At Peace with Family (and Dad), Debby Boone Seeks to Light Up Another Light—broadway's
How does the public perceive you?
As very lightweight. I don't think people think I'm normal. They think I'm some strange, overly disciplined, restricted, stilted girl who's happy being that way; that I believe going to church on Sunday and getting married and having my little family and singing my sweet songs is life. If that's all I was doing, I'd feel sorry for myself too.
Where does that image come from?
Nobody knew a thing about me except that I was Pat Boone's daughter. So I got his image—and he has a tendency to get real corny and do God Bless America-type stuff. The thing that cinched it was, someone asked who I was dedicating You Light Up My Life to. I said I'd chosen to make a prayer out of it and sing it to God.
When you were young, did you know your father was a teenage heartthrob?
It never sank in until the whole family went on a tour of the Orient. I was about 14. The girls there started ripping at his clothes and screaming and holding up "We Love You Pat" signs. I also had girlfriends who would come over to the house. They'd say, "Your dad is so handsome." I'd feel so weird, like, ecch, that's my father.
You and he didn't always get along?
At times I really hated him. We knew how to make each other livid. It would just rip me apart—terrible scenes followed by three days of my giving him the silent treatment—and yet I asked for it all the time. He made mistakes. I made more, but then I was younger. It took my growing up and changing, and his mellowing out a little bit, but I don't regret one second of it. I mean, I think I had the best dad you could ever hope to have.
Whom do you admire today?
This might surprise a lot of people, but I have tremendous respect for Jane Fonda. I don't agree down the line with her, but she's strong, she's talented and concerned about things outside her immediate life. One thing I don't like about myself is that I'm not very politically aware. I hardly read anything; I fall asleep when I read.
Do you think you're sexy?
Yes. And there are times when I get flirty. I'm a sucker for a sense of humor—I could almost fall in love with a sense of humor. I see people I'm attracted to, and I know that if I push them half an inch I could have whatever I want. But you shouldn't start something you definitely don't want to finish. If I were single it might be fun. I'm not single. I love my husband and I love my baby and I love my family life. Fun isn't always worth it.
What's been your hardest adjustment to marriage?
Everyone told me, "Boy, those first couple of years of marriage are real lulus." I kept bracing myself, but there was no shock. I had dated Gabri for five years before we got married. I knew him very, very well and he knew me. We knew what we were getting into. It was the most natural progression in the world—except for the raised toilet seat. I grew up with three sisters. Gabri would leave the toilet seat up. I'd sit down, fall in and wrench my back. And he'd say, "Why don't you look first?" That was the only shock of marriage—checking to see that the toilet seat was down.
Have you paid your professional dues?
When I made You Light Up My Life and suddenly I had to perform onstage for an hour, people would say, "One hit song does not an entertainer make." But they didn't realize I had worked eight years with my family on tours. I used to hear Barbra Streisand or Donna Summer or somebody else who could sing circles around me rangewise, and I'd say, "Who am I trying to kid, competing with those people?" I have limitations—I can't sing everything—but I've learned that I'm a communicator. When I sing, I can make people feel things. I hear sniffles in the audience, and I love it. I still have an awful lot to learn, but I'm willing to do it. I mean, it's my name above the title in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Everyone will know whether I make it or break it on opening night. But I've made a decision to quit apologizing for myself. I'm out there because I deserve to be out there.
So you're satisfied?
I don't know why there's that expression "happy as a clam"—I've never understood it—but if a clam is happy, I'm happy as a clam.
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