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He got their joint career started around the time of their marriage in 1964. Working for famed Record Producer Phil Specter, Sonny found odd gigs for Cher singing background at recording sessions, and they got a job together at a spot on the Strip called The Purple Onion. After work, she would often ask Sonny to drive her up to Tony Curtis' 31-room Tudor-style mansion in the Holmby Hills and park outside its great cast-iron gates. Says Sonny: "Cher would pine for that house. She'd say, 'God, Son, I want to live there.' " For the past three yearswith Sonny and without himshe has.
The road to it was not easy. Sonny wrote the song that became their first recordBaby Don't Gofor her alone. "But she was too frightened to perform by herself, so I did the harmony just to be with her." Baby was a modest hit. In 1965 he wrote the softly rocking I Got You Babe, which turned out to be an immodest hitsome 4 million copies soldand Sonny and Cher found themselves playing the big rock concerts. It looked as if the mansion was within reach.
But fashion changed. Hard rock, acid rock, were suddenly in, and Sonny and Cher were out. "The whole sound and style of music began to come out of the drug culture," says Sonny. "We didn't want to get into that, so it left us." In fact, the couple came out boldly against drugs, and that was good for nothing but their souls. "The Establishmentwhich didn't go to concertsapplauded us," says Cher. "The kids who did go to concertsthought we were stupid."
Sonny sank all their savings into a movie vehicle for his wife called, like the child they discovered was on the way in the midst of shooting, Chastity. In it, she solemnly searched the South-west for life's meaning, and it bombed. They found themselves flat broke and owing $180,000 in back taxes. Accompanied by baby and a nanny, they hit the road again, sometimes playing to audiences of 45 in small clubs, developing along the way the kidding-on-the-square comedy style that later became the staple of their TV show. They fought their way back to the big Las Vegas clubs as well as a shot as guest hosts on the Merv Griffin Show, where CBS Programming Chief Fred Silverman saw them. He invited them to do a pilot for a summer replacement show. It led to their booking in 1971 as what appeared to be a permanently successful fixture on the CBS schedule. Within a year they bought the Tony Curtis house for something like a million dollars.