HOME ENTERTAINMENT : No Elvis-Like Gyrations by Smooth, Trim Pat Boone

TIMES STAFF WRITER

"I don't know if this sounds presumptuous," Pat Boone is saying, "but I think I was sort of the Tom Cruise of my day. Sort of clean-cut, normal-looking, approachable."

Elvis Presley, he adds, "was sort of the Brad Pitt or even the Howard Stern. The guy who was breaking the rules and winning. I was the guy who was playing by the rules and living a life that was more like the life other people were living and also winning big."

Whereas Presley and his gyrating pelvis were running into censorship problems on TV in the mid-1950s, Boone was embraced by mainstream America. Boone, who was known for his white buck shoes, pearly white teeth, neatly trimmed hair, dimples and charming smile, covered such R&B; hits as Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame" and Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" and made them palatable to a pop audience used to listening to Perry Como and Frank Sinatra.

Rhino Home Video is celebrating Boone's fourth decade in the music biz with the new video "Pat Boone: 40 Years of Hits" ($20), which features musical clips from his 1957-60 ABC series, "Pat Boone--Chevy Showcase." The video includes new footage of Boone, now 61, introducing his vintage performances of "Love Letters in the Sand," "Friendly Persuasion" and "April Love."

This year, Boone's been on a concert tour singing his hits. "As we started putting the show together, I started to find out things I didn't know [about my career]. To my amazement, I discovered I had 60 records in the charts."

He's also ranked as the No. 7 singles artist of all time. Only Presley was more successful between the years 1955-63.

Boone acknowledges his TV series greatly diminished his recording career. He recalls that Bing Crosby wrote him a letter and warned him against the series "because you wear out your welcome pretty fast. I didn't quite accept it because things were going so well. But if you are on TV regularly, you just become too accessible. Here I was coming through every window and door. I was making movies. I was doing TV. I was making records and personal appearances. I wrote a book while I was still in college."

One of the writers on Boone's TV series was an up-and-coming stand-up comic named Woody Allen. "I can't remember any Woody Allen jokes we did on the show, but I remember very well Woody doing these rambling kind of monologue ideas of what we ought to do," Boone says. "I would start laughing until tears were rolling down my cheeks."

Boone says members of the alternative press have told him recently they sense a growing appreciation of his songs and "what I did to popularize rock 'n' roll and further the careers, as they are starting to almost grudgingly acknowledge, of Little Richard, Fats, Chuck Berry. . . .

"They would like people to think that maybe their records would have become pop hits if they hadn't been covered, but they know, because they lived through the time, that R&B; hits never did cross over. That wasn't going to happen until a transition period occurred when pop artists did sort of cleaned-up versions of those R&B; songs and made them acceptable. Some day the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is going to have to deal with that."

"Pat Boone: 40 Years of Hits" is available by calling (800) 432-0020.

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Exercise: Olympic gold champion Mitch Gaylord introduces the new "Amazing Fitness Series" ($20 each), which features five exercise videos targeted to both men and women. The series includes "Amazing Abs," "Amazing Buns" and "Amazing Legs." To order, call (800) 4-ABS-NOW.

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No Stone Unturned: Coinciding with the release of Oliver Stone's "Nixon," Central Park Media Video is offering "The Real Richard Nixon" ($20 each; $50 for the set), a three-video collection culled from interviews conducted with Nixon in 1983 by historian and former White House Fellow Frank Gannon. The videos feature Nixon talking about his "Early Life," his wife "Pat" and his last "Twenty Eight Days" in office. The videos are available by calling (800) 453-4000.

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Kids' Stuff: Brooke Shields and conservationist John Varty star in "Born Wild" (Columbia TriStar), a drama based on the true story of how Varty saved two orphaned leopard cubs in Africa. The wildlife footage is beautiful and the cubs are adorable. However, the film is marred by a silly subplot.

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New This Week: Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov stars in and directed "Burnt by the Sun" (Columbia/TriStar), the Oscar-winning 1994 foreign film.

Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman, currently in "Sense and Sensibility," star together in the comedy-drama "An Awfully Big Adventure" (New Line).

Also new: "Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde" (HBO) and "Timemaster" (MCA/Universal).

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