religion, videos

Repost: The Children of God cult…

Here’s another repost from the original blog. I wrote this in January 2019, just before the old blog went “poof”. I am reposting it as/is here, since I recently reviewed Not Without My Sister, a book about sisters who were raised in the Children of God cult. This was the first post I wrote about this cult; I first heard about it on the A&E series mentioned below.

Having now exhausted Leah Remini’s Scientology episodes, at least for now, I moved on to another A&E series hosted by Elizabeth Vargas, called Cults and Extreme Belief.  Since yesterday afternoon, I’ve seen three episodes.  The first two, about NXIVM and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, were disturbing enough.  But the third one, about the Children of God (now known as The Family International), made me stop and blog.

Before I watched the show, I had heard a little bit about this religious cult, founded in California in the 1960s by a charismatic preacher named David Berg.  Originally called “Teens for Christ”, this group mostly consisted of runaways and hippies, and preached to each other about salvation, happiness, and a coming apocalypse.  Creepy founder, David Berg, was frequently known by the alias Moses David, and gave himself the titles of “King”, “The Last Endtime Prophet”, “Moses”, and “David”.  His first wife, Jane Miller, married him in 1944 and divorced him in 1970, two years after he started his cult.  Berg married his second wife, Karen Zerby, in 1970.  She is currently leading The Family International, since Berg died in October 1994.

One thing that struck me about this cult is that it was full of musically talented people, children in particular.  One of the children involved was Berg’s granddaughter, Merry, who was also known as Mene.  Merry, who died in her sleep in December 2017, was fifteen days older than I am.  She was musically talented and very ethereal looking, with beautiful blonde hair.  Merry was featured on musical recordings done by Children of God, as well as videos. 

Merry Berg…

Other talented children were also used to make songs about love and sex, and some were also forced to do strip teases.  Aside from that, there was rampant sexual abuse.  Merry was one of the most victimized of the bunch, having endured multiple forced exorcisms as well as extreme abuse on all levels.  She was forced to live in different places, locked in a closet for six months, whipped, tied up, and screamed at by her grandfather, who claimed she was possessed by the devil.

The whole story was very disturbing to me, but I think what really captured my attention was the way these kids looked.  Here they were, maybe ten or eleven years old on these videos from the 70s… a lot of them are probably my contemporaries.  Most of them were attractive and musically gifted, singing so beautifully songs about love.  But the love they sang about was inappropriate and forbidden because it involved sex.  Indeed, these children were commanded to go “flirty fishing” to entice new people to join the cult.  The flirty fishing was more than just flirtation; in fact, it included sex.  David Berg preached sex.

Creepy!

As I watched the above video, I was eerily reminded of the beauty pageants that used to be so popular in the 1980s.  The lyrics sound so wholesome, yet all of the singers look like they’re in a trance.  These teens in the video were likely born into the cult and knew nothing else.  It’s all about worshiping their sick leader, who was supposedly an alcoholic and may have also suffered from mental illnesses.

This clip is from 20/20… a young girl is very upset and repeatedly insists that there’s nothing wrong with sex.

As a child of the 70s and 80s myself, I am also aware of the late actor, River Phoenix, who was extremely famous and much beloved by people of my generation.  Phoenix died in 1993, having overdosed on drugs at The Viper Room in Los Angeles.  He and his similarly talented siblings were raised in this cult when they were very young.  Phoenix once claimed that he lost his virginity at age four, but later said he was kidding.

And A Current Affair also covered this group, explaining “flirty fishing” more.  Imagine the kind of people who were enticed into this group by watching young girls behave sexually.  It sounds like a nightmare.
A 20/20 episode about Children of God.  Not the same one I watched this morning, but also worth viewing.

