The wonderful Donny Osmond, of all people, on Saturday helped me begin to work through my inner conflict with Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face.”
The more easygoing half of Donny & Marie made an appearance in Burnsville at Southern Lights in between their two holiday shows at Mystic Lake. About 200 Donny fans turned out for the event, done in partnership with MyTalk FM107.1’s Jason & Alexis Show. Alexis Thompson hosted without her radio partner but with her real life one, husband Angel Toro. Angel proudly had his Donny dolls autographed.
Southern Lights was the site of this in-store appearance because it is selling lighting fixtures that are part of the new Donny Osmond Home Furnishings brand. Donny and his wife, Debbie, are very hands-on in this venture, he told me, pointing out a fixture that hangs at their home. There’s also a line of furniture.
I thought my interview with Donny, which was scheduled for after the autograph session, was in jeopardy after watching the entertainment icon talking at length to each fan.
Not to worry. “Sheriff” Deb Wallace, the Atlanta-based brand manager of Donny Osmond Home, was on duty.
“One. Onnnnne,” Wallace nicely stressed holding up one finger to remind fans — and Donny — of the number of items per fan that were to be signed. I was thinking that line wasn’t moving at all when my new best friend reading my mind without even looking at me said: “I’ve got to move this line along. I’m the sheriff here.” Alas, it was a losing cause. “I can’t shut him down, much as I try,” Sheriff said.
Donny Osmond has been generous to his fans every time I have watched him interact, and I think this is at least the fifth time. He’s very touched by how attached his fans are to him.
There was Greg Nelson, a UPS driver you may see more than once in my startribune.com/video because he got in line twice. Nelson was the first person in line. For him, Donny signed two albums, a program from 1977 and an 8-track tape. Asked if that 8-track tape still worked, Nelson said, “As far as I know.” He can’t really know because he doesn’t still have an 8-track player. I asked Nelson if I could call him the Biggest Donny Osmond Fan at UPS and he said, “Sure!”
Cathy Frank brought along a reply she got to a piece of fan mail she sent Donny when a stamp was 6 cents and she was 12 years old. “I told him I was sure he’d want to marry me if he ever met me, but 45 years later, I missed the boat,” Frank said.
I tried to eavesdrop on Iika Wilgenbusch telling Donny about her prized childhood possession, “The Donny & Marie Stage.” “Did you catch that, C. J.?” Osmond asked. Iika’s story, told in the company of her daughters Alyssa and Alexa, was worth asking her to repeat when I heard Donny say in amazement, “Miley Cyrus is history.”
“This was my prized possession in 1977,” Wilgenbusch said. “I was in third grade and I begged for it for Christmas. It’s the ‘Donny & Marie Stage’ complete with the dolls, the TV camera, the lights, the piano, the guitars. I played with it nonstop. And I saved it and when I had children I pulled it out again when they were of the age to play with Barbies.
“Hannah Montana was the rage and I was going through chemo at the same time and Barbies was a nice quiet activity that didn’t take a lot of energy. We played countless hours of Barbies.
“Donny & Marie were the audience and Hannah had all the cool lighting. Since then, Hannah has gone to Goodwill but the Donny & Marie dolls stayed and they [Alexa and Alyssa] have discovered Donny & Marie on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ and Donny is in their favorite movie, ‘College Road Trip,’ so they have become fans as well.”
Donny’s willingness to keep up with the times has surely be the key to an enduring fan base.
When asked what recent song he wishes he had recorded, Donny said, “Sugar,” by Maroon 5.
“I was [also] listening to, not that I love his lyrics, Drake. He’s got some amazing grooves. I don’t like what he says but my son Christopher loves to DJ [and we] were down in his studio writing some songs and listening to Drake, getting some inspiration. We came up with some really cool stuff. I’m actually writing a song right now with a rapper in Kansas City — not that I’m going to do a rap album anytime soon. I love to push the envelope, whether R&B, groove, funk, country. I’ve been doing it 53 years now in the music business.”
Donny told me he loved Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face.”
Does Donny know what’s being sung about here?
“Yeees,” he said. “But you know, come on. Listen to the groove.”
When I told Donny he should redo that song and make it about the cold, he sang some reworked lyrics.
Donny is first and foremost, a great singer.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show” and “Buzz.”