The other night, I posted a news article on Facebook about 50s singer Pat Boone, who is apparently a tried and true Tea Partyer. Boone was in the news for saying that President Obama was not really born in Hawaii. He claimed that he went to Kenya and "everybody there" told him that Obama was born there. Therefore, in Pat Boone's mind, Barack Obama is not eligible to be our president. The response to my link about Pat Boone got lively and that inspired me to re-read his daughter Debby Boone's 1981 book, So Far.
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This isn't the first book I've read by Pat Boone's offspring. When I was in high school, I read Cherry Boone O'Neill's book, Starving for Attention, because I was learning about eating disorders. Cherry Boone O'Neill, Pat Boone's eldest daughter, had suffered from anorexia nervosa in the 1970s. At the time, I didn't know that much about 50s sex symbol/teen idol Pat Boone. I had heard of his daughter, Debby Boone, who had sung the smash hit "You Light Up My Life". But other than that, the Boone family was a mystery to me.
I learned a bit about Pat Boone's family from reading Cherry's book. I knew that Pat Boone was a very strict disciplinarian and that he and his wife, Shirley, had raised their four daughters to be obedient servants of the Lord. In her book, Cherry had explained that she and her sisters had grown up in luxury, but their days were centered around being perfect Christians. Besides being heavily involved in church activities, Pat Boone's girls had inherited formidable musical talent and performed quite a bit. I wanted to learn more about them, so a few years ago, I picked up Debby Boone's 1981 book, So Far, for the first time. Now that I've read it a second time, I think I can probably put this book back on the shelf for good.
Debby Boone's life story circa 1981
At the very beginning of her book, Debby Boone writes that writing has never come easily for her. She doesn't know why she's writing her life story. She explains that she had originally been skeptical that writing her story would be worthwhile. Her mind changed when she started getting fan mail from people. Evidently, the mail got to be too much for her to answer, so she figured it would be easier to write a book. Of course, it's not lost on me that those who wanted to get Debby's response would be paying hard earned money for the book. But nevertheless, I guess her fans appreciated it.
Bear in mind that Debby Boone was born in 1956. In 1981, she was just 25 years old. Yes, she had done some exciting things in her then brief lifetime. She had grown up in California with a famous father. She later became very famous herself, when she released the radio version of "You Light Up My Life", a song that was originally recorded by the late session singer Kasey Cisyk for the film by the same name. Debby Boone's version of the song was huge and it made her a household name. So, I imagine in 1981, Debby Boone was still pretty famous. Why shouldn't she have written a book while people still remembered her name? Well, I'll tell you why.
There's just not much to this book
Debby Boone freely admits that she's not much of a writer. She admits that as a child, she often handed in work that was done by her three sisters, rather than her. At age 25, she hadn't really lived yet, although she apparently did spend a lot of time turned over her father's knee.
Debby Boone was a bad girl
Evidently, Pat Boone spanked his daughters even after they had reached the legal age of majority. Debby Boone frequently describes behavior that, frankly, probably warranted punishment. In fact, there are a few times in the book that she basically admits to being a manipulative bully to her sisters and kids she knew in school. She seems almost a little proud of her brattiness, as she describes how she got some poor little boy in trouble by falsely accusing him of swearing at her. Her tone is almost gleeful as she relates how she conned her younger sister, Laury, into riding her bike naked around the front yard and how, more than once, Laury took one of Pat Boone's legendary beatings in her stead because Laury had a tender heart and hated to see her sisters cry.
Speaking of beatings
Pat Boone was spanked until he was seventeen years old. Apparently, Pat Boone's mother had a way with a strap and would make his bum smart so much that he couldn't sit down for awhile. Apparently not to be undone by his mother, Pat Boone was also fond of using implements to discipline his daughters. Debby Boone writes that she and her sisters would often compare "war wounds". Pat Boone would use a slipper, a belt, or any other tool that stung to make his spankings really hurt. Consequently, after one of Pat Boone's spankings, his daughters were often left with bruises.
In a chapter entitled "The Last Spanking", Debby explains that when she was 19 years old, her father got angry with her for taking too long to get a snack from a hotel vending machine. Pat Boone caught Debby in the hotel lobby, talking to one of the musicians in their band. It was late and she had been gone about twenty minutes. He was "worried", so he grabbed her, marched her upstairs, and gave her "what for". He meant to give her a spanking, but in the course of their fight, had accidently hit her in the head. The blow caused a goose egg and the hapless musician Debby had been talking to in the lobby called Pat on the phone to cool him down. I guess it was enough time for Pat to come to his senses. Supposedly, he never spanked Debby again.
Debby Boone writes of her experiences helping children with autism, visiting sick children in hospitals, and working with Youth With A Mission (YWAM-- pronounced "why wham"). She seems proud of her work with children, given that her older sister, Cherry, and Cherry's husband, Dan, also worked with YWAM and no doubt had a lot to do with her choice to work with that organization.
She also writes of how she became Mrs. Gabriel Ferrer. For those who don't know, Debby Boone's mother-in-law is the late Rosemary Clooney. That means she is related by marriage to George Clooney. Of course, George Clooney was a nobody in 1981.
As they were with everything else in their daughters' lives, Mr. and Mrs. Pat Boone were heavily involved in Debby's romances. Gabriel Ferrer had to ask for Debby's hand in marriage. And it was a good thing he was a devoted Christian. Apparently, Pat Boone would not have stood for anyone but a "believer" to marry his daughters.
An abrupt ending
So Far comes to a screeching halt when Debby and Gabriel Ferrer get married. A year after the wedding, they had their first child, Jordan. These details are at the very end of the book, which to me, seems odd. It's almost as if the major life events of getting married and becoming a mother were almost an afterthought.
I think Debby Boone was very premature in writing her life story, even if she admits it was only "so far". I have a feeling she wrote this book for the money, which is, I guess, a valid enough reason to write it. But she comes off as a bit smug and self-congratulatory in this book. She reprints a couple of thank you letters she got from the mothers of sick kids she visited in the hospital. She writes very little about her childhood. Indeed, this book seems to be more about her life as a young adult than her life story. And other than the fact that her dad employed corporal punishment, wouldn't let his daughters date or wear makeup until they were 16, and took liberties with his daughters' love lives and finances, she doesn't reveal that much about her family.
I got a lot more out of Cherry Boone O'Neill's book, Starving for Attention, which was a lot more interesting, better written, and much more complete. Debby Boone does include some photos, but they are poorly edited and a couple of them were also in Cherry's book.
Even if you are a Debby Boone fan, I'm not sure So Far is worth reading. If you're actually curious about what it was like to be Pat Boone's daughter, I recommend Starving for Attention. I think Cherry far outshone Debby in the book writing department, even if Debby will always be known for her one hit wonder.
I don't expect a lot of people are looking for this book anymore. For good reason, it's long out of print. Plenty of copies are available on Amazon, again, for good reason.
Debby Boone's Web site: http://www.debbyboone.net/
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