COVER

SEEKING A PRIVATE PLACE

CHER DUCKS THE PUBLICITY GLARE

NORA UNDERWOOD March 6 1989
COVER

SEEKING A PRIVATE PLACE

CHER DUCKS THE PUBLICITY GLARE

NORA UNDERWOOD March 6 1989

In a now-celebrated remark, Cher once compared the men in her life to luxuries. “You can have pound cake,” she said, “or you can have chocolate mousse. They’re both desserts—but one is so much more fun.” For the most part, Cher seems to have selected chocolate mousse. From her 12-year relationship with her eventual husband, musician-songwriter Sonny Bono, through later, sometimes-tempestuous relationships with renegade rock musician Gregg Allman, actor Val Kilmer and Gene Simmons—bass guitarist of the heavy-metal rock band Kiss—Cher has shown a preference for partners with a show business background—and increasingly for younger men. Her current live-in boyfriend, actor Robert Camilletti, is 24. At the same time, Cher, 42, who is now promoting her new line of perfume, Cher Uninhibited, has increasingly had to struggle to preserve her personal and family life from the glare of publicity that now surrounds her. “It’s not fair that you can’t keep much of your private life, but that is the way it is,” she told Maclean’s. “I think I’ve managed to scrape one together in little dribs and drabs.”

Violence: For Camilletti, the pressures of unremitting media attention led to a dangerous eruption of violence last July. Driving Cher’s gleaming black Ferrari sports car, Camilletti arrived at the star’s house in Los Angeles’s Benedict Canyon and found several freelance photographers waiting at the gate. Camilletti later claimed that he was trying to avoid the photographers when the Ferrari swerved out of control and struck the car occupied by freelance cameraman Peter Brandt. “He tried to kill me,” Brandt told reporters. “He tried to run over me at a high rate of speed.” After police arrested Camilletti and charged him with felonious assault, Cher personally went to the jail to post $2,000 bail for him. At the same time, the star’s growing preference for younger men has injected another element of controversy into her life. Randy Taraborrelli, the author of an unauthorized 1986 biography, Cher, expresses the view that the star deliberately chooses young men as lovers because they are not able to exert control over her.

Taraborrelli told Maclean’s that since Cher divorced Bono in 1975, most of her men “have been young kids, aspiring actors—people she can control. I think she is afraid of being with anyone too controlling.” For her part, Cher has said: “I date younger men because they’ve been raised by women who are just like me. Younger men are more supportive and a lot less demanding, and they also have more time for their relationships. I want somebody who still wants to go dancing or spend the day at Disneyland, somebody who’ll give me more than the little time he has left over after his day at the office.”

Despite her well-publicized romances, Cher also insists that she is not promiscuous. “I certainly don’t want to flit about, making love with everybody I meet,” she has said. “Despite all the publicity, I’ve actually been involved with very few men. And with each of them I’ve had a good relationship. We could sit down and talk, know that we were friends.” Still, Cher’s relationships—with the notable exception of Bono—have tended to be short-lived. According to Cher, a brief affair with actor Warren Beatty when she was 16 persuaded her that she was not interested in sex without emotional attachment. Soon afterward, Cher met Bono, who recognized her star potential. Their marriage and the professional partnership that grew out of it propelled her to stardom, first as part of the best-selling recording duo Sonny and Cher and later in television’s The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.

But Cher now says that her relationship with Bono was emotionally exhausting. She credits Bono—who opened a restaurant in Palm Springs, Calif., in 1984 and was elected mayor of the city last year—with being the driving force behind the success of Sonny and Cher. Bono is now married to his fourth wife, Mary Whittaker. “Sonny’s probably a good husband now,” said Cher, “but with me he was terrible. He was dictatorial, unfaithful, demanding. For five years before I left him, I wanted to leave. But The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour was so popular that I was afraid.” Cher told Maclean’s that “even today, I think of things I went through with Sonny and I think, ‘Was I crazy?’ It was part of growing up, making mistakes. It was a really rough relationship.” Recalled Bono: “I don’t think a married couple should share the same career.”

Domineering: Cher rebounded from her failed marriage by becoming involved with record producer David Geffen, a man she later decided was too much like the domineering Bono. Cher, then 27, met Geffen, 30, who was then president of Elektra-Asylum Records, in the fall of 1973 at the Troubador, one of her favorite Los Angeles nightclubs. A former agent for artists including Alberta-born singer Joni Mitchell, Geffen helped Cher launch her solo career in Las Vegas—and arrange her divorce from Bono. At one point, Geffen and Cher planned to marry, but their relationship collapsed after 18 months. At the time, Cher said that Geffen “reminded me too much of Sonny.”

