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Members include Salvatore "Sonny" Bono, vocals; born February 16, 1935 in Detroit, MI; married Donna Rankin, February of 1954; divorced, 1960; married Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPiere, 1964; divorced, 1974; married Mary Whitaker, 1986; children: Christy, born 1960(from first marriage); Chastity, born March 4, 1969 (from second marriage); Chesare and Chianna (from third marriage); died in skiing accident, January 5, 1998. Cher, vocals; Born Cherilyn Sarkisian, May 20, 1946, El Centro, CA; mother, Jackie Jean Crouch (aka Georgia Holt); father, John Sarkisian; married Sonny Bono, 1964; married Gregg Allman, June of 1975, divorced; children: daughter Chastity (from first marriage), son, Elijah Blue (from second marriage); changed name legally to "Cher." Addresses: Management--William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Sonny and Cher, the pop-rock hippie duo of the late 1960s and early 1970s, created a positive, non-threatening image of the American counterculture of their time. Sonny Bono in his distinctive bobcat vest, together with the tall, lean, and dark-haired Cher played the role of the misplaced hippie couple to the hilt--and to the delight of both teens and parents of that era. In 1971 Sonny and Cher, who were married in real life, hosted their own television show, the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, which was an uncontested hit until their marriage broke up in 1974. At that point the beloved couple separated, and each went on to bigger and greater stardom--an award-winning career in movies for Cher, and a budding career in national politics for Bono until his untimely death in 1998.
Salvatore "Sonny" Bono was born on February 16, 1935 in Detroit, Michigan to Jean and Santo Bono. Bono's mother was an American-born Italian who married at age 14; Bono's father, an immigrant, was born in Montelabre, Sicily. Bono was the youngest of three children, and the only boy. Bono was still in grade school when the family moved to Hawthorne, California, outside of Los Angeles, where Santo Bono found work as a truck driver. Jean Bono ran a beauty shop in the family home.
Never an exceptional student, Bono decided early in life to become an entertainer. He was fond of writing skits, cracking jokes, and pantomime. Undaunted by the reality of his grinding, granular, nasal voice, Bono loved music in particular and hoped to sing professionally. At Los Angeles's Inglewood High School he teamed up with a fellow student, a piano player, to entertain after high school football games. After graduation in 1952 however, he worked as a bagger in a grocery store, and then drove a tug in an aircraft plant, all the while writing songs in his spare time. In 1955 he recorded his first song, an abysmal flop, and continued working at odd jobs pouring cement and delivering meat. Bono married a waitress named Donna Rankin in February of 1954, with whom he fathered a child before the marriage fell into shambles and ended in divorce.
When Crystal Records offered one of his songs to Frankie Lane, Bono's rise to fame had begun. To his surprise, Crystal was impressed and asked for more songs. Soon Bono moved on to Specialty Records, and in time he veered into the production arena. When his job at Specialty was eliminated due to cutbacks, he started his own record label, Gold Records. In that venture Bono's clients were few; he spent much of his time recording his own songs under pseudonyms. Bono closed the door on Gold Records for the last time when he moved into a public relations job with Record Merchandising, promoting up-and-coming artists including Gene Pitney and Chubby Checker. Slowly he learned his way through the maze of the Southern California record business of the 1960s. Around that time Bono met Cher Sarkisian LaPiere, an underage runaway.
Cher was born Cherilyn Sarkisian on May 20, 1946 in El Centro, California. Her early life was very unstable. When Cher was still an infant her mother, who is most commonly known as Georgia Holt, placed the baby in the custody of a nunnery for approximately one year. Even after the child returned home, Holt and John Sarkisian, Cher's father, carried on a tempestuous love-hate relationship during much of Cher's early life. The couple divorced and remarried twice, and ventured a third romance before the relationship ended permanently.
Cher's mother, a part-time model and waitress, then married John Southall. The couple had a daughter together in 1951, but the marriage ended in divorce, as well. Holt and her two daughters lived in dismal poverty until 1961 when Holt married once more, to Gilbert LaPiere. LaPiere, a man of means, adopted the two girls and gave them a comfortable home, but by that time Cher was already rebellious. A star-struck teen-ager, she dropped out of school at age 16.
Sonny and Cher, the Duo
Cher and Bono met in 1963. Bono, some years older than Cher and possessed of certain show business savvy, impressed the naive teenager. Bono helped her to secure work as a backup singer for the Ronettes and other artists, and eventually conceived of the notion that the two of them should form a duo. The couple originally billed themselves as Caesar and Cleo, but that image failed, as did their first record. Eventually they came up with the Sonny and Cher act, which evoked a cute hippie persona. The couple married legally in 1964, an event which undoubtedly cemented their image as Sonny and Cher.
Soon the couple was a hit. Their first number one record, "I Got You Babe," written by Bono, was released in 1965. Sonny and Cher lasted through six albums, two movies, and a musical variety television show, before they divorced, at which point the act went by the wayside along with the marriage. The couple had one child, a daughter named Chastity, who was born on March 4, 1969. Chastity Bono continued to live her mother, but maintained a very close relationship with her father as well.
