Who can forget the classic hits of Salvatore Bono and Cherilyn Sarkisian? Boiling down the fascinating lives of the 1960s and 1970s hit-makers, variety-show hosts and once-ubiquitous husband-and-wife team – better known by their stage names Sonny and Cher — is as much an exercise in judicious omission as it is inclusion; it’d take an opus and then some to capture the many achievements of the pair, even if both went onto bigger things – she diva-like super-stardom, he acting and then Republican politics – after separating personally and professionally.
The two met in L.A. in the early 1960s when Sonny was a percussionist and “gofer” for record producer Phil Spector. Soon both Cher and Sonny were singing backup vocals on some of Spector’s greatest hits. They became romantically involved and got married in 1964.
In her devastatingly beautiful eulogy to Sonny, a tearful Cher recalled the instant attraction she felt toward him: “He had this weird hairdo between Caesar and Napoleon,” she said, half sobbing, half laughing. “As a matter of fact one of the first things that he told me was that he was a descendant of Napoleon, and that his father had shortened the name Bonapart to Bono when they came to this country — but that [Sonny] didn’t want to make too big of a deal out of this.”
That magnetic team signed to Atlantic Records and soon starting churning out hits, most notably “The Beat Goes On” and “I Got You Babe,” the latter of which struck a nerve because the subject matter was love, an emotion the couple obviously knew something about. It all rang so true.
As their stream of hits slowed to a trickle, then-CBS head Fred Silverman saw the two while they were guest-hosting "The Merv Griffin Show," and their witty banter and infectious, easy-going demeanor prompted him to imagine a prime-time variety show. "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour" premiered in 1971 and became a ratings hit. Over the next three years, the duo charmed America with a song, dance and comedy show (that doubled as a showcase of the cheesiest in 1970s fashion; the pair had a knack for flair) that consistently ranked in the top 10 and was nominated for four Emmy Awards.
The comedy hour ended when the couple announced their separation in 1974. A bitter divorce followed, and both attempted to launch separate shows. Neither lasted long. Within a few years they were back on speaking terms and tried to regain their television mojo with a relaunched variety program called "The Sonny & Cher Show." But the viewing public wasn’t interested in watching the former couple make up on national television, and the series was canceled after two seasons.
In the following decades, Cher achieved iconic status as a dance music diva, and Sonny became a television actor. In 1988, he was elected as mayor of Palm Springs and served four years. After an unsuccessful run at the U.S. Senate, Sonny won a U.S. House seat in the 44th District in 1994. (Sonny’s third wife, Mary Bono Mack, now holds that seat in the House.)
Sonny Bono died while skiing in Lake Tahoe, on Jan. 5, 1998, after he lost control and struck a tree.
In her eulogy to Bono, Cher, any bitterness long since dissipated, described what drew her to her singing and romantic partner: “His enthusiasm was so great that he just swept everyone along with him – not that we knew where he was going, but we just wanted to be there.”
|1983||Best Supporting Actress||Silkwood||Nomination|