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Cher's swanky, televised 'Sweet 16'

By RODNEY THRASH
Published January 21, 2007


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PALM HARBOR

It was the premiere of My Super Sweet 16, the MTV reality series that documents lavish coming-of-age soirees. Cher Hubsher and 12 of her closest girlfriends from Palm Harbor University High School were gathered in the basement of her family's $2-million castle - yes, they call it a castle - to relive Cher's August birthday on the big-screen television.

Her mother, Dawn, set out Chex Mix, potato chips and chocolate chip cookies. Her father, Mason, set out bottles of Coke, Diet Coke and Dr Pepper.

Cher's girlfriends sang along to the new Pussycat Dolls video.

Wait a minute, boy, why you tripping like that?

You think 'cause you tricking you get it just like that?

Sandwiched between her parents and three of her girlfriends, Cher stared at the television.

Sweet 16 is Cher's favorite show. "I always, always watch it," she said. "When I first saw the show, I was like, 'Wow, all these girls are throwing the biggest parties and putting their all into it. This is something I would want to do.' "

For the uninitiated, the plot goes something like this: Parent gives snobby rich kid permission to plan expensive birthday party, kid curses out parent and lives to tell about it, celebrity performs at kid's party, kid gets one of three dream cars: Beamer, Benz or Jag.

Now in its fourth season, the show is hugely popular despite its tendency to highlight arrogance, overindulgence and selfishness.

Cher, the star of Monday's premiere, hadn't cursed at anyone. Nonetheless, she knew a national audience would watch her, critique her, judge her.

Save for a few clips, she had not seen the edited version of the show. She wanted to savor every moment.

"Shhh," she told her singing girlfriends. "It's about to start."

* * *

That she would have a swanky birthday party was a given. "She always asked for that since she was little," Dawn Hubsher said, "and I wanted her dream to come true."

Last May, unbeknownst to her parents, Cher began e-mailing MTV. "I told them I was having a very big party and I would love for them to come," she said.

She had a vision: Theme: Mardi Gras. Entrance: She would ride in on a parade float. Location: the Margaret Heye Great Room at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Birthday present: a cherry red Jaguar convertible.

MTV sent a 15-page questionnaire: "What's your theme for your party?"

"Why is your theme more extravagant than others?"

With no help from friends, Cher completed the paperwork and mailed it to New York. MTV called to ask some questions. Backed into a corner, she finally confessed to her family.

"It's just a birthday, not a wedding," said her dad. Her eldest brother threatened not to come.

Undaunted, Cher kept talking to MTV and sent a video.

"I had to show them around my house. This is my room, this is my pet, this is my goat." Billie Jean lives in a corral in the back yard.

MTV contacted her while she was on summer vacation in New Orleans. A producer told Cher the show was coming to Palm Harbor. Cher went into the hotel bathroom, closed the door and screamed.

* * *

The theme song starts.

Gonna spread my wings Sweet 16

It's my chance to shine (Sweet 16)

On the screen, Cher puckered her lips. In their seats, her girlfriends bounced, clapped, screamed. Boy, did they scream.

"Whoooooo!"

Cher and two friends fell down a water slide.

(More screams.)

"Every princess needs a castle," she said in the opening minutes. "So this (the camera panned toward her house as Cher twirled, arms flailing) is mine."

After the scenes of the mother-daughter trip to Saks and the first commercial break, Cher's friends pulled out camera phones and digital cameras. Cher flipped open her Motorola Razr phone to check text messages.

From Nina

Cher u looked amazing Cody and his friends called me and thought u looked amazing ... And u didn't seem like a snob at all ... Love u girl!

11:17 p.m. 1/15/07

* * *

Mason Hubsher, a physician and owner of Hubsher Healthcare in Port Richey, made no apologies.

"I worked very, very hard all my life in school, in getting to where I am today, and the benefits of all those sacrifices over the years is that you are able to afford a lavish party or an expensive car," he said. "There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went through that. Finally, I'm able to benefit from those rewards."

Dawn Hubsher, a homemaker, added:

"Not every party is for everyone. It's what type of party you want for your child is how I see it.

"It doesn't make one person wrong and one person right."

The Hubshers have two other children: Chad, 21, and Grant, 19. For their 16th birthdays, they each got a backyard pool party, a month in Europe and a Toyota Camry.

* * *

The show back on, the room fell quiet again. In one scene was a guy none of the girls like.

"He groped me the whole night," one girl said.

In another, Cher walked into the party in a black dress skimpier than the one J.Lo wore to the 2000 Grammy Awards. Onscreen, her dad put his hand to his forehead. His eyes widened as she grinded against a boy.

"I wasn't ready for that," Mason said in an interview. "She's my little girl. I don't want her to grow up."

In the final scene, she kissed the hood of her new cherry red Jaguar convertible and drove away into the night.

* * *

Final price tag:

"He doesn't know," Dawn Hubsher said. "He doesn't want to know."

"What I don't know doesn't hurt me," Mason said.

In the car shopping scene, the camera zoomed in on the sticker.

$96,422.

"We got caught up in the whole MTV moment," Mason said. "My head was saying you don't need such a car. But she really enjoyed that car when she took it for a test drive and she is daddy's little girl and it's hard to say no to her. I don't think we've spoiled her too much along the way."

* * *

When the show ended, Cher fell into her girlfriends' laps. Her hands covered her face, which was blush red. They headed outside, hugged, recapped the night's episode.

"I think it was very good," Dawn Hubsher said. "They portrayed Cher the way Cher is: loves everybody, sees the good in everyone. Just happy-go-lucky and want to have fun. They didn't show her in any way bad."

How will Cher top her Sweet 16? Mom already has that one figured out.

"A big wedding."

Rodney Thrash can be reached at (727) 893-8352 or rthrash@sptimes.com.

[Last modified January 20, 2007, 21:04:57]


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