Eulogy for Sonny Bono
delivered 9 January 1998 in Palm Springs, California
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio and edited slightly for continuity]
Please excuse my papers, but I've been writing this stupid eulogy for the last 48 hours. And, of course, I know that this would make Sonny really happy. It's like Den said: "He got the last laugh on you."
So because I've had to write some of it down doesn't mean that I'm unprepared. It just means that I'm over prepared in that this is probably the most important thing I've ever done in my life. Don't pay any attention [weeping] -- this is probably going to happen from time to time. And I also know that he is some place loving this.
Also, I have to wear the glasses that I made so much fun of him. I called him Mr. Magoo. I said, "You know, you've got to get some better glasses. You know, I don't care if you're Republican or not, you've got to look cooler than this." So now I have to wear the glasses that I made fun of him for saying. But there are a couple of things -- I want to tell some stories -- but there are a couple of things that I really want to get perfect for him. So I have to read it.
Some people were under the misconception that Son was a short man, but he was heads and tails taller than anyone else. He could see above the tallest people. He had a vision of the future and just how he was going to build it. And his enthusiasm was so great that he just swept everybody along with him. Not that we knew where he was going, but we just wanted to be there.
He was also successful at anything he ever tried. And not the first time he tried, maybe, but he just -- he kept going. If he really wanted something, he kept going until he achieved it.
Once he told me that, when he was a teenager, he got his nose broken six times because he used to get into fights with guys that were much bigger than him. And he said that they would just be beating the crap out of him and he would just be keep going back and going back and going back. And I said, "Well, why?" And he said, "Well, because eventually I would just wear them down." And if you know him, we all got worn down.
Some people thought that Son wasn't very bright, but he was smart enough to take an introverted 16-year-old girl and a scrappy little Italian guy with a bad voice and turn them into the most successful and beloved couple of this generation.
And some people thought that Son wasn't to be taken seriously because he allowed himself to be the butt of the jokes on the Sonny and Cher show.
What people don't realize is that he created Sonny and Cher. And he knew what was right for us, you know? He just always knew the right thing. And he wanted to make people laugh so much that he had the confidence to be the butt of the joke because he created the joke.
When I was 16 years old, I met Sonny -- Salvatore Philip Bono. And the first time I ever saw him, he walked in this room. And I had never seen anything like him before in my life. Because he was Sonny way before we were Sonny and Cher.
He had this thing about him. He walked into this room, and I swear to God I saw him and like everybody else in the room was just washed away in kind of soft kind focus filter -- kind of like when Maria saw Tony at the dance.1
And I looked at him, and he was, you know, he had like this weird hair-do between Caesar and Napoleon. As a matter of fact, one of the first things that he ever told me was that he was a descendent of Napoleon, and that his father had shortened the name of Bonaparte to Bono when they came to this country; but that he didn't want to make too big of a deal out of this. Now you have to realize, at this time, he was talking to a girl who thought that Mount Rushmore was a natural phenomenon. So we were definitely a marriage made in heaven.
I lied to him about how old I was. I've told this story, but somehow it always keeps coming back. I told him that I was 18, and of course I wasn't. And I was the most bizarre 16-year-old that you probably would come across. I had all kinds of phobias and all kinds of insecurities and all kinds of energies that just couldn't be harnessed. Except Son saw something. And I didn't have a place to stay and he said, "Well, you know, you can come and live with me because I have twin beds and really I don't find you very attractive." And I didn't really know how to take it, but I was really glad to have a place to stay.
And when people would call or come over and say, "Who's that girl?" "Oh, that's just Cher." And we spent this whole time together and I was just Cher. And he was just kind of, you know, I was this kid and he kind of took care of me.
And then I told my mom I was living with a stewardess. And every time that my mom would call, I always said, "Mom, call me before you come over." Every time my mom would call, I would grab all of Sonny's clothes and I would run down the street and throw all his clothes into my girlfriend's living room window. And I lost most of his clothes that year. And one time he came into the house and he had his jockey shorts in his hand and he said, "Cher, you've just got to stop doing this. I found these on the street."
So, nothing happened with us romantically until my mom made me move out. And then when I was packing my things, we both just looked at each other and we started crying and I didn't even know why. And then I just realized once I was there that I just missed him so much. I was so used to him being a part of my life. And I also had to tell him at that time that I wasn't 18 -- that I was...17 but I was about to turn 18. And when we were crying -- he actually cried too -- I said, "Well, I'm not 17 about to turn 18. I'm 16 about to turn 17, but I can't go through the rest of my life without you." "And so if my mother threatens to put you in jail, could you just do it anyway." So my mother kept threatening him all that year. But then I turned 18 and everything was all right.
I want to close...but I wanted to tell Mary and Chesare and Chianna how proud I am of what he made himself after we were separated and his accomplishments. And I know that a person just doesn't decide to become a Congressman in the middle of their life and then be one. But it's so typically of Sonny to do something so crazy like that.
And also it puts [my] mind at peace to know that in the end of his days that he had such a wonderful family life. And I know how much he loved Mary and Chesare and Chianna. And I know how much they loved him. And also I know how much he loved his friends. He was the greatest friend. And if you'd seen our house for the last five days -- Mary's house for the last five days -- we can't get rid of everybody. Everybody's just there, you know. And it's the way he would have wanted it. He would have been in the middle cooking -- not eating, just tasting -- and making everybody else eat.
So the last thing I want to say is, when I was young, there was this section in the Reader's Digest. And it was called "The Most Unforgettable Character I've Ever Met." And for me that person is Sonny Bono. And no matter how long I live or who I meet in my life, that person will always be "Son" for me.
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