to make my way back through the revelers, thrilled to have been within Cher's orbit for a spell.
The same day she Piered into our hearts, Cher had tweeted that she thinks Madonna (whom she calls "Madge") is one of the greatest pop icons of all time. Takes one to know one.