David Berg unofficially adopted Ricky Rodriguez, nicknaming him Davidito.  He was born in the Canary Islands, the son of Berg’s second wife, Karen Zerby, and a man she “flirty fished”.  In 2005, when Rodriguez was 29 years old, he murdered a woman who had been his nanny and sexually abused him.  Then he killed himself.  Rodriguez was forced into inappropriate sexual relationships when he was a child and developed deep seated resentment toward Berg and Zerby because of the abuse he suffered.

Megyn Kelly speaks to Children of God cult survivor, Christina Babin, who speaks about how difficult it was to be in the cult and how most of the children never got more than a sixth grade education.

I know I heard of this cult before I watched Elizabeth Vargas discuss it this morning.  I remember hearing about River Phoenix and his siblings being in a religious cult when they were young.  It’s tragic how many youngsters were affected by this cult, which was considered a “religion” and granted special privileges.  Many who were raised in The Children of God later committed suicide because they had no foundation from which to launch their lives beyond the cult.

It’s amazing how many cults there are out there and how people get caught up in them.  It’s tragic that children grow up in these organizations and are left with nothing when they come of age.  I may have to find something a little lighter to watch later.

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book reviews, religion

Reposted review of I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith through an Athiest’s Eyes

Here’s another reposted book review. It was written for Epinions.com on June 14, 2010, and appears here as/is. I’m still thinking about today’s fresh content.

eBay has changed the face of American commerce, making some rather unconventional methods of earning money available to people smart enough to come up with a clever gimmick. Hemant Mehta is one such clever guy. In January 2006, when he was 22 years old, Mehta came up with a very interesting moneymaking proposal. An atheist since he was 14 years old, Mehta held an auction to get eBayers to send him to church.

His proposal read as follows:

I’m a 22-year-old from Chicago. I stopped believing in God when I was 14. Currently, I am an active volunteer for a couple of different national, secular organizations. For one of them, I am the editor of a newsletter that reaches over 1,000 atheist/agnostic college students. I have written several Letters to the Editor to newspapers in and around Chicago, espousing my atheistic beliefs when Church/State issues arose. My point being that I don’t take my non-belief lightly. However, while I don’t believe in God, I firmly believe I would immediately change those views if presented with evidence to the contrary. And at age 22, this is possibly the best chance anyone has of changing me.

So here’s my proposal. Every time I come home, I pass this old Irish church. I promise to go into that church every day– for a certain number of days– for at least an hour each visit. For every $10 you bid, I will go to the Church for 1 day. For $50, you would have me going to mass every day for a week.
 (15)

Mehta continues by promising to go to church willingly and keep an open mind, yet not saying or doing anything inappropriate. He offers to volunteer with the church and interact with the people of the church and do his best to learn about the churchgoers’ beliefs. He also promises to maintain a diary, take photos, or secure any other type of proof the winning bidder desires in order to uphold his end of the bargain.

Proving that Americans love a good gimmick and are willing to pay for it, Mehta was successful in finding someone to pay him to attend church. The winning bidder of his auction was Jim Henderson, a minister from Seattle, Washington, who paid $504 to get Mehta to attend church. Mehta donated the money to the Secular Student Alliance, one of the organizations Mehta was involved with when he was a student.

Instead of just attending the old Irish church, however, Henderson opted to have Mehta try a variety of different churches and maintain his impressions on Henderson’s Web site, http://www.offthemap.com. And Mehta did make good on his end of the deal, visiting churches in four different states that ranged from mega-sized to small and intimate. Mehta’s eBay experiment led to his decision to write his 2007 book, I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith through an Athiest’s Eyes.

My thoughts

This book wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be when I decided to buy it. I was under the impression that Mehta’s memoirs of an atheist sitting in church would be about just that… sitting in church. But it turns out I Sold My Soul on eBay is also about what makes an atheist tick. He offers some commentary on the atheist movement, as well as some insight as to why he gave up Jainism, the faith Mehta grew up in.

