The Many Faces of Sonny Bono
By: Linnea Crowther
5 years ago
Sonny Bono had a career that just wouldn’t quit. Before he died, 15 years ago today, he threw his hat in rings all over the entertainment industry – as a singer, songwriter, producer, actor – and he succeeded as a politician, too.
We’re saluting Sonny Bono today with a look at the many facets of his fruitful career. Of course, it all began with a marriage to a striking and talented teenager…
One-half of pop duo Sonny & Cher. Sonny Bono met Cherilyn Sarkisian in 1962 when she was just 16 and he was a divorced 27-year-old. In 1964, they were married, and by the following year they were pop-music superstars with a hit single and appearances on all the top variety shows. For a few years in the mid-1960s, the pair was on top of the world.
Solo artist. Around the same time Sonny & Cher were first tasting success, Bono scored his one hit as a solo artist. "Laugh at Me" made it to the Top 10, but it wasn’t a success he’d repeat without the help of Cher. In concerts, Bono would jokingly introduce the song as "a medley of my hit."
TV host. As Sonny & Cher’s popularity began to wane in the face of psychedelia, Bono took the act to Vegas and began to reimagine them as a comedy duo. He wrote both Cher’s barbs and his own genial replies, hoping his humor could help put their music back in the public eye. The Vegas act stalled for a while, but eventually the right people noticed it and brought the pair to TV. The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour was an immediate hit and stayed wildly popular… until their marriage exploded. For two years, the two worked on solo projects as they finalized a nasty divorce. But a 1976 reconciliation brought with it a short-lived return of the TV program, retitled The Sonny & Cher Show.
Actor. Bono must have enjoyed his time on the small screen with Cher, because after their second show’s demise, he went on to an acting career. Though it never brought him the huge success that his music did, he was a familiar face as a guest star on TV shows like Fantasy Island and The Golden Girls, and in movies like the original Hairspray and Airplane 2.
Politician. Bono’s political career began when, frustrated with the red tape involved with opening a restaurant in Palm Springs, he ran for mayor. Helped along by support from conservative talk-show host Marshall Gilbert, he won and served for four years. Next up was an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate, but he made it to Congress two years later when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He served until his sudden death in a ski accident 15 years ago, championing copyright reform and the restoration of California’s Salton Sea. To this day, he is the only member of Congress to have had a No. 1 single on Billboard’s Hot 100.