Georgia Holt has never been a particularly preachy type of mother, especially when it comes to doling out words of wisdom to her kids, insists her oldest daughter, Cher. “She never gave me and my sister [actress Georganne LaPiere Bartylak] advice because, truthfully, she knew we’d never take it,” admits the iconic entertainer, 66. “Instead, we learned about life by listening to her talk about the things she did wrong and the things she did right.” Holt’s journey from a rural Arkansas girl to an aspiring starlet in Los Angeles is captured in Lifetime’s May 6 one-hour special Dear Mom, Love Cher. The intimate documentary will unleash the plucky 86-year-old onto the world—but her daughter isn’t ready for her full pop culture immersion. “I won’t allow her on Twitter,” says Cher. “I have no filter, and neither does she!”
What are your childhood memories of your mom?
She and her friends were so beautiful. When they walked into the room, everything stopped. She was also an amazing dresser. We based the costumes in Mermaids on pictures of her from the ’50s.
Were you always close?
Yes, but we fought a lot when I was young. I was really strong-headed, even then.
Sounds like you were a hell-raiser.
Not exactly, but I did a couple of things like running away when I was 11. I hopped a train with my friends. I was just very adventurous—but never disrespectful. She wouldn’t have put up with that.
She was married six times. What did she pass on to you about love?
She once said that in her day you couldn’t just live with someone, so she got married instead. Otherwise she probably would have been married just once.
Did she ever chime in on your relationships?
I had a little problem with her over Sonny [Bono], but that didn’t take her too long to get over. She listened first before making a judgment, so I could always talk to her about my romances. She stressed the importance of being sure that the person you are with is the person you love.
What does she think of your son Chaz’s sex change?
My sister, my brother-in-law and [my son] Elijah said to her, “Georgia, we just wanted to tell you that Chaz is becoming a man.” And Mom said, “That’s interesting, sweetheart.” We all flipped out. We were laughing so hard, we had tears in our eyes. Her reaction was less than anyone else’s in the family.
What are the most important things your mom taught you?
There are three things she said that have always been guideposts: If it doesn’t matter in five years, it doesn’t matter. If you’re going to steal something, make sure it’s something you can go to jail for. And you may not be the prettiest, the smartest or the most talented, but what you have is important and you are special.
Was your household a musical one?
We were always singing. My grandfather and uncle played guitar, and my mom sang old Hank Williams songs. She loved country, but she also loved rock and roll. She took me to see Elvis.
She looks terrific. Learn anything from her about aging gracefully?
She has done it well. She still has a really great body, but she’s always been naturally in shape. Women from her time never worked out. She fits in a lot of my clothes, except my pants.
If Chaz and Elijah make a documentary about you, what can we expect?
It probably wouldn’t be near as nice as this one. Probably more of an exposé, like Joan Crawford’s daughter did!