Cover image for Cher : if you believe
Cher : if you believe
Bego, Mark.
Personal Author:
First Cooper Square Press edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Cooper Square Press ; [Lanham, Md.] : Distributed by National Book Network, 2001.
Physical Description:
xvi, 407 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML420.C472 B44 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
ML420.C472 B44 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Being fixed/mended
ML420.C472 B44 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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This detailed biography gives the story of the dazzling five-decade professional career of Cher, the flamboyant and engaging superstar who catapulted to fame in 1965. Her tumultuous private life and turbulent personal relationships are also thoroughly explored by the author.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

As the subtitle, "If You Believe," suggests, Cher is quite capable of inspiring disbelief, and her recent ascent into kitsch immortality seems just another chapter in an outsize career that Bego celebrates sympathetically. Cher started in pop music, but by now her accomplishments have taken a backseat to her presence. So Bego lingers over pure, talentless aspects of that presence, like the highly public ordeals of ex-husband Sonny Bono's death and daughter Chastity's coming out. More to the point for her collectibles fans, the book includes a discography, a filmography, and such other lists as a "Boyfriendography," from which reference workers may learn at a glance that Warren Beatty ("actor," the entry helpfully clarifies) was a 1962 date; that Sonny was a premarital live-in, 1964-69, and a proper spouse, 1969-75; and that the great dame dated Bernie Taupin, David Geffen, and Gregg Allman while still married to Bono, which must set a record for tolerance--or bad judgment (but whose?). Just the treatment Cher would want and richly deserves. --Mike Tribby

Publisher's Weekly Review

Someone once joked that after a nuclear holocaust, the only living creatures will be cockroaches and Cher. Cherlyn Sarkisian Bono Allman (aka Cher) has certainly demonstrated her survival instincts with career successes that range from hit songs in the 1960s through her first Grammy Award in 2001. Along the way, the outrageous chameleon defied nay-sayers by moving fluidly and successfully between a recording career (she and Aretha Franklin are the only women to have a top-10 hit in each of the last four decades) and film work (winning an Oscar for 1987's Moonstruck; a Golden Globe for 1983's Silkwood; and a Cannes Film Festival Award for 1985's Mask), with brief forays on Broadway (Come Back to the Five & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean) and in print (her exercise book, Forever Fit). The prolific Bego (who co-authored Dancing in the Streets with Martha Reeves and I'm a Believer with Mickey Dolenz) has assembled a fast-paced and knowledgeable tribute, which, while admiring of the diva, isn't afraid to broach such subjects as plastic surgery. Fans will find a lot more meat here than they did in the diva's own scattershot quasi-memoir, The First Time. Along with the lively writing, Bego offers fans a comprehensive Cher almanac at the back of the book a filmography and discography; the credits for the Sonny & Cher Show; awards; memorable lines from her films; and even a "Boyfriendography" listing all the men she dated between 1962 and 1991. The Supremes' Mary Wilson provides the book's introduction. Photos. Agent, Sasha Goodman. (Sept. 15) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The persistent and varied career of Cher finds extensive coverage here. An experienced celebrity biographer, Bego covers nearly every high and low of the actress/singer/comedienne's life, from her underprivileged upbringing, through her mid-1980s career implosion, to a 2001 Grammy for her No. 1 single, "Believe." Unfortunately, Bego tends to emphasize the sensationalistic, making the book ring hollow. He glosses over fruitful territory such as Cher's relationship with her lesbian daughter and the sudden death of Sonny Bono in favor of tasteless commentary: "Possessing a fabulous body surgically altered as it may be Cher has never turned the other cheek, but she has often shown her other cheeks." While the book provides an exhaustive discography and filmography as well as a foreword by ex-Supreme Mary Wilson, Cher's irreverence is put to better use in her The First Time (LJ 12/98). Not recommended. Caroline Dadas, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One IF YOU BELIEVE IN LIFE AFTER LIFE It is 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, June 16, 1999, and it is 106 degrees Fahrenheit in Phoenix, Arizona. In underground parking lots automobiles are so hot that stickers and decorative chrome pieces are melting loose. Above ground, as the sun begins its descent into the western sky, one can literally see waves of heat radiating up from the pavement in the downtown area. In spite of the excruciating heat, thousands of people are walking with determination, heading down the sidewalks toward one particular block, oblivious to the temperature. No matter how hot it feels outdoors, the inside of the air-conditioned America West Arena that they are heading toward is truly the hottest place on the planet tonight. Because tonight is the night Cher opens her sold-out "Believe" world tour.     