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Sonny Bono killed in skiing accident
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, California (CNN) -- Congressman Sonny Bono, who first stepped into the spotlight as half of the singing duo Sonny and Cher, was killed Monday in a skiing accident, authorities said early Tuesday. He was 62.
Bono, an avid skier, was reported missing about 4:30 p.m. at Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, California. The resort is about 55 miles (88 km) southwest of Reno, Nevada, on the California-Nevada state line. A ski patrol searched the Nevada side of the mountain and found the body some two hours later.
Lt. Ross Chichester said the preliminary investigation indicates that it was an accident. He added that the cause of death has not been determined, pending an autopsy.
The main lodge manager at Heavenly Ski Resort, Stan Miller, told The Associated Press that Bono was skiing alone at the top of the Orion slope when he crossed beneath a chairlift and hit a tree.
The resort said that Bono had been a frequent skier at the slope for more than 20 years.
Bono was on a vacation with his wife, Mary Whitaker, and their two children, 6-year-old Chianna and 9-year-old Chesare, when the accident happened.
"They were enjoying a family vacation," his spokesman Frank Cullen Jr. said Tuesday. "He was a very proficient skier. He skied frequently with his family and, yes, he was an athletic guy -- he skied and played tennis."
Bono was first elected to Congress in 1994 as a Republican from Palm Springs, where he was mayor from 1988-92. At one point after taking office, he was the second-most requested draw at members' events behind House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"People have said to me, 'You can't write songs. You can't play an instrument.' But I've got 10 gold records. I can do this job," Bono once said of his political duties.
These Lodgepole Pines, seen Tuesday, Jan. 6, 1998,
at Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Nev.,
are where Congressman Sonny Bono was killed Monday.
AP Photo by Ben Margot
|Bono worked as a singer, songwriter and television performer from 1957 to 1982. He was perhaps best known as the straight man to Cher on "The Sonny and Cher Show" on CBS-TV in the early 1970s. Their first big pop tune, "I Got You Babe," was a number one hit in 1965.|
|During his showbiz days, Bono always portrayed himself as a worse singer than Cher and the
object of her putdowns -- an image he sometimes carried over
onto the House floor. "I feel kind of like the black sheep in
Congress, but here I am," he once said.
Beneath his squeaky voice and sheepish grin, Bono possessed an atypically candid style. When asked to talk about illegal immigration, he once replied, "What's to talk about? It's illegal."
Bono worked to get federal aid to preserve the habitats of various endangered species in Riverside County, California. But when the Endangered Species Act required millions from local government and property owners to protect Stephens' Kangaroo rat in Riverside, he said, "We all love the environment, but we have placed creatures above people. A rat is a rat."
Bono was born February 16, 1935, in Detroit, Michigan, to a first generation Sicilian-American family and moved to the Los Angeles area when he was 7 years old.
Bono married Cher in 1963. They divorced in 1974. He married Whitaker in 1986 and is survived by four children including Chastity Bono, whose mother is Cher.
January 6, 1998
According to the National Ski Areas Association, there were 36 skiing-related deaths in the 1996-97 ski season. The majority of the victims were in their late teens or 20s, and half were male. *
Experts say ski accidents are more likely to happen at the end of the day when the weather is colder, skies darker and skiers more tired.
Sonny Bono: A politician with sense of humor
January 6, 1998
Sonny Bono was swept into the House of Representatives as part of the 1994 Republican wave, and soon established himself as a competent politician known for his sense of humor and approachability.
Bono was a politician who will likely be remembered for enjoying making fun of himself, and as a man who clearly had fun in politics.
Since he was not a political novice, it didn't take him long to settle in to his national security and judiciary committee assignments, where he focused on immigration, trade and crime legislation.
Bono capitalized on his youthful stardom to launch a new phase of his life by going into politics after he turned 50. But he could never live down his colorful past.
