LIZ SMITH: Gregg Allman Remembers Cher ...

Gregg Allman Remembers Cher — was she a mermaid, a little girl,
or General Patton?! ... Sally Kirkland Carries On (She remembers Cher, too!) ... God, Elvis and Dolores Hart — HBO Celebrates Sacrifice. Gloria Steinem celebrates HBO's Sheila Nevins.

by Liz Smith
Monday, April 30, 2012


“I THOUGHT, ‘Well, why not? I cared about her quite a bit. Well, I cared about one side of her. Couldn’t stand the General Patton side. But I did love the helpless little girl side of her.”

My Cross to Bear, click to order.
That’s rocker Gregg Allman in the new issue of Rolling Stone, writing about accepting Cher’s proposal that they marry in Las Vegas, after six months of dating. This is an anecdote culled from an excerpt of Allman’s coming memoir, My Cross to Bear.

President Obama is on the cover of RS. As a politically concerned citizen, I knew I should have headed straight for the president’s interview with Jann Wenner, the magazine’s editor and publisher.  But the gossip columnist in me took over. 

I know nothing of Gregg Allman’s music, though I know he is highly regarded.  He lives in my mind as that long-haired blond guy with the drug problem who Cher married in 1975, filed for divorce from four days later, then reconciled with, had his baby, Elijah Blue, and split from him for good in 1977.  (In between all this, Cher got back together with Sonny Bono, professionally for one last go at their variety program. It was hot stuff, believe me!)

Anyway, I went right to Allman’s memories of Cher. “She smelled like what I imagine a mermaid would smell—I’ve never smelled it since and I’ll never forget it,” Allman writes of his first encounter with Cher, at a nightclub in Hollywood.  They had a disastrous first date. The second was better—“we made some serious love!” 
Allman, at least not in this excerpt, doesn’t diss Cher, or reveal the “General Patton” side of her. He admits he never thought she was a good singer, though he loved her speaking voice, and told her she should sing like she talked. 

Cher, exasperated, finally said, “Well, enough other f***king people like it, so if you don’t like it, f**k you!” (If you wonder by what serene philosophy Cher has survived the slings and arrows of show biz, Mr. Allman has provided us with a glimpse.)

Gregg writes: “I had never done anything to hurt her; I’d hurt and degraded myself with drugs and booze.”  Perhaps he doesn’t realize that Cher was hurt and degraded by his heroin use. To watch somebody you care about self-destruct, not only arouses feelings of anger, but self-doubt—“Why can’t I stop him? What’s wrong with me?”
Live in Japan, 1977.
Gregg also mentions Chaz Bono, formerly known as Chastity. Speaking to the issue of Chaz’s gender alteration, Gregg says: “It’s not your everyday thing, but I just hope he’s happy and I wish him a very long, successful life.”

It’s that kind of sweet sensitivity—note Gregg’s use of gender identification—that attracted Cher to Allman in the first place. And I suppose all that “serious lovin’” played a part too.
SPEAKING OF Cher, remember when she won the Oscar in 1988 for Moonstruck?   How could you forget?  The star wore one bauble, one bangle, one bead, and half a prayer. She lost her earring on the way to the podium, and thanked her makeup man, forgetting all about her brilliant co-stars. 

Another memorable aspect of the night was Sally Kirkland’s sour expression when Cher’s name was announced as winner.
The night she won an Oscar for Moonstruck.
Kirkland had received raves for her dramatic performance in Anna. Despite the groundswell of love for Cher and Moonstruck, many critics felt Kirkland was the one to beat. 

Apparently Sally thought so too. She couldn’t put on the loser’s “happy” face as Cher sauntered to the winner’s circle. 
Sally Kirkland and Paulina Porizkova in Anna, 1987.
But, she recovered, and has worked steadily ever since, collecting awards and kudos. On April 21st, Sally received the 2012 “Remi” Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival. Previous winners include Catherine Deneuve and Elizabeth Taylor.

Kirkland’s Archaeology of a Woman won the Best Low Budget Feature Award. She also stars in Come What May, which won Best Short Subject Film. Upcoming Kirkland movies include Broken Roads and The Last Gamble with Steven Bauer. The latter will debut at the Lake Arrowhead Film Festival. 
Sally Kirkland in Archaeology of a Woman.
I AM forever writing about my various pals (distinguished and otherwise) and I hope some of them are your pals too. Anyway, I admit my prejudices.

So I was a little late seeing the acclaimed Sheila Nevins-produced documentary, God is the Bigger Elvis. Directed by Rebecca Cammisa this is “show biz” at its most inspiring which is not unusual for HBO.

The documentary—only about 40 minutes long—tells the story of beautiful young actress Dolores Hart, who gave up a thriving movie career—twice she worked with a sizzling hot Elvis Presley—to become a cloistered Benedictine nun. She was 23.  Hart—now known as Mother Prioress—is interviewed, and she is delightful, as are all the nuns. Despite the extreme discipline and hard work, they are an easygoing group.
Mother Prioress, formerly Dolores Hart.
Mother Prioress has eyes that literally twinkle with a kind of—dare we say it?—divine mischief.  Although Dolores Hart was the first and only actress to become a Benedictine nun, many of the others also segued from sophisticated circumstances.  Their lives now are cloistered, but weren’t always. (The Abbey, in Bethlehem, Conn., is populated by nuns, sheep, cats, dogs, and at least one lovely parrot.) 

Dolores Hart and Elvis Presley (1957).
Mother Prioress was even engaged to be married, but “the call” was greater than her love for a mere man. (A man who still loves her, and visits the convent often!) None of the nuns can quite explain why they have chosen this difficult life—and all readily agree it is difficult—but they exude a joy and purpose that is impossible to deny. Marriage to God is a palpable thing for them, and divorce is not an option. Charming, moving, thought-provoking.

Anyway, let’s chalk up another hit for Sheila Nevins, the documentary maker of HBO, and while we’re at it, let’s note that the “Women of Vision Gloria Awards” are being given May 14th at Cipriani 42 Street. This recognition dreamed up by the great Gloria  Steinem and Anika Rahman will honor Gert Boyle of Columbia Sportswear, artist Louise Gund, and the aforesaid Sheila Nevins.

The Ms. Foundation for Women is even more and more important this year when certain people who shall be nameless are conducting “states rights” wars against females all over the U.S.

Go to www.ms.foundation.org if you want to get with this liberal and liberating point of view.
Dolores Hart's 20/20 Interview.

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