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If you had made a friendly wager back in 1974 as to which recent or current pop-music figure might go on to serve in the United States Congress in 20 years’ time, you might have picked someone with an apparent political agenda, like Joan Baez, or at least one who was associated with some kind of cause, like nature-lover John Denver. You almost certainly wouldn’t have placed your bet on Sonny Bono, a singer of arguably limited talents who appeared content to stand, literally and figuratively, in the shadow of his far more popular wife, Cher. It was indeed Salvatore “Sonny” Bono, however, who had a future in elective politics—a future that included his election to the United States House of Representatives from California’s 44th Congressional District on November 8, 1994
Sonny Bono fell almost completely out of the public eye following the cancellation of The Sonny and Cher Show in 1977. While his ex-wife and erstwhile musical partner, Cher, launched a hugely successful second phase of her career with well-received acting roles in the 1980s, Sonny left the spotlight behind to focus on the restaurant business. Although he presented himself as a none-too-bright bumbler during his days on television, Bono had been an astute operator in shepherding his and Cher’s early musical career and in his later business dealings. The owner of several successful restaurants, Bono got involved in politics after growing frustrated with the bureaucratic hurdles placed before one of his restaurant construction projects by local officials in Palm Springs, California, in the late 1980s. Though he himself had registered to vote for the first time only one year earlier, Bono was elected mayor of Palm Springs in 1988. Following a failed run in the California Republican Senatorial primary in 1992, Bono turned his attention to the 44th District’s Congressional seat in 1994. A conservative Republican, Bono was swept into office as part of the Newt Gingrich-led Republican “revolution” that year, and he was re-elected in 1996.
During his time in office, Bono did not treat his fellow lawmakers to any singing performances, but the man behind the hits “I Got You Babe” (1965) and “The Beat Goes On” (1967) did trade on his public persona as a good-natured, non-threatening nice guy. As The Washington Post noted in its obituary following Bono’s death in a skiing accident in 1998, “Bono brought to Congress a rare skill: He could make lawmakers—even the most pompous among them—laugh at themselves.” Or as President Bill Clinton said, “”His joyful entertainment of millions earned him celebrity, but in Washington he earned respect by being a witty and wise participant in policymaking processes that often seem ponderous to the American people.”
READ MORE: How Sonny and Cher Went From TV's Power Couple to Bitter Exes
Sonny & Cher
Sonny & Cher were an American pop duo of entertainers made up of husband and wife Sonny Bono and Cher in the 1960s and 1970s. The couple started their career in the mid-1960s as R&B backing singers for record producer Phil Spector.
The pair first achieved fame with two hit songs in 1965, "Baby Don't Go" and "I Got You Babe". Signing with Atco/Atlantic Records, they released three studio albums in the late 1960s, as well as the soundtrack recordings for two unsuccessful movies, Good Times  and Chastity, with Cher contributing vocals to one cut, "Chastity's Song (Band of Thieves)".  In 1972, after three years of silence, the couple returned to the studio and released two other albums under the MCA/Kapp Records label.
In the 1970s, they also positioned themselves as media personalities with two top ten TV shows in the US, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and The Sonny & Cher Show. The couple's career as a duo ended in 1975 following their divorce. In the decade they spent together, Sonny and Cher were nominated for two Grammy Awards and sold over 40 million records worldwide.   Rolling Stone ranked them No. 18 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time. 
Performing under her first name, Cher went on to a highly successful career as a solo singer and actress, while Sonny Bono was eventually elected to Congress as a Republican U.S. Representative from California. The two performers were inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1998, following Sonny's death in a skiing accident.
Rep. Bono Memorial Service
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Federal Funding for the Arts
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To the Top and Back to the Bottom
Bono developed a nightclub act that featured Cher as the bored, generally superior wife who always gets the best of her husband who is a clown. Throwing in old and new tunes, many of them his, they exuded a kind of charm that intrigued audiences and led them to the weekly Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour on CBS. It lasted from 1971 until mid-1974 and propelled them into the hottest couple on television. Together, they were a hit. While critics debated the merits of the show, it consistently drew high ratings.
