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 Sonny Bono Killed In Skiing Accident(01-06-98)

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Washington Remembers Sonny Bono


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 6) -- President Bill Clinton reacted to Rep. Sonny Bono's death with a statement today praising Bono for his "devoted service to his community and nation."

"Hillary and I were deeply saddened to learn this morning of the death of Rep. Sonny Bono," Clinton said. "His joyful entertainment of millions earned him celebrity, but in Washington he earned respect by being a witty and wise participant in policy-making processes that often seem ponderous to the American people.

"He made us laugh even as he brought his own astute perspective to the work of Congress," Clinton added. "Hillary and I express our condolences to Rep. Bono's wife and children and to his constituents and all Americans who appreciated his humor, his voice, and his devoted service to his community and nation."

House Speaker Newt Gingrich remembered his friend for his work in combating illegal drugs and in protecting California's Salton Sea. "He believed in the country and he believed in giving back to America," Gingrich said from his Marietta district.

Bono, a '60s pop star turned politician, was killed Monday in a skiing accident at Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., authorities said. He was 62.

Describing Bono's service in the Congress, Gingrich said, "Sonny was a very warm and very open human being. He had a knack for getting you engaged personally.


"I really think people will find that, at a personal level, there is a hole left in this Congress by Sonny's departure. People are going to miss him as a human being in a way that transcends politics," the Georgia Republican said.

A major focus for Bono was fighting the illegal drug trade. "He wanted to give kids a cleaner, healthier, drug-free California," said Gingrich.

Bono was described by the speaker as a man "who did not need to be famous" and a man with little pretense who, "because he had been a celebrity, he could drop all of that and be Sonny Bono."

Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson announced the RNC's upcoming winter meeting will be dedicated to Bono's memory.

Nicholson said in a statement, "I want to extend my prayerful condolences to Sonny's wife Mary, and to his children. His tragic death is a loss to those who knew and loved him, and to our country, our Congress and our party.

"In a Capitol that often takes itself far too seriously, Sonny Bono always managed to keep his sense of humor -- a quality that served him well, both in his personal and political lives. He strived mightily, but always with a smile, and he will be missed," Nicholson said.


Fellow California Rep. William Thomas remembered Bono, saying, "He was very bright and talented. What he did was learn his craft well. As he said, you can't be stupid and get eight gold records in the music market. ... He studied what he needed to do as a legislator. But he also had wonderful timing, and he was just naturally a humorous person, and when you combine that and the timing he learned from the entertainment industry, he was just a knockout."

Bono's accident follows the New Year's Eve death of Michael Kennedy, 39, the son of the late Robert Kennedy, who also was killed in a skiing accident. Michael Kennedy hit a tree in Aspen, Colo., while playing football on skis.

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Michael Kennedy's uncle, said he was "obviously saddened" by the news of the death of the California Republican. Kennedy said his family felt an "echo" in their sadness by the apparent similarity of the deaths.

Well-known gay activist Chastity Bono, the daughter of Bono and his ex-wife Cher, is en route to Palm Springs, Calif., to be with her family.

She said in a statement, "Right now, my primary concern is being with my family. Of course, I am deeply saddened by the loss of my father and hope the media will respect my family's privacy during this difficult time. Although my father and I differed on some issues, he was very supportive of my personal life and career and was a loving father. I will miss him greatly."

Bono was on a vacation with his wife, Mary Whitaker, and their two children, 6-year-old Chianna and 9-year-old Chesare, at the time of the accident.

Heavenly Ski resort spokesman John Wagnon said the accident occurred on the "Upper Orion Run" on the Nevada side of the mountain. Orion is an intermediate level trail, he said. The condition of the slope and weather conditions were said to be good at the time of the accident.

Mrs. Bono is "very distraught, as are the children," said Bono's spokesman Frank Cullen Jr. "He enjoyed his family so much, it's so unfortunate that this happened."

Famous for his 1960's singing career with then-wife Cher, Bono was first elected to Congress in 1994 as a Republican from Palm Springs, the city he served as mayor from 1988 to 1992. At one point after taking office, he was the second-most requested draw at members' events after Gingrich.

In 1982, Bono went into the restaurant business. Divorced from Cher, he met and married Whitaker in 1986.

In Other News

Tuesday Jan. 6, 1998

Clinton Unveils Plan For Expanding Medicare Coverage
Sonny Bono Killed In Skiing Accident
Washington Remembers Sonny Bono
Minor Rift Between First Pets
GOP Leader Acts To Stop Anti-Abortion Plank

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