After that, Cher began turning toward younger men. In 1975—after another chance encounter at the Troubador nightclub—Cher began seeing Allman, a Tennessee-born keyboard player who was a driving force behind The Allman Brothers’ Band—and who was a few months younger than Cher. Four months later, Cher proposed to Allman—despite the fact that he was a known alcoholic and heroin addict. They were married in Las Vegas on June 30, 1975, three days after her divorce from Bono became final. Just nine days later, Cher filed for a divorce, saying, “Gregg and I have made a mistake and I have always believed it best to admit one’s mistakes as quickly as possible.”

Addictions: During the next two years, Cher and Allman had a series of reconciliations and further separations. In that period, their son, Elijah Blue, now 12, was born. Allman, according to Cher, would often disappear for several days at a time, and he proved to be unreliable as a husband and father because of his addictions. Cher also condemned his attitudes toward women. “He thought women had two purposes,” she said, “to make the bed and to make it in the bed.” In 1977, she left Allman for good after he fell asleep with his face on a plate in a restaurant. “I couldn’t care less if I never speak to him again in my life,” Cher once said of Allman, who has seen his son infrequently since the divorce. Allman’s assessment at the time: “I was sorry that I’d done it. I ain’t putting her down or anything like that. She was just as sorry.”

For about a year following her final break with Allman, Cher remained unattached. “People thought I was sleeping with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” she recalled, “but I was staying home watching television.” Then in 1978, Cher and the daughter she had with Bono, Chastity, attended a political fund-raising event for then-California governor Jerry Brown. Chastity was a fan of Gene Simmons, 28-year-old bass guitarist with the rock band Kiss—who was also there—and Cher approached him. Simmons confessed later that during his relationship with Cher, he freely engaged in relationships with young female fans. Simmons’s reputation for promiscuity, said Cher later, was “totally warranted.” Added Cher: “He was really sweet—so square and so very Jewish.”

In 1980, Cher had a brief relationship with Les Dudek, a guitarist in the Allman Brothers’ Band, which some show business observers said appeared to have been inspired partly by business considerations. Together, they formed the band Black Rose in 1980, which recorded one album, of the same name, for Casablanca Records, toured briefly and then disbanded. Cher then entered into a two-year relationship with actor Val Kilmer, then 22, who starred opposite Tom Cruise in the 1986 movie Top Gun. Later, Cher said that Kilmer—a man whose eyes were known to wander—was the first man who had left her.

Entranced: It was near the end of her relationship with Kilmer—and on the night of her 40th birthday—that Cher first met Camilletti. While Cher was in the middle of filming The Witches of Eastwick, she and Kilmer went to a Manhattan café where Cher noticed Camilletti, then 22, who was supporting himself by working as a bartender and a part-time bagel baker while he studied acting. She was entranced. “Only twice in my life have I been affected that way,” she recalled, “and on both occasions, the men were Italians. Rob made my heart do something weird. There’s something quite electric and thrilling about it—you only want this one person and you throw everything else out of the window.” One of her assistants set them up. Later, Camilletti said that he was astonished when he realized that Cher was interested in him. “What the hell could she find interesting about a guy like me?” he said. “I didn’t admit to myself that I was attracted to her. We’re from totally different worlds.”

Sparks: Tall, dark-haired and affable, Camilletti—whom Cher calls “mookie,” slang for “regular guy”—is now living with her, and Cher has mentioned recently that she would like to have another child. “Now that I’m 42,” she said, “I’m going to have to hurry up.” Meanwhile, the couple’s relationship has already given Camilletti’s professional career a boost. Last year, he appeared opposite Cher in three videos and he has a supporting role in the Tri-Star Pictures comedy The Perfect Gentleman, starring Kate Jackson, which is scheduled for release this spring. Taraborrelli described Cher’s relationship with Camilletti as “really romantic. There are sparks there. It’s really hard to condemn it.” For her part, Cher says that Camilletti is “the most well-adjusted man I’ve ever been with.” With their relationship now more than two years old—and apparently still tranquil, despite the attendant pressures of stardom—it may well be that Cher has found her man at last, after all the failures of her checkered past.