The show was still going strong when in 1974, Cher announced she was leaving her husband. In a blaze of headlines over their divorce, they charged each other with extramarital affairs and the parting was bitter. Claiming surprise at his ex-wife's unhappiness, Bono dropped out of show business, with the exception of a few guest appearances on television shows. He also married his third wife, model Susie Coelho, in 1982. They were divorced in 1984.
1 John Hughes, “On Her Own: People Know Sonny Bono’s Widow, But Do They Know Mary Bono?” 29 March 1998, Orange County Register (Santa Ana, CA): E1.
2 Congressional Record, House, 110th Cong., 2nd sess. (14 May 2008): E914 Hughes, “On Her Own.”
3 Frank Bruni, “The Widows Run,” 29 March 1998, New York Times Magazine: 34.
4 William Claiborne, “Mary Bono Wins House Seat,” 8 April 1998, Washington Post: A4.
5 Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920to Present.”
6 Garrison Nelson and Charles Stewart III, Committees in the U.S. Congress, 1993–2010 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press, 2011): 596 Congressional Directory, 112th Congress (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2012): 476 Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, “Women Members’ Committee Assignments (Standing, Joint, Select) in the U.S. House, 1917–Present.”
7 Lorraine Adams, “Keepers of the Flame,” 1 November 1998, Good Housekeeping 227, no. 5: 136 Jeanne Marie Laskas, “Oh, My God, We’re Not Blond Anymore: The Transformation of Mary Bono,” 1 July 1999, Esquire 132, no. 1: 122.
8 Salton Sea Reclamation Act of 1998, PL 105-372, 112 Stat. 3377 (1998) Agua Caliente Revenue Distribution Act, PL 105-308, 112 Stat. 2932 (1998).
9 Lloyd Grove, “In the Thick of It: For Mary Bono, A Year of Decisions Topped by One Vote,” 11 December 1998, Washington Post: D1.
11 Politics in America, 2002 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2001): 148–149.
13 Politics in America, 2012 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2011): 151.
14 Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, “Familial Connections of Women Members of Congress.”
15 Keith Matheny, “It’s Now ‘Bono Mack’ for Mary,” 20 December 2007, Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA): B2.
16 Deborah Barfield Berry, “Legislation Targets Online Pharmacies,” 17 October 2008, Desert Sun: B4.
17 Johnny Dodd, “Mary Bono Mack and Her Son Chesare Back from the Edge,” People 17, no. 6 (February 16, 2009): 107–109.
18 Hearings before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, Warning: The Growing Danger of Prescription Drug Diversion, 112th Cong., 1st sess. (2011).
19 Stop Oxy Abuse Act of 2010, H.R. 4956, 111th Cong. (2010) Stop Oxy Abuse Act of 2011, H.R. 1316, 112th Cong. (2011).
20 Politics in America, 2012: 150.
21 “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present” Politics in America, 2012: 151.
22 Marcel Honore, “Mary Bono Mack, Raul Ruiz Debate Spirals into Personal Attack Slugfest,” 13 October 2012, Desert Sun: 1.
23 Erica Felci, “Raul Ruiz Bests Mary Bono Mack in Fundraising in First Quarter for Congressional Race,” 17 April 2012, Desert Sun: n.p. Xochitl Pena, “Bill Clinton Endorses Raul Ruiz in House Race,” 24 October 2012, Desert Sun: n.p.
24 “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present” Honore, “Mary Bono Mack, Raul Ruiz Debate Spirals into Personal Attack Slugfest.”
25 Erica Felci, “Dr. Raul Ruiz Victorious as Rep. Mary Bono Mack Concedes Race,” 9 November 2012, Desert Sun: n.p.
26 Ledyard King, “Connie Mack, IV, Mary Bono Mack Announce Divorce,” 25 May 2013, News Press (Fort Myers, FL): 1. She changed her name back to Mary Bono.
27 Emily Heil, “Former Congresswoman Mary Bono Weds Former Astronaut,” 29 September 2015, Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/reliable-source/wp/2015/09/29/former-congresswoman-mary-bono-weds-former-astronaut/.
