Cher is curled on an enormous sofa at her enormous home in Malibu, a gentle ocean breeze slipping in through open doors to stir the flame of the scented candle burning between us. The weather outside is anything but frightful. Yet the 77-year-old showbiz legend is here to talk about Christmas — specifically “Christmas,” her first holiday album in a career that stretches back more than a half a century to the mid-1960s, when she broke out as half of a husband-and-wife duo with Sonny Bono.
“I never wanted to do a Christmas album, as you can tell, since I’m this age and I never made one,” Cher says. “But I guess this was just the time.”
With guest appearances by Stevie Wonder, Cyndi Lauper and Michael Bublé, “Christmas” features renditions of holiday classics like “Santa Baby,” “Run Rudolph Run” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” the last of which Cher does as a duet with the great Darlene Love. (At 17, Cher sang backup on Love’s original record.) It also has a handful of originals, including one called “Drop Top Sleigh Ride,” which features a verse by the rapper Tyga and which was co-produced by Cher’s boyfriend, 37-year-old record exec Alexander Edwards, whom she met at a fashion show.
Does she have a favorite Christmas album by someone else? “Nat King Cole,” says Cher, who has two children: Chaz Bono, a writer and trans activist whose father was the late Bono, and Elijah Blue Allman, a musician whose father was the late Gregg Allman. (The younger Allman, who’s struggled with addiction, made headlines last month when his estranged wife accused Cher of kidnapping him as part of a planned intervention.) “And I think Etta made a Christmas album,” she adds. “I was a big Etta James fan.”
Dressed in black track pants and a thin gray hoodie, the singer — whose 1998 comeback hit “Believe” just marked its 25th anniversary — offers me a sparkling water, then asks an assistant to bring her a chocolate protein shake. “I’m not, like, a big eater,” she says.
You just don’t care for food?
It’s OK. But I’m so specific. It’s awful.
Do you remember special dishes around the holidays when you were a kid?
Christmas dinner was always turkey and cornbread stuffing and my mother’s cheesecake. We were poor, but my mom was unbelievable on Christmas and birthdays — she always got it together. My favorite thing was decorating the tree. I was like, “Only three pieces of tinsel at a time, Georganne” — my sister. I did that part. “You’re not gonna do it right!”
When do you put up the Christmas tree these days?
Ten days before Christmas. Maybe two weeks. I like it to smell fresh.
What do people get Cher for Christmas?
My friends know the things that I like. Strange things — strange clothes and strange objects. [Points to a small sculpture of an elephant carrying a crystal ball.] That was a Christmas present. I think it’s supposed to have matches in it. But I don’t smoke.
Your mother passed away last year at 96. Would you want to live to that age?
No. I’m thinking about 80. I mean, I’m already past my sell-by date. My mom was great at 80 — I did a special with my mom at 80. But I’m not so much for over 80. I don’t want to not be me.
Do you think you’ll tour again?
I hope so. I want to. When I want something I’m pretty good at striving. Barbra Streisand and I were doing a telethon once and we had a break. Barbra reached over me — reached over, I don’t remember, Billy Crystal — and she said, “Why are you still doing this?” And I said, “Because there will come a time when I can’t.”
She’s still doing it. What was her answer?
Well, she’s not running across the stage making 14 costume changes. I never stop moving the whole time. It takes a lot of effort. I’m gonna have to really get into shape to do it.
So as you sit here now, without a specific plan—
Let’s stop there. I never have a plan.
But if tomorrow someone said, “Cher, I think you should tour next year…”
They’re always asking me. But it’s daunting. What I want is the feeling I have during rehearsal where I stand on the stage and I open my mouth and I can feel stuff that’s coming from my chest, and it’s big. Because I’m small — but when I open my mouth to sing, what comes out is big. There’s nothing else that corresponds with that feeling in any way.
Elton John was very deliberate in framing his most recent shows as his farewell tour.
I’ve had a million of those. Every time I call it a farewell tour, it’s not. I always think it is.
So now you’d know better than to call it that.
Oh no — I’d call it that for sure.
Who was the last big pop star you went out to see?
Usher [in Las Vegas]. Unbelievable.
Why’d you go see Usher?
Because Alexander said, “I want you to see Usher.”
Did Usher know you were in the house?
Yeah, he called out to me. He called out to a lot of people. But I got a huge applause. I was really happy.
Do you follow the Taylor Swifts and Lady Gagas of the world?
I like all of those girls a lot. I always know what they’re doing — it’s impossible not to. But I’m really proud of this new generation of women because they get a chance to do what they want to do. And I feel that I might have been a part of that. There’s a lot of us old women that were just kind of balls-to-the-wall, “Don’t f— with me, fellas.” But it took a long, long time to get there.
Did you see that Madonna has a video clip in her new show from an old interview of yours where you said that she’s mean?
I said a lot worse than that.
What’s your beef with Madonna?
It’s not a beef. I actually like her. But come on.
You’re saying she’s mean?
