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Scott D. Pierce: During the pandemic, Cher skipped a trip to Salt Lake City but saved an elephant

(Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Channel) Kaavan the elephant and Cher.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cher canceled a trip to Salt Lake City.

Originally scheduled to perform at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in April 2020, her concert was first postponed until October and eventually canceled altogether. In the grand scheme of all things COVID, it was a minor disappointment.

But for Cher fans, it was a bummer nonetheless. I mean, she hasn’t performed in Utah in 16 years.

The concert has not been rescheduled, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see Cher … on TV. Although her latest television appearance includes very little singing and absolutely no spectacular glitz.

(Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Channel) Kaavan the elephant and Cher.

“Cher & the Loneliest Elephant”

It sounds a little crazy, but, yes, Cher spent part of the pandemic saving an elephant in Pakistan.

Alerted to the plight of Kaavan, the “world’s loneliest elephant,” she set in motion an effort to rescue the animal from appalling conditions at the Islamabad zoo. For two decades, Kaavan was chained and barely able to move in his small enclosure. And he’d been alone since 2012, when his only elephant companion died after she developed gangrene from injuries she suffered because of her chains.

If you can look at the pictures of Kaavan reaching out with his trunk to his dead companion without feeling at least a little emotional, well, you’re tougher than I am.

Perversely, Kaavan was known in Islamabad as the “dancing elephant” because he swayed back and forth almost nonstop. But the swaying was caused by “terrible boredom” and “severe” mental and physical neglect, viewers learn.

Cher’s name is in the title and her celebrity helped make this happen, but this is not a star vanity project. The documentary spends most of its time with a lot of people who worked to free Kaavan, beginning with the online activists who worked to make him on online cause and drew Cher in.

“All the kids on my Twitter site started to inundate me with #savekaavan,” Cher says, “and I thought, ‘I cannot save an elephant in Pakistan because I have no street cred, how am I going to do this? … Go save an elephant in Islamabad — that was way beyond my job description.”

But she was “really angry,” and she knew a guy who had been saving elephants in Africa, so she contacted him.

“It’s Cher! She’s a great friend,” Mark Cowne said. “Of course I said yes.”

“Cher & the Loneliest Elephant” is not about rescuing some cute and cuddly creature. Kaavan had killed two of his keepers, and — not surprisingly — the abused elephant wasn’t exactly fond of humans. One of the most amazing parts of the documentary is the bond that forms between Kaavan and veterinarian Amir Khalil, who does a lot of the heavy lifting to get the elephant ready for a 2,300-mile trip by plane and truck to a refuge in Cambodia.

Dr. Amir Khalil, center, a veterinarian from Four Paws, an international animal welfare organization, feeds an elephant named Kaavan loaded in a crate before he is transported to a sanctuary in Cambodia, at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. Kavaan became a cause celebre in part because America's iconic singer and actress Cher joined the battle to save him from his desperate conditions at the zoo. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

It’s Khalil who first sings to Kaavan, and Cher joins in when she surprises the other rescuers by flying to Islamabad herself.

“Everyone was saying, ‘We didn’t expect you to come! Why are you here?’” Cher says. “And I said, ‘Because I said I was coming and I’m here. And I’m here to get Kaavan.’”

We meet everyone from the Pakistani lawyer who sued the zoo to a Cambodian businessman who got the government to open an airport closed by the pandemic so the plane carrying Kaavan could land.

“Cher & the Loneliest Elephant” is surprisingly suspenseful, and ultimately uplifting. And, as the pandemic rages on, we need all the uplifting we can get.

The documentary began streaming on Paramount+ on Thursday; it will debut on the Smithsonian Channel on May 19.

(Photo courtesy of Time Life) "The Best of Cher" is a nine-disc collection.

“The Best of Cher”

If you’re a Cher fan and you really miss seeing her perform, check out the nine-DVD collection released by Time-Life.

Yes, it’s the collection they’re selling on infomercials late at night. Which sounds weird. But if you’re a big Cher fan, it’s actually worth the $99.95 sales price.

There’s 10 episodes of her 1975 variety show, which is very dated but remains entertaining. Two of Cher’s TV specials, which were original and sort of groundbreaking in 1978 and 1979. The documentary “Dear Mom, Love Cher,” about Cher’s family history. A whole lot of extras, interviews, featurettes, TV appearances and home movies.

And, if you’re really bummed about the canceled concert, there are a couple of Cher concerts included. Not the one we missed, but they’ll have to do.

Again, that concert — that tour — have not been rescheduled. And there’s no indicating Cher will be coming back to Utah.

But … she did bring her, ahem, “farewell tour” to Utah twice, back in 2002 and 2005. So … fingers crossed.

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