So tell us Donny, how do you look just the same as you did in 1972
14:18 GMT, 22 November 2012
Late in the evening in Las Vegas and the audience spilling out of the theatre at the Flamingo hotel consists largely of women of a certain age — a giddy, cooing mass of hormone replacement and hairspray.
Yet the man who has been the object of their girlish excitement is already on his way to the gym. ‘I was working out at midnight after the show,’ chirrups Donny Osmond when I speak to him early the following morning.
Osmond fever: Donny and Marie on stage in Chicago last year
‘I’m in the gym all the time. And I’m careful what I eat. People used to make fun of the fact I didn’t smoke or drink, but I’m pretty grateful now at nearly 55 that I didn’t do any of that stuff.’
He still has the trademark toothy Osmond beam. So good does he look that it can’t, surely, be just down to blameless living, trips to the gym and his devout Mormon faith.
‘I tried Botox once. Never again,’ he tells me, shuddering at the memory. ‘It made my forehead freeze.’
Instead he puts his youthful look down to a product called Protandim, of which he just happens to be the ‘celebrity spokesman’.
Last week, Donny and his equally ageless sister Marie were in London to announce a string of UK shows in the New Year, including the capital’s O2 Arena.
Brother and sister: Donny and Marie in 1975
After years in the doldrums when he was reduced to singing for bored hotel guests after Osmondmania waned and bankruptcy loomed, Donny is big at the box-office once again.
As well as his upcoming UK tour with Marie, 53, Donny, who had teenage hits with Puppy Love and Too Young in the early Seventies, duets on two tracks on Susan Boyle’s new album, Standing Ovation, which came out on Monday this week.
Donny Osmond is said to be in talks with Simon Cowell about appearing as a judge on American X Factor
He is also said to be in talks with Simon Cowell about appearing as a judge on one of the X Factor guru’s roster of American shows.
He now flies from Vegas, where he has a five-year residency with Marie, in his own jet to the home he shares in his native Utah with his wife Debra. They married in 1978 when Donny was 20 and have five children.
Earlier this year the siblings launched their first Donny & Marie Cruise, which sees them entertaining fans on a liner from Florida to the Bahamas.
Their inaugural voyage in March ended with them collapsing in giggles on stage on the final night, only for Marie to have an, ahem, embarrassing mishap.
‘She lost it,’ explains Donny gleefully. ‘Then I lost it, and finally she just peed her pants!’
Classy. Yet few would begrudge them their success, given the pall of gloom that has enveloped their family.
It includes the suicide of one of Marie’s eight children, her claims that she was the victim of sexual abuse by a relative she refuses to name, Donny’s depression, plus ill-health among the nine Osmond siblings.
Some Hollywood liberals, including comedienne Roseanne Barr, turned on the family over their adherence to the Utah-based Mormon faith (shared by Presidential candidate Mitt Romney) that preaches against homosexuality and sex before marriage.
Barr even claimed that when Marie’s adopted son Michael — one of five children she took on during her stormy second marriage to music producer Brian Blosil — killed himself in March 2010, it was because his apparent homosexuality was at odds with his mother’s hard-line beliefs.
Singer Susan Boyle and Donny Osmond duet during the Donny & Marie variety show in Las Vegas earlier this year
At 18, fashion student Michael threw himself off the roof of his Los Angeles apartment building after writing a suicide note saying he wanted to end his ‘torment’. He had been in and out of rehab since the age of 16 with drink and drug addictions and was said by his mother to be suffering from depression.
Donny, too, has experienced his own dark moments. The fortune he and five of his brothers amassed as The Osmonds, thanks to hits such as Crazy Horses, was squandered in a series of bad business deals.
His career as a solo artist nosedived in the late Seventies and Eighties. He fell victim to social anxiety disorder which left him with terrifying panic attacks at the thought of going on stage.
'So good does he look that it can't, surely, be just down to blameless living, trips to the gym and his devout Mormon faith.'
