Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Singer Pat Boone Tells All in New Book

Singer Pat Boone Tells All in New Book

Pat Boone calls it his museum. The walls of his office are covered with paintings and photos of the singer in his prime, as well as covers of his albums, which sold in the millions more than Elvis.

There's a bronzed bust of the singer as a young man, a bronzed pair of his signature white buck shoes and a box containing a worn catcher's mask sent after Boone was seriously injured while bicycling. An accompanying note reads: "Dummy. Next time use this. I love you. Francis Albert" as in Sinatra.

Despite his wall to wall memorabilia, Pat Boone doesn't live in the past. He just returned from Arizona where he gave concerts for retirees. Last year, he recorded five new albums, which he released under his own record label. He and his wife, Shirley, remain active in church work.

And, he's also promoting a new book, "Pat Boone's America 50 Years."

It's one of those volumes called coffee-table books large-size, 156 pages jammed with 200 photos and an autobiography as well as some comments about his causes, including anti-abortion.

"The book is part of a trilogy," Boone said. "When I was 21-22, I was getting 5,000 letters a week from young people. Many asked for advice that they couldn't get from other sources. I wanted to write a book that would answer those letters." He called it "Twixt 12 and 20."

Years later, he wrote "My New Song," which told of his spiritual journey.

"I got on my soapbox," he said of the new book. "It seemed to me that it was an opportunity to say to my fellow citizens that America has become something different to the world."

His dark hair slightly tinged with gray, Boone is a rugged 72, thanks to daily workouts and sensible diet. In an interview, he talked about his movie career and why it came to a halt.

Boone's fame with records, concerts and TV in the mid-1960s prompted 20th Century Fox to sign him to a movie contract. He starred in musicals and dramas such as "April Love," "Mardi Gras," "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "State Fair."

Then the studio offered him a role opposite Marilyn Monroe in a film based on William Inge's play "Celebration."

"Believe me, I would have loved to play opposite Marilyn Monroe," Boone said. "I went to the studio boss, Buddy Adler, and said, 'I've got a lot of teenage fans, and they would be upset if I played a person who has an affair with an older woman. I can't do that.'"

He turned down other edgy roles, too a minister leading a double life, a killer, drunk, a pervert. Word got around and the scripts stopped coming, but Boone kept busy with concerts, records and other pursuits.

The Boone saga seems ideal: marrying at 19 to his high school sweetheart; father of four daughters by 23; graduating magna cum laude from college while selling millions of records; TV and movie star.

"We raised a family in Hollywood, which is quite a feat," he said. "And we got four daughters married to good guys."

The only serious rift between the Boones came in his mid-career. He writes of being "so busy as the All-American boy, trying to charm the socks off everyone, living up to my self-image." He felt it was his wife's duty to keep everything else under control.

"I picked the kids up at school, helped with their homework and tucked them into bed at night," Boone said. "I thought I was being a real good daddy. But she pointed out that I was gone half the time."

He acknowledged that he sometimes spent a month in Japan, where he had a big following. On one occasion, he spent two months in South Africa, Germany and Scandinavia.

Plagued with ill health and distraught by her husband's absences, Shirley Boone one night prayed for help. She had a spiritual experience which she wrote about in a book, "One Woman's Liberation." The family was healed, and the daughters joined their parents in a performing tour of Japan, accompanied by members of the Osmond family.

"We were a family act for seven years," Boone said. He added wryly, "It was not the expedient thing for a pop singer to bring his wife and his kids onstage."

With the daughters moving on to their own lives, Boone renewed his single career, which continues in his 70s. To preserve his voice, he has been taking vocal lessons from an operatic coach for several years. "I had gotten into some bad vocal habits," he explained.

"Pat Boone's America" has already won one good review_ from Shirley Boone, the daughter of country singer Clyde (Red) Foley. "Pat did a good job of writing about his life," she said.

Throughout his career, Boone has managed to maintain his wholesome persona with one glaring exception.

In 1997, he recorded an album of hard-driving rock songs. Dick Clark, who was producing an American Music Awards TV special, asked if Boone would appear on the show as a heavy-metal rocker. Boone agreed, figuring the appearance would help sales of his album.

He went all-out leather jacket and pants, black boots, dark glasses and paste-on tattoos on his arms and chest. He roamed the stage like an angry rebel. His appearance caused headlines and photos around the world and consternation from his fans and conservative supporters. He reveled in the furor_ until his weekly show was canceled by a Christian cable network.

Now Boone chooses his singing dates more carefully, appearing primarily at fairs, performing arts centers and an occasional convention. He has promised his wife that he'll start cutting back, but he's unlikely to quit completely.

"I have never wanted to just fade away," he said. "I never wanted people to say, 'Whatever happened to that fellow Pat Boone?'"


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