- Singer and performer
- Formerly married to the late Sonny Bono
Cherilyn Sarkisian was born in El Centro, California, on May 20, 1946. Her mother was an aspiring but unsuccessful singer and actress who has been married six times; her father was an alcoholic who abandoned the family when Cher was just a few months old.
In 1963 Cher dropped out of high school and traveled to Los Angeles, where she met Sonny Bono, with whom she started her musical career (and whom she would eventually marry). Within two years of meeting, "Sonny and Cher" had become major celebrities, recording the Number One hit song "I Got You Babe" in 1965. From the late 1960s to the mid-70s, Cher also scored solo recording hits with songs like "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves," "Half Breed," and "Dark Lady" -- all of which reached the top of the music charts. In addition, she and her husband hosted their own popular television variety program, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, which ran from 1970-74. In 1975, however, the couple divorced.
At that point, Cher began to pursue an acting career. By the mid-1980s, she was starring in critically acclaimed movies such as Silkwood (1983), Mask (1985), and Moonstruck (1987), for which she won an Oscar. Cher and Barbra Streisand are the only two female performers in the U.S. to have recorded a #1 song and won an Oscar. Cher also has had a successful and lucrative career starring in infomercials, mostly selling beauty products.
In 1994 Cher's ex-husband, Sonny Bono, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican. Cher has said that she "dislikes politics," and that "politics is hard for me because I believe in truth so much." Notwithstanding both this claim and her insistence that she is "not a registered Democrat," Cher has a long record of political activism on behalf of Democrat candidates, and as an advocate of gun control and unrestricted abortion rights.
An avid supporter of former President Jimmy Carter, Cher recalls her experience at the White House on the first night of Carter's administration in 1977: "Gregory [Allman, Cher's second husband] was from Georgia, and we supported him [Carter], so after the inauguration we were sort of just looking around the White House when Miz Lillian [the new President's mother] stuck her head out from around the corner and asked us to stay for dinner." Cher describes Carter as a “a saint.”
Cher's work on movies like Silkwood, where she worked with leftwing actress Meryl Streep, and Suspect, where she struck up a close friendship with homeless activist Mitch Snyder, led her to become involved in radical environmentalist and anti-homelessness crusades. Her heroes (in addition to Snyder and former President Carter) include her friends Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem, as well as the late Malcolm X.
At the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, Cher participated, along with other Hollywood leftists like Barbra Streisand and Melissa Etheridge, in a star-studded salute to President Bill Clinton. While there, she was interviewed by CNN's Larry King, whom she told that she would be supporting Clinton’s then-Vice President, Al Gore, in the presidential election that November. She also took the opportunity to disparage then-Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush:
"More people, more women are starving in his [Bush's] state [Texas] than any other state in the United States. More children are going to bed hungry. If you look at the child council, it says that it's the worst place to raise a child. Texas is the worst place to raise a child."
Cher worked on several Democratic fundraisers in 2000, including a gala for Al Gore in New Jersey which raised $1 million, and two events for First Lady Hillary Clinton's U.S. Senate run.
Just before the 2000 election, Cher raged about the prospect of a Republican presidential administration:
"Has everyone lost their f*cking minds? Doesn't anybody remember the illustrious Reagan-Bush years when people had no money and no jobs? What has happened to people's memories? It's like they have Alzheimer's or something…. I don't like Bush. I don't trust him. I don't like his record. He's stupid. He's lazy."
Cher also suggested that the Republican Party was composed in large measure of racists and sexists: "If you're black in this country, if you're a woman in this country, if you are any minority in this country at all, what could possibly possess you to vote Republican?" she asked.
Cher stressed her concern about whom a Republican President might appoint to the Supreme Court:
"If you think the President is an ass, fine -- after four years you can vote him out. But the Supreme Court -- that's 30 years! The Jerry Falwells of this world will be right in your back pocket. You won't have one f*cking right left…. I'm passionate about this because I'm just so scared. I want people to know what's at stake."
On Election Day 2000, Cher insisted that she did not favor the tax cut which George W. Bush was promising:
"[I]f Bush gives me back money, I don't need money…. I don't want money on the backs of people who are not gonna get good schools…. if he's not going to care about the people who need to be helped … if we're not going to get higher education … then what good is money to me? What good is more money to me? I don't want that money. Let them take that money and do what's good with it. Also, there's no free ride. Ya know, we heard that in trickle-down economics, and it never trickled down -- it trickled up! Only the rich people got it, no one else saw it."
After Bush's victory in the 2000 election, the new President's Justice Department decided to put a blue cover over the bare-breasted statue of Justice that sometimes appeared in the background behind Attorney General John Ashcroft during speeches. In Cher's estimation, this amounted to censorship:
"What are we going to do next, put shorts on the statue of David and an 1880s bathing suit on 'Venus Rising'? Maybe they'll start deciding what books are all right for us to read and we'll start losing all of our freedoms. This really is unbelievable. It's shocking."
Just before the 2004 presidential election, Cher (whose daughter, Chastity, is a lesbian activist) sounded the alarm for the gay community with dire predictions of what another Bush term would bring:
"All the gay guys, all my friends, all my gay friends, you guys you have got to vote, alright? Because … the people, like, in the very right wing of this [Republican] party … if they get any more power, you guys are going to be living in some state by yourselves. So, I hate scare tactics, but I really believe that that's true. I think that … if Bush gets elected, he will put in new Superior [sic] Court judges, and these guys are not going to want to see Gay Pride Week."
Cher appeared at an October 2004 Hollywood event sponsored by Peace Action to protest the war in Iraq and condemn the Bush administration. "This is the most heartbreaking time of my life," she told the gathered crowd, "and I've experienced eleven Presidents. It's been a long time since I talked to wounded 'Nam troops but I met a lot of soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital and saw the human cost of war." She claimed that the Bush administration's alleged cover-up of Iraq War dead and wounded was "Orwellian." She repeatedly likened Iraq to Vietnam ("I wish people would speak their minds like they did in the Vietnam days"). And she sympathized with the musical group The Dixie Chicks, whose member Natalie Maines had recently taken much public criticism after telling a London concert audience, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas."
At the same October event, Cher attacked the Bush administration for supposedly suppressing dissent:
"They wrap themselves in the flag and if you dare to disagree with them in public, you're called a traitor." Finally, she noted that she had just returned to the U.S. from Europe: "Everyone over there hates us. They don't understand why we don't do something. They are more afraid of the U.S. than they are of terrorism."
Over the years, Cher has actively worked for the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton (“I like her and she's smart and a tough girl”), and Barack Obama (whom she described in 2008 as a “healing” person who was “by far the best candidate”). Another of her favorites is Joe Biden. “I love Joe Biden—I have to tell you,” says Cher. “I just really love Joe Biden and I’ve sat and talked with him.” She also describes congressman Dennis Kucinich as a legislator who “has great answers.”