She can be. We buried that hatchet a long time ago because I called her something so much worse, and she forgave me. But I give her this: There’s no one like her that had their ear to the ground and knew everything before anybody else. I mean, she knew what was coming, and she was right on it. I always felt that was her greatest gift — that she could know the trends before any of us.
What did you call her that was worse?
Look it up.
Let’s say tomorrow is Election Day. Are you voting for Joe Biden, Donald Trump or Robert F. Kennedy Jr.?
F—, are you kidding me? Look, I’m not thrilled with everything Joe does, but I’ve known him since 2008. And he’s not senile. He’s got a bad back. I don’t know why people don’t say that. But he’s smart, and he works hard. I agree with a lot of the things he does. Some of the things I don’t, but he’s making decisions all the time. Trump, I’m never gonna go there. I’d rather jump off a building.
Do you wish someone younger than Biden was running for president?
I wish there was someone younger than me. But I still trust him. It doesn’t scare me.
Is that because you’re close to his age and you know that you’re—
I’m capable. I don’t have that strength. But it’s like, he couldn’t go onstage. I’ve done that all my life. He’s done [politics] his whole life. Also, he has a moral compass. And Trump has no moral compass whatsoever.
What do you think of RFK Jr.?
I don’t like his views.
Do you know him?
No. I know Caroline [Kennedy], and I was around Eunice [Kennedy Shriver]. Oh, and Jackie [Kennedy Onassis]. Jackie told me once that when her kids were little, they used to sing “I Got You Babe.” But that’s as much as I know of the family.
You’ve lived in L.A. for decades. Lots of Angelenos in your socioeconomic class say this city is falling apart — that it’s not as great at it used to be. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the state of L.A.?
I’m realistic. And you can’t think that it wasn’t better before.
In what ways was it better?
The crime is crazy. Homeless people are everywhere. And I know a lot about homeless people — how you strike up a conversation and how you don’t have to be frightened. I used to stop everyone that was homeless and talk to them. But I’m careful now because so many homeless people are having mental difficulties, and we don’t have the facilities to take care of them. Honestly, I don’t think the government in California is very good.
You mean Gov. Newsom.
He’s handsome, but I’m not so sure that he’s capable. He could be in the movies. I met [French President Emmanuel] Macron lately. He’s so suave. But I don’t like what [Newsom] is doing. He’s not taking care of anything. That you can smash and grab in Beverly Hills is insane. You shouldn’t be able to do it anywhere, but it shows the insanity of it that it’s there.
You ever get involved in city politics? Host a fundraiser here for somebody seeking office?
There’s no one that I thought was great. If someone came with a vision, I would host them.
But you haven’t seen the vision.
No. Also, our taxes are ridiculous.
You and Alexander have been together for more than a year. Would you ever get married again?
Because I’ve done it. I’m really happy with Alexander. [Flashes a very large diamond ring.] He gave me that last Christmas.
But it’s not an engagement ring.
Not so much. He just wanted to give it to me. Usually I wear it on my right hand because he said, “It’s the right ring for the right woman on the right hand.”
Talk about suave.
He writes songs, and I almost stopped talking to him because I went, “Come on, dude — you’ve done these lines in a song.” But he just wasn’t taking no for an answer. So somehow we’re together.
Because he’s significantly younger than you, do you ever find yourself having to explain a cultural reference?
Every once in a while. One time I got kind of pissed off and I said, “OK, you probably don’t know who Clark Gable is,” and he said, “I know who Clark Gable is, baby.”
You’ve navigated things as a parent that not all parents navigate. I wonder if your experience has been—
Difficult? Challenging? Exciting? Interesting? It wasn’t easy with either husband. Sonny was a much better husband. No, not a better husband — a better father. But I was working all the time, and I’m sure my children suffered from it. When Chaz went through the transition, that was difficult for me. It shouldn’t have been because, you know, I’ve had gay friends forever. I just met some beautiful trans chicks and we have an affinity. Now I’m totally fine. But it’s hard to lose one child to get a new one, especially so late. I think that was the hard thing for me. I don’t think it was the transition. It was waiting to see who the person would be, and would they be so much different than the person that was before them …
Because you loved the previous person.
Yes. But Chaz was unhappy.
Are you the type of parent to look back and think you could have done such-and-such better?
Oh yeah. Because it’s the truth. But I did the best I could, which is such a bulls— answer.
You ever go to therapy?
What the f— kind of question is that? I think everybody could use therapy.
Everybody could use it, but not everybody goes.
I’ve had to go a couple of times. I’ve had down periods in my life, and when you’re down, you’re looking for something, you know? I had one great therapist maybe 30 years ago. I got her from the “Road Less Traveled” writer. Why can’t I think of his name?
Seems indelicate to say you’re having a senior moment.
It happens. See, I don’t think Joe has them. Joe has stuttering, but I don’t think he has senior moments.
I’ll have to think about that.
M. Scott Peck! I called him and I said, “I need a therapist.” He called me back and said, “OK, as luck would have it, my wife came up with someone.” I met her and I went to her for a year. She was amazing. And I’m not easily molded. But she was a genius. Then she had to move to Atlanta. But that year really changed me a lot.
This story originally Appeared on LATimes