How could she? The Louds were discreet enough, at least, to bury their domestic disarray on PBS. But Cher Sarkesian Bono Allman—in this the maiden season of the “family viewing” sanctuary—hung it all out at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Central), on the sabbath yet, and on CBS.
In fairness to the lady, Cher had belatedly been emancipated from a dozen years of Sonny’s management and mothering. So, at 29, she has been following her freed spirit for the first time, and maybe the problem was simply that the Mad Programmer in the Sky was directing her to relentlessly change partners and boogie. When 1975 opened, record tycoon David Geffen was her man, but he was a Svengali figure himself, and Cher didn’t want a re-run of her last union. What she got instead was its flip side, playing the strong-parent role with Gregg Allman, a rock star who once had a heroin problem. Nine days after their marriage, she filed for divorce, then unfiled and, magnanimously, mid-TV season, travelled all the way to Buffalo for joint rescue sessions with Allman’s shrinks. But she found that “Gregg needed more than my love,” and who knows the next chapter?
Ever the Bono-bred creature of showbiz, she could coolly tell the press that as a result of Gregg, “My ratings have dropped—people didn’t see us as a couple.” Her CBS variety hour, a top-10 smash early on, has this season plopped down almost into Cosell country. So what divorce had cast asunder only mammon (and the network) could bring back together. The inevitable out-of-wedlock version of The Sonny and Cher Show will premiere in February.
Just the fact that Cher believes she can now work easily with her ex-husband—if not live with him (“After we punch out,” Sonny says, “she’ll go to her house and I’ll go to mine”)—bespeaks her new sense of self. She and Sonny have dropped the acrimonious eight-figure lawsuits aimed at each other at split time. (According to jettisoned producer George Schlatter, “It had reached the stage where the lawyers were costing more than her gowns.”) Cher now boasts that she no longer needs to ring up Sonny with her every problem and says that Gregg “thinks it’s O.K. about the show, but he’s not thrilled.” As for Chastity Bono, now 6, Cher describes her as “a very intelligent child,” unmarked by mom’s mercurial life. Of course, Cher is a remarkably successful survivor herself, and her own mum was married eight times.
Which is not to say that Cher’s head is totally clear—certainly her complexion is not, which must mean something, and she regularly jets to New York to visit a modish dermatological maestro. Of her professional reunion with Sonny she admits, “It was too hard for me alone. I’d rather have more fun and share half the glory.” But when Sonny agrees “how difficult it is to do your own show,” Cher still has a zinger left in her quiver. “I know,” she tells him, “I saw yours.”
So the beat could go on and on, but 1976 might also be the year that the Sonny and Cher act, founded in 1964, would fade away to Vegas, a played-out Tony Orlando and Dusk.