5 Things You Didn't Know About Cher

Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Ethan Miller, Getty Images / Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Cher's done a little bit of everything. She's blown up the pop charts, hosted a hit variety show, and even won an Oscar. Let's take a look at five things you might not know about the woman who was born Cherilyn Sarkisian.

1. She Sang on More Famous Songs Than You Think

Before she struck out as a solo artist and worked with Sonny Bono, both Sonny and Cher worked for Phil Spector. Bono later described his job as "a general flunky for Phillip." Both also sang backup vocals when Spector needed session singers, so Cher's pipes are somewhere in a number of Spector's biggest hits. She sang backup on the Crystals' "Da Do Ron Ron," the Ronettes' "Be My Baby," and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." Listen closely and see if you can hear her.

Spector actually produced Cher's first solo single, a commercial flop called "Ringo, I Love You." Don't look for it under Cher's name, though. She released the record under the name Bonnie Jo Mason. Have a listen:

2. She's Not Much on Acceptance Speeches

In 1988 Cher won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her starring role in Norman Jewison's Moonstruck. When Cher went on stage to receive her Oscar, she gave a big shout-out to her hair and makeup artist...but forgot to thank her director, Jewison. Cher immediately realized her gaffe – she blamed the omission on being nervous – and decided to take drastic steps to recognize Jewison. The next day, she took out a full-page ad in Variety thanking the director.

Cher got another chance to tip her cap to Jewison earlier this year. When the Academy decided to give Jewison a lifetime achievement award, Cher was the presenter. This time she remembered to thank the director for Moonstruck.

3. She Irked the Navy

It seems fairly tame by today's standards, but Cher's video for her 1989 single "If I Could Turn Back Time" caused a major stir. The video depicts Cher singing to a group of sailors aboard the USS Missouri, which isn't so objectionable. Her outfit, though, was pretty over the top: a fishnet body stocking over a skimpy bathing suit. Even MTV worried that the getup was a bit too revealing; the network made a policy of only playing the video after 9 p.m.

The Navy wasn't pleased, either. Officials had allowed Cher to use the Missouri as a set because it seemed like a good way to glamorize the Navy for MTV viewers. They hadn't anticipated her wardrobe choice, though. The Navy told the press that it had originally approved the video shoot under the pretense that Cher would be doing a sweet little story about a sailor who gets a Dear John letter. Instead, they got this:

4. She Got a Rise Out of David Letterman

When David Letterman was still getting his footing as a late night host, he really wanted Cher on his show. She repeatedly declined before eventually repenting and appearing on the couch in May of 1986. The singer then took the opportunity to bust the host's chops a bit. Check it out for yourself:

Cher's delivery of the "asshole" line was so deadpan that it threw Letterman for a huge loop. Even though Cher slipped him a note that said, "Dearest David, you'r not an asshole. Love, Cher," Letterman later told People magazine, "I felt like a total fool, especially since I say all kinds of things to people. I was sitting there thinking, 'Okay, Mr. Big Shot, can you take it as well as you can dish it out?'"

5. She Isn't Afraid to Endorse a Product

Cher is also responsible for some of the most baffling celebrity endorsements of all time. During an early 90s lull in her music career, Cher started working as a pitchman for some spectacularly bizarre products. In 1994 she launched her own line of mail-order home furnishings. Entertainment Weekly described the pieces as resembling "a sort of medieval L.L. Bean."

She also ventured out into the world of infomercials for a line of hair and skin care products. If anything, these videos are a testimony to Cher's talent; they would have killed pretty much anyone else's career.