MARIE OSMOND--THE MORMON MADONNA?

Marie Osmond stood in her dressing room putting final touches on her makeup. She studied her face in the brightly lit mirror, then announced matter-of-factly, "I look tired."

Wardrobe mistress Lisa Savage looked up from her newspaper and perused her boss's face. She assured Osmond, "You look great !" She returned to an article on the Sean Penn-Madonna nuptials and read aloud some of the juicier tidbits.

"Cher came with purple hair. . . . There were all these helicopters. . . " She suddenly stopped, a look of disbelief on her face as she questioned, "Madonna was wearing a black derby under her veil?"

The Mormon Madonna smiled at Savage's incredulity as she calmly touched up her long fingernails with some polish. Although Marie Osmond was a peer, she didn't know her more . . . secular counterpart, nor any members of the so-called Brat Pack who attended the wedding in full force.

"I guess when I was about 13 and doing the (Donny and Marie) show, I got into the clothes and the glamour and all, but after a few years I just wanted to be normal," she reflected--unpatronizingly, but definitely with an edge of experience.

After all, at 26, she's already done 23 years in Show Business. She popped a wild cherry Life Saver into her mouth--an attempt to keep her increasingly scratchy throat at bay--and went off to change clothes.

In a few minutes, she and brother Donny would bound on stage at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts to entertain at a benefit for the local fireman's association.

She'd been touring at a heavy pace, crisscrossing the country for one- and two-night engagements. She usually played alone but was joined by Donny at various stops. Her days off were spent taping episodes for the soon-to-be canceled "Ripley's Believe It or Not," which she now co-hosts.

Her schedule left her little time to breathe, but that's the way she wanted it. For Marie Osmond, resuming a full-time career has been easier than sitting at home thinking about the marriage she left behind.

A new American Sweetheart was crowned the moment Marie Osmond appeared alongside her famous singing brothers on the Andy Williams Show in the mid-1960s.

She grew from toothy pubescence to sleek adolescence in America's living rooms during the long-running "Donny and Marie Show." Her dates, her clothes, her diets and her dilemmas were dutifully reported in magazines ranging from Seventeen and American Girl through the National Enquirer and the Star.

By the time she married in 1982, the event was big news--a Milestone in Time magazine, a story on "Entertainment Tonight," a full-length feature in McCall's.

Her impending motherhood was tracked by Women's Day, Ladies Home Journal and Redbook; the birth of her son was practically a royal event.

Her marital troubles made headlines in many of the same publications, followed by stories of the many reconciliations that took place. Those stories were finally replaced with hard news--there would be a divorce.

The Star most recently non-reported that the couple finally agreed on a divorce settlement because they hadn't wanted details of their three-year marriage revealed in court. (In fact, Marie Osmond got exactly what she asked for--$1 per year alimony and custody of her son.)

Her re-emergence in show business brings her again into the living rooms of America--this time as a glamorous young woman. Her visage inspired Los Angeles musician Jack Skelley to pen an ode, "To Marie Osmond," which was reprinted in the November issue of Harper's magazine. An excerpt:

There you are again,

Your crystal-perfect face

On the cover of the Enquirer.

It seems you're everywhere this Spring,

On more magzines than April has roses.

And yes, your series flopped, but you really are

More suited to the slit sequined dresses of NBC (sic)

Than to Family Circle declarations of virginity.

Lips of a TV Venus should pucker, not pout.

Marie on Marie: I don't mind being called wholesome. I am. But why does it have to mean namby-pamby?

The last leg of the summer-long Osmond tour had kicked off in Victorville, near the rodeo grounds at the San Bernardino County Fair.

While not a stop for the Bruce Springsteens of the world, the fair has presented such secondary luminaries as Rick Nelson, the Righteous Brothers, Elvin Bishop, Dottie West and Jan and Dean, but never to the capacity crowds that now overflowed from the grandstand for two back-to-back shows by Donny and Marie.

The glamorous woman on the small stage bore small resemblance to the sweetheart of prime-time TV. She was dressed in a knee-length, royal blue sequined dress, rock-sized rhinestone earrings and silver high-heeled pumps that accentuated her curvaceous legs.

