Opinion: Cher Endorsing Shink Sparks Silly Hysteria

There is a lot of buzz in West Hollywood circles leading up to the election on June 2nd. From my perspective much of the discussion is centered around who will win, with actual policy and the change the candidates would affect being thrown by the wayside.

This could be because those privy to our local political scene already know what each candidate represents, and more or less what course of action they would take if elected.


An alternative explanation could be that we are looking at the election from a superficial standpoint.

Do we support the public image of our candidates, or do we truly support their values?

I try to hold West Hollywood up to the impressive standard it has set as being among the most progressive cities in the country. By that standard I have to roll my eyes when I see us ignoring relevant issues and our discourse being relegated to buzzwords, personal attacks and inane symbolism over substance.

And so I find myself losing a little faith when I hear people speak about the race and the first thing they mention is that they saw Cher at a party, because it seems you’re missing the point if you attend an event for a political candidate and the most notable thing you took away from it was a celebrity sighting.

Cher has a long and impressive history of championing LGBT rights, and she is certainly a strong voice on the issue. She has a strong track record of supporting other important progressive causes, often before the viewpoint becomes acceptable to the progressive status quo, and she deserves to be commended.

Yet I question if those enamored by her aura are a fan of Cher the activist, or Cher the celebrity, because I don’t hear them talking about Cher’s stance on local issues or how the candidate she is endorsing is going to change the city for the better. It’s sadly centered more on how she looked, what she was wearing. Where she was standing.

Cher doesn’t live in West Hollywood, and I have no indication she is familiar with the workings of our local government, yet to be fair also none to the contrary. I don’t know what Cher does, how she spends her days, how active she is in politics on a personal or day-to-day level. I know she hasn’t expressed much interest in West Hollywood until recently.

I do know many prominent members of the West Hollywood community who have endorsed various candidates and are active in the community on a day-to-day basis. Many are historically important activists in their own right. Perhaps their opinions should hold equal weight to Cher’s, if not more so.

Cher’s son, Chaz Bono, lives in West Hollywood and is an invaluably important voice in the LGBT movement. So we find ourselves in a situation where the cult of celebrity of the mother of one of the candidates’ ex-lovers is dominating the political discourse at cocktail parties. Phrased as such it sounds kind of silly, the type of cynical Joe the Plumber exhibitionism we tend to look down on from afar.

Cher’s endorsement of Ms. Shink reads as follows:

West Hollywood has a very special place in my heart. I began my career here, playing at places like the Whisky a Go Go and the Troubadour, and I have many friends and fans who call West Hollywood home. Even more importantly, this city is where my son Chaz Bono has chosen to live, where he feels accepted and safe. My most significant role in life is that of a mother and like any mom, I value my child’s happiness above all else. That’s why it is so crucial to me who is on the West Hollywood City Council and that’s why this June election is so vital. I urge everyone to vote for Heidi.

Ms. Shink, like the other three candidates on the ballot and each current member of our council, proudly and fervently champions LGBT rights. I would argue two of the other candidates have a much longer history of involvement and activism on the issue. I fail to see how Cher’s endorsement differentiates Ms. Shink from the other candidates on this issue.

If Cher wants to be involved in West Hollywood that’s most certainly a positive. My money says we don’t hear much from her after this election. Cher’s opinion should hold no more clout than any member of our community who regularly votes in our local elections. If she is to influence your vote, let it be from her actions and not her status as a pop icon.

And next time you feel the need to talk about how you saw her at a fundraiser, try and mix in some talk about the actual fundraiser. It should bring us closer to the truth.

Matt Ralston, a comedian, was a candidate in the March 3 West Hollywood City Council election.

  1. Where’s the betrayal Steve? This city still believes and continues to firmly operate based on its original core values. All of those values have been strengthened because of past Council Members that love our city…..(I think you were one of them, as I’m told.)

    Betrayal is a too strong a word, with too much negativity and falsehood.

  2. Some folks had a notion that all us gay guys would just been swooning for an endorsement by Cher; unfortunately I think those folks have watching a bit too many re-runs of Will and Grace.