Mehta’s eBay experiment led him to attend some very well known megachurches, to include Ted Haggard’s New Life Church and Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. Mehta offers his observations of what it was like for him as a non-believer. While I’m no atheist, I can understand where he was coming from, particularly when he writes of his experiences in the megachurches, a burgeoning American phenomenon that I personally find a big turn off. That being said, not all of Mehta’s observations are negative. He has good things to say about Joel Osteen, going as far as to quip “I may be an atheist, but I love Joel” (123). Based on Osteen’s constant presence on television over the past few years, so do a lot of other Americans.

Toward the end of the book, Mehta offers his thoughts on both what works and what’s wrong with typical Christian church services. I didn’t agree with all of Mehta’s insights; for example, he says he wishes there was less singing. I don’t attend church regularly anymore, but one of the one things I do enjoy about church services is the music. Mehta also complains that a lot of Christians have an intolerant attitude toward atheists.  I can agree with that statement.  On the other hand, Mehta also observes that a lot of churches offer valuable community outreach, which he claims to find commendable, and some of the pastors he met made sure their messages were very relevant.  The pastors who kept their messages useful to Mehta today stood the best chance of getting him to change his mind about religion and go back to church.

At the end of the book, Mehta writes an interesting chapter about what it would take to get him to convert. He writes that he still has unanswered questions about Christianity, though at this point, he’s still a devout atheist. As I was reading this chapter, I started to wonder why it should matter to most people whether or not Mehta chooses to believe in God. But then it occurred to me that for many devout Christians, it really does matter. And so, for those people, Mehta’s last words may be the most compelling in the book. I’m sure former teen heart-throb Kirk Cameron, who has famously become a devout Christian and even ambushed Mehta on a radio program, would want to know how to get him to believe and be “saved”.

This book includes a guide for discussion groups. I’m sure the guide is very useful for those who want to read this book as a group and toss around some ideas afterward. Mehta also offers some notes at the end of the book with clarifications and more resources, along with an invitation to join his personal blog, http://www.friendlyatheist.com.

Overall

I liked this book. I guess I would have enjoyed it more if it had been more focused on just the eBay auction and was written more like a story instead of a progress report, but I did find Mehta’s observations intriguing. Mehta has a friendly, honest, engaging voice; he’s intelligent and seems to have an open mind, and that’s very refreshing. One thing potential readers should know is that Mehta mostly confines his church attendance to Protestant denominations, which may or may not have affected his opinions.

I would recommend I Sold My Soul on eBay to those who are interested in learning more about Atheism, as well as those who find religion stimulating. I will warn, however, that this book takes a broader approach than I was expecting. It’s not as much as a memoir as I was thinking it would be, which may or may not be appealing to other readers.

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business, careers, law, LDS, YouTube

I discovered a fascinating new YouTube channel…

Based on the recent topics I’ve been covering on this blog, some people might come away with the idea that all I care about is abortion, Trump, and COVID-19. But, the truth is, I have a wide array of interests. I am really interested in cults, and before the mess of the pandemic and Trump’s disastrous presidency, I wrote a lot about toxic organizations.

Before I revised my commenting policy, I heard from someone who had read the story of how I almost got sucked into a multi-level marketing business. Well, actually, that’s probably overstating things. The truth is, there was never any real possibility that I would ever get involved with an MLM. I did, however, get roped into seeing a presentation by people involved with the now defunct group, Equinox. It was a bizarre experience that was also surprisingly educational. I’m glad I went, although I am even more glad that I didn’t get sucked into the business.

As I discovered yesterday, when I found NOT THE GOOD GIRL’s YouTube channel, some people are not so fortunate. I found her channel yesterday, when YouTube suggested a video she made, interviewing a former Mary Kay director. It was late afternoon and I had time to kill, so I watched the whole thing, which ran for over two hours. I have to give her props. I very rarely have the patience to sit through a two hour video that wasn’t made by TV producers or movie makers. But I did watch the whole thing… and I found it thought provoking on many levels.

I watched this entire video… Elle could have been me, although she’s a lot bubblier than I am.