Despite his best efforts as a Republican lawmaker in the House -- where he spent much of his time dodging autograph seekers -- the mustachioed idol will also be remembered as one-half of Sonny and Cher.
The husband-and-wife duo parlayed a chart-topping singing career in the 1960s into a highly rated television series in the 1970s, before going their separate ways.
|Sonny's political career began in 1988 when
he became mayor of the upscale Southern California desert community
of Palm Springs. He was 53, and had become a registered voter
for the first time just the year before.
He ran for the U.S. Senate seat from California that became open in 1992. Although he lost in the Republican primary, he was taken more seriously as a politician after that campaign.
In 1994, he won the House seat representing Palm Springs and won re-election in 1996. In June 1997, he ruled out plans for a second run at the Senate.
As a conservative, Bono often spurned his Hollywood roots.
He was among the critics of the National Endowment for the Arts, and also voted against same sex marriages -- to the chagrin of his daughter, Chastity, a lesbian activist.
Following the death of Princess Diana, he introduced a bill to ban unacceptable behavior by paparazzi.
He defended the television industry against successful efforts to introduce a voluntary content-based ratings system.
He is possibly the only Republican politician ever to get a positive mention in a gangsta rap song, courtesy of the Public Enemy tune "Bring the Noise."
"The Republican Party has this reputation of being the stiffer side and the more rigid side," Bono once said. "They're kind of glad they have someone from my side of the tracks representing them."
Correspondent Bob Franken and Reuters contributed to this report.
© 1998 Cable News Network, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
News Flash: Sixties Pop-Star Turned Congressman Sonny Bono Dead At 62
Former singer fatally injured in ski accident.
Sonny Bono, the 1960s singer turned '90s congressman, died Monday as a result of a skiing accident in Lake Tahoe, Nev. Bono -- whose biggest hit was 1965's "I Got You Babe" recorded with his then-wife, Cher -- was skiing at South Tahoe’s Heavenly ski resort when he crashed into a tree Monday night. He was 62.
During the mid-'60s, Sonny and Cher racked up a string of top 40 hits, including "Baby Don't Go" and "The Beat Goes On" (the latter of which was name-checked by Public Enemy in "Bring the Noise"). In the early '70s, the duo scored again with "All I Ever Need Is You" and "A Cowboy's Work is Never Done."
Before "I Got You Babe" sold a million copies in 1965, Bono already had a promising career as a songwriter and producer. During the early '60s, he worked with famed "Wall of Sound" producer Phil Spector, and Bono can be heard as a back-up singer on tracks by the Ronettes and the Crystals. Bono also wrote "Needles and Pins" with Jack Nitzsche, which became a top 20 single for The Searchers and was later recorded by both the Ramones and Tom Petty.
With Cher, Bono went on to host TV variety program "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" from 1971 to '74. The couple divorced soon after the show ended. In subsequent years, Bono acted intermittently (notably in John Waters' 1988 film Hairspray, where he played a stressed-out husband opposite Blondie's Deborah Harry) before turning to politics.
In 1988, Bono ran successfully for mayor of Palm Springs, Calif. Six
years later, he was elected to the House of Representatives, where as
a conservative Republican, the former singer opposed funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1996, he won re-election. -- Chris
Nelson [Tues., Jan. 6, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]
Biography - Sonny Bono
United States Congressman Sonny Bono represents California' 44th Congressional District. The district includes the communities of Palm Springs, Moreno Valley, Palm Desert, Hemet, Cathedral City, Temecula, Blythe, Rancho Mirage, Banning, Indio, Indian Wells, Beaumont, Perris, La Quinta, Desert Hot Springs, Cabazon, Thermal, Anza, Idyllwild, Coachella, and other unincorporated areas of Riverside County.
Congressman Bono serves on the House Committee on the Judiciary, and the National Security Committee. His subcommittee assignments include : Courts and Intellectual Properties, Immigration and Claims (Judiciary). In addition, Bono serves as Chairman of the Entertainment Task Force.
