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- Published May, 1999 -

This article is featured in the new book "The Cher Scrapbook"
by Mary Anne Cassata

SONNY & CHER
by Bill Morgan

Variety shows were popular television fodder during the 1970s. Many TV studios felt that all they needed was a big name star, a few good jokes, a dash of flash, and some bubbly music to create a variety series for the viewing audience. Unfortunately, most of these programs vanished from the airwaves almost as quickly as they appeared. Ever heard of "The New Bill Cosby Show," "The Brady Bunch Hour," "The Don Knotts Show," or "The Glenn Campbell Goodtime Hour?" From the slew of short-lived flops rose a few notable standouts, "Donny & Marie" and "The Flip Wilson Show." They are among the handful of variety shows that lasted for more than one season. "The Flip Wilson Show" did even better than that by shooting to the # 2 spot of the Nielsen Ratings during its first year.

Sonny & Cher 12 1/4" DollsNot as commercially successful, but probably the most-remembered variety series of the ‘70s is "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour." Introduced as a trial run in the summer of 1971, Sonny and Cher found a permanent home on the CBS network’s midseason schedule. It wasn’t an instant hit. The show managed to sneak into the # 8 spot when no one was looking.

Salvatore Bono and Cherilyn LaPiere were the main characters of an unlikely success story. They met in the mid-60s while Sonny was a struggling songwriter/musician and Cher an aspiring actress and singer. It wasn’t long before they were married and teamed up to spend almost a decade performing in clubs and auditoriums. Considered "rock freaks" by other musicians and much of the public, the Bono’s sported unconventional bangs and fur vests. They didn’t seem to fit in, but Sonny was determined that their talent would prevail. What he didn’t know was that their tours allowed them to hone their greatest future asset, the sadistic interplay between husband and wife on stage.

Sonny’s perseverance eventually led to the idea that their routine would be great material for a comedy show on television. Their hit single "I Got You Babe" gave them the leverage they needed to land the singing, dancing, and comedy show "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" from 1971 to 1974. The recurring comedy sketches included Cher’s "Vamp" segments in which she portrayed notorious women in history; "Sonny’s Pizza" segment featuring Sonny as the dumb owner of a pizza parlor and Cher as waitress Rosa; "Dirty Linen" segments with Cher as "Laverne," sharing her views on men with a friend at the laundromat; and headline news spoofs. SUPERSTAR OF THE '70S... Cher!

By May of 1974, the "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" was at its peak of popularity and reached its highest spot in the ratings. The Bono’s marriage wasn’t quite as successful. Their union dissolved a few months before the end of the third season, and to the disappointment of viewers across the country, their TV show met an equally abrupt demise.

Citing that they could no longer work together, they both made an attempt to work alone. Within months, "The Sonny Comedy Revue" premiered on NBC, and "Cher" was televised by CBS. It was soon obvious that the chemistry they had together didn’t emerge on their own. Both series were canceled within the first year on the air.

Sonny had always been the one to forge new ventures for the duo in the past, but this time Cher asked Sonny to reunite their TV partnership for "The Sonny and Cher Show" in 1976. Even though their private lives were headed in different directions, they revived their comedy and singing personas to try and recapture the magic. Sonny and Cher weren’t able to recover their original variety show audience, and the reunion ended in little over a year.

I GOT TOYS BABE

Anticipating another hit show, the Mego Company designed a line of Sonny and Cher dolls and accessories in 1976. Both dolls were 12 1/4" replicas, fully jointed, and closely resembled the stars. Sonny came in one version. He was dressed in blue jeans, white shirt, and black shoes and was packaged in a window display box. Cher, on the other hand, was issued in a few variations. To match the Sonny doll, one was created with a dark skin tone, rooted eyelashes, and long, silky black hair. Wearing a pink dress, she too was packaged in a window display box. Both can be found between $75-$100 each.

Another Cher doll by Mego was packaged in a red window display box with a photo of Cher appearing on the box front. The doll body was molded differently. The doll head was the same, but the body was non-articulated and made out of hollow plastic. This same doll was also packaged in a clear plastic bag. The red boxed doll is valued at $75, while the bagged version is worth about $50. The most deluxe edition of the Cher doll was the Growing Hair Cher that came in three different box designs. Cher’s long black mane could become even longer by pulling the thick strands out from the back of her head. Don’t worry, they were easily tucked back in place by pulling the ring from her back. Expect to pay nearly double that of the standard issue doll to add this to your collection.