What I really thought was interesting about this video is how the two women talk about the culty tactics used to keep people in the business. At one point, they both mention that they used to be religious. Elle says she went to a Bible college. And Josie, the woman making these videos, also mentions that the tactics reminded her of being in church. I don’t know which religious bent either of these ladies followed, but I definitely could see the parallels.

I was raised mainstream Presbyterian, which was pretty benign. But Bill was involved in the LDS church, thanks to his ex wife. I have been studying Mormonism for years, and I recognized a lot of the signs and symptoms of “cult abuse” in this video that I’ve also seen in Mormonism. In fairness, those same signs and symptoms exist in other religious organizations. Mormonism is just the organization that directly affected me. They aren’t the only ones, nor are they necessarily the worst offenders. Actually, Elle mentions that being in Mary Kay reminded her of Scientology. I could definitely see that, having seen some of the videos showing members rallying, with Tom Cruise and his ilk at the helm.

Reminds me of some of the video footage of MLM rallies I’ve seen.

In the below video, Josie talks about her own experiences with MLMs, and how she got indoctrinated by multi-level marking companies. So many of the techniques used by culty religions and abusive people are used by MLMs. Josie talks about being “lovebombed” and groomed, sucked into the business model that so often preys on people’s hopes and dreams of prosperity and being their own bosses.

Josie explains how she got hooked by MLMs…

I noticed in both Josie’s and Elle’s stories, both women joined the MLMs when they were feeling desperate and/or trying to escape a bad situation. In Elle’s case, she was a new college graduate who had a degree in English. She was look for a “real job” and was not having much success. Mary Kay made it seem like she could be a legitimate business owner and build “experience” that might make her attractive to employers. She didn’t realize that a lot of people don’t like people who are involved in MLMs, because they are always looking for sales leads– either people to buy their products, or people they can recruit. Because recruiting new distributors is how people in MLMs make money, and most people are not successful.

In Josie’s case, the decision to be involved in MLMs followed a divorce when she was in her early 20s. She thought the MLM would help her change her life. But what it really led to was the loss of friendships and the loss of herself. She and Elle both describe incredible toxicity that occurs within these types of organizations. I can’t help but notice that a lot of people who join demanding religions also tend to lose friends and family members as they get more indoctrinated within the group. Maybe that’s less true with a religion like the LDS church, as many people identify as “cultural Mormons” and associate with non-LDS people. However, people who initially join and radically change their lifestyles often do lose contact with people who don’t want to join the religion.

Now, I know that some people join MLMs, not because they want to make money, but because they like the products and want discounts. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. What Josie and Elle are talking about are people who think they’re going to make a lot of money in MLMs. Some people do make money, but the vast majority of people never make so much as minimum wage. And they often end up exploiting people in the process of trying to succeed.

Josie also points out that some MLMs do offer good products. I remember that even Equinox had some good products that people wanted to buy, even after the company fell apart. I know a lot of people swear by Avon and Mary Kay. The issue isn’t necessarily the quality of the products. It’s the fact that the products aren’t where the money comes from. The money comes from getting people to basically join a cult, where toxic measures are used to keep people slaving away. The toxicity includes being told you’re not good enough; you don’t work hard enough; you aren’t positive enough, or sharing the company’s image in the best light.

I have visited this topic before. In my original incarnation of The Overeducated Housewife, I wrote several posts about LuLaRoe. I know a few people who were involved in that company, and some swore by how comfortable their leggings are. Deanne Brady Stidham and Mark Stidham are the founders of LuLaRoe, and they are LDS. People in the business referred to Brady as “Aunt Deanne”. I’m sure that was by design, as I pointed out in one of my posts that on the surface, it sounds good to be calling her “aunt”.

