SONNY BONO Biography - Musicians


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Name: Salvatore Phillip "Sonny" Bono                                                 
Born: 16 February 1935 Detroit, Michigan                                             
Died: 5 January 1998 South Lake Tahoe, California                                     
Salvatore Phillip "Sonny" Bono (February 16, 1935 - January 5, 1998) was an           
American record producer, singer, actor, and politician whose career spanned         
over three decades.                                                                   
Born in Detroit, Michigan, to Italian immigrants Jean and Santo, Bono began           
his music career working for the legendary record producer Phil Spector in the       
early 1960s as a promotion man, percussionist and "gofer." One of his earliest       
songwriting efforts was "Needles and Pins." Later in the same decade, he             
achieved commercial success, along with his then-wife Cher, as part of the           
singing duo Sonny and Cher. Bono wrote, arranged, and produced a number of hit       
records with singles like "I Got You Babe" and "The Beat Goes On," although Cher     
received more attention. Sonny and Cher starred in a popular television variety       
show, The Sonny and Cher Show, which ran on CBS from 1971 to 1974.                   
Bono continued his acting career, doing bit roles in such shows as Fantasy           
Island and The Love Boat. He played the part of mad bomber Joe Seluchi in             
Airplane II: The Sequel and the part of Franklin Von Tussle in John Waters'           
Hairspray. In the film Men In Black, Bono is one of several oddball celebrities       
seen on a wall of video screens that monitor extra-terrestrials living among us.     
Bono entered politics after experiencing great frustration with local government     
bureaucracy in trying to open a restaurant in Palm Springs, California. With         
conservative talk radio host Marshall Gilbert as his campaign manager (and later     
as the godfather of his two children by his wife, Mary), Bono placed a               
successful bid to become the new mayor of Palm Springs. He was instrumental in       
making the city more business-friendly and in spearheading the creation of the       
Palm Springs International Film Festival, now held each year in Bono's memory.       
He also attempted to have Marines banned from the city.                               
Bono ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 1992,       
but the nomination went to the more conservative Bruce Herschensohn, and the         
election to the liberal Democrat Dianne Feinstein. Bono and Herschensohn became       
close friends after the campaign. Bono was elected to the U.S. House of               
Representatives in 1994 to represent California's 44th District. He was one of       
twelve co-sponsors of a House bill extending copyright. Although that bill           
was never voted on in the Senate, a similar Senate bill was passed after his         
death and named the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in his honor.             
He championed the restoration of the Salton Sea, bringing the giant lake's           
plight to national attention. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich made a public       
appearance and speech at the shore of the lake on Bono's behalf.                     
In their book Tell Newt to Shut Up, David Maraniss and Michael Weisskopf credit       
Bono with being the first person to recognize Gingrich's public relations             
problems in 1995. Drawing on his long experience as a celebrity and                   
entertainment producer, Bono (according to Maraniss and Weisskopf) recognized         
that Gingrich's status had changed from politician to celebrity, and that             
Gingrich was not making allowances for that change:                                   
"You're a celebrity now," he told Gingrich. "The rules are different for             
celebrities. I know it. I've been there. I've been a celebrity. I used to be a       
bigger celebrity. But let me tell you, you're not being handled right. This is       
not political news coverage. This is celebrity status. You need handlers. You         
need to understand what you're doing. You need to understand the attitude of the     
media toward celebrities."                                                           
Maraniss and Weisskopf go on to say that Gingrich did not heed Bono's advice.         
Gingrich was not interested in image for image sake, but rather in fulfilling         
his role as an elected leader.                                                       
Although a conservative, Bono's celebrity status and easy-going manner allowed       
him to develop friendships across party lines.                                       
Sonny also had involvement with the hearings related to the Waco 'incident' on       
April 19, 1993. He was reported to have been extremely upset while watching a         
video of the attack on the compound. Apparently though, he only asked one             
question during the entire 10-day hearing, related to the dangers of CS gas to