I’m a Beverly Hills matron now.
Cher Sarkisian Bono Allman? There goes the neighborhood—if not the whole institution of motherhood. Or does it? To be sure, not even Norman (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) Lear could have conjured up Cher’s traumatic upheavals of the past 16 months. There was her impetuous marriage to a coked-out cracker of a rock star, Gregg Allman; their on-again, off-again divorce suits; the dicey TV reunion with ex-husband Sonny Bono; her prime-time pregnancy; then the ordeal of Gregg’s drug trial testimony and the acrimonious bust-up of his Allman Brothers Band. In the eloquent words of Cher: “Our whole world as we knew it was shot to ratshit. I ought to write a soap opera.”
Except that, right now, it just wouldn’t play. For the first time since their June 1975 Vegas marriage, domestic tranquillity is wafting in the air like baby powder in their new home in the Beverly Hills flats. The chubby form of Elijah Blue Allman, 12 pounds and 11 weeks, has finally stabilized their vertiginous relationship and lives. “Gregory has stopped drinking and has stopped doing any kind of drugs,” rejoices Cher. “Chas”—Cher’s nickname for Chastity, 7—is reconciled to her baby half brother. Even Cher’s mother-in-law, Geraldine Allman, is in residence and spells the nursemaid two days a week. “I’ve always loved Gregory, but until now,” admits Cher at 30, “I never felt it was going to last. For the first time I feel like married people.”
“We had some heavy settling-in pains,” says Gregg, 28, putting it mildly. “But I’m sure there have been much stranger relationships.” Now self-exiled from Macon, Ga. and Capricorn Records kingmaker Phil Walden’s nexus of music and presidential politics (see pp. 20, 21), Gregg has been a dutiful husband. He joined in Cher’s pre-childbirth Lamaze classes and assisted in Elijah’s delivery. “Cher was walking around for months with this lump, and you know a baby is in there, but you really don’t,” marvels Gregg. “Watching him being born was incredible. It affects you far more than anything you ever saw on a film. I’m crazy about him.” (He was married twice before and also lived with James Arness’ daughter, Jenny, who later committed suicide.)
“The neighbors have been sending over cakes and pies to welcome us,” Cher reports, adding, “A certain tension has been released since we’ve been in this house.” Of course, it’s a mere bungalow compared to their previous digs, the opulent, 20-room mansion she once shared with Sonny (and has since unloaded for $1.3 million). Cher’s midnight-blue Jensen Interceptor convertible glistens in the driveway, along with her Beverly hillbilly husband’s cream Corvette (still bearing its Georgia plates), Elijah’s baby carriage and Chastity’s two-wheeler. Possibly the only person more pampered than Elijah, though, is Gregg, who slops about in his huarache sandals and has ballooned to a paunchy 200 pounds. (During his years on hard drugs he shriveled to 125.) Cher is down to 118 from her predelivery high of 150, though she still needs to sweat off 10 more pounds to slink back into her size-5 jeans.
Peace has come with a price. Cher says she and her mother, Georgia, have stopped talking “because she doesn’t think Georganne [Cher’s sister, who plays Heather on General Hospital] and I give her enough time. Probably we don’t, but there isn’t enough time for everything.” Cher’s longtime secretary and closest confidante, Paulette Eghiazarian, went off to Macon with Allman Brothers lead guitarist Dickey Betts.
The biggest downer for Gregg and Cher is that they’re taking the rap for busting up Betts and the other boys in the band. It was tough enough when their deep-fried fans knocked Cher as the disruptive Yoko Ono/Linda Eastman of the Allman Brothers. But now Gregg is being bad-mouthed as a stool pigeon after testifying in return for immunity in the case of his good buddy, road manager and conduit, Scooter Herring. Scooter reportedly once saved Gregg’s life from an overdose with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After Herring pulled a 75-year sentence (pending judicial review) for supplying Allman with a half gram of cocaine daily, Gregg became a pariah in Macon and is said to have received several death threats. Even the federal judge fumed that “the person who ought to be prosecuted is Mr. Allman.”
As Gregg now explains for the first time, his grand jury testimony came under threat of his own imprisonment. “Man, it was heavy in there,” he recalls. “If I had refused to say anything, they were going to make me do a couple of years.” He says defensively that Scooter told him not to sweat it (“They won’t be able to touch me”) and that he only “corroborated” testimony about Herring given by others. “All the time they had been questioning other people until they finally had enough on him.” At Herring’s trial, Allman had to repeat his damaging testimony or face perjury charges. Yet Gregg continues to insist, however implausibly, that “Scooter was one of my best, closest, dearest friends, and he still is.”
“Gregory makes a great villain because he’s taken drugs,” Cher says. “They acted as if he had turned his road manager into a drug dealer when it was the other way around. People don’t want to think it’s happening all over the U.S., but it is.” Allman concludes, “I’ve been the fall guy for this whole thing.”
As for the future of the Allmans (of which he is the sole surviving brother), Gregg seethes that “the band was gone long before this whole trial thing hit.” Gregg refused to cut a new LP after the group’s latest tour ended last winter. The tour was supposed to gross $15 to $18 million, but “all we had left among us was $100,000,” he claims. “Everybody was writing checks, and nobody knew where the money was. After the audit is over, we’re really going to find out what broke up the Allman Brothers Band.” The other musicians, however, are more suspicious of Gregg and his L.A. lawyers. “He really hurt everybody when he did that to Scooter,” says bassist Lamar Williams, who with two other band members split to form Sea Level. “I still love the cat, but I could never work with him again.”
All the Allman bandsmen agree that the group’s disintegration began last year when Gregg’s marriage to Cher seemed to be falling apart amid his own struggle with drugs. Cher, magnanimously, blames herself for his wasted state. “A lot of it had to do with my work,” she confesses. “Gregory would say, ‘You’re a great big star, but you’re not that much fun to be around, because you’re not around.’ If he had come from Mars, our backgrounds couldn’t have been more different.”
Gregg elaborates, “It was my getting used to L.A. and her, and her getting used to me. I thought I didn’t fit in. I filed for divorce because I was afraid it would come from her first.” The weekend after Gregg’s divorce action, Cher suffered through her second weekend session in an “est” course. (“It was really difficult to go into that room with 250 people after just being dumped.”) What neither one knew was that Cher was pregnant. They began to make up in December, and when premature labor pains put her into a hospital in April, Gregg rushed to Honolulu to comfort her. They’ve been together ever since.
The two of them are now recording an LP together. He is talking, too, of going back on the road by himself (as he did twice before) and cutting a record with his own Macon sidemen (“six rhythm, four horns”) who, he says, “are the only people in Georgia who haven’t forsaken me.” That, of course, excepts Jimmy Carter, who phoned in his congratulations when Elijah was born.
Gregg and Cher want to move Elijah and Chastity (Sonny has custody on weekends) into a new Moorish mansion they’re planning to build in Benedict Canyon. In the meantime they’re content to watch movies on cable-TV at home or, on a rare night out, hit the Sunday buffets at ex-neighbor Hugh Hefner’s. Cher, always ready for the worst, cheerfully philosophizes, “Gregory’s going to get screwed up from time to time, and so am I.” He disagrees. “I really, honestly think all that is over,” says Allman. “It seems we have really reached a good plateau.”