1988: Sonny Bono Elected Mayor Of Palm Springs, California
Palms Springs Mayor Sonny Bono in 1991. Source: Paul Harris / Contributor / Getty Images
As mayor of Palm Springs, Sonny Bono added a new chapter to a life that had included pop stardom with then-partner Cher ("I Got You Babe"), Vegas success and TV-show fame. After leaving the entertainment business, for the most part, in the ‘80s he became a restaurateur in Palm Springs, California. A run-in with the city council over the size of his restaurant and a renovation that he wanted to make inspired him to run for mayor in order to make the city more business friendly. Over his four years in office (1988-92), he learned on the job while making a few important changes to the city.
Bono Ran For Mayor In Order To Oust The Old-Boys Club
While living in Palm Springs, Bono opened an Italian restaurant named after himself and pretty much immediately ran into trouble with the city. Bono wanted to put a new sign on the building but he was told that it was too big, and this inspired him to run for mayor in 1988. He didn’t just want to put a bigger sign on Bono’s but he said that he wanted to get rid of the old guard who wanted to keep every other business from doing what they want. The former singer didn’t just capitalize on his name recognition during his campaign but he spent more than $100,000 to run against his opponents while they were spending around $30,000.
Bono Ripped Into The City Council During His Campaign
Like many of the candidates running for mayor of Palm Springs in 1988, Bono promised to turn Palm Springs into the jewel of Southern California. Where the current administration refused to bring new businesses into the community, Bono said that he would bring in an entire film festival. He consistently went after members of the city council at that time, saying that if they could keep someone like him from having a successful business then they could do real damage to a regular person. In an interview during his campaign Bono said:
The mayor and our city council is made up of contractors and real-estate people. It’s important that you don’t place your personal gain before the gain of the community…You have to be ethical to the overall goal of the community…You have to be ethical to the overall goal of the community. We’ve got council people that are selling land, like Eli Birer. I’m either going to run against [incumbent mayor] Bogert or Eli Birer. They’re big real-estate moguls. Our convention center was brokered by him. You can’t be impartial on something like that.
Bono Won In A Landslide
One day after his former partner in love and entertainment, Cher, won an Oscar for her role in Moonstruck, Bono became the mayor of Palm Springs. He called the parallel success a “one two punch.” He took the contest in a major victory with 4,842 votes, leaving the other eight candidates in the dust. After announcing his win Bono took to a podium at Maxim’s Suite Hotel to the tune of the Rocky theme before giving a few more jabs to the council members who were on their way out. He told his followers:
Wow 3/8 I can’t believe it. The city goes back to the people. They made us too mad, gave us one too many kicks and that’s the last we’re going to take. It’s a wonderful American thing that just happened.
The People Of Palm Springs Tried To Have Him Removed From Office
One year after Bono was elected mayor he had failed to make any headway into his promises, and worse than that he was using city money for his own means. According to People magazine he spent $4,500 of city funds to have new publicity photos taken. Following that he asked Palm Springs to pay for first -class tickets for himself and his family for “official business,” although his detractors said that he just wanted to attend the Cannes Film Festival. None of that is great, but his constituents were more upset that he wasn’t doing anything to boost tourism or make the city more family friendly in an era where every spring break it was overrun by college students.
Bono Got Serious And Created A Film Festival
With the threat of being removed from office in a run-off election Bono focused on the job at hand. To bring big tourism bucks into the city he created the Palm Springs Film Festival in 1989. The festival was meant to create “a new spin on old Hollywood” and reinvigorate the city while making it a place that artists from across the world wanted to visit. Julie Baumer, the city’s former director of marketing and tourism said, “Sonny loved Palm Springs and wanted to make the city hip again.” To do so he added outdoor seating to the restaurants and added the same kind of big, flashy umbrellas that you can find in the film festivals of Europe. While Bono was trying to bring in cash to the city he was also trying to donation money from wealthy attendees and Baumer said that unlike anyone else he could play them “like a harp.”
Bono Put An End To Spring Break
Throughout the 1980s Palm Springs turned into a battle zone every year around spring break. Young people who visited the desert town were out of control and in 1986 there was a legitimate riot that threatened the safety of everyone in the city and Bono wanted to put an end to the city’s reputation as a party capital and make it a place where families felt safe. HE produced a commercial to promote Palms Springs as a wholesome place that didn’t cater to college age hooligans. He created events that occurred at the same time as spring break to keep the city from filling with young people that were what he called ““the healthy, all-American, apple pie kind of thing to do.”
Unfortunately a spring harvest festival and an inter-mural sports tournament weren’t enough to deter party animals, so in 1990 he personally patrolled downtown Palm Springs on a Harley and pulled over spring breakers whom he thought were acting out of line. Then he got even more serious. He created laws banning bikinis, water balloons, and squirt guns. No drinking was allowed poolside after 11 p.m. and an additional $15 fee was added to police citations that were given out during spring break.
A year later Bono upped his anti spring break game by ordering city workers to place more than 200 concrete barricades around the city, created a massive traffic jam that kept young people from cruising the downtown area. After his tenure as mayor spring break in Palm Springs was no more.
His Mayoral Duties Gave Him A Taste For Politics
By the end of his term Bono actually came to enjoy being a politician. After completing his transition from pop star to restaurateur to conservative mayor he decided to run for national office. After vacating his seat as mayor Bono unsuccessfully ran for Senate in 1992 but in 1994 he was elected to Congress as a Representative from California's 44th District - a position in which he served until his death in 1998.
Tags: Politics | Remember This?... | Sonny and Cher | Sonny Bono
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