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Cher

This feline singer and actress, who became known for her outrageous attire as much as for her powerful voice, was born Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPierre in El Centro, California, on May 20, 1946.

As a teenager, she ran away from her mother, an eight-time-married ex-actress, and forged a modest career as a backup singer in Los Angeles, working alongside superstar producer Phil Spector and his assistant Sonny Bono at Gold Star Studios. Cher soon moved in with Bono and they teamed up as a singing act called Caesar and Cleo, which quickly led nowhere. In 1964 they switched their moniker to Sonny and Cher and hit it big the following year with the number one song "I Got You Babe."

In the mid-to-late 1960s, as the team's popularity grew, they symbolized the era with their flashy, hippie-styled clothing and hairstyles. They starred together in the feature film "Good Times" (1967), directed by William Friedkin, (who would later direct "The French Connection"). Cher, without Sonny, followed that up with a dramatic performance in an autobiographical picture, "Chastity" (1969).

By the turn of the decade, as flower power was fading, Sonny and Cher lost favor with the rock crowd -- they had no choice but to turn themselves into a lounge act. After months on the road with a marriage that was slowly unraveling, they reached the top of the nightclub circuit on the Las Vegas strip. This led to their own variety series on CBS, "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour," which lasted from 1971 to 1974. Cher came back the following season with a solo variety show, simply called "Cher." This show had a modicum of success, but also put so much strain on the singer that she reunited with Sonny, on "The Sonny and Cher Show" (1976-77), so that he could handle some of the show business pressures. Throughout this time, Cher was enjoying much success as a solo artist, recording such early 1970s hits as "Half Breed" and "Gypsies Tramps and Thieves." She steadily made singles and albums through the 1990s, achieving her biggest success with the top ten LP "Heart of Stone," which went multi-platinum and yielded the hit single and video "If I Could Turn Back Time."

After the demise of "The Sonny and Cher Show," which suffered an unexpected suspension of production when its female star became pregnant, Cher focused her attention on various opulent TV specials and on surviving her brief marriage to rock star Gregg Allman. In 1981, she abandoned the glitzy glamour of Television City in Hollywood and starred in an Off-Broadway production of "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean," directed by film auteur Robert Altman. Altman later cast her in the low-budget screen version of the play, and this effectively launched Cher's motion picture career as an actress. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her supporting role in "Silkwood" (1983), was critically acclaimed for her performance in "Mask" (1985), and took home the Oscar for Best Actress for her work in "Moonstruck" (1987).

After starring in the 1990 film "Mermaids," Cher left the silver screen for the world of infomercials, where she made a name for herself pushing hair care products. Other TV projects have included a long overdue video for "I Got You Babe," co-starring MTV's animated characters Beavis and Butt-head. 1996 marked her return to motion pictures with the Paul Mazursky comedy, "Faithful," co-starring Ryan O'Neal. She has recently released several CDs, inlcuding "It's a Man's World" (1996), "Love Hurts" (1997), "In Case You're In Love" (1998), "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves" (1998), "Believe" (1998), and "If I Could Turn Back Time: Cher's Greatest Hits" (1999).