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Before she was Uber-Cher, before she was the “Goddess of Pop,” before she was a triple threat entertainer, Cher was a radio singer.

“The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” showcased just a fraction of the total Cher package, but the TV show gave the world its first visual glimpse of the future entertainment icon.

A generation before music videos, Cher was a fashion trendsetter. She wore bell bottoms, beads, and hippie attire. The lanky (five-foot-8 1/2), skinny singer with the distinctive voice held our undivided attention, and 50 years later she still has a strong hold on us.

One of only two Best Actress Oscar winners to chart a No. 1 song (the other was Barbra Streisand), Cher has continued to reinvent – although she doesn't like that word – herself since she was a teenager.

After all the awards (Grammy, Oscar, Emmy, Cannes), all the revealing Bob Mackie costumes, all the exotic hairdos, Cher has endured well into her sixth decade in show business as a role model for young female entertainers.
When Cher met Sonny Bono, she was a session singer who sang backup on some of rock and roll's classics – “Be My Baby,” “Da Doo Run Run,” and “You've Lost That Loving Feeling” – in the early 1960s. Sonny was producing records for legendary music pioneer Phil Spector.

Cher recorded “Ringo, I Love You” as a single that was released under the name Bonnie Jo Mason and was produced by Spector. The record went nowhere but Sonny and Cher got together musically, as well as personally, marrying in 1963.

“Sonny wanted to record me alone, He was going to produce and write the songs and I was going to sing them,” she told Larry King in 1999. “[But] I was too afraid to go on stage. He pushed me on stage because I couldn't put my foot out there.”

So they became a duo, initially as “Caesar and Cleo.” After changing their name to Sonny and Cher, the pair produced a string of hits, including “I Got You Babe” which reached No. 1 in 1965 when Cher was just 19. Over the next seven years Sonny & Cher charted 11 Top 40 songs.

The duo became popular guests on the TV music shows of the time: “American Bandstand,” “Hullabaloo,” and “Shindig,” among others. In 1970 the couple starred in their first TV speci
Later that year Sonny and Cher caught the attention of Fred Silverman, head programmer at CBS, when they guest-hosted “The Merv Griffin Show,” and he offered the couple their own variety show. “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” debuted in the summer of 1971 as a summer replacement and the ratings were good enough for CBS to bring it back on the fall schedule.

The show featured sharp dialogue between the married couple, mainly Cher tossing stinging barbs at her hapless husband. Eleven years his junior, Cher viewed Sonny as a father figure.
“I was fine to have the relationship we had where he was the boss and took all of the responsibility and I just did the work I did,” she said. “When we started 'Sonny and Cher' it was the first time I became a full partner because the show came really easy to me.”

After the couple divorced the show was canceled in 1974. Cher solo-hosted a variety show for one season, then Sonny and Cher reunited with a restructured show in 1976-77.
Classic TV Beauties
Cher "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour"
Cher "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour"
Cher "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour"
Although the newer version of “Sonny & Cher” remained in the top 20 during its run, the comedy wasn't as sharp. The insults and sarcasm between the divorced couple seemed awkward. So they split -- for the final time -- professionally

Cher told Vanity Fair in 2010 she thought Sonny & Cher were huge influences on that generation's music and the duo should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“It just seems kind of rude. Sonny was a good writer, and we started something that no one else was doing,” she said. “We were weird hippies before there was a name for it, when the Beatles were wearing sweet little haircuts and round-collared suits...We influenced a generation, and it's like 'What more do you want?'”

Cher later admitted she was terrified going solo. “People thought I left him because I felt I could succeed without him, but that really wasn't true at all. I really had no confidence [but] I couldn't live like a child any longer.”

“I wouldn't have left him if he hadn't had such a tight grip,” she told Vanity Fair in 2010. “Sonny did a couple of things...treating me more like the golden goose than like his wife.”

And it was only after Cher struck out on her own that she evolved into the megastar icon as a singer, movie star, and stage actress.

As a solo artist, Cher has sold more than 100 million records and is the only artist in music history to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts for six decades. “Believe” has been her best-selling single (so far), released in 1999 and selling more than 10 million.

Cher always aspired to become an actress and in 1982 she left a $35,000 per-week gig singing in Las Vegas to star on Broadway in “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.” A year later director Robert Altman cast her in the film version, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination.
Cher "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour"
Cher "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour"

No. 19
Classic TV Beauties 1970s Countdown
CHER as Herself in "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour"
Next came acting with Meryl Streep and Kurt Russell in “Silkwood.” She received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her role as a blue-collar lesbian.

In 1987's “Moonstruck“ Cher played an accountant who falls for her fiance's younger brother. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, and Cher won Best Actress Award.

“'Moonstruck' was such an easy movie to make, it wasn't even like we were making a movie,” she told interviewer Charlie Rose. “I feel almost guilty winning an Academy Award for it because it was so much fun, it was so simple.”

Cher described her venture into acting to Larry King, “You don't know if you can do anything until you try it. To stop doing things that you might really want to to in your lifetime because you might fail seems really ridiculous to me,” she said. “Most of my successes have surprised me because you just don't know with art.”

With all the awards and accolades she has accumulated, Cher was asked by to select one highlight.

“If I was going to pick something it would be the Academy Award because it meant an acceptance from my peers that was really an amazing night for me and a culmination of a lot of things that I hoped for.”

Born in El Centro, Cherilyn Sarkisian – everybody called her Cher – came from an Armenian American father and a mother with Cherokee heritage. Before she became a session singer, she took acting lessons.

Cher described herself to Charlie Rose as a child with low esteem.

“I never excelled at anything, I was horrible in school, I was not that cute. I didn't really do anything that would lead anyone except my mother to think that I as going to do something with my life some day. I don't think artist have self esteem, if they did they wouldn't be doing this.”

Cher scoffed at the notion that she periodically “reinvents” herself.

“I've been the same person since I was six years old. So I don't get that whole reinvention thing,” she said in an interview with “You do something that's not successful and you're bored, and you do something that's successful and you're reinventing yourself.

“Like I do stuff with hair and costumes, because what am I gonna do? Come out in overalls and a white tee shirt?”
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