You can trust that Christmas is in good hands with Donny and Marie Osmond.
While Donny was still in diapers, his brothers in The Osmonds were doing TV specials with the Christmas special king, Andy Williams, and it wasn't long before he joined in and quickly became the adorable focus. A decade later, in the '70s, he was starring in holiday specials with his younger sister on the "Donny & Marie" show.
These days, they are established at the Flamingo as one of the most popular acts in Las Vegas, and that show is on the road in "Donny and Marie Christmas," stopping at Consol Energy Center on Thursday.
"We're bringing elements of our award-winning show in Vegas, and obviously, it's a Christmas show," he says in a phone interview. "It's a very audience-interactive show. I make my entrance through the audience, there's a big dance number we call 'Christmas Zoot Suit' with costumes and dancing. It's very high energy from beginning to end. A lot of multimedia. It's a very exciting show.
"And then," he adds dryly, "Marie comes out, and she does a couple numbers."
That's the kind of sibling rivalry banter fans will also get during the show.
Back to the music, he says, "You have to balance it out. I think with too much Christmas music, everyone would have to have an insulin shot after the show's over. You have to give them the hits. I have to do 'Puppy Love,' and Marie's got to do 'Paper Roses.' You gotta reminisce a little, so it's a good balance."
"Puppy Love" takes audiences back to 1972 when Donny Osmond blew up as one of the country's biggest teen heartthrobs, along with David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman. Between '71 and '73, he had a number of Top 10 hits as a solo artist, including "Go Away, Little Girl" and "The Twelfth of Never."
He surely didn't expect to be singing "Puppy Love" 40 years later, in Vegas, at 55.
"When I first recorded it, I thought, 'No, this is just another single,' but it really defined who I was back when I was 14 years old. I talked to Paul Anka about it, because he had a hit with it when he first wrote it. He said he made more money off of my record than his."
He has a way of singing it now that throws some of the focus on the young Donny.
"I found footage of me singing it when I was 14 years old, so on this huge screen behind me you see this 14-year-old singing this same song that I'm singing in my 50s, so it's kind of like a 40-year gap between the two pictures. Kind of an interesting thing."
At that age, he was launching a solo career along with his role in the Osmonds, where Merrill was the lead singer. The Osmonds recorded on the MGM label and had a natural rivalry with Motown sensations The Jackson 5. On my own street, I tell him, the boys like the Jacksons and the girls like the Osmonds.
"It's interesting. Depending on where you go, sometimes it went the other way," he says. "Michael and I spent hours and hours talking about this. It's funny. We'd laugh about how 'One Bad Apple' was really written for them, and 'Ben' was actually written for me. And the parallels between the two artists, the two bands, and the rivalry that was supposedly out there, that didn't really exist.
"The other night on the American Music Awards, they did a retrospective on Dick Clark and when he created that thing, I remember him calling me up and saying, 'I want to do something that's never happened on television before, and that's you and Michael together.' That's the only time on television we were together. [They presented an award]. So, yeah the rivalry, it was there, but it was more embellished by the press, the public at large, than it was between Michael and me."
Raised in a Utah-based Mormon family, Mr. Osmond maintained a squeaky clean image throughout his career, despite suggestions at times that he dirty it up a little. At one point, an agent even threw out the idea that they spread false rumors of a drug arrest.
Looking back on that incident, he says, "I'm glad I am who I am. Let's put it that way. I have no regrets at all."
Since his heyday, teen stars have come and gone, and there have been boy groups for every generation, ranging from New Edition to One Direction. What advice would he give to a teen group just cutting its teeth?
"Don't do it, it's too tough," he says, not joking. "The advantage my brothers and I had, and the Jacksons had, is that we were siblings. We have that blend, that familial sound. But I think, and I'll go deep here, I'll tell you what the problem is. Nowadays, there's no work ethic. My brothers and I worked every day in the rehearsal hall. Our routines were sharp, we had no Auto-Tune, we harmonized. We were the real deal, just like the Jacksons were. Nowadays, people want a lot of success for not a lot of work. We see it right and left."
Off the stage, Mr. Osmond has had a busy home life raising five boys with his wife Debra, a high school cheerleader he's been married to for 35 years. It's been interesting, to say the least, to raise kids as a former teen heartthrob.
"It's kind of strange because I'm not really the normal dad. What's funny is, the teachers, they'd kind of get all funny when I would show up. What's happened lately is the kids are kind of excited because of my win on 'Dancing With the Stars,' the work I've done in some of the Disney movies. They know me from other things other than the 'Puppy Love' era. So when families come to the show, they know me for different things.
"There was this little 10-year-old kid, right after I won 'Dancing With the Stars,' he came to the Vegas show, and he sat right in the front and wanted to watch the champion. And then after the show, we had a meet-and-greet, and he was in line to shake my hand and get my picture. The closer he got, the more excited he was. When he got up to me, he said, 'Mr. Osmond, I didn't know you could sing, too!' So, that whole generation knows me as a dancer."
firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg.