Cher’s parents, Georgia Holt and John Sarkisian, had a short and tumultuous relationship that ended in divorce. According to a 1978 interview with People, Holt met truck driver Sarkisian as a teenager while she was working in a Fresno, California, donut shop. Wooed by Sarkisian’s charm and good looks, Holt was immediately smitten by the older man. The couple were soon wed in a quickie ceremony in Reno, Nevada. “Johnny was very charming and could talk you into anything,” Holt explained.
However, Holt immediately regretted her new nuptials. “I left him the day after,” Holt remembers. “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.” The couple divorced when Cher was just ten months old. Cher would know little of her father until Holt briefly reconciled with Sarkisian when she was 11. Cher’s relationship with her father, a struggling gambler and drug addict, was at times volatile, and they rarely spoke. Nevertheless, Cher took from her troubled father a deep love and respect for her Armenian heritage.
The man whom Cher would consider her real father was Holt’s third husband, actor John Southall. Southall, father of Cher’s half-sister Georgeanne LaPierre, was wed to Holt for five years, during which the couple fought violently and frequently separated. Holt and Southall divorced when Cher was nine.