She was a little bit country, he was a little bit rock & roll, and they were both as wholesome as apple pie. For more than three years during the disco-dancing, free-love late 1970s, Donny and Marie Osmond filled their eponymous ABC show with family-friendly songs, sketches, and skating extravaganzas — and had, for a time, one of the top variety programs on the air.
The demise of The Donny and Marie Show (called The Osmond Family Show during its last months) on May 27, 1979, coincided with the end of its stars’ childhoods. The kids had lived in the spotlight since 1962, when older brothers Merrill, Alan, Wayne, and Jay were a pint-size barbershop quartet on The Andy Williams Show. With Donny, the Utah-bred Osmonds went bubblegum, hitting No. 1 with 1971’s ”One Bad Apple.” (Donny’s solo singles ”Puppy Love” and ”Go Away Little Girl” hit Nos. 3 and 1, respectively.) Marie joined them when she was 13 and had her own hit, ”Paper Roses,” in 1973. In all, the seven Osmonds (including youngest brother Jimmy) would rack up 14 gold albums and 10 gold singles.
On TV in 1976, manifesting their Mormon family values, Donny, 18, and Marie, 16, distanced themselves from ’70s decadence, to the point of changing song lyrics like ”whiskey and wine” to, winkingly, ”milk.” Said Donny in 1977: ”Some people hear our names and get turned off. But…we don’t compromise what we believe in.” Even after Marie turned 18, her wardrobe instructions for designer Bob Mackie — ”no sleeveless, no plunges, no bare” — kept up her image. In 1978, Donny wounded his female fans by marrying Debra Glenn; a year later the show ended.
After a fallow decade, a stubblier, grown-up Donny had a comeback hit with 1989’s ”Soldier of Love,” which hit No. 2. In 1992, he toured with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and this summer he’ll be the singing voice of Shang in Disney’s new animated feature, Mulan. Now 40, he still lives in Utah with Debra and their five sons. Marie, 39, married engineer-producer Brian Blosil in 1986; they have six children. She too has taken to musical theater, touring in The Sound of Music and The King and I. And this fall, after 19 years, the duo will return with a syndicated TV talk show — hoping, no doubt, that bringing back their sibling saccharinity will reprise their ’70s success.
TIME CAPSULE: May 27, 1979
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IN MUSIC, Peaches & Herb’s ”Reunited” is the No. 1 single in this summer of disco. However, the duo won’t be reunited with the top spot again.
IN BOOKSTORES, The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet is at the top of the nonfiction list. In 1980, its author, Dr. Herman Tarnower, is murdered; a year later, a jury sentences his lover, Jean Harris, to 15 years to life for the killing.
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