    We need serious discussions about who can best lead us into the future. Certainly the deep pocketed developers are lining with John Heilman’s vision of a West Hollywood of glass and steel. This is an election about West Hollywood values; about someone who betrayed them and who can best restore them to our beleaguered community.

    1. Steve: Please specify a list of values which you believe John Heilman has betrayed. Facts without innuendo would be very helpful.

      1. Steve Martin was voted out of office and “sour grapes” has become all to apparent in his recent postings and attack about a month ago directed towards John Duran. He accused John of sexual misconduct but if my memory serves me correctly that was the reason for Steve Martins downfall.

        John Heilman has serves this community well. He was one of many that helped create our city and the many protection we have today. While I disagree with how West Hollywood Park has and is being redeveloped John’s detractors seem to agree with him about the massive paving over of it.

        Where exactly has any developer been given special treatment at the hands of John Heilman? There are five member of the City Council and he has only one vote. He maybe working them for large contributions but where is the special treatment? The biggest project currently underway that is a huge change from it’s previous use is Movie Town Plaza. Does anyone really believe any developer was going to recreate the same tired shopping center? It’s a large parcel and it either would sit idle for years to come empty or a large development was going to take place. That’s just good business.

        Steve Martin, it’s time you offered reasonable advice as you have in the past and avoid these character assassinations.

  3. Of course Cher’s gonna back Heidi. Heidi and Chaz used to be girlfriends and they also had a 2 woman band together back in the day…

  4. My friend brought me to the event and I was very disappointed. Cher was there for 15 minutes, stayed away from all the people. She didn’t take a photo with anybody and some in the audience got on their cells to ask for a refund. The event was shallow and the candidate had nothing to offer. I left wondering if this was how shallow the politicians are in my own city.

  5. @cathy….I made no comment about the fundraiser. I only commented about the silly mailer.

    So, I’M confused, how did I help you put things” into perspective”?

  6. @Cathy: How’s this for perspective. Serious acclimated residents and business interests support folks with credentials and a proven ability at governance, whatever the level. These folks find a way to work with power on all types of issues. They most likely would not support dilettantes with made up resumes who can’t hold focus or generate positive solutions.

    Please dispense with the 21st c. West Hollywood reincarnation of the “nattering nabobs of negativism”, a phrase coined by William Safire, spoken by the less than illustrious Spiro Agnew, to describe the media at that point, as having formed their own 4-H club–the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history”.

    Step into the light.

  7. Matt I see Cher is this in a totally different light than you. In my view the West Hollywood Democracy needs all the energy, involvement and participation that it can get. With low voter turnout as you know and after running yourself to get 339 votes in the end, the amount of voters involved and informed needs to grow. Cher getting in the mix in our election brings energy, exposure, people talking, maybe more voting. Also Cher has been a huge LGBT advocate for years and to have her endorse a Lesbian candidate as well is a well needed support of LGBT individuals being out and in elections. I’m not really sure what your agenda was with this op/ed.? In the end critiquing her out fits and so on I think misses the big picture in all of this , which again in my view is a major celebrity giving West Hollywood some time, energy and supporting a openly out LGBT candidate

  8. @ Manny. I guess I am confused. I for one cannot fathom how a candidate can compete against the BIG GIANT money coming from DEVELOPERS?

    If a friend who happens to be a celebrity wants to help by lending
    their name and presence to a fundraiser, what’s the big deal?

    I mean I think you should understand, especially since you are one of the Principal Officers for the Independent Expenditure for John Heilman: “Weho United for John Heilman for City
    Council”. Which has already raised money from the following:
    The Mani Bros. ($15,000),
    Townscape Partners ($5,012) the developers of 8899 Beverly Blvd. to name just one),
    Venice Investments ($15,000) developers of two more Sunset Blvd. developments).

    ……thanks for helping me put things into perspective.

