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“Mom is gone,” Cher wrote.
A rep for the Oscar-winning singer-actress confirmed Holt’s death to The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday morning. No details of Holt’s death were immediately available.
Holt appeared briefly in such films as A Life of Her Own (1950), Grounds for Marriage (1951), Father’s Little Dividend (1951) and Artists and Models (1955) and on TV shows like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and, as a “Jacques Marcel” model, on I Love Lucy (in the hilarious 1956 episode “Lucy Gets a Paris Gown”).
Holt was offered a contract by Columbia Records, and, in 1980, recorded an album, Honky Tonk Woman, backed by members of Elvis Presley’s band. It included a duet with Cher, “I’m Just Your Yesterday”; covers of “Love Me Tender” and “Cryin’ Time”; and original tunes written by Holt.
“I know that a record company might want to sign me just because I’m Cher’s mother,” she told People magazine in 1978. “I’d like to have a career, but I’m not going to be a novelty or a flash in the pan. A lot of people say I can do it.”
However, the album was not released until spring 2013, shortly after the master tapes were rediscovered in Holt’s garage. Cher took the tapes to her musical director, Paul Mirkovich of The Voice, and “he went in and took it all apart and put all new music in it,” she told Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. “Basically, we just kept Mom’s voice and put everything else new on it.”
Also in 2013, mother and daughter appeared (with Cher’s half-sister, actress Georganne La Piere) in the Mother’s Day Lifetime documentary Dear Mom, Love Cher.
A year later, Holt appeared as a guest judge alongside her grandson Chaz Bono on Logo TV’s RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Holt was born Jackie Jean Crouch on June 9, 1926, in Kensett, Arkansas. Her mother was just 13 at the time and her father, a baker and an alcoholic, wasn’t much older.
“When I was little I was a singer,” she said in a 2013 interview. “When I was 7, my father used to put me up on top of the old-fashioned bars. They used to have sawdust on the floor and spittoons. It was during the Depression. We had no money and no food — well, we got beans, but that was it.”
She performed with bandleader Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys at age 10 and then hitchhiked to California with her dad and her brother. She once said that she had attended 17 different junior high schools growing up.
While working in a doughnut shop in Fresno, California, she met truck driver John Sarkisian, and soon they were off to Reno, Nevada, to be married.
“I left him the day after [the wedding],” she told People. “I knew I didn’t want to be married. But he told me to try it for three months, and if I didn’t like it, then I could walk out. Well, before three months was out, I was pregnant with Cher.”
Cherilyn Sarkisian was born on May 20, 1946, in El Centro, California, and spent some time in a Catholic orphanage, where nuns urged her mother to give up her baby for adoption, but Holt wouldn’t do it.
Holt won several singing and beauty competitions and worked as a model as she made her way to Hollywood. She said that she was given a part in John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle (1950), but her agent called to say she was being replaced by Marilyn Monroe.
Holt was married three times by the time she was 21. Her husbands were Sarkisian, John Southall, Joseph Harper Collins, Chris Alcaide, banker Gilbert La Pierre (who adopted Cher and Georganne), Sarkisian again and Hamilton Holt.
She also had a recent and longtime relationship with former antiques dealer Craig Spencer.
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