book reviews, celebrities

Repost: My review of Debby Boone’s life story at age 25, So Far…

I wrote this review for Epinions.com in 2011. It appears as/is. This was another very popular review, despite the fact that Debby Boone’s life story was published in 1981!  I think people are interested in this review because Debby wrote about Pat Boone’s penchant for spankings.  People are dirty.  😉 Some people also don’t agree with my assessment of Debby Boone circa 1981. Remember folks, it’s just my opinion.

Debby Boone’s big hit!

The other night, I posted a news article on Facebook about 50s singer Pat Boone, who is apparently a tried and true Tea Partyer.  Boone was in the news for saying that President Obama was not really born in Hawaii.  He claimed that he went to Kenya and “everybody there” told him that Obama was born there.  Therefore, in Pat Boone’s mind, Barack Obama is not eligible to be our president.  The response to my link about Pat Boone got lively and that inspired me to re-read his daughter Debby Boone’s 1981 book, So Far.

This isn’t the first book I’ve read by Pat Boone’s offspring.  When I was in high school, I read Cherry Boone O’Neill’s book, Starving for Attention, because I was learning about eating disorders.  Cherry Boone O’Neill, Pat Boone’s eldest daughter, had suffered from anorexia nervosa in the 1970s.  At the time, I didn’t know that much about 50s sex symbol/teen idol Pat Boone.  I had heard of his daughter, Debby Boone, who had sung the smash hit “You Light Up My Life”.  But other than that, the Boone family was a mystery to me.

I learned a bit about Pat Boone’s family from reading Cherry’s book.  I knew that Pat Boone was a very strict disciplinarian and that he and his wife, Shirley, had raised their four daughters to be obedient servants of the Lord.  In her book, Cherry had explained that she and her sisters had grown up in luxury, but their days were centered around being perfect Christians.  Besides being heavily involved in church activities, Pat Boone’s girls had inherited formidable musical talent and performed quite a bit.  I wanted to learn more about them, so a few years ago, I picked up Debby Boone’s 1981 book, So Far, for the first time.  Now that I’ve read it a second time, I think I can probably put this book back on the shelf for good.

Debby Boone’s life story circa 1981

At the very beginning of her book, Debby Boone writes that writing has never come easily for her.  She doesn’t know why she’s writing her life story.  She explains that she had originally been skeptical that writing her story would be worthwhile.  Her mind changed when she started getting fan mail from people.  Evidently, the mail got to be too much for her to answer, so she figured it would be easier to write a book.  Of course, it’s not lost on me that those who wanted to get Debby’s response would be paying hard earned money for the book.  But nevertheless, I guess her fans appreciated it.

Bear in mind that Debby Boone was born in 1956.  In 1981, she was just 25 years old.  Yes, she had done some exciting things in her then brief lifetime.  She had grown up in California with a famous father.  She later became very famous herself, when she released the radio version of “You Light Up My Life”, a song that was originally recorded by the late session singer Kasey Cisyk for the film by the same name.  Debby Boone’s version of the song was huge and it made her a household name.  So, I imagine in 1981, Debby Boone was still pretty famous.  Why shouldn’t she have written a book while people still remembered her name? Well, I’ll tell you why.

There’s just not much to this book

Debby Boone freely admits that she’s not much of a writer.  She admits that as a child, she often handed in work that was done by her three sisters, rather than her.  At age 25, she hadn’t really lived yet, although she apparently did spend a lot of time turned over her father’s knee. 

Debby Boone was a bad girl

Evidently, Pat Boone spanked his daughters even after they had reached the legal age of majority.  Debby Boone frequently describes behavior that, frankly, probably warranted punishment.  In fact, there are a few times in the book that she basically admits to being a manipulative bully to her sisters and kids she knew in school.  She seems almost a little proud of her brattiness, as she describes how she got some poor little boy in trouble by falsely accusing him of swearing at her.  Her tone is almost gleeful as she relates how she conned her younger sister, Laury, into riding her bike naked around the front yard and how, more than once, Laury took one of Pat Boone’s legendary beatings in her stead because Laury had a tender heart and hated to see her sisters cry.

