Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oh, Donny Boy!

Donny Osmond had an unfair advantage as a contestant on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars": he had way more experience beating the odds than those whippersnappers who were his fellow finalists.

Osmond, about to turn 52, came away with the garish trophy last night on "Dancing," beating out Kelly Osbourne and Mya, two women whose combined ages barely exceed his own.

I was thrilled for Osmond---while also being very proud of Osbourne, by the way, who really showed me something, and not just me. Who knew that Ozzy could have spawned something so vivacious?

It's not a generational thing, either (I'm 46). I wanted Osmond to win because he deserves all the mainstream recognition he can get, and then some.

Perhaps no entertainer in my lifetime has been stereotyped as badly as Donny Osmond. Or as tormented, both by others and by himself.

He's a man who sunk to the depths of his profession and was derided for it---often times unmercifully. And drugs weren't even involved. Not that they weren't considered.

In the mid-1980s, his career teetering on the brink of extinction---because that's what happens to teen idols---Osmond's "people" suggested a drug bust. No joke.

"They wanted to concoct some sort of phony drug arrest," Osmond once said on Larry King's show. The reasoning? Something that George Bernard Shaw once said.

"The only thing worse than being talked about, is NOT being talked about."

So a fake drug bust was considered---both to bring Osmond back into the public's consciousness, and to maybe make him "cool" to those who thought him to be too bubblegum.

But Osmond, a good Mormon kid with too much respect for his burgeoning family and for himself, said absolutely not. If we're going to play this hand in a winning fashion, we're going to play it straight, is what he basically said.

We have a funny habit in this country when it comes to our celebrities. We build them up and tear them down. And in no nook or cranny of the industry is this more prevalent than in the matter of kid stars who have the audacity to pursue their careers as adults.

The Cassidy boys couldn't manage it---David and Shaun. Neither could Leif Garrett. You can see what's happening to Lindsay Lohan, only I dare you to witness it without one eye closed. Dana Plato was reduced to making soft porn and living in a trailer.

Do I need to go on?

But Donny Osmond persevered and made it into his 30s without being arrested, blackballed, or a clerk at the 7-Eleven. He made it without going nuts. But it was close.

His family fortune was lost in some bad business deals while he was in his early 20s. I mean, totally gone. His TV show with sister Marie got canceled. The brothers weren't being booked for concerts anymore. He went solo and that eventually dried up pretty quick, too.

Washed up, almost, before his 30th birthday. Another cautionary tale. Another candidate for one of those "Whatever happened to?" specials.

That's when Donny's people suggested the phony drug arrest.

Maybe all that praying did some good, because suddenly Osmond hit it big with a song called "Soldier of Love," which rocketed up the charts, circa the late-1980s.

Donny Osmond was a paradox, because he was selling records again but his reputation still stunk.

Not among the ladies, of course, but by the sniping, vicious media folks who looked at him and saw not a comeback story but an annoyance they thought had died off.

What's he doing back? Doesn't he know that once the heartthrob reaches legal drinking age, he's finished?

I don't know who said it, but he ought to be ashamed of himself.

"The saddest day in music history," the bile-filled person sneered, "was the day Donny Osmond was born."

I only know that someone said that because I heard it---from Donny Osmond.

He related the horrifying quote during an interview---maybe it was also with King---and he choked up when he said it. Wouldn't you?

I don't know what it was about Donny Osmond that got so many people angry at him. I don't know why so many wanted him to fail again and go away, this time for good. I don't know how someone who never cheated on his wife, who never embarrassed his profession, who never sniped at anyone else, who never ran afoul of the law, riled so many people up.

Thank goodness for the ones who stood by him. Read: the ladies.

Never underestimate the power of the female entertainment fan, my friend.



Donny Osmond's fan base was, and always will be, an estrogen-laced one. His concert venues don't even need the men's room to be unlocked.

The women didn't care what the predominantly male critics were saying about their Donny. They just plowed forward, buying his albums and filling his concert halls.

Maybe it's the name, Donny. Maybe that sounds too juvenile for a 50+ year-old man. Perhaps he should have changed it to Don. Like Ricky-turned-Rick Schroeder.

Too late now, of course.

He did some Broadway, and did it very well, as part of his career recovery. He played the title character in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," his signature stage role---for years.

Yet he did it under the radar, so to speak. The women were always there, of course, and that only made him more in the background. Performers whose fan base is so heavily weighted toward one gender over the other never quite get that mainstream credibility.

To many, he was still just an adolescent entertainer who was getting old, adored by once-adolescent girls who were also aging. Nothing more than that.

Well, while the men ignored him and scoffed at him, Donny Osmond simply became one of the finest entertainers the baby boomer age has ever seen.

It was proven, once again, by his 10-week turn on "Dancing."

Donny won the contest because he deserved to win it. End of story. Any other outcome would have been robbery of the highest order.

It really wasn't fair, in the end. Osmond outperformed his competition because he's been entertaining since he was in kindergarten. He and his sis played Vegas for quite a long run and you don't do that if you don't know how to give the people what they want.

Donny gave the people---and the judges---what they wanted and he did it more consistently than all the others competing. Because that's what he's always done. Mya and Kelly were terrific, no question. But Donny was better---and he's old enough to be both of their fathers.

My wife, certainly biased but speaking objectively this time, stated it plainly.

Donny ended up being the most talented of all the Osmond brood, she said.

I agree, and that's saying something, because if you placed the Osmond clan in Rhode Island, they'd threaten to nudge the population into Connecticut.

Donny Osmond, more than any of the kid entertainers of his time, made something of himself. He's had to do it, in fact, a few times.

So did Kelly Osbourne and Mya really have a chance, after all?

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