Stars don’t get much bigger than Candice Bergen and Cher, both of whom hit the three-quarters century mark in May. These two are different in so many ways—one blonde, one dark; one classic in style, the other outrageous; one from Hollywood royalty, the other a scrappy dreamer who made good—but there is much that unites them besides their birth month and year.
Neither of them seems to take herself too seriously, which is always refreshing in an icon, and they both have an impish sense of humor, have defied doubters, and have packed their lives with adventure, friendship, and pure boldness–and that’s something we always admire.
Candice Bergen, May 9th
Bergen started out as a model, almost too beautiful for words, appearing on the cover of Vogue in 1966. Her first foray into acting was in the 1967 film The Group. With a face made for the camera, she gained many more dramatic roles, starring opposite everyone from Steve McQueen to Sean Connery.
We’ll always think of Bergen’s humor before her beauty.
But Lorne Michaels, a friend, must have seen her comedic potential because he tapped her as the first woman to host Saturday Night Live. Of course, we now think of her mostly for her crackling way with humor as Murphy Brown, but for many a woman who was both beautiful and funny was a complete anomaly. As the titular newscaster (who infamously became a single mom), Bergen was nominated seven times for an Emmy Award and won five.
The reboot of Murphy Brown in 2018 didn’t pan out as she hoped, maybe because for many it was too painful to laugh at her favorite target, Donald Trump (whom Bergen had once dated). Since then, she’s had film roles, such as in 2018’s Book Club, that demonstrate she has retained her sense of humor, even about the realities of aging.
From all accounts, Bergen, who is now a grandmother, isn’t vain and doesn’t mourn the loss of the beauty she was so famous for. In fact, she seems to welcome it since it was hard for others to get past and was also a barrier to friendships with women.
“I’m an old person,” Bergen recently told Maureen Down in the New York Times, and Down reports she then stretched out her neck. “I have a wattle.” She added, “I would like to embrace being 74. I mean, my hair is white up here. My COVID color, turns out, is white. I probably will leave my wattle.”
So as we grow white hair (whether openly or not) and maybe our own wattles, we’ll always think of Bergen’s humor before her beauty. “For me, being funny is my joy,” she told Dowd. “Doing ‘Murphy’ was just such a gift for me.” A gift for all of us. Happy 75th Candice Bergen.
Cher, May 20
Before there was Lady Gaga, before there was Madonna, there was Cher. Thank God for that. Coming from a broken home where money was so tight she often had to use rubber bands to keep her shoes from falling apart, Cher was lifted to stardom by her distinctive contralto voice and beside her husband Sonny Bono. But in time, she revealed herself to be a singular (and solo) multi-talent. Besides being among the first one-named celebrities, she may have pioneered the slash-filled descriptive. She was a singer/actress/comedian/fashion-icon.
We of a certain age recall her high-jinks on The Sonny and Cher show and her over-the-top outfits at the Oscars and elsewhere, but then we watched her morph into a serious actress. After a Broadway turn in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Cher moved on to film, starting with Silkwood. You can do worse than to star opposite Meryl Streep in your first film.
Before there was Lady Gaga, before there was Madonna, there was Cher.
From there, she got to Moonstruck, in which this California girl put on a believable outer-borough New York accent. The movie, which also starred the always-superb Olympia Dukakis, was a hit, and now who can hear Dean Martin singing “That’s Amore,” without thinking of Cher walking through a city street contemplating her new love? Cher won a Best Actress Oscar for the role; not bad for someone with a handful of film roles to her credit.
The New York Times wrote that her Moonstruck role “offers further proof that Cher has evolved into the kind of larger-than-life movie star who’s worth watching whatever she does.”
She provided us with lots to watch, including more films, more glittery garb with a high WOW factor, and several musical comebacks. In January 2011, one of her songs from her movie Burlesque hit number one, making Cher the only artist to date to have a number-one single on a Billboard chart in six consecutive decades, from the 1960s to the 2010s. The title of the song? “You Haven’t Heard the Last of Me.” We so hope that’s true, Cher.