Speaking of beatings

Pat Boone was spanked until he was seventeen years old.  Apparently, Pat Boone’s mother had a way with a strap and would make his bum smart so much that he couldn’t sit down for awhile.  Apparently not to be undone by his mother, Pat Boone was also fond of using implements to discipline his daughters.  Debby Boone writes that she and her sisters would often compare “war wounds”.  Pat Boone would use a slipper, a belt, or any other tool that stung to make his spankings really hurt.  Consequently, after one of Pat Boone’s spankings, his daughters were often left with bruises. 

In a chapter entitled “The Last Spanking”, Debby explains that when she was 19 years old, her father got angry with her for taking too long to get a snack from a hotel vending machine.  Pat Boone caught Debby in the hotel lobby, talking to one of the musicians in their band.  It was late and she had been gone about twenty minutes.  He was “worried”, so he grabbed her, marched her upstairs, and gave her “what for”.  He meant to give her a spanking, but in the course of their fight, had accidently hit her in the head.  The blow caused a goose egg and the hapless musician Debby had been talking to in the lobby called Pat on the phone to cool him down.  I guess it was enough time for Pat to come to his senses.  Supposedly, he never spanked Debby again.

The B-I-B-L-E… 

Debby Boone writes of her experiences helping children with autism, visiting sick children in hospitals, and working with Youth With A Mission (YWAM– pronounced “why wham”).  She seems proud of her work with children, given that her older sister, Cherry, and Cherry’s husband, Dan, also worked with YWAM and no doubt had a lot to do with her choice to work with that organization.

She also writes of how she became Mrs. Gabriel Ferrer.  For those who don’t know, Debby Boone’s mother-in-law is the late Rosemary Clooney.  That means she is related by marriage to George Clooney.  Of course, George Clooney was a nobody in 1981. 

As they were with everything else in their daughters’ lives, Mr. and Mrs. Pat Boone were heavily involved in Debby’s romances.  Gabriel Ferrer had to ask for Debby’s hand in marriage.  And it was a good thing he was a devoted Christian.  Apparently, Pat Boone would not have stood for anyone but a “believer” to marry his daughters.

An abrupt ending

So Far comes to a screeching halt when Debby and Gabriel Ferrer get married.  A year after the wedding, they had their first child, Jordan.  These details are at the very end of the book, which to me, seems odd.  It’s almost as if the major life events of getting married and becoming a mother were almost an afterthought.

My thoughts

I think Debby Boone was very premature in writing her life story, even if she admits it was only “so far”.  I have a feeling she wrote this book for the money, which is, I guess, a valid enough reason to write it.  But she comes off as a bit smug and self-congratulatory in this book.  She reprints a couple of thank you letters she got from the mothers of sick kids she visited in the hospital.  She writes very little about her childhood.  Indeed, this book seems to be more about her life as a young adult than her life story.  And other than the fact that her dad employed corporal punishment, wouldn’t let his daughters date or wear makeup until they were 16, and took liberties with his daughters’ love lives and finances, she doesn’t reveal that much about her family.

I got a lot more out of Cherry Boone O’Neill’s book, Starving for Attention, which was a lot more interesting, better written, and much more complete.  Debby Boone does include some photos, but they are poorly edited and a couple of them were also in Cherry’s book.

Even if you are a Debby Boone fan, I’m not sure So Far is worth reading.  If you’re actually curious about what it was like to be Pat Boone’s daughter, I recommend Starving for Attention.  I think Cherry far outshone Debby in the book writing department, even if Debby will always be known for her one hit wonder.

Overall  

I don’t expect a lot of people are looking for this book anymore.   For good reason, it’s long out of print.  Plenty of copies are available on Amazon, again, for good reason.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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silliness

When Bill turns into Pat Boone…

The other day, Retro Wifey on Facebook shared a photo of a small child in a baby carrier from days of old. I don’t know when the picture was taken, but my guess is that the baby in the photo is now at least as old as I am. When I look at what passed for safety in the 70s, and then compare it to the current day hysteria over child safety, I’m amazed anyone from the era prior to, say, 1990, ever grew old enough to reproduce. Nowadays, kids have to wear helmets, padding, and seatbelts for everything, on pain of investigation by child welfare authorities or the police if parents don’t comply.

