Nearly all of entertainer Marie Osmond's life has played out publicly. The mother of eight and best-selling author lets readers in on her thoughts and insights in her new book, "Might As Well Start Laughing Now."
The beloved superstar describes the milestones in her personal and public life, as well as her missteps. Read an excerpt of her book below and get Osmond's advice about how to survive.
A Poseidon Adventure on The Love BoatThere was a lot of beauty and bluster the week I taped The Love Boat in Italy. One extremely strong gust nearly blew me overboard, but I managed to hang on. It wasn't the weather or even the ocean breeze that almost knocked me off of my feet: it was a legendary actress.
Yes, I really did an episode of The Love Boat. It's pretty hard to comprehend that I would turn down the role of Sandy opposite John Travolta in the movie Grease, and then later agree to play a sheltered Italian girl on The Love Boat, but it's true.
Even now, thirty years later, some people I meet will still bring up my decision, and the fact that Olivia Newton-John achieved such major fame in the role that I turned down. They usually ask me about it with a quizzical look of disbelief, like: "What happened? I thought you didn't do drugs? Did you have a mental lapse?"
I'm sure it would have been a lot of fun to work with John Travolta and the talented cast, but I still have no regrets.
Even though the music was fun and the script was good, the ending of the story seemed to send a strongly mixed message to young girls, one that made me feel uncomfortable: the sweet "good girl" chooses to become a very different person due to peer pressure. As Rizzo sings in the movie, Sandy was "lousy with virginity." With the "cool" girls rating her moral values as a personal flaw, Sandy vows to change.
At the end of the movie, she appears as her transformed self in tight black pants, a revealing shirt, sassy high heels, a cigarette in hand, and an attitude of "come and get it." This is the "happy" ending for Sandy – becoming exactly what her peers and boyfriend want her to be. From my perspective, it was not a story of a girl becoming a woman; it was a story of a girl becoming a sex object.
When the part was offered to me, I was still a teenager. Being in the public eye, I was watched closely by many other young people. Beyond that, however, I had been raised to believe that being a female was a blessing full of unique privilege. I see women as being the co-creators and nurturers of the future, the nucleus of the family. My parents had taught me that having self-respect as a woman could never be replaced by any amount of money, possessions, or popularity. It's something I want each of my own daughters to know, and something I learned a lot about in 1982 on the set of The Love Boat.
When I was offered the guest-star role of Maria Rosselli, one of the deciding factors for me was the chance to work with two incredible stage and screen legends: the funny and dear Ernest Borgnine, and the outrageously talented Shelley Winters. In the story line, the two of them were playing my cantankerous grandparents, who were journeying with me to meet my husband-to-be.
As timing would have it, my life was a bit similar to the character I was playing. I had recently become engaged to my first husband and I was very happy. I was twenty-two years old, looking forward to being a wife and a mother. I had so much enthusiasm about my future that I was like a sugar addict who gets the first piece of birthday cake with the giant rose made of frosting. I was buzzing with excitement.
My best friend, Patty, was along with me as my traveling companion. When I wasn't on the set, Patty and I would go out and explore each city where the boat docked. We called it sightseeing. It was more like sighting the best stores and seeing how many we could get to before we had to be back to the ship. Let's just say the two of us have always done more than our share when it comes to stimulating the retail economy wherever we visit! She's the only one I know who can power shop at my pace. About half way through the week of filming, we were in Rome, Italy. I found the most beautiful christening gown I had ever seen in a small specialty shop. The handmade lace and the embroidered satin were breathtaking. I had to buy the gown to hopefully bless my own baby in someday.
I took it back to the set with me and was showing it to some of the friends I had made doing the show when Shelly Winters came over to see what everyone was oohing and aahing over.
Shelly had been on edge with almost everyone equally, both cast and crew, the entire week. Now, for some reason, she flew into a rage over my purchase. I didn't understand and the crew stood stunned into silence as she ranted on about my "sentimental stupidity," scoffing at the baby gown. I didn't even know how to respond. In total embarrassment, I gathered up my shopping bags and went to my room.
That night the cast and crew traveled on to Venice. I spent the entire trip trying to figure out what on earth I had done that made Shelly Winters so furious. I thought that she had no reason to be so crabby. She had a great career and had won every award available in show business: an Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy. In her younger years she was a Hollywood beauty. Now, she was a first choice for a lot of high-profile, challenging character roles. It seemed to me that fortune had been generous to Shelly.
I decided it would be best to just ignore the incident and do whatever it took to get through the filming schedule. She obviously didn't like me at all.
The next evening, following a day of filming, there was a knock on my door. I wasn't expecting anyone, so I was even more surprised when I opened it to see Shelley standing there, cocktail in hand. It seemed, by the way she leaned on the doorframe, that it wasn't her first one of the evening. After I invited her in she asked: "Can I see that baby gown you were showing everyone?"
I was actually afraid she would try to destroy it, but I handed it to her anyway. She sat down in a chair with the dress in her hands, looking it over closely, not saying a word for the longest time. When she finally looked up, her eyes were full of tears. I didn't dare speak, until she said, "I have a daughter, you know."
I told her that I didn't know that.
Then Shelley scoffed, took a long gulp of her drink and said, "I have so many awards I don't know what to do with them. I use them for doorstops. I could have had any man in Hollywood that I wanted."
She set her glass down hard on the table. I was concerned that she was building up steam again so I kept silent, not wanting to make her more upset.
"When my daughter was growing up, all I cared about was my career," she continued. "What would be my next big part? What role would get me further ahead? I guess my daughter felt like she was lost in the shuffle of my career."
Shelley's face softened for a moment and her chin quivered.
"She hates me, you know."
Then she wiped her eyes and picked up her drink again.
"Here's to your career," she toasted me with a forced smile. "If you plan to have kids, which I hope you don't, but… if you do, I hope you'll remember what I'm telling you right now."
She stood to leave, hugged me, and then broke down sobbing in my arms. "I would give back every single award I've ever won if I could have my daughter's arms around me right now."
She didn't even wait for me to respond. She picked up her glass and walked out the door, not turning to look back or say good night.
My heart broke for her.
When I anticipated working with Shelley, I thought I was going to have the opportunity to learn a lot about acting from a truly talented legend. What she gave me, though, was insight into what it means to be a woman and a mother, and a look into the painful emptiness of a broken relationship between mother and child. It was an extraordinary lesson at a very impressionable time in my life and my desired career.
I know I would have done a good job playing Sandy. I would probably have had a different career, with more film work or perhaps more hit records. I also know, however, that I would regret having my eleven-year old daughter watch Mommy in that movie now, especially as she enters that time in her life when she is deciding what it means to be a female, and how to navigate in today's world all the expectations that may come her way when it comes to dating.
Every choice we make has an element of consequence. I guess the question in choosing is: Can you live with the results?
Maybe my guest-star turn on The Love Boat wasn't a career move that I happily highlight on my resume, but it did help me dock in the reality that when the peer pressure, the awards, the applause, and even that fairy tale marriage you think could never fail fades away, it's only self-respect that will keep you afloat through the storms.