For a long time I’ve been meaning to blog about Terri Garr’s book Speedbumps, Flooring it through Hollywood which I finished reading last year. I relished the opportunity to read this autobiography for some rare insights it might have provided on behind-the-scenes S&C Comedy Hour drama. I also wondered what she’s say about working with Steve Martin.
The book was largely disappointing. I’ve summarized almost all the Cher encounters and comments below (there were so few). Garr talks at length about her struggles with MS – definitely important to cover; but the title of the book leads us to believe we’ll be getting dish about her day job, not a book primarily about MS. Garr has had a successful and interesting career in television and movies. She egregiously glosses over most of her work, giving some movie classics only a sentence or two! The book is plain, uneven storytelling. She spends paragraphs explaining how she met Mr. Right: how they met, married and spawned, only to tell us in a pass-off comment in the last chapter that they'd already separated. Garr gives us no explanation as to why or when! She also hints at drama with other mega-stars (Jessica Lange) but never fully explains what happened. It was a frustrating read, I must say. She has previously expressed more emotion about working with S&C on Cher TV bio-pics than she did in this book.
You do get a few stories about her relationship with Steve Martin (who not only wrote for the S&C show but did their warm-up act), how they met working at Disneyland and then on The Ken Berry Show – with Cheryl Ladd of all people, and transitioned to the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour – sans Cheryl. Chris Bearde was a producer on both shows.
Teri calls Cher on TV “a stunning presence...She was pure showbiz.”
I thought Cher was glamorous. She swore a lot, which I respected...What impressed me most about Cher was that even though she and Sonny had topped the charts…she acted like one of the girls. She’d come sit down with all the dancers and talk about face cream or hairdos or men. She taught me to do needlepoint...When I got stuck, I always wanted to know the by-the-book way to fix my work. Cher would simply say, “You just do what you have to do. It’s like life: you don’t have to play by the rules. Just get it done.”
Garr mentions this funny encounter: Cher was sizing Teri up one day backstage on the set. Teri was wearing jeans and a t-shirt (hey, that’s my wardrobe) and
Cher said, “You have to get a look. I have a look.” Looking at her in her black feathers and snake boots, I thought, Yes, you sure do.
Teri claims Cher’s dressing room always had shrimp cocktails and Coca-Colas and racks of dresses; but Cher would come over to Teri’s shabby dressing room to sneak cigarettes.
“That was before we decided smoking was making us look old.”
Garr also tells a funny story about sneaking out of S&C show obligations for small movie roles, telling one casting director who needed her to travel to San Francisco,
“But I’m on Sonny & Cher’s show. We’re rehearsing a Japanese rock-and-roll opera tomorrow. I can’t miss rehearsal!”
Garr also repeats her famous story of learning to speak with a German accent in 24 hours for the movie Young Frankenstein with the help of Cher’s wig-stylist Renata, Garr practicing saying:
“Mein Gott, zis vig veighs forty poundz.”
Garr makes no mention of working on The Sonny Comedy Revue or of leaving the S&C show. They’re both just never mentioned much again.