In 1977, three years after their divorce, Sonny and Cher reunited in a reprise of their TV show. Now it's happening again, in a manner of speaking.
CBS-TV is airing "Sonny & Me: Cher Remembers," the star's tribute to her ex-husband and co-performer, Sonny Bono, who died in a Jan. 5 skiing accident."A lot of the show is really hysterical, a lot of fun," Cher says of the hourlong salute in which she is star and co-producer. It airs on Wednesday, her 52nd birthday.
It may sound a bit odd, but it makes sense when it involves a couple who led such improbable lives - Sonny the pop singer turned congressman, Cher the gawky kid turned sex symbol and Oscar-winning actress.
Cher was in London when Chastity, their daughter, called with news of Bono's death at the Heavenly Ski Resort in the Sierra Nevadas.
"Thank God I was in shock," Cher recalled. "Shock is highly underrated. I think that it helps you try to absorb what it is you're in shock for. There's something you can't process right away."
Why the TV tribute?
"After I got back from the funeral and had a couple of weeks to have everything settle in, I just thought it would be a great thing."
Cher approached her old network, CBS, and the reception was enthusiastic. TV special veteran Don Mischer came on as director and co-producer.
"Sonny and Me" won't, it seems, be too heavy on biography.
"Some of the information will be very quick," Cher explained, "so that we can focus on some of the things that represent part of the history in an entertaining way."
The pair met in November 1962 when Salvatore Bono was a 27-year-old record promoter with an unhappy marriage and few prospects. Cherilyn Sarkisian was 16 and an aspiring singer.
Discovering they could make music together, they teamed as Caesar and Cleo. Soon they began producing hit records as Sonny and Cher, leading to "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" in 1971 on CBS. It lasted until 1974, when the couple divorced.
"I just had to be a grown-up, and he didn't want that," she said. "You can't keep someone 16 forever. It just doesn't work."
After scant success with solo TV series, they reunited for "The Sonny and Cher Show" in 1977. She considers that the first time they were equal partners. "Before then I did the singing, and Sonny did everything else." But the old chemistry wasn't there, and the show faded in one brief season.
Cher recalled little friction during their partnership. "We were both interested in doing the thing that we liked the most," she explained, "and thank God we didn't compete with one another. Also I was the laziest one, the one with the least ambition.
"I still think of myself as a really lazy person who works a lot."
That may help explain her eclectic career.
After two minor films, she devoted herself to recordings and engagements that seemed to display more and more of her form.
A decade later, Robert Altman gave her a chance to prove she could act in "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean." "Silkwood" brought an Academy nomination. "Moonstruck" earned her an Oscar as best actress of 1987.
Bono was an entertainer for 25 years, then a restaurateur and management consultant and finally a Republican politician elected to Congress in 1994 representing Palm Springs.