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Sonny Bono dies at Heavenly

Christy Chalmers

STATELINE – U.S. Rep. Sonny Bono, who gained fame in the

1960s pop duo “Sonny and Cher,” was killed Monday in a skiing

accident at Heavenly Ski Resort, authorities confirmed.



Bono, 62, who represented the California congressional district including

Palm Springs, was found dead at 7 p.m. on a ski run after being reported



missing early Monday afternoon, Douglas County authorities said.

A cause of death was not immediately made public.

“Everything is under investigation, but it appears to be accidental,”

said Douglas sheriff’s Lt. Ross Chichester.

Douglas County sheriff’s deputies responded to Boulder Lodge at Heavenly

late Monday to assist ski-resort personnel in a search for a missing skier.

SIZE=+1Also see CNN’s coverage of Bono’s death

“We have a deceased male skier who was found on the Nevada side.

He was missing since 1 p.m. and was found at 7 this evening. He was found

on the Nevada side of Boulder at Heavenly,” said Sgt. Lance Modispacher.

“He was supposed to meet with friends there and was overdue.”

More details were expected to be released this morning, and an autopsy

will be conducted to determine a cause of death.

Initial indications were that Bono was killed when he collided with a

tree while skiing Orion’s Run, sources said.

He apparently was skiing the run with his wife, Mary Whitaker, when they

became separated, sources said. She waited at the bottom of the run, and

when he failed to arrive notified authorities.

Bono who became a household name with hit records such as “Baby

Don’t Go” in 1964, recorded with then-girlfriend Cherilyn Sarkisian,

later known as Cher.

Sources said Mrs. Bono and their two young children, Chesare, 9, and

Chianna, 6, were at Boulder Lodge when notified of the death.

Both Malcolm Tibbetts, vice president of mountain operations, and Dennis

Harmon, Heavenly managing director, were at the lodge late Monday.

“Right now, the whole situation is being handled by Douglas County

sheriffs,” said John Wagnon, Heavenly vice president of marketing.

Born Feb. 16, 1935, in Detroit to a Sicilian-American family, Bono moved

to the Los Angeles area when he was 7 years old.

Following graduation from Inglewood High School, he pursued a career

in the music business and began as a songwriter and singer at Dig Records.

“Sonny and Cher” launched a string of major hit records with

“I Got You Babe,” their signature song, and had a hit television

show from 1971-74.

Bono, a Republican, launched his political career in 1988 as mayor of

Palm Springs, then ran an unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate in 1991.

When the 44th Congressional District seat became open in 1994, Bono won

with a 16-point margin of victory.

As a U.S. representative, his reputation as a conservative was based

on his calls for reducing federal bureaucracy, cutting taxes and returning

power to local and state governments.

Bono also had owned a restaurant in Palm Springs and had previously operated

restaurants in West Hollywood, Calif., and Houston, Texas.

His autobiography, “The Beat Goes On,” is named for another

hit song.

Bono’s was the second celebrity death on a ski slope in less than a week.

Michael Kennedy, the 39-year-old son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy,

was killed on New Year’s Eve while skiing at Aspen Mountain, Colo.

Tahoe Daily Tribune managing editor Tim Traeger contributed to this

report.

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