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Sonny Bono: A politician with sense of humor

Bono and Gingrich
Bono (L) with Newt Gingrich  
January 6, 1998
Web posted at: 9:57 a.m. EST (1457 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sonny Bono was swept into the House of Representatives as part of the 1994 Republican wave, and soon established himself as a competent politician known for his sense of humor and approachability.

Bono was a politician who will likely be remembered for enjoying making fun of himself, and as a man who clearly had fun in politics.

Since he was not a political novice, it didn't take him long to settle in to his national security and judiciary committee assignments, where he focused on immigration, trade and crime legislation.

Bono capitalized on his youthful stardom to launch a new phase of his life by going into politics after he turned 50. But he could never live down his colorful past.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich describes his sense of loss
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Despite his best efforts as a Republican lawmaker in the House -- where he spent much of his time dodging autograph seekers -- the mustachioed idol will also be remembered as one-half of Sonny and Cher.

The husband-and-wife duo parlayed a chart-topping singing career in the 1960s into a highly rated television series in the 1970s, before going their separate ways.

Sonny's political career began in 1988 when he became mayor of the upscale Southern California desert community of Palm Springs.

Bono in Congress
Bono quickly became a skilled politician  

He was 53, and had become a registered voter for the first time just the year before.

He ran for the U.S. Senate seat from California that became open in 1992. Although he lost in the Republican primary, he was taken more seriously as a politician after that campaign.

In 1994, he won the House seat representing Palm Springs and won re-election in 1996. In June 1997, he ruled out plans for a second run at the Senate.

As a conservative, Bono often spurned his Hollywood roots.

He was among the critics of the National Endowment for the Arts, and also voted against same sex marriages -- to the chagrin of his daughter, Chastity, a lesbian activist.

Congressional Correspondent Bob Franken recounts a memorable Bono moment
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Following the death of Princess Diana, he introduced a bill to ban unacceptable behavior by paparazzi.

He defended the television industry against successful efforts to introduce a voluntary content-based ratings system.

He is possibly the only Republican politician ever to get a positive mention in a gangsta rap song, courtesy of the Public Enemy tune "Bring the Noise."

"The Republican Party has this reputation of being the stiffer side and the more rigid side," Bono once said. "They're kind of glad they have someone from my side of the tracks representing them."

Correspondent Bob Franken and Reuters contributed to this report.


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