CHER OUTFITThe same fashion designer that created Cher’s extravagant gowns for "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" was enlisted to design small-scale versions for the doll. Bob Mackie fashions by Mego were equally extravagant, but may be considered gaudy by today’s standards. The names of the ensembles give insight as to what was packaged in each window display box and blister card. Cher outfits can be found on blue cards, green, purple and black boxes. There were over 30 designs with names like Electric Feathers, Indian Squaw, Laverne, Fortune Teller, Pink Fluff, and Pink Panther. The carded versions can be found for $30-$50 each, while some of the box styles can go for $75 and up.

Bob Mackie obviously enjoyed creating Cher fashions more than those for Sonny. Only six Sonny versions were made, including Private Eye, Space Prince, Buckskin, Hoedown, Gypsy King, and White Tux. They are valued between $25-$35.

Besides doll outfits, other doll accessories were the product of Mego. Cher’s dressing room was available as a playset for the dolls. The set was designed to fold open into a backstage dressing room. It included a couch, coffee table, dressing table, and hangers for a wardrobe closet. Magic mirror cards were included to give the illusion that Cher could see her reflection while wearing one of her designer gowns. New magic mirror cards were available with some of the boxed outfits sold separately. Cher’s dressing room is valued at $75-$100 when found in the original box.

The Cher Travel Trunk was designed to store the dozens of Bob Mackie fashions. Housed in a red box, the trunk exterior featured travel stickers to showcase the many imaginary exotic locations the Cher doll had visited, such as Spain, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Only six hangers were included, which was minimal compared to the number of outfits that could be purchased. The trunk also featured an accessories drawer. This is one of the most difficult Cher accessories to find, resulting in a $125-$150 price tag.

The largest Mego collectible is size is the Sonny and Cher’s Theatre in the Round. The square box was only a few inches deep, but over 2 1/2 feet wide. Inside were pieces that assembled into a stage with three revolving rooms. A dressing room, stage, and backstage included a vanity with chair, piano, bench, microphone, stool, spotlights, TV camera, and backdrops. Due to the couple’s untimely separation during the production of this item, two packaging variations can be found. The front label that originally pictured both Sonny and Cher was simply replaced with one displaying only Cher. Cher’s Theatre in the Round, as well as Sonny and Cher’s Theatre, are both valued between $175-$200.

Perhaps the most rare doll accessory was Mego’s Sonny and Cher Chevy Roadster. The red sport vehicle seemed a bit under-scale, as the two dolls would share little space while touring around in this snug plastic jalopy. Packaged in a matching red box with a photo of the dolls in the car, it is valued at about $200.

 

AND THE TOYS GO ON…

As Sonny and Cher memorabilia was quickly filling store isles in 1976, it became evident that everything was coming from the Mego Corporation. In addition to dolls and accessories, there was a handful of other items Mego made to dazzle fans. Cher’s head and bust were transformed into a life-like plastic replica for two different styling centers. One labeled as a Cher Makeup Center included a variety of makeup, hair brushes and ribbons, eye lashes, and vinyl signature bag. Another set came with similar contents and was packaged as a Growing Hair Styling Center. This head set included extra locks of hair that could be pulled from the back and put back in place with the pull of a string – much like that of the Growing Hair Cher doll. Each boxed styling center is valued at $75-$100.

SING-ALONG PHONOYoung girls could also accessorize themselves with Cher Jewelry. More of a toy then actual gems, these eccentric sets include pieces such as a large wooden logo necklace, hoop earrings, and beaded wristband. Each set was packaged on a 9" x 11 1/2" blister card containing a unique illustration of the super star. A tote bag featuring Cher’s logo was also available - possibly to hold all the valuable jewelry sets.