A screenshot of Retro Wifey’s picture. It’s amazing what kids of old got away with…

I grew up with parents who were religious about wearing their seatbelts. However, they were not very strict about making me wear them. Why not? Mainly because I hated the damned things and would cry, complain, and generally drive my parents (especially my mom) crazy when they made me wear them. My dad was much stricter about making me wear seatbelts, but even he was inconsistent and usually only made me wear them when he was either in a control freak mood or wanted to punish me.

In 1988, Virginia adopted a mandatory seatbelt law for front seat passengers. It was not, and is still not, a very strict law. Enforcement was secondary, so you’d have to be doing something else illegal to get yourself stopped before police would levy a $25 fine on you for not buckling up. Over 30 years later, Virginia still has a lenient seatbelt law. Cars back then were also more lax about letting people choose for themselves if they wanted to make safety first. They didn’t have all the sensors and alarms they have now– just a five second reminder that buzzed when you turned the ignition. 1988 also happened to be the year I turned 16, and I remember being quite pissed that this oppressive law was passed the year I got my license.

It took a few more years before I became “good” about voluntarily wearing a seatbelt, even after it was the law. I’m short and busty, so they always seemed to hit me in the wrong places. Then, I met Bill… who is laid back about most things, except for when it comes to car safety. I often joke that I think seatbelts are for sissies, but if I don’t wear one, Bill turns into Pat Boone. On my old blog, I used to write about this phenomenon rather frequently, mainly because Alexis got the joke and we both thought it was funny. Alexis has always been my most consistent reader, so sometimes I cater to her. We have both read a lot about Pat Boone and his family, too— an odd thing, since Pat Boone was a sex symbol way before either of us would have found him remotely appealing or relatable. He was always OLD to me, and Alexis is about 22 years younger than I am. Turns out we both read books written by members of Boone’s family, or by Pat himself.

Pat Boone and his white spats will make you go splat if you misbehave on his watch.

I am at least old enough to remember Debby Boone and her 1977 hit song, “You Light Up My Life”, which was originally used in a film by the same name and sung by the late, obscure singer Kasey Cisyk. But I didn’t know who Pat Boone was until I heard him sing on a 1978 Lassie movie, which also featured songs by Debby. Then I remembered Robin Williams making jokes about him on Mork & Mindy, implying that he was strict and straight-laced.

When I was a senior in high school, I read Starving for Attention, a book written by Cherry Boone O’Neill, Pat Boone’s eldest daughter. I was taking a psychology class and had to read a book about a psychological disorder and report about it to my classmates. Cherry Boone O’Neill, who suffered from anorexia nervosa and bulimia for about ten years, was born in 1954 and happens to share the same birthday as Bill. She was a people pleaser and felt great pressure to make her parents proud. Boone often brought his four talented daughters with him on his tours, where he could keep an eye on them. Cherry felt pressure to be thin, in part, due to her father’s fame and her own show business career. So, she developed anorexia, which I’m sure also helped her feel like she regained some control over her overly supervised life as a young woman. Pat Boone was a notoriously strict father who believed very strongly in corporal punishment and laying down the law. He watched his daughters like a hawk and would not hesitate to discipline them for any infraction of his many rules.

In two of the three books written by his daughters that I’ve read, Pat Boone’s penchant for delivering painful spankings and being very strict is candidly noted. In both Debby’s and Cherry’s cases, the spankings continued until they were adults. They were particularly traumatic in Cherry’s case, since she was extremely underweight and had no padding to absorb Boone’s blows. Although Debby and Cherry have both written about their father’s spankings, in Cherry’s case, the bruises were more severe.

I would like to see Bill in this outfit… while he’s driving. Shit, he’s even wearing spats! I am ashamed to admit, I actually own Pat’s metal album. I had to have it because I wanted to review it. It’s not that bad, especially if you listen to it with a sense of humor.

