Pat Boone, a national treasure. Photo:
Pat Boone Interview:
Up Close and Very Personal
portion of the exclusive, deeply personal interview with the iconic
Pat Boone focuses on his career and family challenges, as well as his
future personal and professional plans. The following has been edited
for print purposes.
You spoke of your first kiss with Shirley so speaking
of kissing, what's the real story on the press you received about not
wanting to kiss Shirley Jones during the making of April Love?
Boone: I'd like to set the record straight and put in
the context of my life at that point. Everything was happening so fast
that Shirley and I were holding on for dear life. I was busy doing my
television show, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, making recordings
and films, doing concert tours, and having kids. We were still in church
every Sunday and Wednesday, if I was home, but it was a challenge to
combine the personal and the professional and I didn't want to rock
my marriage boat. So, I hadn't refused to kiss Shirley Jones for religious
reasons, I just wanted to stay married.
Shirley Jones and Pat Boone on the Ferris Wheel
scene from April Love. Photo: Pat Boone Enterprises
What actually happened on the set?
Boone: I was singing to Shirley Jones on the Ferris
Wheel and as the song ended, the director, Henry Levin, leaned over
and said, 'Take your time and gently kiss her.' I took Henry aside and
said that the kiss wasn't in the script. He said he knew that but it
was the right way to end the scene because our two characters were obviously
feeling something very strong for each other. I told him I had not talked
to my wife about kissing scenes and didn't know how she would react.
He said to give me time to talk to her, we would do the close-ups in
L.A., and that I didn't have to kiss my leading lady right then. Later,
I discussed it with my wife and she said that she knew if I were going
to be making movies, there would be kissing scenes, but that I should
try not to enjoy it too much. The fact is I've kissed a number of leading
ladies, including Ann Margaret, Barbara Eden, Debbie Reynolds, and Diane
Baker. It was such brouhaha that an actor refused to kiss his leading
lady that like today, I'm still asked about that incident.
The young Boone family:
Front Row: Laury, Debby, Lindy, Cherry; Back Row: Shirley, Pat.
Photo: Pat Boone Enterprises
At some point did you run into difficulty managing career
Boone: In the early days if I wasn't out on the road,
I was home and very involved with my family. Shirley wanted to settle
in one place and wanted me home at night for dinner. That's when we
moved to California and bought a house in Beverly Hills where we're
still living 50 years later. We kept it together beautifully, but after
four kids and travelling a lot, eventually my career commitments, which
one year kept me away for 50% of the time, did impact negatively on
my marriage. We had several rocky years where we were living like two
people in a boarding house, not as husband and wife. At one point, Shirley
had some physical difficulties that we didn't understand and she didn't
want to go to the doctor. That created an additional strain, which is
not an excuse, but it is a reason or a rationale. I never got drunk
or did drugs, but there are other kinds of temptations when you're on
the road. You know, I thought I had my legitimate gripes and she certainly
had hers and we didn't see them as reconcilable.
Boone in Akron, Ohio at the Soapbox Derby wearing
his signature white bucks. Photo: Pat Boone Enterprises
Was there one seminal moment that led you back to your
Boone: On our piano was a picture of Shirley when she
was about two or three with her mom and dad. Her dad was Red Foley,
the great country singer. She had her arms around his neck, with her
mom standing right behind them. That picture always touched me because
it's so sweet. One day, I was looking at it and it hit me that she is
still that little girl. Her dad's dead and I realized her arms were
supposed to be around me now, giving her strength and security, comfort,
and love. So that's what led to the recommitment to each other and to
God. We were holding hands again and prayed together as a family and
our four daughters, who were entering their teens, could see that something
wonderful happened and that they would not be in a divided family like
so many of their friends.
Did forgiveness come easily?
Boone: First of all, we loved each other deeply and
even though I hurt her, she forgave me. Also, we found out what her
physical problems were and did something about it. We've both written
about our challenges. I'm ashamed that I did not live up to all my vows,
but I've lived up to most of them. Although the things I needed to be
forgiven for were a lot more serious than hers, she had trouble feeling
forgiven, whereas I'm a happy-go-lucky guy and I know I've been forgiven
and that a new life began and we've been living it for the last 40 years.
Shirley's always afraid that somebody digging for dirt will come up
with something to smear my reputation and I tell her 'honey, I've already
written about it and there's nothing new to reveal.' Even if someone
came up with something, we've proven that we love each other and that
we're trying to live a moral life.
( (L-R) Cherry, Lindy, Debby & Laury) As teenagers,
they were relieved that they would not be brought up in a divided home.
Photo: Pat Boone Enterprises
What was your attitude when the girls started to date?
Boone: It's a big responsibility to raise four girls
and to try to get them married to good guys. I became a very protective
father and some would say overprotective. I knew no one is a perfect
parent and that you could be either overprotective or too lenient, so
I figured I'd rather be overprotective.