Bono began his music career as a songwriter at Specialty Records, where his song "Things You Do to Me" was recorded by Sam Cooke, and went on to work for record producer Phil Spector in the early 1960s as a promotion man, percussionist and "gofer". One of his earliest songwriting efforts, "Needles and Pins" was co-written with Jack Nitzsche, another member of Spector's production team. Later in the same decade, he achieved commercial success with his then-wife Cher in the singing duo Sonny and Cher. Bono wrote, arranged, and produced a number of hit records including the singles "I Got You Babe" and "The Beat Goes On", although Cher received more attention as a performer. He played a major part in Cher's solo recording career, writing and producing singles including "Bang Bang" and "You Better Sit Down Kids".
Bono co-wrote "She Said Yeah", covered by The Rolling Stones on their 1965 LP December's Children. His lone hit single as a solo artist, "Laugh at Me," was released in 1965 and peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. In live concerts, Bono would introduce the song by saying "I'd like to sing a medley of my hit." His only other single as a solo artist, "The Revolution Kind," reached No. 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 later that year. His solo album, Inner Views, was released in 1967.
Sonny continued to work with Cher through the early and mid-1970s, starring in a popular television variety show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, which ran on CBS from 1971 to 1974. From 1976 to 1977, the duo, since divorced, returned to perform together on The Sonny and Cher Show. Their last appearance together was on Late Night with David Letterman on November 13, 1987, on which they sang "I Got You Babe".
Film and television
Bono's acting career included bit parts as a guest performer in such television series as Fantasy Island, Charlie's Angels, The Love Boat, and CHiPs. In the 1975 TV movie Murder on Flight 502 he played Jack Marshall. He appeared in the 1980 miniseries Top of the Hill. He played the role of mad bomber Joe Selucci in Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) and appeared in the horror film Troll (1986). He also portrayed racist entrepreneur Franklin Von Tussle in the John Waters film Hairspray (1988). In Men in Black (1997), Bono is one of several oddball celebrities seen on a wall of video screens that monitor extraterrestrials living among us. He also appeared as the Mayor of Palm Springs (which he actually was at the time) in several episodes of P.S. I Luv U during the 1991–92 TV season, and on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (in Season 1, Episode 9, which aired November 21, 1993), in which he played Mayor Frank Berkowitz. He also made a minor appearance as himself in the comedy film First Kid (1996).
Bono guest-starred as himself on The Golden Girls episode "Mrs. George Devereaux" (originally broadcast November 17, 1990), in which he vied with Lyle Waggoner for Dorothy's (Bea Arthur) affection in a dream sequence. In Blanche's (Rue McClanahan) dream, her husband is still alive, and Bono uses his power as Mayor of Palm Springs to have Waggoner falsely arrested so he can have Dorothy to himself.
Bono entered politics after experiencing great frustration with local government bureaucracy in trying to open a restaurant in Palm Springs, California. Bono placed a successful bid to become the new mayor of Palm Springs. He served four years, from 1988 to 1992. He was instrumental in spearheading the creation of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which is held each year in Bono's memory.
Bono ran for the Republican nomination for United States Senate in 1992, but the nomination went to the more conservative Bruce Herschensohn, and the election to the Democrat Barbara Boxer. Bono and Herschensohn became close friends after the campaign. Bono was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1994 to represent California's 44th congressional district. He was one of twelve co-sponsors of a House bill extending copyright. Although that bill was never voted on in the Senate, a similar Senate bill was passed after his death and named the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in his memory. It is also known (derisively) as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.
He championed the restoration of the Salton Sea, ] bringing the giant lake's plight to national attention. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich made a public appearance and speech at the shore of the lake on Bono's behalf.
In their book Tell Newt to Shut Up, David Maraniss and Michael Weisskopf credit Bono with being the first person to recognize Gingrich's public relations problems in 1995. Drawing on his long experience as a celebrity and entertainment producer, Bono (according to Maraniss and Weisskopf) recognized that Gingrich's status had changed from politician to celebrity and that Gingrich was not making allowances for that change:
Bono remains the only member of Congress to have scored a number-one pop single on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. [
Sonny Bono Rocks the Vote
It seemed that year as if April Fools’ Day had come late: On April 12, 1988, a middling restaurateur, high school dropout, and trivia-quiz answer became mayor of wealthy Palm Springs, Calif. Former hippie singer Sonny Bono beat out seven contenders for the $15,000-a-year job that would eventually lead him to Congress — and he𠆝 never even registered to vote until the year before.