In 1982 Bono opened his Bono Restaurant in West Hollywood, California. Just prior to the opening, on December 31, 1981, he married Susie Coelho, an aspiring actress. Bono's long work schedule at his new restaurant, however, put stress on the new marriage and the couple separated permanently in June of 1984. In 1986 Bono opened a second restaurant in Palm Springs, California. A short time later he married for the fourth and final time, to Mary Whitaker. The couple had two children, Chesare and Chianna.
As a Palm Springs entrepreneur, Bono became involved in civic issues. In 1988 he was elected the mayor of Palm Springs, in a landslide election--the largest margin in the history of that city. In 1994 Bono ran successfully for a seat to the 104th Congress, as a representative from the 44th Congressional District. He was re-elected in 1996, but he died tragically in a skiing accident on January 5, 1998. Bono was hailed as a gifted public official and was remembered for his warmth and human compassion, as well as for his undying sense of humor. After his death, Bono's widow ran successfully for the congressional seat held by her late husband.
After the breakup of Sonny and Cher, Cher continued recording, and in time she established herself as a serious movie star as well. She earned an Academy Award nomination for her first film, Silkwood, in 1984, and won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Moonstruck in 1987. She tied for the best actress award at Cannes in 1985, and she won three Golden Globe Awards. In 1996 Cher directed an trilogy for the Home Box Office (HBO) on cable television. The movie starred award winning actresses Demi Moore, Sissy Spacek, and Anne Heche, with Cher herself in a supporting role. Cher continued to devote her career to films. In 1998 she went on location to Italy to film a motion picture with Franco Zeffirelli.
After Cher's divorce from Bono, the tall and willowy singer/actress became atabloid favorite. Her personal life often overshadowed her professional accomplishments. In June of 1975 she married singer Gregg Allman. The couple had one son, Elijah Blue Allman, a guitar player and singer. The Allman marriage faltered almost immediately as Greg Allman displayed symptoms of serious drug addiction. Although his wife committed herself to helping him, the challenge was more than she could shoulder, and the marriage did not survive. She was then associated with a virtually unending stream of beaus. Cher's attraction for handsome young Hollywood males--Val Kilmer, Tom Cruise, and Rob Camilletti--continued through the years, even as she matured into her fifties. As a result her personal moves became big business for the paparazzi photographers who followed her.
For all her talent, Cher was always renowned for her striking physical appearance. Her youthful appearance and slim silhouette solicited persistent speculation over rumored cosmetic surgeries. Cher's lavish lifestyle was equally as attention grabbing as her physical image and her romantic trysts. In 1988 she bought a $7 million home in Los Angeles, and in 1990 she paid $1.6 million for a co-op apartment in New York. She bought an adobe retreat in Aspen, Colorado in 1991, and near the end of 1996 she sold her Miami, Florida beach home when she realized that a tour boat was bringing gawkers by her house.
Image aside, she was known personally as an exceptionally industrious woman, a hard worker, and family-oriented. In 1998 Cher was asked to give the eulogy at Sonny Bono's funeral. She later taped Sonny & Me: Cher Remembers, a tribute to Bono, which aired on CBS on May 20, 1998.
by Gloria Cooksey
Sonny and Cher's Career
Started as backup singers for Phil Spector, early 1960s; sang together as Caesar and Cleo, 1964; sang together as Sonny and Cher, 165; "Sonny and Cher Show," 1971-74. Sonny Bono: started the Bono restaurant, West Hollywood, CA, 1982; Mayor of Palm Springs, 1988; U.S. 104th Congress, 1994, re-elected to Congress 1996. Cher: Broadway: Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, 1981; Films: Silkwood, 1984; Mask, 1985; Moonstruck, 1987; Tea with Mussolini, 1999.
Sonny and Cher's Awards
Awards, Cher: Oscar, Best Actress for Moonstruck, 1987; Cannes Film Festival, Best Actress for Mask, 1985; Golden Globes, Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture--Comedy/Musical for Moonstruck, 1988; Best TV Actress-Musical/Comedy for "Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour," 1971;
- Selected discography
- "I Got You Babe," Atco, 1965.
- "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down), Atco, 1966.
- "The Beat Goes On," Atco, 1967.
- The Wondrous World of Sonny and Cher , 1966.
- The Best of Sonny and Cher , 1967.
June 16, 2006: Cher testified before a House subcommittee about the need for better helmets for U.S. armed forces in Iraq. Source: USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/digest.htm, June 17, 2006.
- Bono, Sonny, The Beat Goes On, Pocket Books, New York, 1991.
- Quirk, Lawrence J., Totally Uninhibited: The Life and Wild Times of Cher , William Morrow and Company Inc., New York, 1991.
- People, May 25, 1998.
- http://northcountrynotes.com/remembrance/bono, October 7, 1998.
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