Jimmy Osmond, Star of Aladdin at Swansea Grand, Talks About His Showbiz Life
by Nathan Bevan
December 9, 2011
He duetted with Frank Sinatra aged three, shared a dressing room with Elvis and was in a band that sold more than 100 million records. But here Jimmy Osmond tells Nathan Bevan why he hated being world famous as a boy.
"IT’S a beautiful day today, is the sun shining this brightly where you are?” asks the irrepressibly chirpy Jimmy Osmond.
Loathe to curb his enthusiasm by revealing the view from my window – sheets of rain lashing against grey breeze-block walls – is as far removed from the crisp winter morning he’s enjoying, I turn the conversation to perhaps Osmond’s most famous moment.
Because, unbelievably, Long Haired Lover From Liverpool – the million-selling 1972 number one hit that won him the puppy love of teen fans all over the world – will be 40 years old this time next year.
“Wow, is it really? I hadn’t realised that,” says the Utah dad-of-four, remembering those mop-topped days of innocence when he became the youngest person ever to top the UK singles chart aged nine – a record that still stands today.
“It’s crazy to think that I’ve been performing for 45 years now, my brothers even longer than that.
“And I don’t think any of us would have imagined we’d still be around today because we never ever took what we had for granted,” he adds.
“What is more, we never took ourselves too seriously, and we still don’t.”
The youngest member of the all-singing, all-dancing American family that became the original teen pop sensations with their monopolisation of the charts throughout the early 1970s ‘Little’ Jimmy Osmond found himself moving in the sort of circles friends the same age as him could only dream about.
“It sounds nuts to say it, but I hated all that at the time because I just wanted to be a normal kid,” he sighs.
“Instead, there I was singing with Frank Sinatra at the age of three for Pete’s sake.
“I didn’t really understand who he was though, to me he was just this really cool older guy who everyone told me was important.
“That’s just the kind of world I was in, working with Bob Hope, soaking my feet in Elvis’ dressing room.”
Sorry, soaking your what in whose dressing room?
“I had to, they were killing me,” laughs Osmond, like it was the most normal thing in the world to borrow The King’s foot spa – which to him, of course, it was.
“ Elvis was just so sweet and cool and I got to see the side of him that most people didn’t because, were you to believe the way the media portrays folks like that, he was this big, untouchable star.
“But I remember him walking in as I was sitting with my feet in water and going (adopts Presley’s slurry southern twang), ‘Hey Jimmy, how’s it goin’’?” he laughs.
“Elvis wasn’t so different and had the same insecurities as the rest of us, and I got to see him warts-and-all as a normal guy.
“You know it blows my mind sometimes when you meet stars like that and realise they’re not at all like they’re portrayed in the papers’.”
Perhaps the ultimate example of this, says Osmond – turning to the complete mirror image of the tight, functional family unit that was his own musical Mormon brood – was the Jacksons, in particular Michael.
“I worked with him for a couple of years,” recalls the star, who first shared a stage with Jacko in 1973. “The entertainment business can be such a phony, fake business, but he was always a genuine guy and really fun to be around.
“We’d all go over and swim at his house and, one time when we were both touring the UK, we ended up playing soccer together in the hotel hallway because there were so many screaming fan outside we didn’t dare try to leave.
“So, while I was always in awe of his talent, I could never work out that almost otherworldly persona that got placed on him.”
But while Osmond – who’s family’s ancestral links to Merthyr Tydfil have been well documented – is currently back in Wales to star in the Swansea Grand’s panto production of Aladdin, he claims he’s now a lot more comfortable about who he is.
Maybe a bit too much, if the truth be told.
“Back in those days there was a sorts of Osmond merchandise coming out and it drove me crazy,” he laughs.
“There’d be Little Jimmy Osmond dolls that you could buy, and I really didn’t know how to deal with it all.
“Not now though – now I’m on eBay all the time buying my own Jimmy dolls and panties with ‘I love Jimmy’ emblazoned across the front.
“I guess the guys who ship it all out must be looking at the invoice and going, ‘Man, we’re sending women’s underwear with Jimmy Osmond’s name all over them to Jimmy Osmond’s house? You’ve got to be kidding me, right’?”
And it doesn’t end there either.
“Do you know they even produced a range of Halloween masks back in the 1970s that looked like my face,” says Osmond.
“So earlier this year when my kids wanted to go out trick or treating I insisted they all put one on.
“My kids went trick or treating dressed as me, can you believe that?
“I just remember looking at them going out the front door and thinking, ‘Wow, now that’s pretty scary’,” he smiles.
Jimmy Osmond will be appearing as Wishee Washee in Aladdin at the Grand Theatre in Swansea from next Friday (December 16) to Monday January 15. Tickets range from £8.50-£21.50 and are available by calling the box office on 01792 475715.