Blame the currency of celebrity. As half of the married pop duo Sonny & Cher, Salvatore ”Sonny” Bono had a No. 1 record in 1965 with ”I Got You Babe.” Four more top 10 hits followed, as well as a top-rated CBS variety show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, launched in 1971. After the pair’s acrimonious divorce in 1975, Cher skyrocketed into music and film stardom while Bono found himself guesting on Fantasy Island. He opened an Italian restaurant in West Hollywood in 1983 but sold it when it nearly went bankrupt he launched (and sold) another in Palm Springs, his home since 1985.
Bono didn’t always fit into that tony enclave of the Republican rich in fact, a clash with city hall over remodeling his house and restaurant made him fight back by running for mayor. And in a field of eight candidates, he received nearly twice as many votes as his closest competitor, winning by the largest margin in the city’s history. During his four-year tenure, he banned thong bikinis and established a film festival. He also fought off a 1989 recall effort by citizens’ groups that wanted to oust him for (a) spending $4,500 of city funds to pay for new publicity portraits of himself (b) requesting first-class plane tickets for himself, his family, and their nanny for official trips and (c) using his revived fame to do a TV pilot and a beer ad. (A meeting with an opposition leader brought a truce.)
No hard feelings: In 1994, Bono was elected to Congress as California’s 44th-district representative. The 61-year-old Republican neophyte’s most notable achievement? A back-burnered bill to mandate changes in the way judges review voter initiatives. ”He’s perceived as doing a fairly good job for a freshman,” says Keith Carter, editorial page editor of the local paper, The Desert Sun. Carter notes, though, that some residents find Bono 𠇚n embarrassment — inarticulate and unsophisticated.” Brooklyn representative Charles Schumer rebuked Bono publicly for his impatience during a 1995 meeting of the House Judiciary Committee, saying ”We’re making laws here, not sausages.” Bono (who did not return calls for this story) plans to run for reelection this year, but the jury is still out. Is he a real politician, or does he just play one on C-SPAN?
Time Capsule: April 12, 1988
Moviegoers drank up Beetlejuice TV viewers stayed up for the Academy Awards Billy Ocean cruised to No. 1 with ”Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” and Trump: The Art of the Deal aced the nonfiction charts.
Biography of Sonny Bono
American entertainer, restaurateur, and politician, Sonny Bono was born on February 16, 1935, Detroit, Michigan, the U.S. to Santo Bono (born in Montelepre, Palermo, Italy) and Zena “Jean” Bono (née La Valle). He came to fame in partnership with his second wife Cher, as the popular singing duo Sonny & Cher. He was mayor of Palm Springs, California from 1988 to 1992, and the Republican congressman for California’s 44th district from 1995 until his death in 1998. Bono enjoyed a political career that culminated in service in the U.S. House of Representatives but was better remembered as a performer and the driving force behind the singing duo Sonny and Cher. The two had a number of hits on the pop charts in the 1960s and ’70s and were the hosts of a successful television variety show in the ’70s.
Popularly known as ‘Sonny Bono’, he was an eminent American singer, producer, and politician. He rose to fame with the song “I got you Babe” which he sang in collaboration with his then-girlfriend Cher. Bono began his career as a songwriter and moved on to acting in various television shows. His entry into the world of politics stems from his frustration regarding the local government bureaucracy he faced while trying to open a restaurant in Palm Springs, California. However, his life came to an abrupt end in a tragic skiing incident on the Nevada side of Heavenly Ski Resort, California. Till today, the world has not stopped speculating about his death. Bono still remains as the only Congressman to have scored a number one pop single on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The United States Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, which extended the term of copyright by 20 years, was named in honor of Bono when it was passed by Congress nine months after his death. Mary Bono (Sonny’s last wife) had been one of the original sponsors of the legislation, commonly known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.
Childhood, Family and Educational Life
Salvatore Phillip “Sonny” Bono was born on 16 th February 1935 in Detroit, Michigan to Santo Bono and Zena Jean who were immigrants from Sicily. It was his mother who gave him the nickname “Sonny”, and he became famous with this name later in life. He was the youngest of the three children the other two being his two elder sisters, Fran and Betty.