This evening, America West Arena is in a virtual Cher time warp. Audience members are dressed in outfits representing every era of Cher's career. Several women are wearing bell-bottomed pants and sandals like the ones Cher made famous in the 1960s. One girl sports a bright purple shag wig, like the one Cher wore to Madonna's wedding in 1985. Another woman parades around with a headpiece of long strands of plastic tubing, like the one Cher wore in her "Believe" video. Men, women, and children of all ages have purchased and are wearing Cher "Believe" T-shirts. It is a gathering of Cher believers of all ages. Some are older, some are middle-aged, and some are decades too young to have even been born when the song "I Got You Babe" topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.     Tonight there is an air of excitement and sheer anticipation. After the two opening acts are finished with their musical sets, the members of the standing room-only crowd are at the edges of their seats. Tickets disappeared almost instantly at $60 and $75 apiece, and local scalpers were charging up to $600 per seat. "What is she going to wear?" "How will she sound?" "Which of her hits is she going to sing?" These were questions that were repeated throughout the crowd.     In true Cher fashion, the stage set is very gothic-looking. Rising about twenty feet above the huge stage, two nonsymmetrical staircases lead downward toward the stage floor. The stairways are encircled by fence posts topped with fleurs-de-lis linked with a guardrail of chain. The cyclorama backdrop is painted to look like it is made of stone. It's as though tonight's crowd is gathered in the secret cave of a mountain goddess, awaiting an audience with this deity.     On stage, musicians and technicians are scurrying about, checking lights, amps, and instruments. Finally, at 9:43 p.m. the house lights are dimmed. As the opening notes of a synthesizer-dominated song begin, it sounds more like The X-Files TV show theme than any recognizable Cher hit. It is hard to tell what song it is, especially through the resounding din of cheers, screams, clapping, and whistling that the audience is emitting. While huge video projection screens flash images of Cher's past, present, and future, there--from the central and highest point of the stage--where the two staircases join, something is rising up from the floor of the balcony walkway that is formed there. Hark, it is the pop goddess herself--Cher in all of her outrageous opening night glory.     The music is pulsing, the lights are flashing, and Cher is singing her heart out, but for the first few minutes of her performance it is impossible to hear a word she is singing, because the entire audience as one is on its feet, clapping and cheering at the top of its lungs. They have come to see the legendary pop goddess, and her flashy entrance delivers all that we had hoped for--opulence, spectacle, and the ever-radiant Cher.     Like a high priestess of some sort of video fantasy come to life, the music world's most enduring rock diva begins singing her impassioned version of U2's song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Although this isn't a song she has ever recorded before, it is a fitting choice for her. As in the lyrics of the song, Cher too has spent the last four decades in the public eye, morphing from one persona to another, like a restless seeker on a never-ending quest.     She is wearing her first of eight elaborate and over-the-top costumes that Bob Mackie has designed for this grand world concert tour. Known for wearing wigs ever since she was the star of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in the 1970s, her tresses are to be changed with each and every costume change. For the opening number she is wearing a curly waist-length red wig atop her head, held in place by an elaborate beaded headband with side wings that hang at the side of her face.     Clad in a copper and bronze spangled outfit of crisscrossing beaded strips, a waist-cinching bustier, and slave bracelets, Cher looks like a Byzantine warrior woman, poised to conquer. And conquer she did.     After the wild cheering dies down after her opening number, Cher appears poised and in total command as she announces to her SRO legion of worshipers, "We've got a lot of territory to cover.... I'm gonna do songs I haven't done since the seventies." As promised, her 1999-2000 concert tour not only highlights her million-selling 1980s and 1990s hits, but for the first time in ages she is also to sing several of the songs from her past that she hasn't performed live in years: Number 1 hits like "Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves" and "Half Breed," to her million-selling disco smash "Take Me Home," through her 1980s rockers like "If I Could Turn Back Time" and "We All Sleep Alone," right up to the 1990s sound of "Believe." It is by far the most lavish concert tour mounted in years, and only Cher could pull it off with such style, flash, and sense of spectacle.     