Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Living in an Osmond World: Part 1

On January 2, 1976, I met my first Osmond.

My friend Debbie and I had decided we’d had enough of another bitter cold Indiana winter, our college was on winter break, and we had a few days off from working at good old McDonalds, so we hopped a plane and jetted off to sunny Los Angeles, California.

My first close encounter—it didn’t take much to be closer than the first time I saw them from my seat in the very back of Market Square Arena—was from the sidewalk in Pasadena where Debbie and I had camped out, waiting for the Rose Parade. Donny & Marie, Jimmy, and The Osmond Brothers were on a float for the LDS Church, waving away at everyone, and I was certain—absolutely certain—they had looked right at me! I snapped a picture on my little Instamatic camera, a prized photo that showed they really did have faces and weren’t just billows of smoke on a stage like my photos from that concert.

But the parade was just the beginning. The very next morning, dutifully following a “guide to locating the Osmonds” from the previous month’s Tiger Beat Magazine, Debbie and I headed off to church in Westwood where we were promised we would find an Osmond or two. And we did! I was a new convert to the church, so I knew where to go and what to expect, but that didn’t stop me from making a fool of myself when I nearly tripped over Jay’s foot in the chapel—did he stick it out in front of me on purpose?—thought I would never be able to swallow the sacrament bread when Jimmy served it to my row, and nearly sat on Alan’s lap trying to find a seat during Sunday School. Good thing I didn’t nearly land in Suzanne’s lap since she had baby Michael draped across her knees!

I don’t remember a thing about the lesson and nothing about the class other than the fact Merrill and Mary sat behind me to my right, Wayne and Kathy sat behind me to my left, and Alan and Suzanne sat in the middle chairs two rows back. I do remember the theme on the sacrament program was “Come, Follow Me,” something I was ready to do when it came to meeting the Osmonds, I suppose.

We got through the rest of the class without any mishap, but instead of going to Relief Society afterwards, we decided to try to try to figure out where Donny and Marie were hiding—after all, they were the STARS of the Donny & Marie Show. We HAD to see them. In our quest, we stumbled again upon Jay—literally! Was he trying to tell us something? We never found out. Too embarrassed to talk to him after tripping over his feet the second time in a single day, I high-tailed it out of there, with Debbie hustling along to follow.

But my Osmond encounter wasn’t over. Sunday or not, Debbie and I were hungry and decided to stop by Ralph’s, the local grocery store Tiger Beat promised us was where the Osmonds shopped, to grab a few things to take back to our hotel room. As we entered the store we stopped to giggle over the National Enquirer headline screaming out something outrageous about Marie—poor Marie. Those mags love to hate her it seems. Anyway, we weren’t the only girls in the store giggling. We saw two other girls rush past us, pointing to the back of the store. “There he is,” I heard one of them exclaim. They headed toward the far left aisle and disappeared from view. I shrugged my shoulders, joking, “Maybe there’s an Osmond in the store.” I took hold of the cart and started down the same aisle, not to find out what the girls were talking about, but because Debbie and I didn’t know the layout of the store or what we wanted to buy, so we simply were starting in the most logical place.

We went up one aisle and down the next, shopping. I had no idea where those other girls had gone or who they had been talking about. I started down the cereal aisle, but somehow I had lost Debbie. When I turned around too quick to see where she had gone, I crashed right into someone else’s grocery cart. I turned around and found myself face to face with Merrill! I wanted to melt into the floor—completely from embarrassment. He was wearing a full length huge fur coat and was perusing a cereal box as though it were the most important item he had ever read.

I stuttered an apology for running into him and turned to go find Debbie before I managed to embarrass myself yet again, but before I could go, Merrill spoke. “Do you know if this cereal has seven grains in it?” He held the box out toward me.

What? “Ummmm. . .” was my brilliant response. What did I know about cereals? Absolutely nothing.

“My mother said I should buy the seven grain kind of cereal, but she didn’t give me the name,” he said.

I might not have been able to speak, but I could read. One glance at the cereal shelf and I found it—the one that clearly said “Made with Seven Grains.” I picked up the box and handed it to him. “Maybe this one?”

Merrill looked at it carefully then said, “Yeah. Yeah. This is the one. Thanks!”

I managed to eek out, “You’re welcome,” right as Mary stopped at the end of the aisle and called, “Merrill.”

“I found it,” he said, holding up the cereal box I had given him. He turned toward me and said, “Thanks again” before leaving my side to head toward his wife.

By this time Debbie had found the nerve to once again join me, we finished our shopping, and went back to the hotel, stunned that we—well I—had actually talked to an Osmond!

Since that time, I’ve become a little less clumsy at being around the Osmond family, I suppose, although I did nearly choke once when Donny called me (when I worked for Alan Osmond Productions—a story for another time.) “Hello. This is. . . Donny Osmond.” It threw me for only a second—my heart dropping into my stomach—then we were chatting away like old friends. But my heck! I was talking to DONNY OSMOND! It’s a good thing I got over my Donny-phobia, because not that long after I did an hour-long phone interview with him for a cover story in a regional magazine. (Again, a story for another time.)

Now, I get phone calls and emails from Osmonds all the time! Why? I’ve been working with various members of the family for the past twenty-four years, starting in 1986. Oh my gosh, how did THAT happen? And where did the time go? I’m having a great time recounting this story, so I hope my readers will indulge me if I continue the story next week.

In the meantime, know that lots of Osmond stories are yet to come—including the books I’m working on with Alan, Nathan, and David where you’ll get to hear about some of their own famous, or perhaps infamous, exploits!

Oh, and here’s a teaser photo from my personal archives.


L.T. Elliot said...

What a story! What a Sunday! And I have to wait for the next one?

suwheat! said...

I went to Market Square Arena and saw them too! Where in Indiana were you from? I am from Indiana too! I, too, ended up working for the family at the Studio. Lots of similarities. I even had a "Hi, this is Donny Osmond" phone call -- and believe it or not, that is when I realized they are just like the rest of us and it became easier after that. Enjoyed your post.

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

I'm originally from Alexandria, IN. I went to Indiana University in Bloomington and lived there for five years before moving to Rockville, where I taught school five years. I moved to Utah in 1983 and started working of Alan in 1986/87. I had an office in the Osmond Studios for awhile. When were you there? Do we know each other?