The family moved to Inglewood, California when he was seven, and his parents divorced soon afterward. Bono decided early in life to become part of the music business, and began writing songs as a teenager. “Koko Joe”, a song he wrote at age 16, was recorded by Don and Dewey in 1958, and later covered by several other artists including The Righteous Brothers.
Bono attended Inglewood High School but did not graduate, opting to drop out so he could begin to pursue a career as a songwriter and performer. He worked at a variety of jobs while trying to break into the music business, including waiter, truck driver, construction laborer, and butcher’s helper.
Sonny Bono married four times in his life. Bono married his first wife, Donna Rankin, on November 3, 1954. Their daughter Christine (“Christy”) was born on June 24, 1958. They divorced in 1962.
(Sonny Bono and Cher)
In 1964, Bono married singer and actress Cher. They had one child, Chaz, born March 4, 1969. In 1975 they divorced. Bono then married Susie Coelho in 1983 but divorced her within a year in 1984.
His fourth and final marriage in 1986, with Mary Whitaker, bore him two children, a son named Chesare Elan and a daughter named Chianna Maria, born in 1988 and 1991 respectively. The couple stayed married until his tragic death in 1998.
Bono was a champion of the Salton Sea in southeastern California, where a park was named in his honor. The 2005 documentary film Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea (narrated by John Waters) features Bono and documented the lives of the inhabitants of Bombay Beach, Niland, and Salton City, as well as the ecological issues associated with the Sea.
Career and Works
Sonny Bono’s first tryst with the entertainment industry came as a songwriter at Specialty Records in the early years of the 1960s. Sam Cooke, who was already an influential singer at the time, recorded ‘Things You Do to me’, which was written by Bono. This put him in the music industry and Phil Spector picked him up for doing promotion for his company. He also worked with the likes of Jack Nitzsche, also a part of the same team, with whom he wrote ‘Needles and Pins’.
Later in the same decade, he achieved commercial success with his then-wife Cher in the singing duo Sonny and Cher. Bono wrote, arranged, and produced a number of hit records including the singles “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On”, although Cher received more attention as a performer. He played a major part in Cher’s solo recording career, writing and producing singles including “Bang Bang” and “You Better Sit Down Kids”.
He’d initially found success with the generic “High School Dance,” which was recorded by Larry Williams as the B-side to “Short Fat Fanny,” and soon grabbed a chunk of the British Invasion action with “Needles and Pins,” which he co-authored with fellow Spector protégé Jack Nitzsche. The latter song was first recorded in 1963 by Jackie DeShannon, whose rendition was heard by Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers, a British band that had yet to score their first hit, who added it to their stage repertory at the Star-Club in Hamburg, where it was heard by the Searchers, who were looking for a potential third single. The Searchers, in turn, completely reinvented the song from the ground up, with a version that hit number one in England and made the Top 20 in America in the process, they also came up with a riff and a sound that became the blueprint for the folk-rock boom initiated by the Byrds in 1965. Bono, in the meantime, had made the acquaintance of Cherilyn LaPierre, 11 years his junior, and brought her to Gold Star as a session singer. Their association continued to produce many songs and other performances for the better part of a decade. Other hits of the duo include ‘Bang Bang’, ‘The Beat Goes On’, ‘You Better Sit Down’ and ‘Baby Don’t Go’.
Bono co-wrote “She Said Yeah”, covered by The Rolling Stones on their 1965 LP December’s Children. His lone hit single as a solo artist, “Laugh at Me,” was released in 1965 and peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. In live concerts, Bono would introduce the song by saying “I’d like to sing a medley of my hit.” His only other single as a solo artist, “The Revolution Kind,” reached No. 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 later that year. His solo album, Inner Views, was released in 1967.
Apart from singing, the couple also started a popular television show in 1971 ‘The Sonny and Cher Show’- where singing was accompanied by light comedy. The show was quite successful initially but it was taken off air in 1974. His first single, ‘Laugh at Me’, reached the 10th spot on the US billboards in 1965. Two years later, he released his only solo album named ‘Inner Views’.
