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Donny Osmond – yes, the Donny Osmond – is staring at me in polite bewilderment. Still, he is the good sport we all recognise from The Donny and Marie Show, with his boom-tish! He sings to me, he emotes, he remembers my first name and uses it, a lot, to demonstrate his sincerity. “When I was little, my sister would make me cry by telling me that she was going to cut off all my hair and make me marry Wayne Osmond,” I tell him, misting over with bittersweet nostalgia. “Because Wayne hasn’t got any hair now either.” At another point I find myself (because it’s all about me, remember? Perhaps you should look down the side of the sofa for it? And so, while I rootle around the cushions, it offers the ideal opportunity for a quick recap of Osmondmania.His arm is outstretched mid-air, his big brown Bambi eyes wide with alarm. ” I cry, raising a palm at him, my eyes firmly trained on my phone. “You know, Judith, there was a time when it wasn’t cool to say you liked Donny Osmond,” he says, mournfully. I did have Botox once but I hated the way it froze my forehead, I also use a product called Protandim, which slows the ageing process and is so amazing I actually contacted the company and asked if I could endorse it.” Hmm. ) dolefully observing that, despite my best efforts, I’ve lost my dignity. The Osmonds, Mormons from Salt Lake City, where Donny still lives, burst on to the British music scene in 1971. Tanned and compact, he is soulful and charming and yes, ladies, he smells lovely. “Donny, I know you are a happily married man and a devout Mormon, but will you still flirt with me? ” he cries, and pats the sofa next to him, possibly to indicate that I am to sit beside, rather than on, him. Even when I suggest he ditch the blonde PR woman-cum-minder in the corner (who is probably an Israeli-trained human killing machine), and slope off to the bar with me for a naughty Diet Coke (Mormons don’t do stimulants), he laughs and agrees, although – and this only occurs to me much later – he somehow never quite gets around to grabbing his coat. With the journalistic equivalent of Tourette’s, shouting out random non sequiturs. remind them that I swore one day, one day I would be hanging with Donny Osmond in his hotel room. But today he is all twinkly and every bit as handsome as he looked in my sisters’ copies of Jackie 35-odd years ago. And although he’s here to talk about his forthcoming UK concert with his sister Marie, he generously lets me have my moment. He is solicitous to a fault; and how do I repay him? At least it’s mock these days; there was a time when he suffered something of humour bypass about the whole Puppy Love thing and comments about his megawhite teeth, which, incidentally, don’t look in the least bit astonishing now that every X Factor wannabe has them. He understands that I am a woman of a certain age meeting my childhood heart-throb, so today isn’t about him, it’s about me. I turn and, despite having promised myself I would be cool and nonchalant, I am so overcome by the sight of the first dreamboat I ever loved that I burst into a snatch of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which he famously aced on stage and in film. Then when it was a hit, and people found out that the Mystery Artist was me, they were all calling the radio station claiming they’d always been there for me. Donny’s diatribe, let it be stated for the record, is delivered in tones of mock outrage. I spent years trying to establish myself as an artist in my own right – and when I finally released a record, Michael Jackson said my name was so toxic I should do it anonymously, so I did. Although coming from Michael Jackson, of all people, I have to say “toxic” is a bit harsh.“My wife had a picture of me on her bedroom door, but it wasn’t on the front of the door, where everyone could see it. I don’t want to sound corny, but my wife Debbie is the perfect woman, she…” “Whatever, Donny. You look so fresh, it’s like you were vacuum-packed in 1980.” “Clean living! They were Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay and later Donny and Jimmy – Marie never sang with them but hit the charts at the tender age of 13 with Paper Roses, and duetted later with Donny.
“And do you know who was on the front of the door, Judith? “Yes, it was David Cassidy.” But she doesn’t still have David Cassidy’s picture up there? Mobbed by screaming fans wherever they played, they caught the teenybopper wave and rode it all the way up the beach, selling more than 100 million records. In 1976, “Donny & Marie” was launched, amid much fanfare.But with record sales diminishing, Osmondmania had run its course and by the end of the decade, it was all over.“That was tough,” which is mild-mannered Donny-speak for “nightmarish”.“I’d been performing since I was five, I didn’t know anything else.” Married aged 20, he went on to have five sons and will shortly welcome his sixth grandchild into the world.
Despite the domestic contentment, he desperately longed for the buzz of performing, but nobody would take him seriously, hence his 1989 Mystery Artist release.
Thereafter, the offers started rolling in; musical theatre, television presenting, an ongoing residency in Vegas with his sister, a Sin City setting that seems slightly at odds with his faith.