Emotional Cher Remembers Sonny
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.