Rescue of Bono’s career came when he and Cher played Las Vegas, initially as an opening act. They landed a contract with Decca Records and a chance at a variety show on CBS, and by 1972, they were back as television stars and top entertainers. For the second time, Sonny Bono reinvented himself now Sonny & Cher were a modern version of George Burns and Gracie Allen, with Bono as the straight man has gone were the fur vests and boots, instead, he was a diminutive foil to Cher’s sexually provocative comedienne. And the music wasn’t pop/rock anymore, but mainstream pop, aimed as much at parents as teenagers, and Bono wasn’t writing or producing it. From 1972 onward, it was Cher’s voice that was the focus of the duo’s work and her solo career the main thrust of most of the recording that went on around the couple. Their on-screen chemistry hid the fact that their marriage was coming apart by 1974, however, their split had become public knowledge and with it the end of their television show.
Sonny Bono continued to work with Cher through the early and mid-1970s, starring in a popular television variety show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, which ran on CBS from 1971 to 1974. From 1976 to 1977, the duo, since divorced, returned to perform together on The Sonny and Cher Show. Their last appearance together was on Late Night with David Letterman on November 13, 1987, on which they sang “I Got You Babe”.
Sonny was a man who liked wearing many hats and it is evident from the fact that apart from writing, singing, producing and arranging songs, he also appeared in films and television shows on multiple occasions. He was majorly a guest star who would appear for a brief time on television shows such as ‘Fantasy Land’, ‘The Love Boat’, ‘Top of the Hill’, ‘P.S I Luv U’ and ‘Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Spiderman’. He also played some small roles in movies such as ‘Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) and ‘First Kid’ (1996).
Bono’s acting career included bit parts as a guest performer in such television series as Fantasy Island, Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, The Six Million Dollar Man and CHiPs. In the 1975 TV movie Murder on Flight 502, where he played Jack Marshall. He appeared in the 1980 miniseries Top of the Hill. He played the role of mad bomber Joe Selucci in Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) and appeared in the horror film Troll (1986). He also portrayed racist entrepreneur Franklin Von Tussle in the John Waters film Hairspray (1988). In Men in Black (1997), Bono is one of several oddball celebrities seen on a wall of video screens that monitor extraterrestrials living among us. He also appeared as the Mayor of Palm Springs (which he actually was at the time) in several episodes of P.S. I Luv U during 1991–92 TV season, and on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (in Season 1, Episode 9, which aired November 21, 1993), in which he played Mayor Frank Berkowitz. He also made a minor appearance as himself in the comedy film First Kid (1996). Bono guest-starred as himself on The Golden Girls episode “Mrs. George Devereaux” (originally broadcast November 17, 1990), in which he vied with Lyle Waggoner for Dorothy’s (Bea Arthur) affection in a dream sequence. In Blanche’s (Rue McClanahan) dream, her husband is still alive, and Bono uses his power as Mayor of Palm Springs to have Waggoner falsely arrested so he can have Dorothy to himself.
Bono’s attempt at a television variety show was a dismal failure, and by the end of the decade, Bono had ceased working as an entertainer, and he next emerged before the public in 1988, in a totally unexpected way. Bono by then was the owner of an Italian restaurant in Palm Springs, CA, and was infuriated by the tangle of permits that he found he’d needed from the city while trying to put a new sign up on his establishment. As a result, he ran for mayor and won. He served a four-year term and then, in 1992, decided to run for the United States Senate as a Republican. Bono lost that race but two years later was swept into office as a congressman from the 44th district in California. He became part of Newt Gingrich’s Republican revolution in Congress and was highly visible in espousing conservative positions on crime and environmental legislation, as well as (understandably) entertainment law.
His opposition to zoning regulations in Palm Springs, Calif., inspired him to enter the 1988 mayoral election there, which he won. Bono’s success in that post prompted him to run for the U.S. Senate in 1992, but he lost in the Republican primary. His sense of humor was especially prized, and he was one of the most sought-after fund-raising speakers.
In 1994, Bono was elected as the representative of California’s 44th Congressional District to the US House of Representatives and was reelected in 1996. He was a popular figure in the house and was instrumental in bringing a copyright extension bill, which was later dedicated to his memory and named after him.
