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Cher Started Dating Warren Beatty at 16 After He Almost Hit Her With His Car

The movie star was 25 when he met the future music icon.

Before she was one half of Sonny & Cher, the artist born Cherilyn Sarkisian was an ordinary high school sophomore excited to get her driver's license. That license would lead to her first relationship with a famous man when a near fender bender resulted in the future star meeting actor Warren Beatty, nine years her senior. Cher and the Splendor in the Grass star embarked on a brief relationship after the chance meeting, though her parents were understandably not thrilled about it. Read on to find out what happened between them and how Cher looks back at their romance now.

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Cher and Beatty met in an unusual way.

Cher in 1964
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In the early '60s, Cher was living with her family outside Hollywood, full of ambition and ready for the life outside high school where she was sure fame awaited her, according to the 2001 biography Cher by Cheryl Napsha and Connie Berman. Within a year, she would drop out and start performing at clubs on the famed Sunset Strip—and according to a 2018 interview with Elle, that was precisely where she headed as soon as she got her driver's license. She was passing the Strip's famous celebrity hangout Schwab's Pharmacy when she said she was nearly run down by a man in a white Lincoln convertible. Shaken by the near-accident, she went off on the driver. "Are you nuts?" she said to him before recognizing the man who had almost made her wreck her stepfather's car. "Then I looked at his face, and I thought, my god, it's Warren Beatty."

She was 16, and he was 25.

Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood in 1962
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

At the time, Beatty was a 25-year-old heartthrob fresh from his big breakout opposite Natalie Wood, with whom he also had an off-screen romance, in 1961's Splendor in the Grass. Recounting the same night in her 1998 memoir The First Times, Cher recalled being charmed by the actor. Memories of the near-crash were quickly in the past as he apologized, bought her cigarettes, and invited her to get something to eat. "Warren was unbelievably handsome and funny," she wrote. "He had charm coming out of every pore, which is always a deadly combination."

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He wooed her with cheese, crackers, and soda.

Warren Beatty in 1962
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Although she had a midnight curfew, Cher recalled feeling that she basically owed it to the women in her life to take Beatty up on his offer. "I remembered how crazy my mother was about him, and also my best friend, Penny, so if I didn't go and get something to eat with him, would I in effect be cheating these women?," she wrote. As she contemplated this question, Beatty took the chance to change the invitation. "Do you want to go to my house and get something to eat there?" he asked, according to her. Cher followed him to his glamorous home, briefly wondering if Wood had also visited him there as she entered. She wrote that Beatty served up cheese, crackers, and a Coke as she braced herself for what she "knew was coming."

Only one of her parents was horrified.

Cher in 1965
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

According to Cher's book, it wasn't long before Beatty kissed her. Although she didn't spell out what happened next, she did write that Beatty kept her out until 2 a.m. that first night. The teen arrived back home to find her stepfather Gilbert Lapiere waiting up and "pissed," and the next day, Cher explained to her late mother Georgia Holt that she'd gone to dinner with the movie star, leaving out the rest of the story.

According to Elle, her parents forbade her from seeing Beatty again. But Holt changed her mind after Beatty himself called to convince her that everything would be fine. "I don't know exactly what he said, but I remember that she was very impressed," Cher recalled in The First Times. "He definitely charmed her." Gilbert was apparently less impressed. "I don't care who this guy is," he asked, per Cher. "What is he doing, going around with a 16-year-old girl?"

He wasn't concerned about her age.

Sonny Bono and Cher in 1965
David Redfern/Redferns

Cher admitted to her parents that she hadn't given the star her real age. When the fact of her being 16 was shared with Beatty in yet another conversation with her mother, he simply asked Cher if it was true. When she said it was, he told her it "didn't make any difference," according to her memoir.

They kept seeing each other ("We'd take showers and talk, and he'd tell me great stories about all the things he was doing, and he'd laugh at my stupid stories," she wrote.) until shortly before she met a 28-year-old assistant to producer Phil Spector named Sonny Bono that November. As for whether finding out her age ever changed anything for Beatty, Cher wrote in her memoir, "It actually seemed to make him like me more. (Duh—of course.)"

She later called Beatty "a disappointment."

Warren Beatty in 2020
Amanda Edwards/WireImage

Cher wrote that although she didn't love him, she thought of Beatty as "a famous, charming movie star that I'd hang out and have sex with." That lack of romantic connection made their time together "a disappointment," she told Playboy, as quoted in Suzanne Finstad's Warren Beatty: A Private Man from 2005. "Not that he wasn't technically good, or couldn't be good, but I didn't feel anything," the singer admitted to the magazine.

In 1990, she provided some unfortunate accounting for the liaison to Vanity Fair, saying, "Warren has probably been with everybody I know, and unfortunately I am one of them … but I had pretty low self-esteem, and I had never really been around men."

His affair with Cher would hardly be the last case of Beatty being linked to a teenager. Decades later, Rob Lowe would write about the time Beatty implied he was sleeping with Lowe's then-girlfriend Melissa Gilbert, who said in her own memoir that she was 17 when Beatty first approached her. In a 1991 interview in Rolling Stone, the late Carrie Fisher claimed that the actor approached her four times on the set of Shampoo, when she was 17, with an offer of relieving her of "the huge burden" of her virginity. And in November 2022, as reported by The New York Times, a woman filed a lawsuit accusing Beatty of sexually abusing and assaulting her when she was 14 and 15 and he was 35. The actor, now 86, did not address the allegation publicly, and there's been no update on the lawsuit since.

If you have experienced sexual assault or abuse and are in need of crisis support, you can call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or visit

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller is a pop culture writer living in New York. Read more
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