Backstory: Gonna Fly Now
BY Jeff Yarbrough
October 11 2011 8:00 AM ET
“My mother wants to talk to you.” It was a sentence I hadn’t heard since I was a schoolyard bully. Only this time, the kid’s mom was Cher. Chastity Bono had poked her head in to my office at The Advocate where I was working as Editor in Chief. Bono joined our staff in the summer of 1995 as an occasional columnist and contributing writer. I had offered her the gig following a cover story about her that had appeared in April of that year. “Please talk to her,” the recently out lesbian said, flashing an infectious grin. “She wants to make sure you’ll take good care of me.” Chastity continued, as if reading from a prompter: “Mom is concerned that you’re a radical journalist and will sweep me up in a counterculture and make me a symbol of something.”
I asked, “Did you remind your mom that she was a radical artist, swept-up in a counterculture, and was made a symbol of something?” We both smiled broadly. “Of course I’ll talk to your mother.”
A few weeks passed. Chastity’s first column appeared in the magazine. One morning my assistant yelled from outside my office: “Cher’s on Line One!” He gasped, laughed, and squealed all at once. It sounded like he was choking. “Put her through!” I barked. He made another choking noise as he transferred her call. The phone on my desk began to ring and flash red.
The first thing of consequence Cher said to me was, “Please don’t write about this,” which I haven’t until now. Our chat was not brief. We discussed The Advocate’s mission statement. She said she’d read the magazine “over the years” and gave me her take on it, which wasn’t all that flattering. She questioned me regarding Chastity’s role at the publication. After answering, I rattled-off some acquaintances Cher and I had in common, thinking such associations might ease concerns: Bob Mackie (dresser), Bruce Vilanch (writer), David Geffen (ex-boyfriend), Herb Ritts (photographer), Bill Sammeth (ex-manager). Cher stopped me short of finishing my A-gay list. “I know who you know,” she said, in an octave below her normal speaking voice. Next came the point of the personal phone call: “If you do anything to Chaz that I don’t think is cool, I’ll come and get you.”