If you’re family, you’re supposed to be “loved” and cared for, in a sense.  Family members are supposed to have your back.  We love our family members and don’t want to disappoint them.  That’s what makes it easier to trust family members, and more devastating when family screws you over.  Lots of people think of a business that treats people like “family” as a good thing.  But there is a downside to being a figurative “brother”, “sister”, “aunt” or “cousin”.  Sometimes when you think of someone as “family”, you let your guard down when you really shouldn’t. And, in fact, some of the worst abuse and most toxic relationships happen at the hands of “family” members.

Family members have that advantage of being in the group… they have access to you that other people generally don’t.  They know you better than most people do.  And when something unpleasant needs to be done, family members feel okay about asking other family members for help.  If you go against the grain, you run the risk of being cast out… lovingly, of course, because you need to see the error of your ways.  While I don’t know for sure, I get the sense that LuLaRoe and some other multi-level marketing businesses are kind of culty like that.  You toe the line so you won’t be towed outside of the group. 

If you watch the video with Elle, the Mary Kay director, you’ll hear her talk about the $400 suits she felt compelled to buy for the sake of her business. She talks about how, as a Mary Kay consultant, she was expected to wear panty hose, even when she was on a plane going to a convention. She talks about all of the gear and merchandise she was pressured to buy, all in the name of promoting the business. Below is a screenshot I took of a now defunct blog post about a woman who got burned by LuLaRoe. You can see how appearance and dressing for success is very heavily promoted. But it also has the effect of creating a “uniform”, which psychologically gets people to think they’re part of a larger, more powerful group. While there may not be anything wrong with being in a group, I do think it’s important to understand how being conditioned to look, think, and dress a certain way is a conduit toward being a part of a cult.

LuLaRoe dress rules.

I loved this lady’s hilarious anti-LuLaRoe video. It bears another share!

She gets it… and is spilling the truth.

I’ll probably spend some more time watching Josie’s videos today… or maybe even a few by other people who have learned the truth about being involved with MLMs. I know some people think MLMs are great. In fact, I remember one acquaintance got very defensive when I shared a negative news article about LuLaRoe. However, I could not help but notice that less than a year later, she was trying to unload her entire inventory after LuLaRoe got very publicly sued. Amazon even has a new docuseries going on about LuLaRoe.

I don’t like MLMs, and it’s sad to hear and read stories of people who get caught up in them. On the other hand, I find that topic less depressing than COVID-19, Trump worship, and abortion… So, since it’s Friday, I’ll probably explore some more. Josie’s channel on its own has hours of content! I could totally fall down a rabbit hole. I’m watching the below video now.

High drama!

I notice that Josie’s early videos get very few views. But now that she’s exposing MLMs, she’s probably making some legitimate bank on YouTube!

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book reviews, LDS, religion

Repost: My review of Bringing Elizabeth Home…

Here’s a repost of an Epinions review I wrote in 2004. It appears here “as/is”. A whole lot has happened since 2004– to include Ed and Lois Smart’s divorce and Ed’s coming out as gay. I’m reposting the review for the sake of history, and because I think some people might find it interesting.

The first time I saw Ed and Lois Smart’s 2003 book Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, I was tempted to purchase it. Their beautiful fourteen year old daughter Elizabeth was kidnapped from their Salt Lake City, Utah home on June 5, 2002. The Smarts’ other daughter, nine year old Mary Katherine, witnessed the abduction and alerted Ed and Lois Smart after Elizabeth and the kidnappers, later revealed to be Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, were gone.

I remembered how the summer of 2002 was a summer plagued by a rash of child abductions. A couple of those abductions had ended tragically– five year old Samantha Runnion was killed soon after she was taken, but not before she was brutally molested by her captor. Elizabeth Smart had, against all odds, survived her abduction, reuniting with her family in mid March 2003. And Elizabeth Smart’s story is a bizarre one indeed. Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee were revealed to be believers of a fundamentalist branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. According to news reports, Brian David Mitchell meant to make Elizabeth one of his wives.

