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Posted 09 Apr 2001   For week ended March 30, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 02Apr01

By Paul Carter

'The World's Coolest Mormon'

OREM, UTAH -- Now in his mid 40s, Donny Osmond is re-energizing an entertainment career that has spanned almost four decades. His career, as well as his current family life, are reviewed in an article by Tim Cooper, a reporter for the Manchester UK Guardian in that newspaper's March 25th edition.

Early in the article, reporter Cooper refers to Donny as "the world's coolest Mormon" and highlights some of the recent show biz successes of the 7th of the nine Osmond siblings. In addition, the article offers quotations from a candid Donny about the challenges of Osmond family celebrity, many of which were revealed earlier this year in a television documentary about The Osmonds. Mr. Cooper's article brings its readers up to date on the life of Donny and Debbie, his wife of 23 years, and their 5 sons.

At this stage of his career, Donny is having a lot of fun with his audiences, which often are largely comprised of women now in their 40s, some of whom bring their children to the performance. Donny was recently in England for the making of a television special for United Kingdom audiences. The show was made to present some of his new musical works. The newspaper reporter, Mr. Cooper, reports on the venue--the Hammerstein Ballroom--and on the interaction between star and fans that night:

"It's a low-key affair: the only people outside are the ones catching a last puff of a cigarette before entering the Mormon-friendly venue, where there is a ban on both alcohol and tobacco. Inside, it's full of fans. They scream when he walks on in a black-satin shirt and black slacks, looking more or less the same as he did back in the old days. His teeth, he won't thank me for reporting, still gleam flawlessly.

"The audience, which includes a large number of women with small children, screams in excitement. 'I love you, Donny!' shouts a woman in a box. 'I love you too, baby!' quips Donny. 'Don't jump!' How we chuckle!"

The performance that night ends with Vanessa Williams joining Donny on stage for a surprise rendition of "Puppy Love", Donny's signature 70s pop song which it turns out he has not sung in the previous almost 20 years.

A few weeks later, Donny is in London, and Mr. Cooper continues his article with the report of another performance where, "for a media and music-industry showcase, he (Donny) sings 'Puppy Love' again. The front of the stage is thronged by women in their early forties. These are the girls who once thronged the Heathrow balcony for a glimpse of their idol. When he sings 'Puppy Love', a couple of them throw knickers at the stage, and when Donny leaves the show he is mobbed by a gang of almost 100 women outside the door. It's just like the old days.

"'It was amazing to see all those people,' he says back at his hotel over a pot of herbal tea. 'It wasn't like the past until I went outside. You know, it's funny: the people around me now, the security people - even my manager - have no idea what I went through. They were saying: "This is unbelievable." I said: "This is nothing." Then they turned to me and said: "Shall we go to the car real fast?" And I said: "No, let me enjoy it!"' Donny emits a high-pitched cackle of mirth and starts slapping me jovially on the knee to help me share the joke."

For the article, Mr. Cooper interviews Donny on a number of occasions in both England and New York City. The reporter also refers to excerpts of a recent autobiography of Donny. The early successes of the four older performing Osmond Brothers are mentioned, from 1962 when Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay performed at Disneyland to the years they were regulars on the Andy Williams Show. Donny joined them there at age six and his life became a whirlwind of performances for the next 14 years until his marriage to his wife Debbie. His career has continued off and on, with highlights including six years on Broadway with "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "The Donny and Marie Show" afternoon talk show co-hosted with sister Marie, and Donny and Marie co-hosting the Miss America pageant

Mr. Cooper invites and receives very candid comments about Donny's growing up in a family with a strict father: " father is not perfect but he did the best he could. He was very strict and all that, but you have to remember that he was an army sergeant who was raised by an abusive stepfather and he was kicked out of the house when he was in his teens. When you look at his background, the man is a hero. Especially keeping nine children together in the world of show business. He really did it right, in my opinion. He disciplined us the best way he possibly could."

Regarding that world of show business and Donny's time in its spotlight, Mr. Cooper comments, "Donny Osmond could have any girl he wanted - except he didn't. For he was not only too young, he was also a devout Mormon who did not drink - no alcohol or caffeine - or smoke or take drugs or swear or have sex before marriage. What on earth was the point of him being a pop superstar?"

That last question is asked rhetorically in the article, but Mr. Cooper presses his review of Donny's LDS upbringing and his commitment to its principles with questions about his relationship with his wife and their 5 sons. Donny, writes Mr. Cooper, "and his wife have tried to give them (the 5 boys) the thing he missed: a childhood. None of them is in show business. He hopes they will all maintain the Mormon way of life, with its rigorous rules.

"Donny was married at 20, and his wife Debbie remains his only lover. I ask him whether he would like his sons to be like him. "'I was a virgin when I got married and I would hope that my children, based on my beliefs and what I have taught them, would follow suit,' he says."

Mr. Cooper stays on the point in the article and Donny responds to a hypothetical question as to how he, Donny, would react "if any of his children opted for the sex and drugs and Coca-Cola lifestyle he shuns." Donny replies, "They would know my disappointment, but they would know it is an open door. I am not going to condemn anybody. That's where religion gets a bad name, when people get holier than thou. We are all human. If my children make a mistake, I want them to know it is all right and they should try harder next time."

In fact, this article from Manchester England comments that Donny's second oldest son Jeremy left home for four years and turned his back on all the principles that his father stands for in the eyes of the English reporter. Donny feels some responsibility for his son's rebellion, commenting, "I think a lot of the rebellion came from the fact that he was my son - you know, this whole Osmond thing. He couldn't stand the whole Osmond image. When you are forced to be a certain thing, that's why you want to rebel.

"'Jeremy and I didn't communicate for four years. But in the end he realized: 'You know what, I don't need to do this.' He came back. And now he is serving a mission in Italy."

The reporter is genuinely impressed with Donny, writing, "...he retains an innocent optimism that shines through everything he says. He answers everything with a sometimes alarming honesty. He's a very nice man."

Regarding that idea of "cool", though, that Mr. Cooper uses at the beginning of the article, Donny offers some thoughts with that "alarming honesty" his interviewer noted.

"Put my shoes on for a second. I was never considered cool throughout my teens: a very important time to be accepted by someone, especially your peers. Yes, I had all the screaming women, but the guys hated my guts.

"Maybe I am a little bit guilty of trying to convince myself that I am cool to this point - even today. But I am so much more healthy than I used to be in my twenties, because I was not accepted at all. Just the mere fact that I did "Puppy Love" today - it was my idea - was kinda like a reinforcement within myself saying, "You know what, it's OK now."'

Mr. Cooper's opinion of this?

"Despite his successful career and happy family life, Donny still seems to be unduly concerned with what other people think of him. Perhaps it's the legacy of those child-star days; perhaps he wants his childhood back. At least he hasn't tried to recreate it like his contemporary Michael Jackson."

Mr. Cooper continues his questions: "I ask him if he still wants to be cool, and he goes silent for 10 whole seconds before he replies with typical honesty. 'I guess so.'"

Donny reveals, "I'd be lying if I said to you: 'No, I don't care.' I'm comfortable in myself, but does that make me cool in everybody else's eyes? I don't care. I'm going to be true to what I want to do, because if I care what people think about me, I'm a puppet. Which I have been in my life. And you can't live life that way, man!

"I think it's about being yourself," Donny continues. "I think that one day, if I've made it, and I have every intention of making it - in the sense that I want to still be married when I leave this planet - I want to have grandkids, I want them to love me. I want to be a cool grandpa."


Big brother
Manchester UK Guardian (Observer) 25Mar01 A2
By Tim Cooper: Observer


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