Pat Boone Interview: A Candid Conversation on Politics, Career and Family
Image attributed to Pat Boone
Pat Boone began his music career in 1954 and has sold over 45 million records with 38 Top 40 hits. According to Billboard, Boone was the second biggest charting artist of the late 1950s, behind only Elvis Presley. His book, Twixt Twelve and Twenty was a No. 1 bestseller in the 1950s.
Film roles include Journey to the Center of the Earth, State Fair, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Perils of Pauline, The Cross and the Switchblade and God’s Not Dead 2. Boone’s latest is Boonville Redemption, also starring Emily Hoffman, Ed Asner and Diane Ladd, which comes out on DVD and Video on Demand, November 8, 2016.
“I was in church every Sunday. I was leading, singing and sometimes teaching Sunday School. You open up Life magazine, and there’s a full page of me leading the congregation a cappella singing at a church in Manhattan. I was known as a church-going guy. I was chairman of American Bible Week during the Eisenhower Administration, and I was still in college. I was the only guy rivaling Elvis at that time.”
At age 82, Boone continues to record and perform in concert. He is also a motivational speaker and is known for being a Christian Conservative.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Pat, how did you become involved in Boonville Redemption, other than the name, of course?
Pat Boone: Well, I’ve made many movies in the past and thought I was through (laughs). I wasn’t getting requests to make them, and it’s not something I was looking for anyway. I don’t have an agent or manager trying to get me parts in movies. But, my musical conductor, Dave Siebels, had contracted to do the music for this independently produced film, Boonville Redemption. While they were starting to cast the parts, David said, “You know, I’m working for a guy named Boone, and he knows about Boonville.”
We knew about Boonville and the strange language called Boontling that the citizens in the town created. They created this special language so that they could talk in front of visitors and people that weren’t of their town, and the people listening or overhearing might not know what they were talking about (laughs). We had remarked about it and said, “We’ve got to go there sometime. After all, it is Boonville.” It was obviously named by a descendant of Daniel Boone, and I am, so when Dave said he worked for a guy named Boone, the director/producer said, “Well, there’s a great part in it if he’s willing to play an 80-year-old doctor.” David said, “He’s been practicing the 80 part already. He is 80.” I’ll ask him.
I read the script and the part of Doc Woods who really helped birth most everybody in that town. He was 80 years old and still active. The part really appealed to me. It’s a pivotal role, and I added some things to it after we got the finished script and started to film.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The audience basically knows who the villain is from the very beginning, which is interesting.
Pat Boone: Yes, they know who killed the minister in the first three minutes of the film. The ladies Bible class is outside of the church. They hear this gunshot, they come in, and he’s dead. The town has a tyrant who owns most of the property, an unscrupulous guy, and they know, since he’s suddenly around that he either had something to do with it or shot the minister himself. Nobody dares confront him except the old doc. Eventually, the doc does confront him.
I love the scene where he threatens Doc Woods. I won’t spoil it, but the doc devises a means by which he gets the drop on the guy. The doc has his gun pointed at the guy’s chin and says, “Drop that gun, Maddox, or you’re a dead man. I brought you into this world, and nothing would please me more than to set it right by taking you out of it. Now give me that gun!” It eventually goes to trial. The judge is Ed Asner. It’s too complicated to get into the rest of it, but it gets resolved happily.
I wind up as Doc Woods with a voice that sounds a lot like Pat Boone singing a song at the end. It’s a charming film, and the DVD goes on sale November 8. It’s not in the theaters yet. It’s not often it goes to DVD, and then to the theaters, but we’re hoping that the DVD is going to be popular enough and the film is good enough that these theaters that are doing well with faith-based films will want to show Boonville Redemption.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You were also in God’s Not Dead 2 earlier in the year.
Pat Boone: After I did Boonville Redemption, the word got around to the casting directors in Hollywood here that if you’ve got a part for an 80-year-old guy who can still remember his lines, get Pat Boone. I was always the kid, the young guy (laughs). But, now if you want a Walter Brennan or an older guy who can remember his lines and do what the part requires, that’s me. I did God’s Not Dead 2. I was asked to do that because people heard about Boonville Redemption, so I play another 80-year-old and Melissa Joan Hart’s grandfather in this very successful film. Both the first one and God’s Not Dead 2 are very successful.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And there will be a God’s Not Dead 3?
Pat Boone: Yeah, probably, because they’re dealing with issues. It’s not a continuing story, but it’s a continuing issue. That issue is that current society and public opponents of expressions of Christianity are trying to keep Jesus’ name, the Bible, anything God says, out of public life. Kids can’t pray in school, even a voluntary, silent prayer.
There are opponents who want to stop it, under the guise of separation of church and state, which has been totally misinterpreted from what Thomas Jefferson said when he used that phrase. It’s nowhere in the Constitution. He was just assuring the church in Danbury, Connecticut, they would not have to become Episcopalians. There was not going to be an official state church, and they could go on being Baptists or Methodists or whatever their understandings of scripture dictated, and the government will keep its hands off and will make no law.
That’s what the 1st Amendment says. No law. I ask people, “What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?” No law means no law. Congress will make no law concerning the establishment of religion. If you make no law, the people are free to do what they choose. Anyway, the third film came along.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That would be Cowgirl’s Story coming out next year?
Pat Boone: Right. That, too, is a sequel to a film that’s already been successful. It’s a youth film, but faith-based about a cowgirl, and her parents are in the military. She goes to an urban school, and they mock her because she’s wearing cowboy boots. Eventually, they come to respect her.