"I'm the one in the family that became a little bit country," Osmond told the crowd before singing "Taking Country to the City Tonight," "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden," "Snowbird" and a cut from her new country-Western album, "There's No Stopping Your Heart." Then, strolling the stage as she peered out into the enthusiastic crowd, she announced, "I'm looking for someone special. . . ."

She found him and beckoned. "You . . . yes, you." A tall, hefty fellow lumbered on stage as she teased, "Now he is cute; check him out." The crowd laughed; cute was not exactly the appropriate adjective--but Bob Jackson of Pomona was about to make his singing debut.

At Marie's insistence, he wrapped his arms around her and the two launched into a rather haphazard, though highly entertaining, duet on Patsy Cline's "Crazy." Beaming, Jackson left the stage to thunderous applause.

Local sound technician Paul Petrowsky watched from behind the large sound board and said admiringly, "You know, Marie's interaction with the crowd is gonna make a bunch of fans for life.

"Bob's never gonna forget singing with Marie. He's gonna tell all his friends about her and when her next album comes out, he'll buy it."

With that, Marie left the stage and negotiated her way gingerly over the bumpy, dusty ground to the Winnebago which functioned as a dressing room. Brother Donny leaped on stage (to the delight of hundreds of screaming pre-pubescent, teen-aged and middle-aged girls) for his rock 'n' roll portion of the show.

Waiting for Marie inside the motor home was her 2-year-old son, Stephen (never far from mom's side), and family matriarch Olive Osmond. Osmond mere had recently returned to Utah from a yearlong Mormon church mission in England. She arrived in Ontario earlier that day for a visit with her touring family.

Changing quickly into another outfit--a long white taffeta skirt and white sequined top--Marie was out the door and waiting behind the stage, microphone in hand, for her cue from Donny.

Donny sang, "There was a boy. . . ."

Marie responded, "There was a girl . . . ," then walked on stage for a duet on "Morning Side of the Mountain."

That was followed by sibling banter until Donny ripped off her skirt, revealing that the sequined top had actually been the top half of a much shorter, cowgirl-style dress. Donning a matching sequined hat, Marie belted out "9 to 5," while her brother ran to change.

They continued to sing, change costumes and switch places until the finale, Huey Lewis' "Heart of Rock and Roll."

Meanwhile, over in the beer pavilion, a banjo player finished a song for her much smaller audience and suggested archly, "Now, isn't that better than Donny and Marie?"

Not necessarily. At the show's end, fair official Tom McCourt reported that the two Osmonds had played to almost 10,000 people that evening. He enthused, "They broke the record set years ago by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans!"

My father always told me, "Act, don't react." I don't think you need to take your problems to other people. I like being in control of my emotions.

The 18-member entourage woke the next morning to discover that somebody had hot-wired and sped off with their equipment van from its parking place at Ontario's Holiday Inn. In addition to all the sound equipment and instruments, the van contained $50,000 worth of wardrobes for the stars.

"They must have been watching the van, because we had a security guard posted until 7 this morning," road manager Allen Finlinson explained to the Osmonds. The police had been called; two Osmond roadies would stay behind to monitor the situation. Despite the lousy turn of events, no one looked the least bit upset.

"What's the point? That would just make things worse," Marie said with a shrug, as she calmly pulled her baby's toys together in an overstuffed tote bag. Wearing her hair pulled back in a pony-tail, a plaid overshirt, beige stirrup pants and large dark glasses, Osmond walked her son up and down an outdoor ramp at the Ontario airport, largely unnoticed by travelers hurrying to their planes.

The day's itinerary included a flight to Oakland, then a drive to Stockton for two shows at the San Joaquin Country Fair. As she waited to board the plane, she mater-of-factly discussed the other news of the day, a gossip item in a local newspaper regarding her divorce from a onetime Brigham Young University basketball star.

"Twenty-eight-year old Stephen Craig . . . would like to call their impending divorce off. Marie (who filed for divorce in May) also filed for custody of their son, Stephen, and Craig just filed a response seeking custody of the kid himself," the item read. "But according to his attorney . . . Craig would rather just kiss and make up. 'He very much would like to not have a divorce and would like to reconcile with her because he loves her and their son very much,' his lawyer insists."

There was little emotion in her voice as she commented, "I gave him plenty of chances; I never gave him an ultimatum. (His desire for reconcilement) is just not true; he's not doing this big trip of 'Oh I want you back.' He may, but after three times, what I'm doing is absolutely right. I just hope that someday he gets his life straightened out."

