For years I had heard that someone had actually put up a memorial to Sonny Bono in Washington, DC. I didn’t actively look for it until I decided to attend the Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at the Bier Baron in Washington, DC and I found that the memorial is located in the same general area. (I decided that this memorial warranted its own separate blog post, which was why I didn’t mention it in the Dr. Sketchy’s DC post.) After the Dr. Sketchy’s event ended, I decided to look for it since, in a way, I had grown up with Sonny Bono.

As a child my family used to gather around the TV set to watch the variety show that Sonny Bono starred in along with his then-wife Cher known as The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. I remember on the night when that show was on, I would make an effort to finish my homework in time for the show’s 8 p.m. start time. I would enjoy the show with a mix of songs, comedy sketches, and those elaborate Bob Mackie gowns that Cher used to wear. Once the show ended, I would be sent to bed since I had to go to school the next day.

Thanks to YouTube, I can not only relive those childhood memories but I can even share them here in this post. Here’s the show’s animated intro, which definitely echo the 1970’s era when this series was aired.

The next clip shows a typical show opener where Sonny and Cher would sing a song then do their comedic banter between each other. Usually Sonny is the goofy one who’s a bit of a braggart and acts like he has a huge ego while Cher is the put-down queen with her zany one-liners designed to bring Sonny’s huge ego back to Earth.

Here is one of their regularly featured skits, “Vamp,” which begins with Sonny playing the piano while Cher sings the “Vamp” theme song then it segues into short skits featuring women in history and literature while the featured guest star (in this clip, it’s Burt Reynolds) performs in them alongside Sonny and Cher.

Here’s a skit featuring guest star Merv Griffin and 1971 Miss Universe Georgina Rizk.

And here’s another skit featuring guest star Howard Cosell.

They would intersperse straight musical numbers with the skits as well. Most of the musical numbers were covers of the big hit songs of the era (like “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” or “Black and White”). Sometimes they would debut their latest single, such as the song “A Cowboy’s Work is Never Done.”

Sometimes they would even do animated music videos (which definitely predated the rise of MTV), such as this one for Cher’s solo single, “Dark Lady.”

(And if you like that video, check out this post on the Dangerous Minds site for more.)

Here’s a typical show closer where Sonny and Cher appear on stage with their very young daughter Chastity. (Obviously this was long before Chastity would undergo a sex change operation and start living as a man named Chaz Bono.) The couple sings their biggest hit single “I Got You Babe” while Sonny holds Chastity in his arms. Then he puts Chastity down and the three of them walk off the stage with Chastity in the middle and each parent holds one of her hands.

It was basically a sweet show featuring a couple whom I thought was happily married. The show aired in an era when there were only three major broadcast networks plus PBS along with a few unaffiliated local TV stations that showed nothing but old movies and reruns of older network TV shows from the 1950’s and 1960’s. It was the type of show that was designed for the entire family (such things as narrowcasting and niche programming were unheard of in those days) where it was sophisticated enough to entertain adults yet parents were comfortable in letting their kids watch because there was no foul language or violence or explicit sex scenes. And this formula worked because The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour was among the highest rated shows in the 1970’s.

I remember the shock when it ended abruptly even though the show was still in the Top Ten of the most popular TV shows. What happened was that, despite the show’s image of a happily married couple working together in perfect harmony, Sonny and Cher’s marriage was troubled in real life. It finally came to a head when the couple announced their divorce and CBS decided to cancel the show soon afterwards. Subsequently both Sonny and Cher had separate variety shows. I remember seeing episodes of both shows but, to be honest, I thought they were better when they worked together. They reunited for The Sonny & Cher Show back in 1976 but I remember that show was a bit awkward. By then Cher had gotten remarried to Greg Allman and she was even pregnant with her new husband’s child so she was visibly showing when her and her ex-husband Sonny would do their old opening show banter and it seemed less funny and more angry since I knew that they were now divorced.

Eventually their show was cancelled and both quit doing television variety shows. Cher went on to a successful entertainment career as a movie actress and solo singer. Sonny did some acting but he ultimately went in a new career direction that I didn’t anticipate—politics. He became the mayor of Palm Springs. When that term ended, he made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate. After that defeat he tried running for public office again and he was elected as the Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, which is the main reason why Sonny Bono has any ties to Washington, DC.

Both his political career in DC and his life were cut short when Sonny went skiing and he hit a tree. After his death one of Bono’s friends, a real estate developer named Geary Simon, convinced the DC government to let him convert one of the existing small parks into a memorial using his own money.

So after the Dr. Sketchy’s event ended, I searched for the Sonny Bono Memorial Park using the directions posted on Roadside America. Here is a wide shot of the entire park, which is located at the intersections of New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., 20th Street, N.W., and O Street, N.W.

photo5

As you can see, it’s not very large. There are no statues or anything elaborate like that. In fact, this plaque located at the entrance to the park is the only way anyone would know that this park is dedicated to Sonny Bono.

photo6

For younger people wondering who Sonny Bono was or why the marker names him as an entertainer, statesmen, and entrepreneur or why they should even care about this man, they will need to use their smartphones to do a Google search themselves because there is no other information about Bono other than what’s on the plaque.

photo7

There are a few benches but this park can’t really hold a lot of people. In addition, anyone wanting a quiet secluded place where they could leisurely eat a picnic lunch and/or read a book would be better off going to McPherson Square or even to Rock Creek Park because it would be very hard to have much peace and quiet with cars constantly whizzing past this park.

photo8

photo9

photo10

There are areas along the borders of the park that suggest that there may be a small garden but it doesn’t look like it has been maintained very well.

photo11

In short, I’m glad I finally got a look at the Sonny Bono Memorial Park but it’s not really the kind of attraction that you would need to go out of your way to visit unless you are a die-hard Sonny Bono fan. Fortunately it’s located in Dupont Circle, which has lots of places that people can see and visit, such as the far superior Gandhi Memorial that’s located on Q Street, N.W.

http://www.nablopomo.com

Advertisements