The other day, when I saw that picture shared by Retro Wifey, I shared it and posted “seatbelts are for sissies”. A few of my friends posted about the good old days, when kids could lie in the back of a station wagon, completely unrestrained and unencumbered. My dad used to have a bright orange Volkswagen Westfalia with ugly green plaid interior. It was a 1977 model and he drove it for several years. It had a pop top, which was fun for camping in sweltering heat and getting multiple bug bites. I remember there was a bar across the ceiling when the top wasn’t popped up. I used to swing on it like a monkey as my dad drove down the interstate. Nobody cared. Nowadays, if a child dared to do something like that, someone would be on the horn to the police in seconds. Today’s carseats are very secure, so kids can’t get away with monkey style gymnastics in a VW van. They have to be strapped down as if they are about to be executed. A kid swinging on a bar monkey style the way I used to would be caught and dealt with very quickly in all but the most provincial of locations.

For you, Alexis… Dad’s was just like this.

Germany is probably even stricter about seatbelt use than the United States is. In fact, Bill became a seatbelt fanatic when he lived in Germany the first time and was threatened with a 40 Deutsch Mark fine. However, I have seen deja vous scenes from my childhood in Italy and Croatia, where things are evidently a little more reckless. Frankly, I would be scared not to wear a seatbelt in Italy. People drive like they’re alone in a big field there, even if there are tight switchbacks on a mountain road.

I mentioned in my shared post that Bill turns into Pat Boone when I don’t buckle up. One of my friends asked me if I could get video of Bill turning into Pat Boone. Actually, I think I would enjoy providing that. I might even get the chance, since we’re about to take a long road trip from Sweden to Germany in our new car. He does get rather stern about it… or as stern as he is capable of becoming. This is a bit crazy, since Bill spent 30 years in the Army, where one would expect easy “sternness”, especially from an officer. But Bill is one of the most easygoing, laid back, kind people I know. He would never turn into Pat Boone about most issues… except if he caught me without a seatbelt. And even then, he probably wouldn’t turn me over his knee and deliver a bruising spanking the way Pat Boone did back in the day. For one thing, it would obviously be very physically difficult for him to turn me over his knee. For another thing, as titillating as that idea might be for both of us, the fact is, it’s not actually something either of us is particularly comfortable with. Yes, we’re a little kinky, but we aren’t that kinky. I might get a lecture… it probably wouldn’t be a very serious lecture, because that would either piss me off or make me laugh.

Volvo is serious about safety… probably really turns safety geek Bill on.

The new car is a Volvo, so I suspect that even if Bill doesn’t turn into Pat Boone, the new car will. Volvos are notoriously “safe” cars, jam packed with safety features, alarms, and sensors determined to make sure everyone is as safe as possible, whether or not they’re feeling dangerous. Even if I were to –say– decide to ride in the back seat sitting behind Bill (something he doesn’t allow), the car would tattle on me if I misbehaved. The reason he doesn’t want me to sit behind him in the car is because it’s harder for him to make sure I’m not ditching the seatbelt. He wants me up front. If I wanted to ride in the back, he’d want me where he can glance back at me. But in the new car, it won’t matter. I bet he still won’t let me ride behind him, though. If I try to sit there, he’ll turn into Pat Boone and issue an Army style direct order to move to the middle seat. Hmm… maybe I’ll do that on purpose and film it so people can see Bill be “stern”. It’ll be good for a laugh.

So really, I guess when I say Bill turns into Pat Boone, I’m mostly kidding. The reality is, he treats me like a princess. No, not really a queen, but a princess– because if the truth be told, he takes excellent care of me. He’s very considerate, thoughtful, and protective, and only once in a great while does he morph into an Army style disciplinarian. I’m very lucky to have him in my life, even when he turns into Pat Boone… on quaaludes, maybe. Still, I can’t help but sometimes wistfully remember the days when I could readily flit about the car, completely unfettered by pesky laws, law abiding parents, and a safety geek husband.

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