Relax at 72? Not Cher. Instead of turning back time, she is, as ever, forging ahead. 

Throwing on her studded leather jacket and packing her rhinestone-encrusted bags, Cher will soon be heading out on a new 30-city national tour, announced last week. The “Here We Go Again” concert series kicks off on January 17th in Ft. Myers, Fla. and ends on May 18th in St. Paul, Minn., two days before her 73rd birthday.

Apparently Cher hasn’t heard that the average age of retirement in this country is 63.

The tour, her first in five years, will be the capper to a monumental year. Cher appeared this summer in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, her first on-screen appearance in eight years. Later this month, she’ll release a new album, Dancing Queen, featuring cover versions of ABBA songs (including two recorded for the movie’s soundtrack). And on Dec. 2nd, she will be one of four artists (plus a show) honored by the Kennedy Center for their contribution to American culture—one day before a musical based on her life debuts on Broadway.

Say what you want, but this septuagenarian has more energy in one eyelash than I have in my entire 54-year-old body.  

A nearly 50-year love affair

I should know. I’ve been a fan (some might say fanatic) for most of my life—from the time I was a little girl through my 30-year career at NBC, many of them at the Today Show, where my most recent role was as senior producer, overseeing the fourth hour hosted by Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. (I left the show last year.)

It was the summer of 1971, when I first discovered Cher, after she made her debut in the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. I wonder if  she had an inkling then that 47 years later she’d be performing around the continent in spandex and sequins, directly after a musical about her life opened on Broadway. Probably not.

And she probably didn’t realize the impact she’d have on so many lives, including mine. Back then, as a wide-eyed 7-year-old girly girl, I took one look at this captivating, long-haired woman on TV and knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. (That didn’t happen.)

My eyes were glued to the screen as if Cher was calling my name. The only thing my young mind couldn’t understand was how her mom let her out of the house in those daring gowns that left so much of her skin showing. Wasn’t she embarrassed?

Over the years, I spent my babysitting money on Cher albums, hoop earrings, and bellbottoms. I covered my room in Sonny and Cher photos and eventually met fellow fans, who named me secretary of the International Cher Fan Club.  

That coveted position opened many doors.  We attended unlimited concerts in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and New York City (I’ve been to more than 20). What I only dreamed of as a 7-year-old started to become reality (minus the becoming-a-celebrity part).

Yes, I once bowled with Cher in Vegas (I’ve got the signed pin to prove it), appeared in a People magazine photo with her while grabbing an autograph outside the David Letterman show stage as an NBC page (risking my job), and then, during my stint as a Today Show producer, shared some screen time with her a few years back.

Incidentally, when Cher appeared on the show, I was wearing an old sweater of her’s that I’d secured from a Hollywood thrift shop. She recognized it and asked about the matching leggings, which I had sitting at home in a collector’s box.

Why the tour is a big deal

Until you see a concert, you can’t fully understand the true Cher experience. She shows up with one goal and that’s to entertain you, from the moment she greets you with her signature, “Hello ladies and flamboyant gentlemen,” to her final encore.  

If the upcoming tour will be your first concert, let me give you a little preview of what to expect and a few tips on how to get the most out of the experience.

First, there is no sitting.  If you’re content to relax in your folding chair, you most likely won’t see a thing until Cher hits a ballad. If she’s dancing—and she dances a lot—you should be dancing too.

Second, be prepared to laugh. Cher does not take Cher seriously. She entertains herself as much as she entertains the audience.

Case in point: At the last Las Vegas concert I went to, she opened with U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For as she entered the theatre in a gold cage that floated above the audience.

Cher does not take Cher seriously. She entertains herself as much as the audience.

Third, you’ll go home smiling. Let’s face it: she doesn’t have to work;  she works because she wants to and who doesn’t want to make work fun? That fun is contagious.  

In fact, the thing I enjoy most about her concerts is how much fun Cher has with Cher, the character.  She knows her costumes are over the top and when she makes an entrance, it’s with a big smile on her face because she knows that it’s all a little bit ridiculous.

Plus, she’s a talker as well as a singer and show woman, telling fascinating tales of her life and the celebrities and characters she’s met along the way.  She’s honest and real. It’s always interesting to hear what goes on in Cher’s world because it’s a pretty original one.

Why Cher deserves the cultural icon label

What’s really behind my infatuation?

Cher first grabbed me, along with so many of her fans, with her outrageous outfits and quick quips. But she captured us with her refreshing honesty and inspiring reinventions of herself—from a skinny 16-year-old to a mom and humanitarian; to a Grammy, Emmy, and Oscar winning actress; to her current status as a cultural icon.

Cher’s life hasn’t all been smooth sailing. But no one rides the waves like she does. 

Cher’s life hasn’t been smooth sailing. But no one rides the waves like she does.

To put it another way: When I was a little girl, Cher became fascinating to me because of her beauty, talent and style.  As a grown woman, I admire Cher for the same reasons I did as a young girl, but probably more so and with deeper meaning.

I admire her style, but now it’s less about  costumes and more about character.  I admire her beauty, because I’ve learned it comes from her soul. And I admire her talent—especially that talent to reinvent herself and laugh at herself while she’s doing it.

And that may be the most important thing you’ll learn from a Cher concert: If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re missing out on a great show.