Singer Pat Boone said on a live broadcast Tuesday from the Trinity Broadcasting Network that he had no regrets about donning a heavy-metal outfit--including chest-baring leather and a studded dog collar--at an awards show in January, but he apologized if the get-up shocked viewers.
"To whatever extent somebody was wounded, I am very sorry," the veteran crooner told a supportive crowd during a taping of the television show "Praise," the national religious network's flagship program. "That was never my intention."
Speaking before an audience that included a contingent of leather-draped Bikers for Christ, Boone, 62, defended his much-maligned metal-head look at the American Music Awards in January. That appearance on the ABC-TV awards show was a promotional gimmick for his new album, "In a Metal Mood/No More Mr. Nice Guy."
The outfit sent shock waves through the ranks of his fans. But the singer, known for the clean-cut good looks that made him a pop idol in the '50s, said Tuesday that he wasn't sorry for going through with it, even if it alienated much of his core audience.
A month after the awards show aired, in response to thousands of viewer complaints, Trinity temporarily canceled Boone's half-hour "Gospel America" program and urged viewers to pray for him.
During Tuesday's show, a viewer poll produced 500 votes to return Boone's weekly gospel show to the air and 50 votes against. TBS founder and president Paul Crouch said the issue would be considered "in the near future."
"I'm glad it happened," Boone said of his awards show appearance. "It was a very good thing. I'm learning a lot, and I hope that others are too."
Still, in an interview earlier Tuesday, Boone said he could not have imagined the intense reaction to his heavy metal look, a gag that threatened to turn into a career-threatening blooper.
"Little did I dream that the media and a lot of Christians would take it seriously," he said. "I was really stunned that Christians, evidently by the thousands, having known me for 35 to 40 years, would think that overnight I just radically changed my orientation and all my priorities.
"Just because I wore some leather pants and fake tattoos and non-piercing earrings doesn't mean that I'm a fundamentally different person."
He said the gag began when Dick Clark, executive producer of the American Music Awards, suggested that Boone and flamboyant rock star Alice Cooper "switch images." But at the last minute, Boone said, Cooper reneged on the plan. Boone decided to go ahead with it anyway.
He suggested Tuesday that Christians need to "lighten up."
"We've got to do some stretching," Boone said. "If we have to apologize for making a joke, then we're in big trouble."
On Tuesday's show, programmers aired portions of two videos featuring music from the heavy-metal album, including "Enter Sandman" and a big-band arrangement of Deep Purple's classic "Smoke on the Water." The album disappeared from the charts after just two weeks.
Boone said he recorded the album to introduce inoffensive heavy metal lyrics to his fans, who are not likely to embrace music that many consider evidence of America's moral decay.
Officials at Trinity, which is carried by nearly 400 cable systems and TV stations worldwide, said its viewers had been upset with Boone, even before his image make-over. Boone's program had been moving away from traditional gospel themes, they said.
After the outcry, Trinity officials invited Boone to explain his motives on Tuesday's live "Praise" show and said his own show could be restored if viewers are satisfied.