BRANSON MISSOURI NEWS:
It’s Las Vegas in 1974 and a child is performing on stage dressed as Elvis.
Halfway through his number the 11-year-old rockstar’s dinner catches up with him and the front row of his audience are showered in regurgitated orange freeze pops and grilled cheese sandwiches.
His brothers picked him up and the little boy finished his musical number, only to spot the King himself watching from a lighting box.
That little boy was Jimmy Osmond and this tale is one of many he can recall from nearly half-a-century in the spotlight.
“I was mortified about it,” he says.
“Elvis and I shared a dressing room at the Las Vegas Hilton. So my parents thought it would be cute for me to do a number dressed as Elvis. The problem was that the food was free for performers, and I was a precocious kid ordering like it was going out of fashion.
“Elvis was great about it. He was so friendly. In the dressing room, I’d see his jumpsuits and try on his shoes.
“He’d say to me, ‘All right, little guy.’ We knew the stars as people who put their pants on one leg at a time. But those things will never leave me. They’re burnt into my memory.”
Jimmy’s 50th anniversary was what prompted his latest tour, Moon River and Me, a tribute to the man that started it all for him, Andy Williams.
“I began my performing career aged three singing with Andy Williams on his television series,” Jimmy says.
“My brothers were already on the show, so I started working with them when I was very young. I was the little guy who’d run on and be goofy. We ended up as regulars on the show and singing on records like Aquarius.
“In those early days, I was the novelty guy, like a mascot. I was the kid brother that everyone liked to slag off. I was the obnoxious boy in the corner. Even in our cartoon TV series, I was the bad apple. But after a lot of therapy, I’ve come to terms with it!”
Jimmy’s now celebrating his 50th year in show business and says it’s refreshing to spend a show talking about someone else.
“I love it. It’s not about me – it’s about Andy Williams and his music.
“I perform songs like Music To Watch Girls By, Happy Heart, Speak Softly Love and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and of course Moon River.”
The Williams’ family have allowed Jimmy to use clips of Andy featuring everyone from Dick Van Dyke to John Wayne and Bobby Darin.
“When I start singing, “You’re just too good to be true”, you’ll see it being performed by Andy on the video walls. And when I do Love Story, Andy sings it with me on the big screen. It brings back great memories for thousands of people,” Jimmy says.
But never fear, Jimy is also planning on singing some old Osmond hits.
“I do a section of Osmonds’ material – Love Me For a Reason, Crazy Horses and Let Me In,” he says.
“I also do a comedy section. During A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock’n’Roll, I put masks of Donny and Marie on people from the audience, so I can get back at my siblings!”
Joking aside, the Osmonds have a remarkably strong relationship for a group of siblings sharing the limelight for 50 years. What’s their secret?
“We were raised together, we learned to get over things very quickly,” Jimmy says.
“We still have scars, but we really love each other. We had great parents who loved each other and gave us a great code of life. We always put family first. Some people think we’re crazy, but I believe in that philosophy. How we treat each other really matters.”
Jimmy too looks remarkably well-balanced for a man who has achieve d a level of fame almost impossible to comprehend.
“After this many years in the business, we could have sat back and just celebrated what we’d done. But the way I was raised was always to look for improvements,” Jimmy says.
“My dad was an Army sergeant, and after every show, he made us examine what was wrong with it. We were all hard on ourselves.
“When Long Haired Lover From Liverpool was number one, I said to him, “Dad, isn’t that cool?” But he just gave me a broom and told me to clean the yard! But I’m very grateful for that.
“That approach saved us because it taught us not to believe our own hype. We could have gone off the rails, but that attitude helped us to keep our feet on the ground. We don’t put our gold records on the walls. It wasn’t ever about that. It wasn’t about accolades. It was about learning the craft.”
It’s not the only craft Jimmy’s mastered. Aside from being an accomplished caricaturist and published author he’s won even more British hearts thanks to his recent appearance on Celebrity Masterchef.
“I really loved being on that show and didn’t think I would get as far as I did,” Jimmy says.
“I was really surprised to get through to the final but loved every minute of it and learned so much. It was a fantastic experience and I made some really good friends.”
It’s the fulfillment of a childhood dream for Jimmy.
“I love cooking,” he says.
“When I was a little boy, Donny, Marie and I would travel together. They would pretend they had a hotel called Donmarie. The only way I could play along was by opening Jimmy’s Restaurant.
“I had a padlock on the fridge and if the family wouldn’t pay me to make them food, I’d throw a tantrum!
“I had my first restaurant when I was 13, and I still own one. I was the first person to sell frozen yoghurt in Utah. It sold really well and made my siblings mad, so I loved it! I cater at Andy’s Theatre”
Andy’s Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri is where Jimmy runs his operations these days. It’s part of his continuing mission to preserve the memory of Andy Williams.
“Andy asked me to keep his legacy alive,” Jimmy says.
“His family weren’t interested in continuing the theatre – it’s a very hard job.
“At first I said no but then I produced a Christmas show there, and it went very well. His family said, ‘If you don’t take it over, we’ll have to sell it.’ So I bought it!
“Everyone wants to play there because it’s Andy’s place. Since I’ve owned it, we’ve averaged 400 shows a year. It’s a 2100 seat theatre, and it’s become so important to the town.
“I put a lot of love into it, and it seems to have paid off!”
The Jimmy Osmond: Moon River and Me tour plays at Princess Theatre, Torquay on October 9. Tickets available from www.jimmyosmond.com
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