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September 2, 2014

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25 random things about Donny & Marie

IF YOU GO

What: Donny & Marie

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday

Where: Flamingo Showroom

Admission: $90-$255; 733-3333, www.flamingolasvegas.com

Sun Topics

We all grew up with Donny & Marie — they’ve been on Las Vegas stages since before they were tweens and they’ve been on our TV screens, our record players, Walkmen and iPods for more than four decades. About 30 years ago Donny & Marie starred in their own TV variety show, and 10 years ago they co-hosted a talk show. Together and separately, they’ve had hit singles, starred on Broadway, hosted game shows, written books, driven race cars, marketed doll collections and Danced with the Stars.

But how well do we really know them?

In freewheeling back-to-back backstage chats just before they take the stage at the Flamingo Showroom, we challenge the brother-and-sister act to a variation on the recent Facebook craze, which coaxed thousands of people across the country to reveal “25 Random Things” about themselves. Donny and Marie both get into the spirit — in fact, once he gets started, Donny can’t stop coming up with amusing facts about his sister. “But I’ve got to be careful,” he says. “If I told you some of those things, I would be dead meat... Wait, I just thought of one: Her thumb ...”

And we’re off.

25 Random Things about Donny Osmond

Beginning with five things about Donny from Marie herself:

1. “Donny dances on the tabletops at the Flamingo. Hold on to your beverage.”

2. “Donny licks the salt off of pretzels before he eats them.”

3. “One of Donny’s favorite movies is ‘Waiting for Guffman.’ ”

4. “For Donny, a day without some state-of-the-art techie gadget is like a day without sunshine.”

5. “Of all the performers I’ve shared a stage with in my career, Donny has proved to be the most all-around gifted entertainer.”

6. One of Donny’s pet peeves is when people spell his name “Donnie.” So as a joke the backstage crew at the Flamingo spelled it that way on the gold star on his dressing room door.

7. Donny and his wife, Debra, have five sons, Donald, Jeremy, Brandon, Christopher and Joshua, and a grandson, Dylan, and granddaughter, Emery.

8. Donny has lost two inches off his waistline since the show opened in October. He says gets his cardio and leg workout on stage, but does a full workout at a nearby Las Vegas gym.

9. Whenever hometown friends visit Donny in Vegas, he takes them to the Bellagio bridge — for the best view of the gigantic Donny & Marie mural on the front of the Flamingo: Donny’s eyes alone are 6 feet high and 10 feet wide. “At home, I’m uncle Donny to all the kids and teenagers. But when they come here, I have to show them that — I’m a little more than Uncle Donny right now,” he laughs.

10. He commutes from Provo, Utah, after his days off, and stays in a suite upstairs at the Flamingo during the week. “I joke in the show about being behind Marie’s teeth, but I’m up a little higher than that. I’m in Marie’s hair.”

11. Indian actor Sanjeev Bhaskar recently gave his blessing for his wife to leave him for another man: Donny Osmond. “She planned to marry Donny when she was 12 and told everyone she was going to convert to Mormonism,” Bhaskar said. “She was so excited when he came on ‘The Kumars at No. 42’ as a guest. I told her ‘if you want to go off with him, it’s not a problem.’ ”

12. Donny was peeved when his nephew David was booted off “American Idol” last week, but mostly because the American public wasn’t told that David had laryngitis. The two recently shot a mini-concert for “Entertainment Tonight” on the Flamingo stage.

13. A typical Donny day: Drives his son to the airport at 6 a.m. after four hours of sleep, calls his business manager, sleeps for about an hour, records the voice of a farmer for a Disney cartoon series, works out, does interview with the Las Vegas Sun, does show with Marie.

14. Donny has been a cartoon character at least twice before, in Rankin-Bass’ Saturday morning series “The Osmonds” (1972) and as a recurring character in Hanna-Barbera’s “Johnny Bravo” (1997).

15. He has starred on Broadway three times, as the title characters in “Little Johnny Jones” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and as the villain Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast.”

16. In the early 2000s, Donny briefly considered teaming up for a show with fellow former teen idol David Cassidy, his rival for the cover of Tiger Beat magazine in the early ’70s. “We had one meeting, and it was like, OK, I don’t want to go there.”

17. Donny admits to being “a total nerd,” specifically, a Mac geek: He designed the secret backstage video control room at the Flamingo, as well as the audio and computer systems that run the show. He also put together all the video montages seen in the show, assembling long-lost videos and still photos in his basement. “It’s my little world in here.”

18. Donny bursts into full-on song mid-conversation, launching into “Remember When,” “It’s Your Thing” and the Osmond Brothers’ 1972 rock hit “Crazy Horses” within the span of a half-hour chat.

19. He confides that “Crazy Horses” is soon going to replace “It’s Your Thing” in the Donny & Marie act. “That whole song (“Horses”) is about ecology. Nobody knew at the time what it was about. Garage bands in England are still covering that song.”

20. Donny has a whole terabyte of songs stored on his iTunes, and he’s been transferring old vinyl albums to files using a USB turntable. His cassette collection is next.

21. Donny is engineering a new Donny & Marie album, which will be ready for release in May, followed by a solo Donny album in October. “I don’t think I can have a No. 1 record again, that’s not a goal of mine. But I think Donny & Marie can still sell a lot of records.”

