ABC News’ Cole Kazdin reports:
Cher is a legend, icon, singer, actress. For five decades, defying so many odds, she has sizzled and survived.
That staying power may come from her mother, 86-year-old Georgia Holt.
In the new Lifetime documentary, “Dear Mom, Love Cher,” the entertainer documents what life was like growing up for her and her younger sister, Georganne LaPiere Bartylak. They sat down with ABC News’ Cynthia McFadden to talk about their life together.
Holt was hardly a conventional mother, married eight times to six different men. Sometimes, even she has trouble remembering the order.
“My father insisted that you could not go to bed with a man unless you were married,” Holt told McFadden.
Holt took that advice to heart – but the marriages often didn’t last long, and she and her daughters were poor, sometimes dirt poor.
“We had really hard times,” recalled Cher, 66. “I remember feeling really ashamed of my clothes. … And the funny thing is, then she’d marry someone rich and we’d go from, like, poverty, literally to a mansion in Beverly Hills!”
Holt was a ravishing beauty. She came to Hollywood with dreams of becoming a singer, but ended up on the fringes, scoring small parts on big shows such as “I Love Lucy” and “Ozzie and Harriet.”
It was her daughter who hit it big. Asked what she thought as she heard her daughter sing when she was first starting out, Holt said, “I realized she was going to be a huge star.”
McFadden asked if it was painful to see her daughter get the success that she herself had dreamed of.
“No, no, no. I’m thrilled,” Holt said. “And I don’t think I would have been as good as she is … I don’t think I was equipped, strength-wise, to do it.”
Watching Cher, Holt saw that it wasn’t just about just singing. Cher spent years on tour, made many sacrifices, and said she often felt isolated and alone. Criticism from others, Cher said, was sometimes too much to bear.
“You have no idea how crushed I get,” Cher said. “It’s not like I don’t care and I come back. It’s like I am crushed and crushed and crushed. And I still come back.”
For her entire life, she said, she always felt like an outsider.
“I’m not exactly an actress. And I’m kind of a singer. And I’m a performer, but I have been to Vegas. I just fall into this kind of strange subgroup of my own,” she said.
Despite that, Cher has kept going, and she has a new solo album coming out in the fall – the 26th of her career.
Describing it, she said, laughing, “It’s about being fabulous!”
“I would say, truthfully, I’m not a huge Cher fan, and I’ve said this a million times, but I think this is probably the best album I’ve ever done.”
Cher also addressed reports that she and her son, Chaz, are taking a break from one another. She said the reports are not true, adding that their relationship is “great.”
Asked to name a few things she had learned from her mother, Cher said, “‘If it doesn’t matter in five years, it doesn’t matter. … And if you’re going to steal something, make sure you can go to jail for it!’”
Bartylak, 61, chimed in with another, “‘Don’t pay attention to aging and it will not pay attention to you.’”
“I’ve been saying that for years,” Holt said.
Cher has always told McFadden that there’s nothing good about getting older. McFadden put the same question about aging to Cher’s mother, who replied: “As long as I stay healthy I think it’s great. As long as-”
But her daughter cut her off. “Ah, bulls**t,” Cher said with a laugh.