The child bride turned vamp!
Unlike the last week’s quickie celebrity biography, in which the subject had not yet done much of note, the author here has to contend with a subject that might just be (GASP!) washed up.
With a publication date of September, 1975, Cher! came at a low point in Cher’s career: recently divorced from Sonny Bono and mired in lawsuits, hit TV show cancelled due to the divorce, and re-married but legally separated from Gregg Allman, Cher’s life is kind of a mess. Author Pellegrino also undertakes to make the biography as breathlessly sensational as humanly possible, relying on sources identified as “former friends”, as well as Cher’s estranged father.
The whole thing is pretty sleazy behind that teen-mag style cover. By the end you just want to yell “DON’T WORRY, CHER! THERE WILL BE HIT ALBUMS AND ACADEMY AWARDS SOON! HANG IN THERE!”
The cover touts Cher’s father tells all! And in the very first chapter Pellegrino notes that John Sarkesian is suing his daughter for $4,000,000 for slander after she quipped in People magazine that she hadn’t heard from him in years and “I don’t even know what he’s doing, but it’s probably nothing legal.”
Cher’s parents both actually sound like walking nightmares. Her oft-wed mother (twice to Sarkesian) named her after Lana Turner’s daughter, Cheryl Crane (talk about being born under a bad sign). Her father opens with this:
“We went together about eight months, then got married. Cher was born in the watermelon season.
“When Cher came along, it put a burden on us. It was still hard to find an apartment, and it was harder to rent with a child.” Cher came, John says, “that close [holding up two fingers together] to being an abortion.”
Dropping out of high school in the 11th grade, Cher meets the much older Sonny Bono through a mutual friend. He is working as an A&R man for Phil Spector, and he gets Cher gigs singing backup vocals. In short order, A Star Is Born.
Also, since I have the benefit of living 40 years in the future, I know that Sonny and Cher would eventually reconcile professionally and personally, but at this point Sonny comes off like a no-talent turd. Following the failure of their first movie, Good Times, by sinking their not-inconsiderable personal fortune into financing the “art film” Chastity, which he also directed:
Sonny explained that the movie was about “the increase in frigidity and the increase in lesbianism… the lack of manhood. The independence woman has acquired but doesn’t necessarily want. So many young girls are just spinning wheels.”
Even the author ponders:
What does he mean, women really don’t want independence? Is he saying that this drive to independence leads to frigidity and lesbianism? If so he, was out of step with the times, and perhaps with his own wife.
Sonny (who calls himself “El Primo!”) is definitely, according to Cher, a male chauvinist. He believes that women “must do” what man says. That means, really, walking “three steps behind.”
Beginning in 1971, Sonny and Cher would host The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, which would be a massive hit for three seasons, under the writing of Laugh-In alum Chris Beade, who…. oh, great, also sounds like a prince among men:
“Cher had a lot of ability. But she is an instrument and is only as good as the person who’s playing her. She’s a Ferrari but she has to be driven right. She needs to be told what to do. In the right hands, she is a marvelous performer. In the wrong hands, she’s just a dull girl. I used to stand outside the camera and say “Now get in there and shake your tits!” She needs that.
CBS cancelled the show after the Bonos filed for divorce and became mired in lawsuits, including Cher suing Sonny over a contract that she claimed violated the 13th amendment, and Buddy Hackett suing them both after a cancelled Las Vegas gig, which resulted in Cher being barred from the state of Nevada (!!!) Sonny sues for custody of daughter Chastity after Cher moves David Geffen (of whom Pellegrino notes, apropos of nothing, “has had his nose fixed”) into the marital home.
At the start of the 1974 fall season, ABC gave Sonny his own show, The Sonny Comedy Revue, which sank without a trace by December. Back at CBS, Cher was given her own midseason replacement, Cher, which was the bigger hit (I mean, duh.)
After this book went to press, Sonny and Cher would professionally reconcile and Cher would morph into The Sonny and Cher Show, which would run for two more seasons, giving them honor of being the first divorced couple to host a prime-time variety show (!!!)
But all of that is in the future, and ending a book on the note of custody battles and lawsuits is a downer. So the last chapter is devoted to Cher’s beauty regimen, complete with the addresses of her personal stylists, facialists, manicurists and make-up artists, in case you want to book an appointment for “Electrolysis in the crotch area, which can cost from $150 to $1,000” or a date with a cellulite-melting machine called Cellutron, which sounds absolutely terrifying.