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Actress and singer Georgia Holt had small parts in the movies and on television, but she is best known as the mother of pop superstar Cher and actress Georganne LaPiere, as well as being the grandmother of musician Elijah Blue Allman and LGBT rights advocate Chaz Bono.
Georgia Holt was born Jackie Jean Crouch on June 9, 1926, in Kensett (White County). She was born in poverty; her father, the teenage Roy Malloy Crouch, was a baker, and her mother, Lynda Inez Gulley, was reportedly thirteen years old at the time she gave birth. Crouch would later have a younger brother, Mickey. Her father taught her how to sing and play guitar during her early childhood. After her parents separated, Crouch moved back and forth between them, estimating that she attended seventeen different schools. When she was ten, she and her brother moved westward with their father, hitchhiking from town to town as he looked for work. Her father encouraged her singing, stopping at bars along the way, where she sang for nickels and dimes.
The three settled in a rundown one-room dwelling in Los Angeles, California. The teenaged Crouch worked in a donut shop. She married John Sarkisian in 1946; they divorced a year later, remarried in 1965, and divorced again in 1966. Sarkisian was the father of her daughter Cherilyn, born on May 20, 1946. Around this time, she changed her name to Georgia Pelham. After divorcing Sarkisian, she had several subsequent husbands: Chris Alcaide, John Southall (with whom she had daughter Georganne in 1951), Joseph Harper Collins, Gilbert LaPiere, and Hamilton Holt. Gilbert LaPiere legally adopted Cherilyn and Georganne, changing their last names to LaPiere.
Between marriages, she struggled to support her young daughters, often working as a model and a waitress while she tried to break into films, ultimately under the name Georgia Holt. She had several uncredited movie roles in 1950, the same year she lost a film role in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) to actress Marilyn Monroe. Holt played “First Girl” in Grounds for Marriage (1951), appeared in a small role as “Bride” on the television sitcom Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet (1955), and played a model in the episode “Lucy Gets a Paris Gown” on I Love Lucy in 1956. Holt also played a model in a 1966 episode of The Lucy Show called “Lucy and Pat Collins.” After participating in a singing workshop, Holt won appearances as a singer on TV’s Mike Douglas Show (1979) and The Merv Griffin Show (1978–1979).
Georgia Holt’s final marriage ended in 1969. Meanwhile, her daughter Cherilyn, billed as “Cher,” was becoming a success as an actress and singer. Holt appeared in a 1987 television documentary for the ABC Entertainment Group titled Superstars and Their Moms. In the acceptance speech after winning the Academy Award for Moonstruck in 1988, Holt’s daughter Cher said, “When I was little, my mother said, ‘I want you to be something.’” Asked for comment, Holt said it was something her father used to say to her as a child, adding, “I said I want you to be somebody because if you come from the life that I had come from, the goal is to be somebody.”
In 1999, Holt appeared in the VH1 Behind the Music documentary episode “Cher.” In 2011, Holt was featured in the Becoming Chaz TV series for World of Wonder Productions.
In 2013, Holt released an album called Honky Tonk Woman, originally recorded on tape in 1980. It includes a duet with Cher titled “I’m Just Your Yesterday.” Cher was executive producer of a 2013 documentary for the Lifetime network titled Dear Mom, Love Cher. That year, to promote both the album and documentary, the mother/daughter pair made the rounds on TV talk shows including Access Hollywood, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Entertainment Tonight, Good Morning America, CBS Sunday Morning, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, and 20/20.
In 2017, Cher dropped out of a Lifetime network TV-movie project highlighting the toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan. It was to be filmed on location, and Cher stated that she wished to remain in Los Angeles to be close to her mother, as the ninety-year-old Georgia Holt was in fragile health.
For additional information:
Cher. The First Time. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.
Holt, Georgia, with Phyllis Quinn and Sue Russell. Star Mothers—The Moms behind the Celebrities. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Markoutsas, Elaine. “Mother Wants Life to be Happy for Cher.” Chicago Tribune, February 15, 1976, pp. 1–4.
Garland County Historical Society
Last Updated 9/19/2017
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