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Where’s Cher? Is Mackie Too Tacky? Metropolitan Museum Goes “Camp” for Costume Institute Show

The Metropolitan Museum had just announced that its next Costume Institute extravaganza will be Camp: Notes on Fashion, May 9-Sept. 8, 2019. (Rest in Peace, Susan Sontag.) The good news is that the show won’t usurp the museum’s permanent-collection galleries, upstaging the Met’s own treasures (as the just closed “Heavenly Bodies” annoyingly did). “Camp” will vamp in the museum’s second-floor Cantor Exhibition Hall, which is dedicated to special exhibitions.

The bad news is that while camp’s reigning 21st-century diva, Lady Gaga, will be among the five co-chairs of the Met Gala (along with Serena Williams, a formidable athlete, moonlighting as a clothing designer, who doesn’t really belong in the “camp” camp), the unrivaled champ of camp—Sonny‘s former sidekick—has been inexcusably overlooked for the hosting duties. What’s more, her designer-of-choice, Bob Mackie, also favored by several other camp icons (among them, a famous drag queen), is not listed as among those whose creations will be included in the Met’s show.

But they’ll be abundantly displayed in “The Cher Show,” billed as a musical with “35 smash hits,” which opens Dec. 3 on Broadway. That production will have “enough Bob Mackie gowns to cause a sequins shortage in New York City,” according to its homepage. It is intended to be still running when the Met show opens, making the museum’s omission even more inexplicable (unless the gala conflicts with Cher’s stage obligations).

Here’s Cher’s avatar, as seen on the above-linked homepage for her eponymous star vehicle. The illustration references her famously audacious 1986 Academy Awards dress, pictured in this Sept 2017 Vogue article:

Is Mackie too tacky for the doyenne of the Met’s Costume Institute—museum trustee, donor, Vogue editor-in-chief and tastemaker Anna Wintour?

Anna Wintour (in sunglasses) at the press preview for the Met’s “Heavenly Bodies” exhibition
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of Cher’s music, but her sartorial choices (like Gaga’s) were never boring. Her grand entrance and outrageously campy cameo near the end of the recent movie, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” was, for me, the only thing that redeemed that otherwise sodden sequel. To the Met’s receiving line at the May 6 gala, she could bring the authenticity of someone who’d been-there/done-that in the ’60s, when camp was king.

But wait…might she be a surprise performer? Gaga famously performed “Alejandro” at the Met’s 2010 Gala, wearing a bodysuit that (like Cher’s most celebrated get-ups) left little to the imagination. I see Cher’s “Fernando” (her star turn in “Momma Mia”) as a perfect foil for “Alejandro,” from the generation that put camp on the map.

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