Ruffling her son's hair, she added, "I just can't believe that he would think so little of this one to put him through something like a custody battle."

Finlinson appeared at her side. "They're ready to board us now."

This isn't normal; I chose to be this busy.

Marie sat on her suitcase in the baggageclaim area at Oakland Airport. Her life, she joked, was sitting on her lap in the form of a TRS-200 computer.

"It's the only way I can keep track of everything these days," she explained. While waiting for the rental vans that would take them around the San Francisco area, she turned on the lap-size battery-operated computer for a quick demonstration.

Contained within its bits and bytes were addresses, phone numbers, business letters, work schedules and entries in her private journal.

Since the end of May, Osmond had worked nonstop, staggering "Ripley's" shooting days with tour dates. She also squeezed in appearances on the Osmond's 25th anniversary special (which aired last month), the Miracle Network Telethon and would soon be taping an ABC special hyping its fall season. In addition, there would be publicity tours later this month for two books on exercise for pregnant women and mothers and babies published by the New American Library.

During the drive to Stockton, with her brother at the wheel and Finlinson at his side, she slipped on a pair of headphones and, with a cassette player, listened to the network's rewritten version of Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." that she would be lip-syncing in a few days. At the same time, she made journal entries in her computer diary.

Her son napped in his grandmother's lap as Olive Osmond spoke lovingly about her only daughter: "She and I are so close, we can be together hours without saying a thing," she explained, smiling at Marie.

Arriving at the Stockton Hilton, Marie walked with Stephen around the hotel for a half hour, then disappeared into her room for an hour or two of rest before showtime.

Later that afternoon, Finlinson delivered good--if not amazing--news. As he drove Donny, Marie, Olive and Stephen to the Stockton fairgrounds, he reported that Ontario police had actually recovered the stolen equipment van through a bizarre series of events.

A local woman--perhaps more observant during the Night Stalker scare--called police to say that some individuals next door seemed to be engaged in an inordinate amount of moving. Police checked it and found the Osmond's equipment.

"In fact," Finlinson continued, "when they burst in, Marie, they found the burglars roasting marshmallows with your costumes."

She laughed, not buying his story for a minute. Finlinson explained that everything would arrive in time for their playdate in Salinas the following evening. In the meantime, the band would use rented equipment; Donny and Marie's wardrobe for the evening performance would have to come from their suitcases.

"What are you going to wear, Donny?" his sister asked as they arrived.

He described the shirt, which drew moans from Marie.

"Not the green olive with pimentos!"

His nephew Stephen echoed, "Not the green egg shirt!"

Uncle Donny laughed, nodded and disappeared inside his dressing room/trailer.

Just another night on the road.

I think country singers have such longevity because they take care of their fans. I've never met him, but Bruce Springsteen seems to be real nice. He goes down to his normal pubs.

Marie stood on the Salinas Civic Auditorium stage with John, her eager audience participant for the evening.

"I drove 300 miles from Northern California just to see you," he told her.

Asked for a more precise location, he explained, "You know, where all the pot comes from!"

Chortles from the band.

It had been one of those days. While Donny and the band headed south, Marie drove to San Francisco with Finlinson. She put her mother and son on a plane to Los Angeles (Stephen would be spending the weekend with his dad), then met with ABC technicians to do some pre-taping for the special she would tape two nights later.

Then straight to Salinas for the show.

She visited with local well-wishers backstage while her brother did his portion of the show. As she prepared to go back on stage, she perused her lavish, mostly sequined wardrobe in search of another outfit. Holding up a yellow and black sequined jacket, and pointing to the matching vest and pants nearby, she commented, "You know, this entire outfit must weigh 30 pounds; I have to take the jacket off midway through or else I'd collapse."

She checked herself in the mirror one final time, took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders as she walked back to the stage. Showtime.

The Osmonds were out the door and headed toward San Jose within minutes after the concert's end. They had already gone to their rooms by the time the band and crew arrived at the San Jose Hilton.

Finlinson stopped by the bar to talk to a couple of the crew members and to place an order with the bartender.

"They're both really tired and Marie's losing her voice," Finlinson explained. The peppy road manager smiled, "Just two more days. If they can just hold on, we'll be through."