The Smart family fascinated me. On the front cover of Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope there is a lovely picture of Elizabeth and her parents, and on the back cover, the whole family of eight is pictured. The Smarts seem to espouse the epitome of the American Dream. Ed and Lois Smart are well off financially, and they have six beautiful children. I wanted to know what lingered beneath the surface of the Smart family’s attractive facade. Nevertheless, I had read negative reviews about Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, so I passed up the book.

Then last week, my husband went out of town for a meeting and I found myself with some extra time to do some reading. It wasn’t long before I found myself purchasing Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope. I finished the book in a few days and am left with my own feelings of ambivalence about the Smart story. On one hand, Ed and Lois Smart are not professional writers and they were telling the heartwrenching story of their daughter’s abduction. On the other hand, Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope was ghost written by Laura Morton, who, according to information on the book jacket, has written a total of eighteen books, six of which were New York Times bestsellers. Unfortunately, I would have expected more from someone who has had such an auspicious career in writing.

While at times, I found Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope to be a warm, touching story, the writing is sometimes awkward and repetitive. Also, although the book is supposed to be written entirely from the Smarts’ point of view, the authors don’t seem to be very selective about their usage of pronouns. For instance, the chapters that are supposedly written by Ed or Lois as individuals read like personal narratives and employ the pronoun “I”. In other chapters, “we” is used, but so is “Ed and Lois”, as if the story is being told from a different point of view. It makes for awkward reading.

This book doesn’t shed a lot of light on the case, either. Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope doesn’t offer many more details than what was already printed in the news or portrayed in the television movie that was made about Elizabeth and broadcasted last fall. There are, however, a couple of interesting chapters about Ed and Lois Smart’s extended family. There’s also a lot written about Elizabeth’s love for playing her harp. Mary Katherine also plays the harp. I don’t know of any kids who play harp, so it was interesting to read about that. The book also offers some very nice pictures of the family. Again, however, it seems like I had already seen some of them in magazines.

The thing I liked the least about Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope was the “preachy” tone in the book. Yes, I understand that the Smarts’ faith had a lot to do with keeping them sane while Elizabeth was missing, but the book, particularly at the beginning, is very heavy on quoting scriptures from the Book of Mormon and the D&C (Doctrine and Covenants), which is another LDS document. If readers aren’t members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, they might not understand some of the significance of the quotes.

Speaking of quotes, the Smarts start most chapters off with one, and they are generally from LDS sources– either the Book of Mormon, or the D&C, or perhaps from a well known LDS leader like church president Gordon B. Hinckley. Again, it seems to me that the Smarts might have forgotten that they might have readers who have no understanding of the LDS Church. On the other hand, the inclusion of the LDS quotes may have been by design– to get more people to investigate the church. All one has to do is contact LDS missionaries and they can start learning about the church and possibly become a member. In any case, it seems to me that some folks might find all the LDS stuff included in this book off putting, particularly if they don’t believe in God or going to church. That said, I will also mention that before I picked up Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, I figured I would be reading something about the Smarts’ faith, so this aspect of the book didn’t surprise me much.

The Smarts continually contend that they want to protect Elizabeth’s privacy, and I respect that. On the other hand, I do find it curious that they published Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, if they truly wanted to protect Elizabeth’s privacy. They write that they were hoping to put some of the false information to rest. It seems to me that the Smarts’ book is really more about how Ed and Lois Smart dealt with Elizabeth’s absence than Elizabeth’s ordeal, and to the Smarts’ credit, they do seem to convey that idea in the book. However, they had to know that people would buy this book expecting to read about what really happened to Elizabeth. The Smarts include a few details, but those who want to buy Bringing Elizabeth Home should realize that they won’t get the whole scoop.

I don’t think that Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope is a terrible book. It’s just that it doesn’t reveal that much more than what the public already knows about the Smart case. The writing is not as strong as it should be and there’s some preaching in this book that might turn some people off. Nevertheless, the Smart case is fascinating and if you want to know everything that’s out there about the Smart family, you might find reading this book worthwhile. On the whole, however, I think that most people would probably do well to skip it.

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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.

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