Since her hit-making career has literally spanned thirty-five years of musical memories, tonight she is prepared to touch on them all--from the very beginning of her career to "Believe" and beyond. She is the only pop or rock performer to have had Top Ten hits in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, AND 1990s. Tonight is a celebration for all who believe--in Cher. * * * No one in the history of show business has had a career of the magnitude and scope of Cher's. She has been a teenage pop star, a television hostess, a fashion magazine model, a rock star, a pop singer, a Broadway actress, an Academy Award-winning movie star, a disco sensation, and the subject of a mountain of press coverage. Her fans have followed her as one half of the pre-hippie duo Sonny & Cher, through her headline-grabbing divorce from Sonny, her disastrous marriage to drugged-out singer Gregg Allman, right up through her 1980s affair with the notorious "Bagel Boy" who was half her age.     We have watched her start fashion trends--like bell-bottomed pants--transform herself into a glamorous TV mannequin, and blossom as a serious film actress of legendary proportions. We have seen her through breast lifts, face peels, dental braces, puffed-up collagen-enhanced lips, talon-like finger nails, and enough plastic surgery and makeup to morph herself into a totally different person.     Outspoken since she was a young teenager, Cher can be called a lot of things. However, "helpless victim" has never been on that list. She is no creampuff when it comes to speaking her mind. She has publicly called Sonny Bono "a tyrant," David Letterman "an asshole," and Madonna "a cunt." Few could have gotten away with the things she has said.     Possessing a fabulous body--surgically altered as it may be--Cher has never turned the other cheek, but she has often shown her other cheeks. She has been banned by MTV, fought with TV censors, and "mooned" her fans with her tattooed derriere . Easy to get along with when you are her ally, she follows her own instincts and makes her own mistakes. She has often feuded with her film directors and thumbed her nose at any convention that displeases her.     As a singing star, her recording career has had five distinctively different phases. First, she was the in-tune half of the pop/rock duo Sonny & Cher, racking up million-selling hits like "The Beat Goes On" with her live-in lover/first husband Sonny Bono. Simultaneously, she had her own distinctively different solo career as a folk/rock balladeer, covering Bob Dylan songs like "All I Really Want to Do" in the 1960s. Her third incarnation found her singing melodramatic story-songs like "Dark Lady" and "The Way of Love" in the 1970s. She was reborn at the end of that decade as a roller disco queen with dance hits including "Take Me Home" and "Hell on Wheels." In the 1980s and early 1990s she embraced hard rock, producing three platinum albums and singing power ballads like "If I Could Turn Back Time" and "We All Sleep Alone." She astonished the world in 1998 and 1999 by staging the biggest career "comeback" since Tina Turner's 1984 resurrection, recasting herself as a dance music/techno-pop performer warbling the biggest hit of her entire career, "Believe."     She made three films in the 1960s with Sonny Bono, a short appearance in the surfing flick Wild on the Beach , followed by Good Times and Chastity . However, she longed to be taken seriously as a film actress. At the height of her musical fame, she literally turned her back on Las Vegas showrooms to establish herself as a movie star. Her films Mask, Mermaids, Suspect , and The Witches of Eastwick gave her the kind of screen career most actresses can only dream of obtaining.     Although she had proven her talent via TV ratings, million-selling hits, entertaining films, and creative record albums, she waited a long time for the kind of respect that she longed to receive from her peers. It came to her in an overwhelming fashion, when she won an Academy Award for her dazzling performance in the 1987 film Moonstruck . And--finally--in the year 2000, she won her first Grammy Award for her milestone global hit "Believe."     Likewise, she has managed to regain the momentum of her once-dazzling film career. Longing for more creative control, she made her film-directing debut with the 1996 HBO hit If These Walls Could Talk . In 1999 she received glowing reviews as one of the stars of Franco Zeffirelli's prestigious box-office hit Tea with Mussolini .     Meanwhile, her personal life has been a roller-coaster ride of tabloid newspaper headlines. Her divorce from Sonny and her irrational affair with heroin addict Gregg Allman all but eclipsed her mid-1970s television work. She was stricken with the debilitating Epstein-Barr virus in 1989, and nearly mined her own film career by starring in a tacky 1990s television infomercial selling overpriced designer shampoo. Usually liberal-minded Cher was devastated when tabloid newspapers "outed" her daughter, Chastity, as a lesbian in the early 1990s.     