22. Donny and Marie stopped singing together in the early ’80s to reestablish careers as individual artists. “We always knew that we’d come back together again, and when I saw this room at the Flamingo, with the booths, I called Marie and said, ‘This is it. This is the old Las Vegas that we grew up in.’ ”

23. Donny found it tough adjusting to working as a duo again. “I had to come to the conclusion that I’m not the dictator anymore. I can’t say ‘OK, Marie, you’re gonna do this and you’re gonna do that.’ I’m dealing with somebody who is in control of her own career now. That’s why we brought (director/choreographer) Barry Lather in as the mediator — or arbitrator,” he laughs. We both came up with ideas for the show, gave them to him, and he figured it all out for us. Because it would have been a disaster if he wasn’t there.”

24. Their dressing rooms are next door to each other, but Donny doesn’t see much of his sister until showtime. “Last week I went over to her house in Green Valley and hung out for a little while. It’s beautiful. But when I have time off, and I’m not doing anything, I’d rather go home and see my wife and kids.”

25. Donny says he and Marie are both grateful for their Vegas winning streak — the Flamingo show has been extended through 2010. “We’ve both been in situations when we wonder ‘Are we going to sell any seats?’ And so when we have a success like this ...”

25 Random Things about Marie Osmond

The first six things about Marie come straight from Donny:

1. “Marie knows that if she ever sticks her thumb in my back, I’ll go crazy. She did it once on the Donny & Marie talk show: I asked someone a stupid question and she put her thumb in my back. See, when I was a little kid onstage, if I sang a sour note my brother Merrill or Alan would just poke me with a thumb, and it took me right back to those bad times. I threw it to commercial, we walked offstage, and we proceeded to rip each other’s head off. You could hear a pin drop in that audience — they heard everything. Dick Clark had to come backstage and said, ‘Now children,’ and that stopped it right there.”

2. “Every interview we do, Marie has to change the lighting.”

3. “She laughs all of the time.”

4. “Marie came up with the purple socks tradition I had in the ’70s.”

5. “She co-founded the Children’s Miracle Network.”

6. “Don’t ever expect Marie to be on time.”

7. There are three hotel rooms behind Marie’s teeth in the Donny & Marie mural wrapping the Flamingo; if we saw the rest of her in the mural, Marie would be 900 feet tall.

8. A single mom, Marie is 49 and has eight children from her two marriages. Her daughter Rachael, 19, helps manage her mom’s wardrobe and quick-changes during the Flamingo show.

9. Marie agreed to the Flamingo gig on the condition that she got the larger dressing room, which is sometimes packed with 15 or 20 people, kids and dogs, playing with Wiis and toy light sabers. “Hey, I have more children, and I live here. I need the space,” she says, defending her real estate grab. “But George Wallace’s is bigger than mine,” she says, and bursts into peals of loud laughter.

10. The only daughter in a family of eight brothers, she’s a big kidder, too. The audience loves when she takes Cher-like swipes at Donny, who can’t quite get her back. “My mom said to me, ‘You’re Marie Osmond: Your M.O. is to keep (the Osmond brothers) all humble.’ ”

11. She and the kids live in Henderson’s Green Valley neighborhood; Marie has a Nevada driver’s license and shops at the District. “When I was flying back last time, I saw the Strip, I thought, ‘It really feels like I’m home.’ And for me, that’s huge.”

12. She grew up onstage with her singing brothers, but got some real showbiz schooling at age 16 from Lucille Ball. “She was a tough lady,” Marie says, recalling a guest stint on Lucy’s show. “She waved me over and she said, ‘So. You learned a few things in the makeup room, huh? You wanna learn a few more?’ And I thought ‘Oh wow, I’m dead.’ But she goes, ‘OK. You’re worth my time. You’ll be in the business a while. Let me teach you a few things.’ She taught me about lighting, for one thing.” (See No. 3.)

13. Between “Dancing With the Stars” and the Flamingo show, Marie figures she’s lost about 47 pounds. “The show is hard work, but it was also intentional. I had to be healthy. Heart disease runs in my family. Mom died of it, and my grandmother died of it, my dad had two pacemakers. I’m like, ‘Hello, ticking time bomb.’ One day, my son came to me and said, ‘Mom, you’re all we have.’ ”

14. Marie says she wanted to quickly bring audiences up to date with her stylistic range in the current show. “I’ve played fairs and festivals, honky-tonks and symphony dates. I could play my guitar and cook. I don’t think people know I can do those git-down-with-your-bad-self kind of things.”

15. She has also studied opera for seven years, off and on, and during her solo segment sings Andrew Lloyd Webber’s aria “Pie Jesu,” surrounded by stage fog and twinkling stars. “I could be more operatic than ‘Pie Jesu,’ ” she says, “but I didn’t want to scare anyone to death.”

16. She is recording her next solo album in her Henderson home.

17. Marie often says “tragedy + time = humor.”

18. She has a new book coming out in April called “You Might As Well Laugh About It Now,” which got its start when her house burned down in 2005. “I lost more than 30 years of journals, and my mother’s things. I was afraid I would forget it all, so I started putting them down. (The publisher) said it felt very Erma Bombeck-ish.”

19. Marie also likes to say, “My job is to be an entertainer, not a celebrity.”

20. She drives herself to work every night.

21. She and Donny have had many fights over the years. “Oooh, if anybody could hate each other ... are you kidding? Working together and going home to the same house? We probably would have killed each other.”

22. She can’t think of many successful precedents for brother-sister acts. “I mean, you had Karen and Richard (Carpenter), but Richard never talked. (She whispers) Which would have been a nice thing for Donny to do... No! I’m so teasing.” She laughs.

23. The No. 1 reason for their appeal: “We have the same work ethic. I don’t know if it’s blood or what, but we know we’ll always show up for the other.”

24. No. 2: “Almost everyone has a brother or sister, and I say things to Donny that everyone can relate to.”

25. Marie says she stuck her thumb in Donny’s back that one time because “he was being a butt.”

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