Sonny Bono became interested in Scientology and took Scientology courses partly because of the influence of Mimi Rogers, but stated that he was a Roman Catholic on all official documents, campaign materials, and websites. His wife Mary also took Scientology courses. However, after his death, Mary Bono stated that “Sonny did try to break away from the Church of Scientology at one point, and they made it very difficult for him.” The Church of Scientology said there was no estrangement from Bono.
Awards and Honor
Sonny Bono was also awarded a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television posthumously in 1998.
In 2011, Sonny Bono was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame.
There is a park near the Salton Sea in California named in Bono’s honor. There is also a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars dedicated to him.
Death and Legacy
Sonny Bono was killed January 5, 1998, when he hit a tree while skiing at Heavenly Mountain Resort near South Lake Tahoe, California. His death caused controversy after his wife, Mary, claimed that he was heavily on painkillers at the time of his death. Although the autopsy came back clean, many believe that Bono was high at the time of his death.
At Mary’s request, Cher gave a eulogy at Sonny’s funeral. He was buried at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California. The epitaph on Bono’s headstone reads AND THE BEAT GOES ON. Mary was elected to fill the remainder of her husband’s congressional term. She was elected in her own right seven subsequent times before being defeated in the election of 2012.
Sonny and Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’ reached the top spot in the billboards of both America and Britain. The duo’s ‘Bang Bang’ sold over a million copies worldwide.
During the final 15 years of his life, Bono was far removed from music, apart from handling business affairs relating to his and Cher’s work in the 1960s and 1970s this, coupled with his somewhat comically nebbish-like image during the couple’s early-s re-emergence, combined with his newly public conservative political career, led to some derision of him among pundits and in modern entertainment circles. His death, by contrast, led to a media feeding frenzy that was as ludicrous in its intensity as the earlier denigration of his work had been. During the year 2000, reflecting the restored interest in Bono’s music career, Rhino Records released a CD of Inner Views through its esoteric Rhino-Handmade imprint.
Olympian, star of CHiPs, reality TV star, transgender rights activist: Caitlyn Jenner has quite a lengthy CV. This year, she has decided to add to it, by launching a campaign for Governor of California in the 2021 gubernatorial recall election.
Pundits suggested that Jenner could be in with a shot due to name recognition, but her campaign was hit by controversy when she said in an interview that trans girls should not be allowed to compete in girls' sports at school, backing Republican Party views on transgender people in sports.
Jenner is attempting to oust incumbent Governor Gavin Newsom.
Sonny Bono – No Will – No Estate Plan – Probate Disaster
Sonny Bono was probably most famous for the song he sang with Cher, his second wife – I Got You Babe. However, he also found success as a songwriter, television star, restauranteur, and politician. Mr. Bono also committed a serious celebrity estate planning mistake.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Salvatore “Sonny” Bono and his family moved to California when Sonny was a young child.
Mr. Bono became a songwriter, then moved on to other areas of the entertainment industry. He and Cher co-hosted several popular television shows, although they divorced in the early 1970s. Mr. Bono next attempted to open a restaurant. Frustrated with local government, he decided to make a difference in the community. After serving as the Mayor of Palm Springs, he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives.
Mr. Bono sponsored a bill in Congress – the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1988. Congress passed the bill several months after Bono died from a skiing accident.
At the time of his death, he left behind a wife, Mary, and three children: Chastity (now Chaz) Bono, Chesare Elan Bono, and Christy Bono Fasce. His estate was worth an estimated $2 million, yet he had done no estate planning. His failure to even write a simple Will greatly complicated the situation.
And His Estate
Since there was no Will, no one was authorized to become the executor of the estate. Mary Bono had to petition to be appointed executor. This increased the estate’s legal costs and likely extended the length of the probate proceeding. Further complications included the appearance of a potential heir (a man named Sean Machu sued, claiming to be Sonny Bono’s “love child” he later dropped the lawsuit) and disputes among family members.
A comprehensive estate plan probably would have included a Will, a durable power of attorney, an advance directive, and possibly a trust or two. Mr. Bono’s Will would have provided an orderly way to distribute his estate. He might have set up trusts to provide for his three children. Trusts would have provided some privacy to his loved ones.
No Matter Who You Are, Estate Planning Makes a Difference.
It is somewhat unsettling to think about death. However, a little discomfort now could help your family after you’re gone.