By the middle of the 1990s her show business career was in shambles. Her 1996 film Faithful opened at theaters "dead on arrival." That same year, her album It's a Man's World scarcely made a dent on the American record charts. When her ex-husband Sonny Bono was killed in a tragic 1998 skiing accident, friends and fans alike wondered if that emotional loss would mark the end of her creative career as well.     She had no intention of producing a 1990s dance disc when she went into the studio to record the Believe album. She reportedly argued tooth and nail with the producers behind the project. Although she had a Number 1 hit in 1996 in England, singing "Love Can Build a Bridge" with Chrissie Hynde and Neneh Cherry, the rest of the world seemed to have written her off as a glamorous star of the past. When the song "Believe" became a Number 1 hit around the world in 1998-1999, she came back, bigger, better, and more excitingly revitalized than ever before. Her Believe album was certified either Gold, Platinum, or Multiple Platinum in thirty-nine different countries. It was as though the entire planet welcomed Cher back with open arms.     Cher is one of those rare individuals whose personal life, reputation, fame, and image often come to mind more readily than do thoughts of any of her accomplishments. She's still--in her fifties--that overgrown teenager who delights in flying in the face of convention like a pesky hornet. Who will ever forget the barely there Mohawk nightmare outfit she wore to the 1985 Academy Awards telecast, specifically designed to say "fuck you very much" for ignoring her acting in the movie Mask .     She is consistent only in her vast inconsistency, and she is a mass of internal and external contradictions. She's the serious actress who still balances her life as a rock and pop star. One moment she is the perpetual female Peter Pan who loves to dress down in jeans and claim that the world can simply take her the way she is. And the next moment she will turn around and make a grand entrance in a $5,000 beaded gown, a $500 manicure, and countless thousands of dollars of reconstructive body surgery.     She once proclaimed, "People regarded me as a clothes hanger more than an entertainer" (3). Yet, she has constantly allowed her wardrobe to make a statement for her.     From the mid-1970s one of the most collectable toys on the planet was the "Cher Doll." The new version of the Cher doll from Mattel caused another huge toy-store sensation when it debuted in 2001. But let's face the fact Cher IS the world's favorite real-life Barbie doll. We all delight in seeing what on earth it is that she is going to wear in public next. She stands only five feet, seven inches tall, yet in the eyes of the media and of the public, she is a larger-than-life giantess.     Sitting next to Cher on a sofa and having a conversation with her, one has to constantly remind one's self that this woman with the blasé attitude, saying "fuck this" and "fuck that," is the entertainment world's most famous spoiled-child-turned-goddess. The fact that she is so real, so down-to-earth in manner, and so at ease with herself is one of the reasons that she has endured the passing fads and fancies and emerged more undeniably beautiful than ever before. If we never had any memory of the Cher of the early 1970s, with her crooked teeth, not-so-perfect nose, and naturally pretty features, we would still find the Cher of the 2000s beautiful. However, since the metamorphosis of Cher has been such a public one--through nose peels, reported butt lifts, dental braces, dental caps, and seemingly countless nips and tucks--it is difficult not to think of her image in the past. Like a sleek cat, Cher has had at least nine lives by now.     This is what Cher's five decades as an international media star have been all about--spectacle. For her, the element of surprise is virtually "everything." Cher is not the most classically beautiful or most talented actress in Hollywood, nor is she the most gifted vocalist on record, but she is a celebrity of true "superstar" status.     She's the wisecracking pop princess whose success seems to be based as much on her unpredictability as upon her talents. Just when you think that she has done it all, sung it all, or accomplished it all, Cher recreates herself and takes on a whole new persona. She's an acknowledged pillar of self-determination, and her career has had both strength and longevity. As the reigning mannequin of the "me" generation, she has worn many labels, but she can only be described with one name that says it all: "Cher!"     