Sonny Bono Biography (1935-1998)

Born Salvatore Phillip Bono, February 16, 1935, in Detroit, MI; died in skiing accident, January 5, 1998, in South Lake Tahoe, CA. Singer, songwriter, television personality, and politician.

As a high school dropout and son of working-class immigrants, Bono managed towork his way into show business first as a song writer, then as a singer andtelevision personality. He left the world of show business for the world ofpolitics in 1988, first as mayor of Palm Springs, CA, then as a U.S. Congressman. Bono moved with his family to Los Angeles in the 1950s and worked odd jobs before Specialty Records used his talents as a songwriter and backup singer. Bono, working with famed producer Phil Spector, wrote You Bug Me, Baby and Needles and Pins in 1963, the latter song being first recordedby Jackie Shannon then made into a number one hit in the U.K. by The Searchers. Bono also worked with the Righteous Brothers before meeting 16-year-old Cherilyn Sarkistian, who called herself Cher and was looking to make it in show business. This odd couple-he the short, awkward songwriter/singer and she the tall, striking actress-teamed up for the hits Baby, Don't Go, But You're Mine, and I Got You Babe, all in 1965. I Got You Babe was a number one hit in the United States and Europe and made the couplea hot commodity. They were known just as much for their hippie clothes-such as bell bottoms and bobcat vests-as their music. The couple married in 1964 and also recorded the songs Just You (1965), Laugh at Me (1965),Have I Stayed Too Long (1966), The Beat Goes On, (1967), It's the Little Things (1967) and A Cowboy's Work is Never Done (1972). Several were hits, but none matched the success of I Got You Babe.They played themselves in the film Good Times (1967) and changed theirstyle from hippie to Las Vegas. But there were bigger things in store for Sonny and Cher. An appearance on the Merv Griffin Show convinced CBS togive them a shot and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour debuted in 1971 and ran until 1974. The show became a hit and made people laugh, with Sonny playing the fumbling "straight man" to Cher's comedic barbs and putdowns. The show ended in 1974 when the couple began a sometimes rancorous divorce. Both stayed in show business. Bono had a short-lived television show of his own, The Sonny Comedy Revue, in 1974. His other television appearances were episodic, on such shows as The Love Boat (1975), Fantasy Island (1975), Murder in Music City (1979), Battle of the Network Stars(1977), Our Time (1985), and Late Night with David Letterman (1987). In March 1986, Bono married Mary Whitaker. He left the entertainment business in the late 1980s and opened an upscale Italian restaurant in Palm Springs. He disputed with zoning officials over a new sign for the restaurant and ran as an activist mayor in 1988 and won. As mayor of Palm Springs, he helped establish the Palm Springs International Film Festival, a race for classic cars, and an annual bicycle race. He suffered a political setback in 1992 when he ran as a conservative Republican for the U.S. Senate. But Bono came out on top again in 1994 when he rode the nationwide Republican tide and won aseat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Because of Bono's, joking, easygoing manner and his public persona of not taking himself seriously, it was sometime before the public respected him as a lawmaker. Even he admitted he hada lot to learn. But Bono, a close ally of then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) and then Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kansas), sponsored several important policy initiatives such as strengthening copyright laws,requiring labeling of imported produce and making it more difficult for judges to strike down popular ballot issues. All the while he could still make stodgy lawmakers laugh. Though a staunch conservative who championed school prayer and voted against same-sex marriages, he was friends with liberal Democrat Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, a homosexual. Bono's daughter, Chastitywas a lesbian activist and Frank remarked in the House that Bono conducted his opposition of same-sex marriages with class and respect for the other side.

Singer, songwriter, television show host, politician
Birth Details
February 16, 1935
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Death Details
January 5, 1998
South Lake Tahoe, California, United States

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