SEE ALSO: Georgia O’Keeffe, Mary Pickford, Ella Fitzgerald, Lady Gaga, Maya Angelou, Maria Tallchief, Tina Fey, Marian Anderson, Josephine Baker, Lucille Ball, Ruth Handler, Andrea Jung, Brandi Chastain, Gloria Steinem, Diana Vreeland, Venus & Serena Williams, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, Billie Jean King
Rocker of Ages
How many times has Cher been written off? Too many to count. In her tumultuous 50-year Hollywood career, Cher has reincarnated herself as a pop singer, TV variety show host, dramatic actress, Las Vegas showgirl, and more. She has nipped and tucked her body and career and refused to take “no” for an answer. In a town that discards women over 30 as easily as year-old sports cars to make room for the young and the fresh, her accomplishments attest to her resilience and talent. Not only that, she has survived by doing it her way – in see-through bodices, bare midriffs and feathered headdresses –through two turbulent marriages, dating men decades younger than she, and unafraid to take risks. “I never worried what the world might really think of me,” she once said.
Born Cherilyn LaPiere Sarkisian, Cher’s early years were chaotic, as her mother married and divorced eight times. An undiagnosed dyslexic, Cher quit school at age 16 and traveled to Hollywood where she met Sonny Bono, 12 years her senior, who would become her husband and partner. Their first single – I Got You Babe – went to the top of the Billboard charts. Cher was only 19, but her star quality was set. No one else had her exotic looks, outlandish costumes or outspoken personality. CBS television took notice and offered the pair a weekly variety show that brought their singing, dancing and comedy sketches into millions of American homes.
But times changed. The show failed along with her marriages to Sonny Bono and rocker Gregg Allman. With two children to care for and little money, Cher found herself an unemployed 33-year-old single mother who wanted, more than anything, to be a serious actress. Audiences were skeptical. How could a flamboyant hippie pop star, whose only acting credit was delivering one-liners about her husband’s height, be taken seriously in dramatic roles? Her performances in movies like Silkwood and Mask silenced the doubters. In 1987, Cher won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Moonstruck. Characteristically, she accepted the statuette with a bare midriff and a massive Mohawk headdress.
Her forties and fifties brought new successes – more chart-topping albums and pop hits like If I Could Turn Back Time. Her 1998 album Believe sold more than 20 million copies. At age 52, Cher was a Grammy winner on international tour. Now in her sixties, she has the distinction of being the only person to have a Billboard No. 1 song in each of the past six decades. Showing no sign of retiring she spent three years performing nearly 200 shows at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and is still working on songs for release. Cher’s greatest legacy may be her determination to constantly reinvent herself.
Alice Guy Blache: Nellie Bly: Louise Bourgeois: Margaret Bourke-White: Gwendolyn Brooks: Rita Dove: Lorraine Hansberry: Sherry Lansing: Ellen Manderfield: Leontyne Price: Beverly Sills: Anna Edson Taylor: Camilla Williams: