I was hoping I would get to work this show for a number of reasons.
First of all, Cher is an amazing icon, whom I have always admired. In fact, I still have my Cher Fashion Doll from the 70’s TV Show! (Name your price!)
I was also looking forward to seeing her epic wardrobe, which inspired me last year to make a competition dance costume reminiscent of the black Bob Mackie bodysuit she wore in her “Turn Back Time” video shot on that Navy War Ship.
If that weren’t enough reasons, my friend Raymie has been Cyndi’s stage manager for many years. The combination was the perfect storm!
Raymie, Taz and I had recently worked together on the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise in January.
Cyndi was ever present backstage hanging out with her band. She was very friendly and you couldn’t help but overhear her distictive voice as she stopped to talk to fans or anyone who would approach her. That’s usually how I recognize an artist backstage. A lot of times they have on a hoodie or a hat, but when I hear them talking, then I realize who they are.
As GiGi and I got settled back in the wardrobe department, she told me she was a huge fan of Cher and had seen her many times in concert and told me she was actually a Cher impersonator for many years. I’ve worked with GiGi before and had no idea!
I’d love to do some replicas of Cher’s costumes! (Anybody?)
GiGi started working on steaming costumes and I was assigned to doing some wardrobe repairs.
I decided to make my first project the most difficult one, which was replacing the wide tooth zipper on a pair of tan fringy beaded chaps. Normally it’s not that big of a deal, but these chaps had a ton of fringe and beading that had to be removed and then later stitched back into place once the zipper was replaced. (I added the broken zipper to my epic collection of “celebrity scraps”)
I proceeded to do some minor hand sewing on a dark brown Trojan style helmet and repair a rainbow sequin spandex costume for the male dancers.
We were given a break and got to see Cyndi do her sound check. She came onstage by jogging in from the back of the building, surrounded by a pack of women security guards, singing and waving through the seats on the floor as she made her way to the stage. She was quite a character. She ran through key parts of many of her hit songs and made very specific frequency adjustments to the sound man until he had it exactly the way she wanted it. Her voice was spot on to all of her original recordings. They kept telling her the countdown till the doors were going to open. They’d say “Cyn 3 minutes till doors” and she’d say “yea, yea I only need 2” but she went over anyway and barely got off stage before the crowd started pouring in.
At this point we took a dinner break. GiGi wanted to go get some of Cher’s Merch, so we ventured into the arena to find a place where she could purchase a concert tour book. It was filled with beautiful pictures of Cher, but it would have been nice to have some images of the costumes and stage from the tour. Just Sayin’
We had a break before Cher so we sat at FOH (mission control) with my friend Taz, her lighting guy, to watch Cyndi’s entire show from the floor. She loves interacting with the crowd and they cant keep her out of it. She broke her ankle one time, years ago, climbing over people’s seats!
We heading backstage as Cyndi was singing her last song “True Colors”. I heard a voice come out of the shadows and I realized was Cher, standing there watching Cyndi perform. Standing next to her was her body guard (an older American Indian man). Cher was wearing a black drape over her head and blended right into the curtain. She wasn’t as tall as I expected her to be. GiGi didn’t notice her, so I turned around and whispered “Cher is right behind you” and when she turned her head they were face to face! As we held the curtain open for Cher to pass, she touched GiGi on the hand and said Thank You. GiGi about fainted and wanted to have her hand bronzed. LOL
As Cher’s show was about to start I reported to my station under the stage next to the dressing “room” (a blacked out tent) where the aerialist and stilt walker had their costumes. My job was to quickly hang up all the sweaty costumes delivered to me, as the show progressed, sorting out all the laundry items like socks, tanks, t shirts and towels, into a separate basket. Some of the costumes were really heavy and needed two hangars to hold them up.
I could hear the entire show from under the stage and see it on the large monitors several guys in underworld were using to operate various things on stage. One camera angle was from “mission control” on the floor pointed straight at the stage and the other was from high up in the lighting rig looking down on center stage.
There was a lit up runway through one section under the stage that led to 2 elevators going up and down to the stage they would fill with dancers and props. It was pretty cool. I see that on a lot of tours.
There was also a giant fog machine next to me that filled the stage with fog on que through huge flexible tubes. Fog usually has this distictive dry smell. At one point there was a smelly smoke pouring out of a road case that had all these cables running into it. I was getting concerned, as it didn’t smell like the usual fog, so I grabbed one of the underworld guys and pointed to the case. He laughed and said “it’s supposed to do that!” Ok! Just checking!!!
At one point I could hear Cher talking about her favorite drink, Dr. Pepper. They really should ask her to do a commercial! Sheesh!
As my rack was getting full of about 50 or more costumes, one of the touring wardrobe girls swapped me for an empty rack and rolled the full one back to wardrobe where she could hang things over fans to dry.
As the show was ending we gathered up all the remaining costume discards, helmets, accessories and headed back to wardrobe where we sorted out all the remaining costumes so they could be dried and packed up.
Ten hours later, its finally time to go home. It’s now midnight. It’s been a long day, but I had fun and I love my job!
Gina Vincenza Van Epps
A List Wardrobe Seamstress
Universal Orlando Costume Fabrication Specialist
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