We’ve unearthed some fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about the former teen heartthrob.
When Donny Osmond famously sat on singer Andy Williams’ lap in 1963, few could have predicted the longevity of his fame. Now, as he prepares to headline another show alongside his sister, Marie, for the 10th time at The Flamingo in Las Vegas, he doesn’t appear to be planning his retirement anytime soon.
In honour of the teen idol’s lengthy career, we take a look at six lesser-known facts about his 50-plus years in show business.
1. His father was “suspicious” of rock ‘n’ roll music Donny Osmond got his big break at the age of five when he joined his older brothers on The Andy Williams Show in 1963. After performing countless musical numbers on the popular variety show throughout the ’60s, the Osmond Brothers began touring the world as a five-member group, selling more than 80 million records in the span of 12 months. As the boys got older, they fought to break free from their variety show image and go rock ‘n’ roll. Their father George, a devout Mormon, was “suspicious” of rock music but finally came around when his sons performed as a pop band instead.
2. Donny was a cartoon…twice! Osmond made his first appearance as an animated character in The Osmonds, which aired for only one season in 1972. Anyone remember that?
Decades later, Osmond returned in cartoon form in two episodes of Johnny Bravo, a series based on the misadventures of an egotistical blonde deluded by his own overpowering masculinity. In the episode, shown above, Osmond turns on the charm and lands a job as Bravo’s nanny.
3. Donny was big on Broadway after a rocky start When Osmond’s fame as a teen idol ultimately faded, the singer became preoccupied with revamping his image.
In hopes of becoming what he called a “sophisticated entertainer”, he won the lead role in the Broadway production, Little Johnny Jones, replacing another former teen idol—David Cassidy. “I want to be accepted by my peers,” Osmond told People ahead of the show’s opening in 1982.
Although the show only lasted one performance, that brief introduction to live theatre would pay off years later. In the early 1990s, Osmond landed the coveted lead role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and appeared in more than 2,000 performances.
His next significant Broadway run came in 2006 when he played the arrogant brute, Gaston, in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which earned rave reviews.
4. He went to extreme measures to revamp his image After his first failed attempt at Broadway success in the 1982 clunker, Little Johnny Jones, Osmond sought professional guidance to help revamp his wholesome “puppy love” image.
Enlisting the services of entertainment guru Steven Machat and British singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel, Osmond attempted a major comeback as contemporary pop artist. In addition to creating a new sound, the former teen heartthrob went for an entirely different look. The 1989 self-titled album cover featured Osmond in a leather jacket, gazing pensively away from the camera, completely devoid of his signature smile.
However, shedding his squeaky-clean, boy-next-door image, required more than just smoke and mirrors. During promotion of the album’s single, “Soldier of Love,” Osmond went to extreme measures to prove he was a new man.
“This guy at a radio station in Florida refused to play the record,” Osmond told the Orange County Register. “I called him and asked why. He said, ‘Because you’re a wimp!’ So I gave him as good as I got and we agreed to an arm wrestle. If I won, he’d have to play it.”
Guess who won the arm wrestle? “Soldier of Love” ultimately climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
5. Donny didn’t actually get much “Puppy Love” Despite the adoration of young female fans, Osmond found it difficult to bond with other boys his age during his teen years.
“I was never considered cool throughout my teens: a very important time to be accepted by someone, especially your peers,” Osmond told the Guardian. “Yes, I had all the screaming women, but the guys hated my guts.”
Due to his pristine public image and, likely, jealousy, Osmond frequently became a target of bullying.
“The guys started throwing dirt clods at [me] and calling [me] all kinds of names—just because I was Donny Osmond,” he told the Guardian. “They started teasing [future wife] Debbie when I began dating her: they put this cassette machine in a garbage can and it started playing “Puppy Love” as she walked by. Those kinds of things have a tendency to wear on you in your own personal psyche.”
Those haunting memories associated with “Puppy Love” would later prevent Osmond from singing the hit for more than 20 years, before he finally reclaimed the song in a 2001 performance with Vanessa Williams.
“Maybe I am a little bit guilty of trying to convince myself that I am cool…even today. But I am so much more healthy than I used to be in my twenties,” he told the Guardian following the performance with Williams. “Just the mere fact that I did “Puppy Love” today—it was my idea—was kind of like a reinforcement within myself saying, ‘You know what, it’s OK now.'”
6. Donny’s second passion, after music, is home decor On top of headlining at the Flamingo in Las Vegas recently, Osmond runs a successful home decor business called Donny Osmond Home with his wife, Debbie.
The pair aim for a transitional aesthetic, which Osmond describes in terms that would sound familiar to anyone who grew up watching him on television. “It ties just a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll,” he writes on the company’s website. “It is a city look and the country look. The city being a little bit more high gloss, high sheen, the country look being a little bit more rustic.”