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Cher also has a way to go before her private life is a model of common sense. She owns over a thousand gowns and 500 pairs of shoes. Over her massive hearth is a big neon CHER. Her social life strikes many as excessive. "Nobody in this town lives like that anymore," sniffs an anonymous critic who was not too proud to accept the invitation. "Four hundred guests assembled, and Cher making a sweeping entrance down a spiral staircase—it's out of the great glamorous '20s." New Friend Allman, a down-home type with fairly primitive views on relations between the sexes, may make a more telling comment on the state of Cher's liberation when he says, "She's weak just where you want a woman to be weak; she really reaches out for your strength."

It could be that she is looking for a Sonny in sheep's clothing. More likely, Allman is beginning to feel the iron will lurking beneath Cher's inarticulateness. He is said to be breaking up his successful Macon, Ga.-based band in order to stay in Los Angeles with her. Says she: "I laid down the law on drugs, and it's been wonderful to see Gregg's eyes clear. He's really together now."

So—obviously—is Cher. Or at least she is well on the way. "People ask me if I left Sonny for another man," she says. "I tell them no, I left him for a woman—me."

What she means is that underneath the desperate fantasies of a sad childhood and a missed adolescence, an authentic star presence of as yet unpredictable dimensions was actually dormant. Sonny Bono was right when he sensed that quality in the confused little chick he took in a dozen years ago.

"I'm scared, but by God I'm doing it," says Cher. If her new show really has "legs," as no less an expert than Sonny Bono thinks it has, if she and he do not strangle in a web of suits and countersuits as they attempt to dissolve their business relationship, then we may be witnessing not just a lively challenge to The Wonderful World of Disney, but the emergence of A Wonderful World of Cher.

At any rate, the dream house of adolescence, the mansion in the hills, is up for sale. Recently Sonny was visiting her and kidding her about it (their personal relationship is now amazingly warm and relaxed). Cher was having a manicure—a three-hour procedure in which an expert executes intricate tricolor designs on the star's fingernails. "See, Cher, that's you! You got your dream and now you're done with it." Cher shook her head. "You don't understand. I felt security in this great, strong house. But now, man, I got the house inside here." And with her free hand she pointed to her guts.

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