In 1977, Mego introduced their last item in this extraordinary line of memorabilia. Cher’s Sing-Along Phono was packaged with a photograph of Cher on the box front, sporting her newly trimmed and curled hairdo. Other sides of the box picture previous Cher Mego products. The record player includes an embossed Cher logo on the lid with a working microphone, amplifier and adapter. The price of this musical number will surpass any other Sonny and Cher Mego products.

For older fans that were beyond doll play, there were several Sonny and Cher paper commodities available. The famous pop duo graced the cover of numerous magazines during their hay day, while Cher took center stage as the subject of a few books. For under a dollar, TV & Movie Screen, Rona Barrett’s Hollywood, and Photo Screen were quick to reveal their private lives, rare photos, and some behind-the-scenes gossip. Today, these informative publications can be cashed in at around $25 each. Paperback books of Cher bring in about the same value and include titles such as Superstar of the Seventies… CHER! and Cher, Simply Cher.

If owning all the toys, magazines and books still leave a void in your collection, there is an abundance of music-related paraphernalia to collect. Since the pair started their recording career in the mid-‘60s, there are many albums, singles, tour books and sheet music to uncover. With words and music by Sonny himself, "The Beat Goes On" is one of the most coveted of all their sheet music. Recorded in 1967, this Top-10 hit became the theme to their TV show. The youthful couple is pictured on the 9" x 12" cover, which holds a value of about $30. From the vinyl collection, one of the more obscure items to find is a tiny 4" flexi-disc given out by Ford Motor Company. The record came sealed in a red paper envelope that sported a early photo of Sonny and Cher and included their number one hit "I Got You Babe" and "The Beat Goes On." Today, this mini-disc is valued at $40.

 

THE "I GOT YOU BABE" CHECK LIST

    • 12 1/4" Cher Doll, Mego, 1976 (deluxe box version).HIP-POCKET RECORD
    • 12 1/4" Cher Doll, Mego, 1976 (budget box version).
    • 12 1/4" Cher Doll, Mego, 1976 (bag version).
    • 12 1/4" Cher Doll Outfits, Mego, 1976 (boxed).
    • 12 1/4" Cher Doll Outfits, Mego, 1976 (carded).
    • 12 1/4" Growing Hair Cher Doll, Mego, 1976.
    • 12 1/4" Sonny Doll, Mego, 1976.
    • 12 1/4" Sonny Doll Outfits, Mego, 1976 (boxed).
    • Book, Simply Cher, EMC Corporation, 1975.
    • Calendar, MCA, 1972.
    • Cher Jewelry, Mego, 1976.
    • Cher Tote Bag, Mego, 1976.
    • Cher Travel Trunk, Mego, 1976.
    • Cher’s Dressing Room Playset, Mego, 1976.
    • Cher’s Make Up Center, Mego, 1976.
    • Cher’s Growing Hair Styling Center, Mego, 1976.
    • Cher’s Sing-A-Long Phono, Mego, 1977.
    • Dress Patterns (for 12 1/4" doll).
    • Hip-Pocket Record, "I Got You Babe," Philco,1973.
    • Paperback Book, "Superstar of the Seventies… Cher!," Ballantine Books, 1975.
    • Posters (several different).
    • Records – 45s and LPs (several different).
    • Sheet Music (several different).
    • Sonny and Cher’s Theatre in The Round, Mego (also just Cher’s Theater).
    • Sonny and Cher’s Roadster, Mego (for 12 1/4"dolls).
    • Sonny and Cher’s Mustang Model Kit.
    • School Folders (Cher’s image on front).
    • Tour Books and Programs.

CLICK HERE
to see Sonny and Cher Collectibles for sale!

    From the publication Toy Trader.

    Bill Morgan is the co-author of
    Collector’s Guide to TV Toys and Memorabilia — 2nd Edition and runs the TVTOYS.com web site.
    Copyright (c) TVTOYS.com, Antique Trader Publications, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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Copyright (c) 1997-2013 by The World of TV Toys.  Collector's Guide to TV Toys and Memorabilia - 2nd Edition Copyright (c) 2000  by Collector Books.  All articles posted in "The TV Toys Library," Copyright (c) 1996 - 2001 by Antique Trader Publications, Inc, and Odyssey Publications respectively.  All Rights Reserved.   Web site Administrator/Owner: Bill D. Morgan.