Simanaitis Says

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ELEPHANTS ARE THANKFUL FOR TWO EL CENTRO LADIES

ONE OF THESE stories is as timely as today’s headlines; indeed, it recently was in the headlines. The other part of the tale, rather more obscure, involves Wife Dottie when she was a college student.

The El Centro Connection? It is well known (to some, that is) that Wife Dottie is a ditch-bank girl. She was born and raised in El Centro, a southern California town just a few miles north of the Mexican border.

As an aside, Wife Dottie found delight in Grand Prix friend Innes Ireland pronouncing it Italian-fashion: El “Chentro.”

Another ditch-bank girl is pop star Cher, though her El Centro upbringing was rather more dramatic than Wife Dottie’s. According to Wikipedia, “Her father, John Sarkisian, was an Armenian-American truck driver with drug and gambling problems; her mother, Georgia Holt (born Jackie Jean Crouch), was an occasional model and bit-part actress who claimed Irish, English, German, and Cherokee ancestry.” 

Cher, née Cherilyn Sarkisian, El Centro-born 1946, American singer, actress, philanthropist, recognized by Forbes as “the most famous chanteuse of our time.” Image by Raph_PH from Wikipedia of Cher performing in London at her “Here We Go Again Tour,” October 2019.

What with R&T world travels, Wife Dottie’s life has been anything but dull. However, Cher’s is a bit more glamorous. In 1965, she and husband Sonny made “I Got You Babe” a megahit and, by 1967, Time magazine called them “rock’s ‘it’ couple.” A solo career followed, with Cher making her Broadway debut in 1982, and earning critical acclaim in the films Silkwood, 1983; Mask, 1985; The Witches of Eastwick, 1987; and Moonstruck, 1987; this last one earning her an Oscar for Best Actress.

Cher has hardly been idle since then. Her 2002-2005 “Living Proof: The Farewell Tour” earned $250 million. A three-year contract to headline The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas garnered another $180 million. Cher’s “Here We Go Again Tour” started in 2018 and is still a go, pending the pandemic.

Cher’s Philanthropy. Not that all that cash was merely stashed away for her old age. Wikipedia notes that the Cher Charitable Foundation supports international projects such as the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Operation Help, and the Children’s Craniofacial Association. There’s the CherCares Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative and she’s co-founder of Free the Wild. Cher has been politically active as well

Cher speaking with media at an early voting center at Phoenix’s Fowler Elementary School District in October 2020. Image by Gage Skidmore from Wikipedia.

Cher’s BBF Kaavan. Cher recently came to the aid of Kaavan, “the world’s loneliest elephant,” in helping him find a new home in a Cambodian animal sanctuary. Hitherto, Kaavan had spent 35 of his 36 years in an Islamabad zoo which had grown so disreputable that Pakistani judges closed it down.

As described by people.com, November 30, 2020, the rescue of Kaavan was led by Four Paws, a global animal welfare organization, in cooperation with Pakistani authorities, American businessman Eric S. Margolis, and Free the Wild.

Cher’s Kaavan rescue is described by abcnews.go.com, November 30, 2020: She met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday and later visited Kaavan before his flight on Sunday.

Cher and Four Paws organizers at the cargo ramp of the aircraft transporting Kaavan from Pakistan to Cambodia. Image by Four Paws from People online.

After Kaavan’s seven-hour flight (accompanied by 440 lbs of snacks) in a Russian Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft, the elephant arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia. There, he was greeted by chanting monks who sprinkled holy water on his crate and offered him bananas and watermelon. 

Cher was there too. Image by AP.

Cher accompanied Kaavan in the truck trip to his new home of another 600 Asian elephants in Oddar Meanchey province’s Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary.

As noted by people.com, December 1, 2020, Kevaan has already made an elephant friend for the first time in 8 years. 

Image by Four Paws from People online.

Wife Dottie’s Elephant Tale. On May 11, 1962, Orange County State College held what may well have been the world’s first intercollegiate elephant race—and Wife Dottie was part of its organization and publicity. She was a student assistant to Raynolds Johnson, public relations director at the fledgling institution. Ray was emeritus professor of communications when he passed away in 2004 

In 2007, Inside Cal State Fullerton offered event reminiscences originally published in 2000.

On KOST’s “Ellen K Morning Show,” March 13, 2018, Alaysia Navarro described, “The elephant race was one of the biggest events to come to Orange County…. With 10,000 people and media coverage to see them compete, the race ended up making The Associated Press’ top 10 stories of that year!” ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020 

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