Cher's War: Helmet Safety for Troops

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, June 1, 2006

While you were sleeping in Memorial Day weekend, Cher was fighting for American troops on C-SPAN. The legendary singer called into "Washington Journal" early Sunday morning -- 4:20 a.m. her time, to be exact.

"Hello? This is Malibu, California. I'm going to try to be really calm while I'm talking about this . . ." and she launched into a passionate argument for helmet safety upgrades for troops and her frustration with the government for not providing them to every soldier. Host Steve Scully recognized her famously husky voice.

"Is this Cher?" he asked.

"Yeah," she answered. "I know that I am an entertainer and from Hollywood and should have no conscience, but I am an American and I just cannot bear these people for another moment."

Her new cause is Operation Helmet, which has donated 6,850 of the liners to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since it was founded two years ago. Bob Meaders , a former Navy doctor, was asked by his Marine grandson to research the liners. He founded the nonprofit because he believes the liners offer better protection against brain injuries. The Army uses them, he says, but other branches of the military do not.

Meaders, 71, was sitting on his back porch in Texas earlier this year when Cher first called. She donated $25,000 to the organization last month and told C-SPAN she'll join Meaders on June 14 in Washington when he testifies about the helmet liners for the House Armed Services Committee. "She has been a great supporter and good friend," he says. "I said, 'If you could stand behind and sing in case I get nervous, I'd feel more comfortable.' "

Cher's publicist was unavailable for comment, but this looks like the first Hill appearance for the singer -- and the first time she'll see Meaders in person. "I'll recognize her, but she won't recognize me," he says. Join the club.

Return of the Scandalous Opie & Anthony

Time, and slipping ratings, apparently heal all wounds. Four years after dropping shock jocks Opie & Anthony for broadcasting a couple supposedly having sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral, WJFK (106.7 FM) will restore them to local airwaves this summer, our colleague Paul Farhi reports. The NYC-based duo, who retreated to XM satellite radio after the scandal, has already returned this spring to CBS stations in New York, Philly and other cities after David Lee Roth -- Howard Stern's replacement in those markets -- tanked. WJFK will keep the all-local Junkies as Stern's drive-time replacement but is turning to O&A to bolster flagging mid-morning ratings.

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam had a "pleasant" time in Mount Pleasant Monday night.(Danny Clinch)
· The guys from Pearl Jam at Mount Pleasant's The Raven bar Monday night, presumably having a drink or something -- couldn't glean exactly what since the manager promised to keep their visit private. But Eddie Vedder himself announced from the Verizon Center stage the next night that they had enjoyed a "pleasant" time in Mt. P., so fair game, don't you think?

· Sensitive singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw , invading Arlington's Carpool bar on a slow Tuesday night after his Clarendon Ballroom show with a massive posse that included "quite a few good-looking women," a witness reports. He closed the place down, then boarded his Miller Lite-sponsored tour train at Union Station with about a dozen people (yeah, mostly chicks) and played tunes until the wee hours. Hey, Vedder: The corporate-rock thing sounds kinda fun, huh?

THIS JUST IN . . .

· Washington City Paper editor Erik Wemple is leaving the city where he's spent most of his career to become editor in chief of the Village Voice in NYC. The granddaddy of all alt-weeklies has endured rough times lately, with the departure of three top officials, a fabricated-story scandal and a merger with New Times Media. But Wemple, 41, said he appreciates the owners' interest in narrative tales and news-breaking. "It seems like both a good fit and the challenge of my life." He and his writer-wife Stephanie Mencimer , longtime Logan Circle residents, haven't decided where or how to break into New York real estate yet. "Maybe Brooklyn," he said.

· Elizabeth Taylor gave her first TV interview in three years to CNN's Larry King on Tuesday night to rebut recent tabloid reports about herself. "Oh, come on, do I look like I'm dying?" the seven-husband, two-Oscar film icon said. "Do I look like or sound like I have Alzheimer's?" Oh, and she also plugged her new line of jewelry.


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