As the consummate Renaissance woman, Cher calls her own shots, and she is in total control of her own destiny. She's forceful and direct, and she speaks her mind. In 1978, sick of being tagged with the surnames of her father, stepfather, and ex-husbands, Cherilyn Sarkisian La Piere Bono Allman legally shortened her name to just one word, Cher. To her it marked her independence from every one of the men in her life. In the 1980s she went through a succession of younger men, including actors Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise and ABC-TV executive Josh Donen. And then there was her famed affair with Robert Camilletti, the "Bagel Boy" who was only twenty-two when forty-year-old Cher started dating him. She also had her rock and roll boyfriend phases with Gene Simmons of KISS, Les Dudek, and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi.     She is not a women's rights proponent by petitioning and picketing, but she is a "people's rights" symbol, simply by standing up and speaking her mind and saying what she feels. As she independently proclaimed, "This is my life--and I get to do everything I want to do. I don't really care what anybody thinks" (4).     According to her, "I'm a good performer, not a great performer. I don't know what I have, but I know I've got something, and I think people like me. I know I make mistakes, and I will continue to make mistakes, but I don't care if people agree with what I do. If I ever had a chance to be somebody better or prettier or whatever, I wouldn't want it. I love being me" (5).     "I don't answer to anyone except myself," she insists. I can be very independent if necessary, and most of the time, I am. Basically, I think I'm a lot more moral than most people. I don't do drugs and I don't drink--I've spoken out against them over and over again--and I think you must have a meaningful relationship with somebody, even if it's your dog. I don't think I really care if what I'm doing makes sense to everybody else. If it makes sense to me, that's all that's important (6).     Simultaneously, her ex-partner, Sonny Bono, had a post-Cher life that was as event-filled as that of the diva-in-the-making he had once married. He had found stardom with Cher, dressed as a Bohemian hippie in bobcat fur vests in the 1960s, yet by the 1990s he had transformed himself into a conservative Republican congressman in Washington, D.C. He had gone from singer to restaurateur to successful actor in Hairspray to become the mayor of Palm Springs, and finally to the halls of Congress. Although they had reunited once in 1988 on network television, Sonny and Cher's once-inseparable friendship was strained at best. While Cher at first reluctantly embraced their daughter's lesbianism, it was Sonny who easily accepted the news. Although since the 1970s they had been estranged and combative with each other, Sonny's life and Cher's life will forever remain interwoven.     And yet, with all that is known about Cher, there are so many unanswered questions. What was the truth about Cher sleeping with Warren Beatty when she was a teenager? What happened the night Cher saved the life of a drugged-out rock star at a Hollywood party? To what ends did she attempt to get Gregg Allman off of drugs? What role did Jackie Kennedy play in turning Cher into a Vogue magazine fashion model? How did Cher react when her daughter Chastity was "outed" by the tabloid newspapers, and then publicly "came out"? How did Cher feel when she heard the news of Sonny Bono's death--having spoken scathingly of him for years? Why have Cher and Sonny Bono's widow, Mary Bono, gone from "sisters in sorrow" to bitter enemies? The breakup of Sonny & Cher, who left whom? And, who was having the most extramarital affairs at the time of their top-rated television show? What is the truth about Sonny Bono being on prescription drugs at the time of his fatal skiing accident? Exactly what plastic surgery has Cher had done to herself in a constant race against time and aging? What are Cher's insecurities? What is behind the obsession with her looks? What was the reason behind Cher's affair with openly gay record-company executive David Geffen? Did she hope she could make him go straight? In the 1980s, when Cher would have done anything to become a serious movie star, to what ends did she have to go? Which movie directors did Cher love, and which ones did she hate? Is she a pain in the ass to work with? What drove Cher to appear in those dreadful infomercials in the 1990s, the ones that nearly ruined her career? Cher made her brilliant return to movies in 1999 in Tea With Mussolini . What was her big gripe with director Franco Zeffirelli? Was Cher's eulogy at Sonny Bono's funeral from her heart, or was it just a brilliant opportunity for her to gain publicity? What went into Cher's un-"Believe"-able 1990s comeback? This biography will help to explain these mysteries, and the appeal of this one-of-a-kind pop icon.     For Cher, the story of her life, and of her brilliant career, has just begun. She has experienced vast heights of achievement and lived through low points of creative inactivity, but through it all she has remained true to only one person, herself. She is a triumphant survivor in a cutthroat business. She is a clever woman who can be defined by only one word: Cher! (Continues...) Excerpted from Cher by MARK BEGO. Copyright (c) 2001 by Mark Bego. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.