Donny Osmond on Looking Back
Just a few hours before the curtain opens at the Flamingo Hotel’ s main stage in Las Vegas, Donny Osmond enters his dressing room, all smiles and enthusiasm. “ Wait, did I say you can use my dressing room?” he laughs while reaching out for a big, strong handshake. His sense of humour, charm and excitement are contagious.
“OK, so if you are now using my dressing room then it means that you are coming on stage with me tonight to perform... right? What tune shall we open up with my friend?” There could be only one answer: “ Puppy Love!” I exclaimed. The room filled with good-natured laughter. There are almost too many successes to count for the talented singer, actor and entertainer, who, for eight years, has been performing to packed houses at Las Vegas’ s iconic Flamingo Hotel with his sister, Marie. He’ s also recently launched a very successful furniture line. But even at 58, he still has the energetic charisma of a teen idol.
A multi-talented star
After more than 50 years of entertaining fans around the world, Osmond is a star in every sense. He began his career in childhood as a member of The Osmonds (also known as The Osmond Brothers), a band that included his elder brothers Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay. They were a global sensation.
By the early 1970s, Osmond went solo and became one of the biggest teen idols in music history. The hits he covered included Sweet and Innocent, Puppy Love, Go Away Little Girl and Hey Girl/I Knew You When.
While stardom was the norm in his life at an early age, he says he was just a regular kid who wanted to have fun. He recalls meeting Michael Jackson in Toronto in his early years when The Osmonds and the Jackson Five were playing back-to-back shows.
“I remember we all went back to the hotel and all Michael and I wanted to do was play with toys and be like little kids, and yet here we were huge teenyboppers at the time.”
Learning from the greats
The level of fame Osmond achieved meant he had enviable access to the biggest talent in the world and learned things about the art of performing that would never come from a classroom or textbook.
“It’s on-the-job training to learn comedy and timing from Lucille Ball, Milton Berle or Jerry Lewis” he says. “Jerry taught me how to do a pratfall, and you don’t learn that in a classroom. The presence of Andy Williams and Sinatra was like silk on stage, basically.”
Decades before folks like Justin Beiber or Miley Cyrus grappled with growing up in the spotlight, Donny Osmond was clearing a path, reinventing himself, and showing there was more depth to his talent and more possibilities beyond his status as a teen idol.
“My challenge was that I was the little kid who wore purple socks, I was the kid who sang Puppy Love and it drove me crazy because I was trying to get away from all that stuff. Then, at the end of the 1980s, Soldier of Love became my comeback. At that point in time, I embraced the Puppy Love and my purple socks and said to myself, ‘don’t try to run away from it, it was you.’”
Joseph and a new chapter
In 1992, Osmond continued the re-invention and showed off his live theatre chops playing Joseph in a widely celebrated production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre. The production went on to tour Canada and the U.S. throughout the 1990s. Legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber was so impressed with Osmond that he selected him to star in the film version.
“On opening night, I’m as nervous as could be, and all I remember is the curtain going up and at the end the curtain going down,” he recalls. “I was a little bold, but actually asked Andrew Lloyd Weber to come onto the stage with us. When he came on stage as we were taking a bow he said to me, ‘where have you been keeping that voice all these years?’”
In 2009, Osmond showed even more of his hidden talents, winning the ninth season of Dancing with the Stars and going on to appear as a guest judge on Strictly Come Dancing.
Donny & Marie
No story about Donny Osmond is complete without a nod to the incredible success he found as part of a duo with his sister, Marie. After early success with the Osmond Brothers and as a solo act, he went on to star with Marie in a self-titled variety TV series The Donny & Marie Show on ABC. The show aired from 1976-79 and fanned the duo’s international fame. The pair has a magical chemistry that was also on display while hosting the Donny & Marie Talk Show from 1998-2000 and now, nightly, in Las Vegas.
The residency in Vegas, which Osmond loves, is a natural fit for the consummate entertainer.
Viva Las Vegas
“I literally grew up here. I started performing here when I was seven. Shirley Bassey was starring and we were opening up for her and, of course, Andy Williams, Jerry Lewis, Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra—all these people we’ve worked with here in Vegas. I’ve really seen this city change and I love where it’s at right now. You can pretty much get any kind of entertainment. It is the entertainment capital of the world.”
“We started here on a six-week contract back in 2008,” says Osmond, referring to his current Flamingo residency. “We had no idea that we’d be here this long, and we just signed the ninth year!”
Donny Osmond Home by Donny and Debbie Osmond
Osmond’s success isn’t limited to the stage. He and his wife, Debbie, recently launched their new line of affordable, durable, stylish furniture called Donny Osmond Home. Osmond says their mission with the new venture is simple: “Make Home and Family No.1.”
“We’ve just exploded all over the country” says Osmond. “We didn’t sit down with a bunch of marketing experts and say, ‘let’s come up with a brand message,’ because home and family is No. 1 in my life. It’s organic. It’s not concocted and it’s not manufactured, and when we sit down and design something for the home, we keep that in mind.” The line includes a full selection of indoor furnishings, lighting, decor and accessories, and Osmond says an outdoor collection is next.
“We launched the big-box items, but in the back of my mind, I have to get outdoors as it’s my favourite room in the house.”
When the curtain closes
Osmond has always known the value of being grounded and says the most valuable asset everyone has is family.
“Elvis was the one who told me that you have to put your pants on one leg at a time; you’re just like everybody else. In fact, this is why I make a point to take out my own garbage, to mow my own lawn and to fix my own car,” he says.
“There are so many opportunities in entertainment. It’s exciting—the lights, the audience, the sound and that’s all the magic of show business. But I have learned the biggest mistake people make is that they forget the foundation of family. The curtain will close someday, no matter how talented you are. The only people who will be there for you at the end are your family. I tell everyone to never lose sight of that.”