The day Jimmy Osmond played football with Michael Jackson
PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 January 2018 | UPDATED: 10:27 29 January 2018
©2009 Jim Lersch
Jimmy Osmond remembers playing football with Michael Jackson, making the Queen laugh and the important role Andy Williams played in his life.
Jimmy was in a reflective mood last time we spoke; sharing stories of throwing up in front of Elvis after scoffing grilled cheese sandwiches and orange freezies backstage as a kid and how, later, his career almost ended when he suffered a minor stroke while recording his TV show.
He’s in a nostalgic mood again, recalling a stay at London’s Churchill Hotel at the same time as the late Michael Jackson.
“We were kids. There were 5,000 girls outside, so we couldn’t get out. So we ended up playing soccer in the corridor together. Later on I promoted Smooth Criminal and raised money for Bad. He was a lovely guy, but I lost touch with him later,” says Jimmy, most well known for Long Haired Lover From Liverpool.
“I’ve performed for the Queen twice. On one occasion, I remember standing in the line after the show next to Roger Moore and Liza Minnelli and as she approached me I said ‘hello Mrs Queen’. I think she saw the funny side.
“Much later on in life we’d just lost our mother and were performing once again at the Royal Variety Show, this time in Scotland. Coming down the line the Queen stopped in front of me and remembered my mom who had previously presented her with a copy of The Book of Mormon. I was really touched – what an amazing memory and so much compassion. One of those moments you never forget.”
The person he’s most keen to talk about is Andy Williams, who gave Jimmy his big break when he was just three.
“My brothers were already on the TV show... I was the little guy who’d run on and be goofy. We ended up as regulars and singing on records like Aquarius. In those early days, I was the novelty guy, like a mascot. I was the kid brother everyone liked to slag off. I was the obnoxious boy in the corner. Even in our cartoon TV series, I was the bad apple. But after a lot of therapy, I’ve come to terms with it,” he laughs.
Williams was a terrific mentor.
“He surrounded us and himself with the very best people – that’s key. He was always willing to hear what was wrong rather than what was right about a performance. That is really helpful. Even today after a show, I always ask ‘what needs to be improved?’ That’s a really good way to lead your life.”
An actual form of therapy for Jimmy is cartooning. He’s quite the caricature artist, even sketching Williams.
“When I was young, we were on tour in the UK. Back in those crazy days, the crowds of fans were so huge, we couldn’t even stay in a hotel – we had to stay in a private house. We had police around us all the time to protect us from the crowds.
“I remember being taken off the tour and rushed onto a plane with a policeman. I was sitting waiting for everyone else and the bobby drew half a character. He said ‘you do the other half’. I did it and he said ‘hey, you’re quite good at this’. I was just eight, but he inspired me.
“I love it. It’s therapy from me. If you’re frustrated with someone, you can draw them and distort their features and get it all out. Over the years our family have been in so many situations and cartoons always create levity. I always draw one of my brothers if he’s in trouble. I’ll do a cartoon on something traumatic and it brings lightness to the situation. I adore cartooning because it always gives back.”
Jimmy and his siblings are clearly very close off stage. He says being raised together, you learn to get over things very quickly.
“We still have scars, but we really love each other. We had great parents who loved each other and gave us a great code of life. We always put family first. Some people think we’re crazy, but I believe in that philosophy. How we treat each other really matters.
“We’re still around because we haven’t burnt any bridges. It’s such a greedy business, but if you leave a bit on the table, you will be asked back. It’s not about amassing loads of money. It’s about the experience. That’s why I love live events. You are giving that unique experience to people.”
Jimmy’s tribute to Williams, Moon River and Me sees him perform songs like Music To Watch Girls By, Happy Heart, Speak Softly Love and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. The Williams’ family has let him use clips featuring everyone from Dick Van Dyke to John Wayne and Bobby Darin.
“I say ‘please don’t think I could ever sound like him, but let’s celebrate his melodies together’. The show is coming from a sincere place. There aren’t many people who could pull it off because they wouldn’t have that connection with Andy.
“I do a section of Osmonds’ material – Love Me For a Reason, Crazy Horses and Let Me In. I also do a comedy section. During A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock ‘n’ Roll, I put masks of Donny and Marie on people from the audience, so I can get back at my siblings.”
• See Moon River and Me at Hunstanon’s Princess Theatre, February 4; The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, February 7 and Clacton’s West Cliff Theatre, March 1.