Georgia Holt, the singer, actor and mother of musician Cher, has died at the age of 96.
Cher announced the death on Twitter on Saturday, writing “mom is gone”. Cher’s spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg confirmed the news to the Washington Post on Sunday, but other details, including a cause or exact date of death, have not yet been revealed. Holt was admitted to a hospital with pneumonia in September.
Among famous names to share their condolences with Cher was former US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who wrote, “So sorry for your loss, my friend.”
Born Jackie Jean Crouch in 1926 in Arkansas, Holt was taught by her father to sing and play guitar. As a child she won several talent and beauty competitions and began acting in her 20s. Over her career she landed roles in shows including I Love Lucy and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and films including A Life of Her Own, and Grounds for Marriage.
Holt was married and divorced six times, including twice to her first husband, Cher’s father John Paul Sarkisian, who she married in 1946 but divorced in 1947, then later remarried in 1965 and divorced again in 1966. After their marriage collapsed the first time, Holt struggled as a single mother, and even briefly placed Cher in a Catholic orphanage while she worked to become financially independent.
Holt later married actor John Southall, with whom she had her second child, Georganne. In 1961, Holt married bank manager Gilbert Hartmann LaPiere, who legally adopted Cher and Georganne, changing their surnames to LaPiere.
Holt remained in a relationship with her last husband, Craig Spencer, from 1976 until her death. She met Spencer while running an antique shop, when he was 21 and she was 50. Due to their age difference, she thought he was interested in Georganne, who was his age. “Then I thought he wants to go with me because I am Cher’s mother, or maybe he thinks I have money. Of course, it turns out it was me,” she said in an interview.
Cher, 76, has often shared her admiration for her mother, even executive producing a documentary in 2013 titled Dear Mom, Love Cher, which explored their close relationship.
“Our mother was supporting us on her own – when someone says, ‘Oh your mother was married that many times?’ it was always the three of us … there were never really men in the house,” she said in Dear Mom, Love Cher.
Holt recorded a country album, Honky Tonk Woman, in the 1980s but the tapes were lost until 2013 when she found them in her garage and sent them to her musical director. The album was released that year and included a duet with Cher.
She is survived by her daughters, Cher and Georganne LaPiere; her partner, Spencer; and her grandchildren, Chaz Bono and P Exeter Blue I.