The bartender brought Finlinson his order: Two glasses of milk--one for his ulcer, the other to drink with the pizza he was having delivered to his room.

People often say that nice people get walked on. I disagree. I'm a nice person, but I don't get walked on. I'm not easy.

The San Jose show seemed poised for disaster.

Marie was in danger of losing her voice. As Donny prepared his solo act, he found that his voice was gone.

Although notes were passed to the band, indicating that Marie should finish the show without him--she ignored them and exited as originally planned. Donny found enough voice to get through an abbreviated act.

At the end, she said to Donny, "That was extremely unprofessional," then let the subject drop. Everyone seemed too tired even to offer explanations.

As Marie waited for her brother and Finlinson to check out of the hotel, a group of girls clustered around the van, simply staring. They'd taken all the pictures, gotten all the autographs they wanted, but now seemed interested only in watching.

Marie, jeans-clad and sunglassed, was weary but, as always, infallibly pleasant.

"Is there anything else I can do for you?" she asked. They said no and continued to stare. Finlinson dispersed them.

The drive to Concord was quiet. She read from a book, "The Miracle of Forgiveness," and slept. Her brother and Finlinson made desultory conversation about business, fishing and Donny's upcoming move to Orange County.

As they drew close to their hotel, Marie perked up. "I want to have some fun tonight," she announced. "Let's go to a movie, or Malibu Grand Prix."

The desk clerks were instructed only to ring through to Donny and Marie's room when certain code names were given. Meantime, Marie chatted with a fan who had waited for her in the lobby.

Marie's ebullience had vanished when she returned.

"Oh . . . that woman asked if we were going to go more places and I said no, I was going to do something else for a while. She said, 'Yeah, you need to stay at home for a while and be a mother.' "

Frustrated, she burst out, "I bust my butt ! I stay up days and night for my child."

But before even her brother or road manager could reassure her, she stopped. Then she said quickly of the fan, "Oh she didn't mean it. She didn't know what she was saying."

She went to her room.

I never have been a person who conforms to what is popular; not that I try to do the opposite, but I think a lot of the success of Marie is that I've always been a little bit different. I've never been the norm.

They call it old fashioned. I call it being in control.

In the Concord Pavilion's airy underground performers' area, spirits were high as the band planned some pranks for their final show. Finlinson had booked Marie on a flight that made it mandatory to finish the show in a spare 55 minutes, bolt for the van and speed to Oakland's airport.

Marie said she had slipped out the night before and seen "Cocoon," which she liked, then indulged herself that morning by staying in bed until 10:30 watching TV.

"My idea of heaven," she told several band members gathered, "is sitting around watching old movies and eating chocolate chocolate chip ice cream.

"Chocolate is one of my downfalls," she said. She had a bet with Finlinson that she wouldn't touch the stuff for a year.

After the show, she raced to the van. As drummer Nick Vincent sped toward Oakland Airport, Marie pushed him all the way: "You guys, I can't miss this plane!" She was due in Los Angeles at 6 where a limousine would take her directly to ABC's Hollywood studios to tape the special.

Time was running short as the van wheeled into the airport. Osmond sprinted through the airport for the gate and missed her plane by about a minute.

She shrugged amiably; there would be another plane in an hour. She called her manager, Carl Ingemann, to re-book the limousine, and strolled off to get a bite to eat.

Three loyal fans from Provo--who follow her everywhere they can afford to--were there to send her off, giving her some wild cherry Life Savers for the trip. Her L.A. fans met the plane at LAX and followed her to the parking lot where they stood in a semicircle snapping pictures of Marie until she finally excused herself.

"Carl, when we get there will you rub my neck," she asked her silver-haired manager as the limo sped to Hollywood.

Marie had just finished dinner at the Sheraton Universal Hotel when Telly Savalas strolled up to the table. "Hey-y-y Marie," he said in his classic, "Who loves ya, baby" style, "I haven't seen you in years, you're beautiful."

She smiled and thanked him. As the two chatted, a friend of Savalas' appeared and, smiling, pointed to a full-page picture of her in a magazine he was reading. A tabloid.

It was an article in the Star about her divorce.

She smiled, but as she turned back to the table, her expression grew tense.

It was momentary and with a brief toss of her head it was gone. Marie straightened her shoulders and smiled determinedly at her dinner companion.

"Now, where were we?"

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