PALM SPRINGS - It was 1986 when two Chamber of Commerce officials came to Sonny Bono's Palm Springs restaurant and asked if he was interested in helping start a film festival.
"Actually, I'm way ahead of you. I've got some real good plans," he said.
Sonny Bono, the visionary, will be saluted tonight at the showcase event of the widely respected Palm Springs International Film Festival, now in its 19th year. (photo at left: Sonny Bono, Mary Bono and Tony Curtis, 1995)
But nobody could have imagined that this former studio hand to Phil Spector could have achieved so many of his dreams - from becoming a rock and TV star with Sonny & Cher to starting his own restaurant, founding a film festival, becoming mayor of Palm Springs and getting elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
"There's a different viewpoint about Sonny from the people who live here or have lived here than from people on the outside," Greenburg said.
Actor Dick Van Patten, who attended last year's festival gala, said the festival is famous now and "everybody's jumping on the bandwagon." But he said even Palm Springs people didn't think Bono could make his first film festival dream come true.
Van Patten, who will receive a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars Jan. 12, came to the initial film festival gala wearing a suit and a crown after the festival didn't have the clout to get its first honorees, including Frank Capra and Lucille Ball.
"He had a real argument to get them to do a film festival there," Van Patten said. "I used to play tennis with Sonny. He said, 'I'm trying to get a film festival in Palm Springs. They're all fighting against it.' But he said, 'If I do get it, would you like to be the king?'"
Times have changed. And at tonight's awards gala, Joe Wright, director of probable Oscar nominee, "Atonement," will receive the Sonny Bono Visionary Award. Bono will be saluted before the presentation of the Ensemble Performance Award to the cast of "Hairspray."
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