Bono eulogized as a 'character with character'
Bono's widow Mary says her final good-bye
Mourners laugh, cry on his burial day
January 9, 1998
Web posted at: 9:01 p.m. EST (0201 GMT)
PALM SPRINGS, California (CNN) -- With laughter, tears and
fond remembrances of an American original, Sonny Bono's
family, colleagues and friends said goodbye Friday at his
funeral Mass and burial in Palm Springs.
congressman was described by his
former wife and show business partner, Cher, as "the most
unforgettable character I've ever met."
"He had a vision of the future and just how he was going to
build it, and his enthusiasm was so great that he just swept
everyone along with him," said Cher, who fought back tears
throughout her eulogy. "Not that we knew where he was going.
But we just wanted to be there."
A L S O :
Gallery of photos from the funeral
"In some way, Sonny was a living beatitude," House Speaker
Newt Gingrich said. "He walked up, you looked at him and you
thought to yourself, 'This can't be a famous person.' He
smiled, he said something, and then you said to yourself, 'He
can't be a serious person.'"
"Four jokes and two stories later, you were pouring your
heart out to him, he was helping you solve a problem, and you
began to realize this was a very hard-working, very
thoughtful man who covered up a great deal of his abilities
with his wonderful sense of humor."
Ford, Quayle, Wilson among the mourners
Others who paid last respects to Bono were California Gov.
Pete Wilson, former President Gerald Ford and former Vice President Dan Quayle. Dozens of Bono's congressional
colleagues also attended the service.
About 1,400 people crowded into St. Theresa Roman Catholic
Church for the Mass, with another 2,500 listening on speakers
set up outside.
At the conclusion of the service, his mahogany coffin,
covered with the American flag, was borne out of the church
by a military honor guard for the procession to Desert
Memorial Park in nearby Cathedral City, where he was buried.
Former wife Cher gives an emotional eulogy
At the cemetery, his widow Mary and his four children --
Christy, Chastity, Chesare and Chianna -- helped release a small flock
of white doves. Bono was also given a traditional salute by
military marksmen, and "Taps" was played by a lone bugler.
Mary Bono was then presented with the flag from the coffin.
Bono a 'character with character'
Bono, 62, died Monday when he struck a tree while skiing at a
resort in South Lake Tahoe.
Speakers at his funeral described him as a "character with
character," an ambitious but unpretentious man who carved out
successful careers in the highly competitive fields of
entertainment and politics against all odds.
"If he really wanted something, he kept going until he
achieved it," Cher said. "He was smart enough to take an
introverted 16-year-old girl and a scrappy little Italian guy
with a bad voice and turn them into the most successful and
beloved couple of this generation."
Sonny and Cher rocketed to fame as singers in the 1960s with
hits such as "I've Got You, Babe" and "The Beat Goes On." In
the 1970s, their television variety show -- where he was most
often the butt of her jokes -- was a ratings success.
The Sonny persona created an impression that Bono wasn't very
bright. But Cher said that what many people didn't realize
was that their highly successful act was his creation.
"He had the confidence to be the butt of the joke, because he
created the joke," she said.
Entertainment career followed by politics
By the late 1970s, after Sonny and Cher had divorced and
their show went off the air, Bono retreated from show
businesses and moved to Palm Springs to open a restaurant.
Gingrich recounted how Bono had once broken the tension at a
meeting of the House Republican caucus by recounting why he
made that decision. Bono told his colleagues that he decided
it was time to change careers after "his 47th guest
appearance on 'Fantasy Island,'" Gingrich said.
By 1988, upset by edicts from City Hall concerning his
restaurant, Bono ran for mayor of Palm Springs. To the
surprise of many, he won by a wide margin, beginning a new
and improbable career in politics.
In the Republican sweep of 1994, Bono won the House seat from
the 44th District of California, which includes Palm Springs
and stretches from the far western reaches of metropolitan
Los Angeles to the Arizona border.
"A person just doesn't decide to become a congressman in the
middle of their life and then be one. But it's so typically
Sonny -- to do something so crazy like that," Cher said.
With his celebrity and sense of humor, Bono quickly became
one of the GOP's most sought-after fund-raisers. He won
re-election in 1996 by a larger margin than he garnered in
"I think a lot of us will remember a man who beat the odds,
because he refused to let the odds beat him," Wilson said.
"He just refused to accept it when somebody told him that he
couldn't do something, couldn't be something. He just
wouldn't accept that."
- Farewell to Bono awash in laughter, tears - January 9, 1998
- So long, Sonny - January 9, 1998
- City expects full house for Bono's farewell - January 8, 1998
- Mourners gather in town Bono helped promote - January 7, 1998
- Sonny Bono -- from TV to D.C. - January 6, 1998
- Bono ski death called accidental - January 6, 1998
- Reaction to Bono's death - January 6, 1998
- Sonny Bono: A politician with sense of humor - January 6, 1998
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