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Sonny claims, in a $25 million suit, that ex-Friend Geffen "induced" her to break her contracts with Sonny's ironically named Cher Corp. Whatever the truth legally, there is no doubt Geffen was helpful to her in a difficult time, carefully orchestrating a schedule of public appearances and signing her—for a very comforting price—to a contract with Warner Bros. Records. (The first album, Stars, produced by Jimmy Webb, will be released next week.)

It was during this period too that Cher, with no help from anyone but a doctor she called, saved a man's life (TIME, March 3). Last September she attended a party at Millionaire-Weirdo Ken Moss's with a couple of musician friends, where what they thought was cocaine was free for the snorting. It turned out to be heroin. One man, Robbie Mclntosh, a drummer, died of the stuff. But Cher (as she testified last month before a grand jury that indicted Moss for murder) took Alan Gorrie, a bass player, home with her and kept him walking around to prevent him from lapsing into a coma. It was strong evidence that Cher has things pretty well put together.

So is her grace under the pressure of the seven-day-a-week schedule her TV show requires. To a degree, Designer Robert Mackie's clothes still make the star, though Cher says. "I wear my clothes; my clothes don't wear me." But a career cannot be hung on a set of threads. No longer a silent partner in making decisions about her career, she spends her waking hours in conferences, writing sessions (she pays particular attention to her opening and closing monologues), costume fittings (no small matter when wardrobe is your basic trademark). Finally come the run-throughs and full rehearsals, climaxed by the two twelve-to-14-hour days required to tape the show. Cher is doing what Sonny used to do for both of them, and some new things besides. Says Producer George Schlatter: "She's stretching, stretching, stretching."

She has some more stretching to do before she and her show can reach its full potential. Her comic range is still nothing for Lily Tomlin to worry about. The monologues are often monosyllabic, the sketches as thin as her own profile. If there is exuberance in her singing-dancing numbers with such potent guest stars as Raquel Welch and Bette Midler, there is also a feeling that she will not entirely prove herself until she dares front a show that lacks such heavy supporting artillery. She also seems to need the security of incredibly lavish productions. Each program costs $225,000 to $240,000, and the show was $80,000 over budget after just four shows were taped.

In her defense it must be said her early time spot unfairly limits her. In the beginning, at least, CBS worried about her naturally hip jargon, and it has forbidden the least hint of sexual innuendo or topicality in the show's humor. As usual, the network is underrating the sophistication of today's kids, if not their parents' capacity for taking moral offense at everything but the worst sin of all—blandness.

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