You know how there are Stones people and Beatles people? Letterman people and Leno people? There was a time, many years ago, when the world was divided between Osmond people and Jackson 5 people. I was with the Jackson 5 people; I could not stand the Osmonds. The reason I was with the Jackson 5, why I would have been happy to kink my hair into a Tito-esque Afro if not for the cost, was because the Jackson 5 were far more fun/cool than the Osmonds. This was especially true of the young, wildly talented, ever-spinning Michael. The Jackson 5 had the Saturday morning cartoon, the family variety show (years before the Donny & Marie Show)) and it was their 45s you could cut from the back of HoneyComb cereal boxes. The Osmonds came with such pure-as-driven-snow piffle as “Paper Roses,” and a clan who, as my Uncle Dave so poetically noted, had “55 teeth and they’re all right in front.” And Donny -- so tough to take that whippet-thin kid seriously in his little Elvis jumpsuit-starter kit. When the girls screamed for the Osmonds, I honestly thought it was out of fear.
But today, Donny holds the hammer. It's this simple: The difference between Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond is, Donny Osmond can get a gig on the Strip.
Last night at the Flamingo, I saw Donny & Marie for the first time, and I mean ever, live in concert and I liked it. It was not the blow-your-wingtips off experience of the better Cirque shows (and, we expect, Criss Angel, who opens Believe tonight) but damn, Donny & Marie bring the whole rec room. They dance energetically if not always precisely; Marie sings a medley of Broadway show tunes (including “All That Jazz” from Chicago and Cabaret) and Donny – in a bold move if there ever was one – sings “My Cherie Amour” and “Sir Duke” as part of a medley tribute to Stevie Wonder. Ponder that: Donny Osmond, singing Stevie Wonder. But crazily, it works – Donny Osmond, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, can really sing. He can dance some, too, and promotes the image of a hardened bad-ass, for a time favoring a black leather jacket (and dark hues, in general, throughout the show) and one-size-too-small designer jeans. Even his trademark purple jacket is neither bright nor bedazzled, and he wears it only for about six minutes.
But for all the appeal, both Osmonds, in the age-of-50 range (he's actually 50, she's 48), really struggle to get through all the singing and dancing. I say this, because they keep telling us that they are struggling with the singing and dancing. “I’ll get back to you in a moment,” Donny says, his chest heaving, after working through the dance number accompanying “Sir Duke.” And Marie, for the “TMI” file, actually confided that she’s suffering her own “personal summer – the women know what I’m talking about.” But I’ll say that Marie Osmond, mother of eight, is actually hot. Hot! I tell you. At one point, after one of her 113 costume changes, she wears a black leather bustier, long black cape and black lace skirt. She looks like some kind of biker chick, about to climb on a Harley (outfitted with eight sidecars, for the kids) and roar out to Red Rock. But I think what sells these two is that they have lived some life, today. I used to feel the Osmonds were hopelessly spoiled. Not now. They have put in the time and work to be where they are; Marie’s emotional struggles of years past have been exhaustively covered, but she can be counted to answer the bell, take the stage and give a high-caliber performance. And Donny, he’s a grandpa now. Hard to fathom that. The kids whose mugs once graced lunch boxes are now grizzled entertainment veterans.
After the show, I was led backstage and met them both. They are certainly well-trained to be nice in such meet-and-greet circumstances, even if there is a personal summer happening, but they honestly could not have been nicer. I asked Donny about all the black attire and he laughed, “It’s just because it makes me look slimmer.” And when Marie Osmond flashes those teeth – something less than 55, but dazzling just the same –you can’t help but smile back.