Georgia Holt is one of those fabulous women people should know about. Besides having given the world Cher, she's realizing a lifelong dream at 86.
Holt is the subject of "Dear Mom, Love Cher," a documentary on Lifetime airing Monday night at 10.
Poised to release her first album, which she always wanted to do, Holt is open -- sometimes too open for her daughter -- about her life in this sweet special.
Incidentally, Cher's husky, strong voice sounds a lot like her mom's. Holt had tapes from songs she recorded decades ago rotting away in a garage. Cher knew someone who could salvage the sound and create an album. When Cher spoke with Zap2it, she was nudging her mom to finish the liner notes.
The documentary includes footage of mother and daughter singing together and brief clips of Cher's performances. Mainly, though, it focuses on telling family stories. Cher marvels at how her mother never gave up.
"She has had this dream ever since she was teeny," Cher says. "My grandpa made her sing."
In the film, Holt talks about her reaction to "Paper Moon." "That was my life," she says, except her father tried to sell her talent instead of Bibles.
The film has Cher and her sister, Georganne LaPiere Bartylak, chatting with Holt on a couch in Cher's home. There's an intimacy here that comes from familial ease, as a mother and daughters tell stories they have told before.
Cher says it was not exactly as if the three were just talking because there were camera crews around.
As her mom starts telling stories on camera, Cher says, "I think we can walk that narrow razor of white trash for only so long."
On the phone, Cher explains what's evident in the film -- her mom does not censor her thoughts. Holt first asks if she can tell a story, but her daughters know she's going to anyway, regardless of whether it's embarrassing, such as when Cher was accused of stealing a car.
Cher explains: "I actually did not steal it because it was my friend's car," and he asked her to move it. She was with other friends, and they had waited for what seemed like a long time in a parking lot, and people behind them told them to move, so she drove across the street to a drive-in restaurant.
"Then the police showed up because he reported it stolen," she says.
That was straightened out, but more alarming could be that when Cher was 13, she was cruising down Hollywood Boulevard with her kid sister as a passenger.
"I knew how to drive at 11," Cher says. "I tried to run away on my tricycle. OK, it wasn't running away. At a certain age, I remember thinking, 'I have gotten as much out of my family as I can. I am going to move on.' "
She comes from a long line of independent women, as Holt's mother is also talked about. Holt's family left Kensett, Ark., when she a little girl and still known as Jackie Jean Crouch. She wound up in the slums of Los Angeles, where she was called "a dumb Okie."
Holt married young, and often -- six times -- and had Cher at 20. She did not want to stay married to Cher's father. Holt's mother was willing to take her back, but not with a baby in tow. Holt was at an abortion clinic when she decided she couldn't do it, and Cher was born May 20, 1946.
It was a very rough beginning, and when Holt was down to her last 20 cents, she put Cher in a Catholic home. Holt went to work in a diner. "The mother superior said I should just let her be adopted," Holt says on-air. "I was terrified."
Holt did retrieve her baby and got a divorce. While in Reno, establishing residency and waiting for the divorce, Holt won her first beauty contest.
All along, through husbands, homes and jobs, Holt just wanted to sing.
Photos of Holt through the years show a striking woman, always put together. She had movie-star glamour, even when she was living in pretty rotten conditions.
"It's a strange American story of coming from nothing and how they were able to survive," Cher says on camera.
Holt did some stints in show business and was hired regularly by Lucille Ball. She's one of the models in an "I Love Lucy" episode when the Ricardos and Mertzes are in Paris. Holt sashays by in a silly hat when Lucy and Ethel want haute couture. Holt also had guest spots on "Ozzie and Harriet" and lost the role in "The Asphalt Jungle" to Marilyn Monroe.
She still wanted to be a singer. And now, as the photos are being chosen for the album cover, Cher gives her advice on the liner notes.
"I told her to put down what is most meaningful," Cher says.
"And she said, 'Women should never give up; even people should never give up. It is never over. Never give up your dream.' "