Bono is a conservative Republican who believes in reducing federal bureaucracy, cutting taxes and returning power to the local and state governments. He is strongly opposed to the unfunded federal mandates that have placed an unfair financial burden on the taxpayers.
Born February 16, 1935 in Detroit to a first generation Sicilian-American family, he moved to the Los Angeles area when he was seven years old. Bono attended Inglewood High School, and although his parents encouraged him to become a doctor, his eart was in show business. Following high school, Bono took a job driving a meat delivery truck along Sunset Boulevard. Between deliveries, he would leave songs with the record companies on his route then continue his day's work.
His professional music career began as a song writer and singer at Dig Records, which was owned by rhythm and blues legend Johnny Otis. Sonny's first big hit was the classic "Needles and Pins". In 1964 Bono and his girlfriend Cherilyn Sarkisian recorded "Baby Don't Go" which shot to the top of the charts and was followed by a string of major hits, including "I Got You Babe". Sonny and Cher were among the first pop singers to speak out against drugs, which Bono retooled their act for nightclubs, where he and Cher developed their famous stage repartee, with Sonny playing the straight man to Cher's "put downs". The act was so successful that it was picked up by CBS as a summer replacement show, gaining huge popularity. The "Sonny and Cher show" then became a top rated show every season from 1971 until the act ended in 1974.
In 1982, Bono opened his first "BONO" restaurant in West Hollywood, California. An instant hit, the restaurant soon opened a second location in Houston, Texas. Bono's "hands-on" management approach ensured their success in the competitive dining industry. He eventually sold both restaurants to open his popular "BONO" restaurant in Palm Springs, which has received critical acclaim for Sicilian-style Italian cuisine based on many original Bono family recipes. In 1986, Sonny married Mary Whitaker of South Pasadena, an alumnae of the University of Southern California. Mary played an active role as the First Lady of Palm Springs and was an integral part of his restaurant management team. Together, they have two children, Chesare Elan, who was born in 1988, and Chianna Maria, who was born in 1991.
Mayor of Palm Springs
Frustration with a "failure of leadership" and government bureaucracy in Palm Springs inspired Bono to enter politics in 1988, when he was elected Mayor by the largest margin in the city's history. As Mayor, Bono instilled a new sense of civic pride and brought new enthusiasm for economic rejuvenation to Palm Springs. He annexed outlying areas to broaden the city's revenue base, streamlined the permitting process to encourage new development and launched an innovative special events program that includes the internationally acclaimed "Palm Springs International Film Festival". Bono also oversaw creation of a master plan for urban renewal starting with the city's downtown village center, secured federal assistance for expansion of the Palm Springs Regional Airport, and reorganized city staff for greater productivity.
In 1991, Bono ran for the United States Senate. As a result of that primary contest, Bono forged a deep and lasting friendship with his opponent, conservative commentator and former White House speech writer, Bruce Herschensohn. When the 44th Congressional District became open in 1994, Bono entered the campaign. Bono was elected to the 104th Congress with a 16 point margin of victory. As a freshman Congressman, Bono has successfully passed legislation (H.R 1170) in the House that would return fairness to the judicial review process for constitutional challenges to voter approved state referendum and ballot measures. In addition, the Speaker of the House appointed Bono as Chairman of the Entertainment Industry Task force.
Bono is also a best selling author. His autobiography, The Beat Goes On details his life from childhood through his term as Mayor.
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SONNY BONO...January 5, 1998
As far as republicans in sheepskin clothing are concerned, Sonny Bono was certainly married to Cher. He was ahead of his time: He was against illegal drugs way before they became illegal. He wrote the song Needles and Pins long before the Ramones ever did. He was rumored to have been taller than Phil Spector but not so, Newt Gingrich. In the end he will be remembered for having emulated the wrong Kennedy as we all sometimes must do. Sonny had passion for life and he had a nasal voice; and even though I don't know what he stood for politically, I realize that he probably did.