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Cher"s Grief

Emotional Cher Remembers Sonny

by Joal Ryan January 9, 1998, 2:45 p.m. PT

It was the final Sonny and Cher show; and it was the most touching.

In a heartfelt, tearful tribute at a funeral service Friday afternoon, Cher eulogized Sonny Bono as an oft-underestimated man who groomed a shy teenager from the Valley into a pop and TV star.

"When I was a young there was this section in Reader's Digest called 'The Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Met,'" the onetime Oscar winner told the mourners at St. Theresa Roman Catholic Church in Palm Springs, California. "No matter how old I get, no matter how many people I meet, that person will always be Son for me."

Bono, the entertainer-turned-politico and two-term Republican U.S. Representative from California, died Monday in a ski accident. He was 62.

U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich led a 100-member strong Congressional delegation at the funeral, broadcast live nationwide on cable's CNN, E! and MSNBC networks. Hundreds of family, friends and fans attended the public service, including former President Gerald Ford, former Vice President Dan Quayle, California Governor Pete Wilson and Bono's 1970s musical contemporary, Tony Orlando. Gingrich and Wilson each addressed the gathering.

Cher, dressed in a black blazer, spoke last. She walked to the podium clutching a handful of crumpled papers and wiped tears from her eyes almost immediately. She spent 48 hours working on the address, she said: "This is perhaps the most important thing I've done in my entire life."

The performer got warm laughs, relating her early days with the former Salvatore Phillip Bono. Bono was unlike anybody she had ever met, she said--for starters, there was his "weird" haircut, a cross between Caesar and Napoleon. He even, she said, told her when they first met that he was a direct descendant of the Little General--that his father had changed the family name from Bonaparte because he was so embarrassed.

When the almost-30 Bono asked Cher if she wanted to room with him, she lied about her age (she was only 16) and accepted. The jail-bait tale was related with warmth, and accepted with laughter from mourners, somehow not seeming terribly inappropriate at the Roman Catholic mass.

Cher, often reduced to choking back tears, defended Bono's memory, saying despite being the butt of jokes of their 1970s TV variety show, he was the driving, guiding force behind the singing duo's success.

"He created Sonny & Cher. He know what was right for us," Cher said.

Bono and Cher divorced in the mid-1970s, ending their 10-year marriage (and, in the process, their TV variety show). The couple's daughter, Chastity, now 28, sat by her mother in the pews. Also present, Bono's last wife, Mary, and his two youngest children, Chesare, 9, and Chianna, 6. Mary Bono is already being talked up as a potential successor to her husband's Congressional seat.

Sonny and Cher's Career


  • Birthdate: May 20, 1946
  • Birthplace: El Centro, CA
  • Occupations: Actor, Musician


  • Birth Name: Salvatore Phillip Bono

  • Birthdate: February 16, 1935

  • Birthplace: Detroit, MI

  • Date of Death: January 5, 1998

  • Occupations: Actor, Writer, Musician

  • Significant Other(s): Wife: Donna Rankin. Married while Sonny was a teen; mother of Bono's first daughter.

  • Wife: Cher (aka Cherilyn Sarkisian La Piere). Singer, actor. Married October 27, 1964; divorced 1975; met while on a double date in 1963.

  • Wife: Susie Coelho. Model, actor. Married 1981; divorced 1984.

  • Wife: Mary Whitaker. Model, gymnast. Born c.1962; married April 25, 1988.

  • Family: Father: Santo Bono. Truck driver. Italian immigrant.

  • Mother: Jean Bono. Beautician. Italian immigrant.

  • Daughter: Christine Bono. Mother Donna Rankin.

  • Daughter: Chastity Bono. Mother Cher; born March 4, 1969.

  • Son: Chesare Elan Bono. Mother Mary Whitaker; born April 25, 1988.

  • Daughter: Chianna Maria Bono. Mother Mary Whitaker; born 1991.

  • Education: Dropped out of Ingelwood, CA, high school in 1952.

    Sonny & Cher Albums
    All I Ever Need Is You
    All I Ever Need Is You
    Beat Goes On-Best Of 1991
    Cher & Sonny & Cher Kapp/Mca A 1995
    Cher With Sonny
    Greatest Hits 1998
    In Case You're In Love
    Look At Us 1965
    Wonderous World Of Sonny & Che 1966
    Beat Goes On
    Good Times
    Nitty Gritty Ho

    Cher's Albums
    Casablanca Years 1996
    Cher 1986
    Extravaganza WIN
    Greatest Hits 1974
    Gypsys Tramps & Thieves 1971
    Half Breed
    Heart Of Stone 1988
    It's A Man's World 1996
    Love Hurts 1991
    One By One 1996
    Paradise Is Here 1996
    Shoop Shoop Song
    Import Albums
    Black Rose
    Cher//Foxy Lady
    Greatest Hits 1992
    Gypsys Tramps & Thieves-25 Gre
    It's A Man's World
    Original Hits
    Pop Giants
    Take Me Home//Prisoner
    You Better Sit Down Kids

    Sonny's Filmography:
    First Kid (1996)
    Hairspray (1988)
    Under the Boardwalk (1988)
    Dirty Laundry (1987)
    Troll (1986)
    The Vals (1985)
    Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)
    Balboa (1982)
    Escape to Athena (1979)
    Murder in Music City (1979)
    The Golden Raiders (1979)
    Murder on Flight 502 (1975)
    Sonny and Cher - Nitty Gritty Hour (1970)
    Good Times (1967)
    The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - V. 11
    Good Times

    Cher's Filmography:
    Faithful (1996)
    If These Walls Could Talk (1996)
    Ready to Wear (Pret-a-Porter) (1994)
    Cher: Extravaganza - Live at the Mirage (1992)
    The Player (1992)
    Mermaids (1990)
    Moonstruck (1987)
    Suspect (1987)
    The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
    Mask (1985)
    Rabbit Ears - The Ugly Duckling (1985)
    Silkwood (1983)
    Come Back to the 5 And Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)
    Sonny and Cher - Nitty Gritty Hour (1970)
    Chastity (1969)
    The Ugly Duckling/The Velveteen Rabbit
    The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - V. 11
    Good Times

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