Bartlett says Bono was really great guy

January 07, 1998

Bartlett says Bono was really great guy


Staff Writer

FREDERICK, Md. - Sonny Bono was a pop star before joining Congress in 1994, and U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett said his entertainment background came in handy on a number of occasions.

Bartlett, R-Md., who learned of the California Republican's fatal skiing accident along with the rest of the country Tuesday, said Bono's stage presence came in handy both for raising money for the party and for providing comic relief to haggard colleagues.

Bono, the former husband of singer and actress Cher, died after hitting a tree Monday at a resort on the Nevada-California line. He was 62.


The last time Bartlett remembers Bono putting on a show for his fellow representatives was late last year when House Speaker Newt Gingrich was on a conference call plotting strategy with President Clinton over a bill to give the president "fast-track" authority to negotiate a new trade deal.

Bartlett said tense representatives in the House Republican Conference room, where many members of the GOP had gathered to await the news, asked Bono to tell a story. So Bono launched into his oft-repeated tale of how he got into politics.

A budding restaurateur, Bono grew frustrated with a Palm Springs building inspector and ran for mayor to change the system. He won, and held the office from 1988 to 1992.

"Sonny wasn't through with his talk when Newt came in and so Newt sat for about 10 minutes," Bartlett said.

Bartlett and Bono, elected two years apart, were among a group of new Republicans who helped the party take control of Congress for the first time in a generation.

Bartlett said his congressional office was next to Bono's, and the two often talked.

"I got to know him very well. We frequently walked over to vote together," he said. "He was really a great guy."

Bartlett said Bono had to overcome some of the Hollywood show biz baggage he brought to Washington.

"We expected he would be a fish out of water but he turned out to be a very hard-working congressman," Bartlett said.

The two found themselves in agreement on a number of important issues, Bartlett said.

Serving together on the National Security Committee, Bartlett said Bono fought tirelessly for legislation banning skin magazines from military bases, mandating gender-separate training in the Armed Forces and several other issues.

"He was a major supporter in some of the things I was fighting for," he said.

Bono was a prolific fund-raiser, second to Gingrich among Republicans requested to appear at events. He stopped in Hagerstown last April for a Lincoln Day Dinner that Bartlett said still elicits praise and gratitude from local Republicans.

Bono's death came less than a week after Michael Kennedy, 39-year-old son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, was killed while playing football on a ski slope in Aspen, Colo.

Coming so close to the New Year's Eve accident that killed Michael Kennedy, Bartlett predicted some will call for Congress to take steps to improve safety on the nation's ski slopes. That would be an unfortunate legacy of Bono's death, he said.

"If it results in attention being raised to the dangers of skiing, that's good," Bartlett said. "If it leads to calls for involvement by Big Brother, that's bad."

The Herald-Mail Articles