His friend Michael Jackson told him his name had become so toxic, associated as it was with the family’s cleancut image, that he should use a pseudonym. His 1989 song Soldier Of Love, which became a minor comeback hit, was released under the name Mystery Artist.
It was enough, however, to persuade Andrew Lloyd Webber to cast him in the lead role of the Broadway version of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the early Nineties.
But with the career resurrection that followed have come accusations of hard-nosed business dealings a world away from his butter-wouldn’t-melt public persona.
Two years ago, the then-producer of Donny and Marie’s Vegas shows accused him of being ‘devious, fraudulent and greedy’ in a lawsuit.
Harold ‘Chip’ Lightman claimed that after reviving their careers, he was repaid by being told by Donny to accept a multi-million-dollar pay cut.
Donny and Marie had hits with Puppy Love and Too Young in the early Seventies
The writ further alleged that Donny wanted to use his ‘ill-gotten gains to fund his lavish lifestyle of exotic cars, luxury hotel suites and private jets’.
The singer also courts controversy with his continued support for the Mormon Church.
His website contains a section headed ‘My Beliefs’, in which he muses on his hardline stance that gays can only be accepted into his faith if they remain celibate, while ranting about the perils of ‘fornication’.
‘Yes, I have my standpoint,’ he tells me. ‘But I try to follow the life of Christ and he was very non-judgmental. It’s not my position to judge. It’s God’s position to judge.
‘The reason I do my column is because of popular demand. I used to get letters in droves asking: “How do you keep a tight family, and how do you stay married to the same woman for 35 years in showbusiness” ’ He has also landed in trouble over his criticism of the overtly sexual performances of Lady Gaga, Beyonce and other pop stars. ‘It can be a bad thing because you bombard a lot of this sexual stuff at a younger generation and they grow up way too fast,’ he says.
Donny and Marie’s uncompromising father, George, a strict Mormon and former army sergeant, ruthlessly obversaw their careers and groomed them for stardom.
He and his wife Olive’s first two children, sons, Virl and Tommy, were born deaf, and the sons who followed — Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay — began singing as a barbershop quartet to pay for hearing aids so their elder brothers could be Mormon missionaries.
But after George entered them in a singing competition at Disneyland in the late Fifties, they were spotted by the father of singer Andy Williams, who arranged for them to appear on his son’s show.
Before long, they were joined by six-year-old Donny and, later, youngest child Jimmy. Marie was also recruited as a teenager and had a massive hit in 1973 with Paper Roses, while she and Donny were given their own television show.
Donny and Marie are still performing together now
Record sales eventually dived and the TV show was cancelled in 1979. A black hole soon appeared in the family finances thanks to their father, who died in 2007, blowing mcu of their 40 million fortune on mismanaged business ventures.
‘It was a typical Hollywood story where you have advisers you trust, and then they squander the money,’ Donny tells me. ‘So we dug ourselves out of the hole and came back out the other side. If anything, it brought us together rather than tear us apart.’
The family has also suffered with health problems. Alan, 63, has multiple sclerosis and can no longer perform. Wayne, 61, received treatment for a brain tumour in 1997, while Merrill suffers from diabetes and heart disease.
Father of four Jimmy, 49, who had a huge solo hit with Long-Haired Lover From Liverpool, when he was nine, had a stroke in 2001 and was recently diagnosed with a hole in the heart.
When The Osmonds played a farewell tour of Britain earlier this year, only three of the original six brothers, Jay, Jimmy and Merrill took part.
Donny, however, goes from strength to strength. ‘It’s a lot of work to keep re-inventing yourself and coming up with new stuff, but that’s what it takes to be in showbusiness,’ he says.
‘I had a rough spot about being a goody-goody Mormon, and not drinking or smoking. But I’m kind of grateful I’ve got this image now. There are no skeletons in my closet. What you see is what you get.’