Can you give an example of how you were overprotective?
Boone: Debby was still living at home at 21 when her
record took off (You Light Up My Life) She had a date with Jimmy
Connors. I never met him and was talking to him at the front door. It
went like this:
Me: Where 'ya going?
Jimmy: We're going to a movie.
Me: Then what?
Jimmy: We might get a bite or something.
Me: Okay. Where do you plan to go? (Jimmy answers)
Me: Oh, I like that restaurant. Maybe I'll drop in on
'ya after the movie. You don't mind, right? And I guess you'll bring
her home around 11:00?
Jimmy: If that's what you want.
Me: Yeah, around 11:00, 11:15.
So they had their first and only date. Several years
later he married the Playmate of the Year. I bumped into them on the
way to a movie and he told Shirley that he only had one date with Debby
and never wanted another one. (laughs)
What was the most embarrassing moment of your career?
Boone: Dave Letterman was filling in for Johnny Carson
on the Tonight Show. I was going to sing my big hit, A Wonderful
Time Up There, a fast-moving Gospel song that was #1. (he sings
a few bars.) Because it was a big hit, I didn't put the words on the
teleprompter. The words go by really fast and the thought entered my
mind that it would be awful if I forgot the lyrics. Well, every performer
knows that if you let that thought enter your mind, you're going to
get messed up, and I did. I was singing the wrong words and finally
stopped. The band is still playing, the singers are still singing and
the producer, Freddy de Cordova, is signaling me to keep singing. I
knew they were taping the show and sending it to New York and that it
wouldn't be seen for a few hours so I thought we could start over. But,
he kept signaling me to continue so I tried to get back in, but got
lost again. It was in total shambles.
What was the audience's reaction?
Boone: The people are cheering, Letterman is standing,
I've made a total boob of myself, and the audience loves it. I stagger
over to the couch and as the applause begins to die down, Dave says:
"Now folks we have these auditions every Friday night, so if there's
a song you'd like to sing, come on down." (Alluding to Boone's
start on Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour)
Could you comment on the influence of some of the young
female singers on teenage girls?
Boone: I'm concerned about young performers like Lindsey
Lohan, Britney Spears, and Miley Cyrus, as well as the influence they
have on other girls. Don't forget, I'm the father of four girls and
15 grandchildren, 10 of whom are girls. When Madonna came along, she
did crazy sacrilegious things to shock and to keep her career going.
One clip I remember was her making love to a priest on top of a coffin.
It bothered me that parents were letting their eight-year-old little
girls dress like Madonna making them look like little hookers. Now Lady
Gaga is saying she's not bisexual, but asexual and doesn't want to have
sex at all as her creativity would escape through her vagina. She's
already created the image of a total wonton being and teenagers are
getting unhealthy role models.
Boone's latest album is entitled
"Near" - a collection of beautiful love songs. Photo:
Pat Boone Enterprises
Can you talk about your new CD?
Boone: The name of it is "Near" and I think
it's the best love song album I've done at this age. It includes some
of my favorites such as Nearness of You; Body & Soul; More Than
You Know; and Moonlight Becomes You. Because of the title and the purpose
of the album, I just wanted a close-up of my face. I worked with a husband-and-wife
team. He takes the shots and then she paints over the pictures, putting
in romantic backgrounds. She very kindly took out every wrinkle and
crease so I look like I've been Botoxed and I don't know if it even
looks like me. I think it looks more like my grandson. (laughs)
You're an American icon, a living legend who has had
a remarkable career. What's next for you?
Boone: I'm part of several start-up companies, one of
which has the franchise to import a car that runs on a cylinder of highly
compressed air and is being manufactured in India. The first shipment
will be coming in this month and we are providing free cars for testing
in nine cities, including Detroit, New York, L.A., Chicago, Boston,
Houston, Dallas, Colorado, and Philadelphia. As an energy source you
can't get a more abundant, free, environmentally perfect fuel than air
and I think this is a huge development for the future.
What else are you working on?
Boone: I'm involved with a meat company in Denver that's
going to produce Pat Boone's All American Meats. There's a big charity
component as we are patterning it after Paul Newman's Newman's Own that
has raised close to $300 million for his charities. I also have a few
more books to write, have two more albums in the works, and am helping
with the development of a few television series. I'm going to be 81
in five years and plan to use every brain cell and every ounce of energy.
Pat Boone in his office where he said, "Im
going to be 81 in five years and plan to use every brain cell and every
ounce of energy." Photo: Beverly Cohn
How does your wife feel about your unbridled energy?
Boone: Shirley says she feels like she's married to
triplets and wished two of them would get out.
It's been an absolute pleasure spending this time with
you and best of luck with all your projects.
Boone: I enjoyed this interview. Thank you.