  9. When we get Duran out, maybe Cher can do 12 years on the council or until her next goodbye tour gears up!

  10. Mike – Cher has lived in Malibu for many years NOT Beverly Hills ! However, her son has lived in WeHo for MANY, MANY years and as a mother, she wants to ensure the positive future of the city her son resides in. If you were running for office and had a truly famous family member, wouldn’t you want her/him to endorse you ? Plus, Cher rarely, if ever, gets involved in local politics. But she and Chaz have a some 30 year relationship with Heidi Shink ! This is part and parcel of a political campaign – having well known people endorse you. Plus, as far as I know, Cher “grilled” Heidi on her political positions before deciding to endorse her. Cher did her “due diligence.” Give her (and Heidi) a break ! !

    1. Disco Dan
      I’m not impressed. Never have been, never will be. And I have met bigger stars than Cher.

      Received a mailer from Ms. Shink today. Made some hallow statements but no real answers to our problems in West Hollywood. It came down to she spent a short time on the Planning Commission.

      What real answers does she have about traffic. What about Light Rail on Santa Monica Bl. What about West Hollywood Park. Do we really need to pave it over with numerous buildings?

  11. Are you forgetting this is a PR campaign? Having celebrities endorse you is nothing new. or out of the ordinary – it’s been happening in politics since the dawn of entertainment. Heidi’s main goal here was to get people talking about her. And by the looks of this article you wrote – it’s working!

    Mission accomplished Heidi!

  12. Lets me start out by stating movie stars, sports figures, what ever are just people who have a job different from the one I had until I retired. And yes I have met several celebrities in my life time and most are just down to earth normal people who in most cases don’t want to be disturbed as they are living their day to day just like the rest of us.

    So with that said, who cares that Cher endorsed Ms Shink. Cher lives in Beverly Hills I guess. But for all I know she could live in Palm Dale. Either way she’s a outsider and that’s a issue many are concerned about. Of course maybe in some peoples minds some outsiders are good while others are bad, who’s to judge?

    So other than Cher and her rich friends raising mega bucks for Ms. Shink what new insight has she put forward or achieved that makes her the most qualified candidate?

  13. Matt: Heavens, I have no idea what you mean by the word cynical. @Manny, why would anyone with any integrity use a picture of someone on a flyer that is not endorsing her?

  14. I suspect that most of the people who attended the fundraiser this past weekend did not live in West Hollywood. How many of our residents want to pay (if they can afford to) $500 to attend another over the top fundraiser. I applaud you, Matt, you really hit the nail on the head of the universal problem of pushing celebrity ahead of any content. Unfortunately, we live in, for the most part, a shallow city, and sightings of celebrities whether in Pavilions, Whole Foods or an extremely expensive event is still a momentous (sadly) moment. That’s why it’ called “hollywood”, east or west, it’s the same thing.

  15. …….and how about that Shink mailer that arrived today?! The one with Abbe Land looking glowingly at Shink on the cover. LOL, poor Abbe.

    ….or the 1986 newspaper picture with an arrow pointing to a circle showing “Heidi” in the crowd of a LGBT rally…..If you look on the lower left and squint, that’s ME smoking the cigarette.

    ……and AGAIN she’s making the claim that she created the Overlay Zone by working with all those West Hollywood West residents…….Impossible!

    Thanks for the laughs.

  16. Its a lot of people. It’s part of the cultural climate in general. It’s like people need to make sure you know they were at the same party as Cher. Who cares, this is LA. I never understood her popularity as an artist, I just remember her wearing that leather thong and performing Turn Back Time on the Grammys or something when I was young and thinking it was really weird how this woman was dressing.

    You see this obsession with celebrity manifested across this country. The Kardashians have an unwatchable show, and are famous simply for being famous and having a father who concealed murder weapons, to a lesser degree.

    It’s also present in politics. Stay strong, you don’t have to give in.

  17. Matt, why don’t you call out the people you are referring to in the article who were star struck? I agree with your opinion, and I am a true die-hard CHER fan of over 43 years!

  18. Didn’t Cher also endorse Mary Bono.. and didn’t Chaz also support Mary Bono.. ? Shink’s hypocrisy Stinks. She left a Democratic fundraiser last week telling some of us.. West Hollywood needs a woman on the city council. We have 2 now.. you missed that election because you pandered with some other excuse.

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