I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Babe

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“Cher experimented more than anyone. I believe she paved the way for today’s stars. I think as a society we really owe her a great debt.” — Makeup artist Kevin Aucoin in Interview

The following excerpts are from a speech given by the President of the United States in the year 20 A.C. (after Cher).

Ladies and gentlemen, Sonnys and Chers, on the occasion of this 20th annual Cher the Love Day, it’s appropriate to reflect on the debt that we as a society owe to this amazing woman. For starters, if not for her keen fashion sense and willingness to push the envelope of taste I would not be standing before you today in a leather thong and spiked dog collar. I would be forced by outmoded convention into the navy blue or charcoal gray suits in which most presidents once performed their public duties.

Those dark days are long behind us, thank heaven. But it is worthwhile to take stock of how different our lives would be, how utterly futile and miserable and empty of meaning they would seem, if not for all that Cher has given us. Before the Nine-Day Limit Law (“Allman’s Joy”), for example, many doomed marriages struggled on and on for weeks, sometimes months, before the unhappy couple could throw in the towel. Nowadays an unsuccessful union can be ended in roughly the same amount of time and with the same amount of pain it takes to complete — or remove — an especially complicated tattoo.

Cher’s impact on our political institutions has been equally profound. It was her brilliantly conceived, constitutionally sound nose reduction surgery, after all, that ultimately inspired the successful downsizing of the U.S. government.

Nor should we forget the far-reaching consequences of her solo hit “Half-Breed” — the song which, we can now say in hindsight, provided the necessary catalyst for healing our nation’s racial wounds. When she sang “Take Me Home,” her last major single of the 1970s, we assumed it to be merely another mindless paean to the joys of casual, drugged-out, disco-thumping sex. How little we knew. With the perspective of decades, we can today perceive the seeds of the simple yet elegant solution to the homeless problem that this song set in motion.

In fact, her musical dominance needs scarcely be mentioned. A single Cher video, “If I Could Turn Back Time,” was responsible for both the worldwide adoption of permanent daylight savings time and a 3000 percent increase in Navy enlistments, though the new recruits were probably disappointed to find themselves swabbing the decks instead of wiping down a sweaty, gyrating Cher with a damp chamois (I know I was).

Like so many Americans, my life has been touched directly by Cher through the Cosmetic Surgery Rights Amendment to the Constitution. My parents were poor — gypsies, tramps and thieves, if the truth be told. And when it became apparent that the slight but psychologically painful flaws in my physical makeup could only be corrected by a Beverly Hills specialist, that law made it possible for me to get the help I needed.

Cher’s contributions to the sciences may, if anything, outweigh her artistic achievements. It was a global day of rejoicing when her decades-old work on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour earned a Nobel Prize for mathematics for her discovery of a new lowest common denominator.

Environmental concerns were never far from Cher’s heart. Thanks to the hallowed documentary videocubes that are required viewing in every high school history class, all of us are familiar with her breathtaking appearance at the 1986 Academy Awards. And we now realize why less than three decades later Congress passed the Exotic Costume Preservation Act, with its particularly stringent provisions for endangered theatrical plumage.

No doubt some of the seniors watching today can remember America’s old-style economy of heavy and light industry, of tangible goods and useful services. Yes, it worked. But was it fair? Did it allow everyone the chance to star in their own infomercial? By contrast, today’s Cher-based, infomercial-driven economy guarantees every American the right to trade shares of Cher and Cher derivatives on Wall Street.

Cher did not live to see every change inspired by her example. And while she received ample honors in her day — the Jack La Lanne Chair of Physical Education at Steady State University, being named first head of the Federal Spandex Administration, and a Penthouse Soft-Focus Award for Best Half-Naked Cannon Straddling — it would have been impossible to repay her in full for her contributions.

So the next time you get a makeover grant from the Department of Glitz, the next time you receive confidential marital advice from the Chastity/Chaz Institute for Human Sexual Response, the next time you salute the Red, White and Elijah Blue…think of Cher, and say a silent prayer of thanks.

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