It’s too long a story to tell, but when her mom and dad are both missing in action, the kids in the school put on a horse show. Of course, this film ends happily, too. I play a retired marine chaplain. It’s a nice part, but the main attraction for me was that I got to recite the 23rd Psalm like a prayer over the horse show. I get to do that Psalm in my own unique way of reciting it as a marine chaplain. That film, I think, will be in full theatrical distribution. All of a sudden, I find myself …
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): In big demand?
Pat Boone: Well, I wouldn’t say big, but continual (laughs). I keep turning down scripts, or occasionally, I’ll say, “I’ll do that.” That’s a surprise, a happy surprise.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You gained the reputation over the years of having a wholesome, squeaky clean image. Did you like being described as that?
Pat Boone: Actually, yes. It used to chafe a little, and it was one dimensional. I went out of my way to repeat jokes people said about me and laugh at them myself. Dean Martin used to say, “That Pat Boone, he’s so religious. I shook hands with that boy the other day, and my whole right side sobered up.”
Then Phil Harris, another big drinker, asked me on an Andy Williams’ special, “Boone, come on and level with me, pal. You drink, don’t you?” I said, “No.” He said, “You don’t drink anything ever?” I knew he meant alcohol, and I said, “No.” He turned to Andy Williams and said, “Can you imagine waking up in the morning and knowing that’s as good as you’re going to feel all day long?”
Of course, those are jokes, and I laugh like everybody does. Then I would repeat them. Phil went on to say, “Come on Boone. We kid you, pal, but we love you. If I ever had a son, I’d want him to be just like Pat Boone until he’s about three years old.” So, I just repeated the jokes, and they could tell that I found them funny. But, then, I had some people who had been around the entertainment business a long time tell me, “Look. If you have an established image, and it’s one you’re comfortable with, don’t fight it.”
Jimmy Stewart played the same character over and over again. John Wayne was always John Wayne. So, I realized, it is me and to just roll with it, to just go with it. That led eventually to commercials and movie roles I was right for. I was not considered for roles that I would have liked to have played because of my personal image.
I played a couple of heels, bad guys and hypocrites, but the movies ended on a positive note. I said I would play Judas if somebody wanted me to because I know how that story ends (laughs). I turned down many roles that wanted to use me playing a husband or minister who turns out to be a two-faced hypocrite. There are too many stories like that around. That’s what Hollywood likes. A guy that actually stays true to his morals is dull. There’s nothing interesting about that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How did you stay away from temptations in the entertainment industry and remain grounded?
Pat Boone: I had a wonderful wife. We married at 19. Shirley and I were both known in Nashville for singing as amateurs around that very musical town on local TV and radio. I had a teenage radio show called Youth on Parade that I hosted while I was in high school on a big local radio station hosting other teenage talent from all over middle Tennessee.
Shirley and I eloped at 19 because her dad, Red Foley, was moving from Nashville to Springfield, Missouri, to start the Ozark Jubilee, and I knew she would be gone all the time. I thought maybe another guy would move in on her, so I asked her to marry me at 19. She said, “Yes,” and we asked her dad. He was a widower, and he gave his permission. I didn’t ask my parents because they would’ve done everything they could to prevent us from getting married, feeling I wouldn’t finish college. But, I did.
When we married, we moved to Denton, Texas, then my records took off because I’d won a national contest. That led to the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, to a recording contract with the Dot label, and my first record was a million seller. For the next 220 weeks, I was never off the single record chart, which is a record I hold in the record business. Nobody else has ever come close, the Beatles, Elvis. Nobody. Over four years without ever being off the single chart.
I graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University. The picture of me in my cap and gown was on the cover of TV Guide because I had a top rated show, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom. I was the youngest guy ever to have his own network music show. I’d already made several movies and had several million selling records and was Elvis’ competition for about five years, the latter half of the 50s and into the 60s.
But, I was in church every Sunday. I was leading, singing and sometimes teaching Sunday School. You open up Life magazine, and there’s a full page of me leading the congregation a cappella singing at a church in Manhattan. I was known as a church-going guy. I was chairman of American Bible Week during the Eisenhower Administration, and I was still in college. I was the only guy rivaling Elvis at that time.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And, Elvis was not known as a church-going guy.
Pat Boone: He was the single playboy playing the field and theoretically available to some young girl screaming in the audience. They were screaming for me, but I was already married, having kids and in college, and they knew it. But, I represented one thing to the kids, which was an achievable lifestyle. Elvis represented the rebel, breaking the rules and taboos and was exciting for those reasons. He was the bad guy winning, and I was the good guy winning just as big. We were salt and pepper for five or six years.
Gradually, my record career waned because I was on TV and in movies. Elvis was doing those things, too, but he was single and more exciting because the guy breaking the rules is usually more exciting than the guy who lives within them. But, he’s been gone over 30 years, and I’m still at it.
Shirley and I have been married 63 years and are still very active in church. I’ve written a lot of books sharing my Christian faith and experience, mainly doing faith-based films. I’ve even written songs for police and put them in my albums over the last 20 years, starting back when 2 Live Crew and N.W.A. and other groups who were being honored like they were great champions of free speech or rising from the ghetto through hard work, were urging their followers to “off the pigs.”
I was very upset by that, so I wrote some songs supporting the police and humanizing them. They’re men and women with families. The first song I wrote was “Won’t Be Home Tonight.” These songs weren’t getting played on radio until that slaughter in Dallas where police were actually protecting a Black Lives Matter parade, and some lunatic killed some policemen. Somebody, somewhere remembered that I had recorded some songs about police. One of my songs, “Part of America Died Today,” has gotten the most attention and charted. On one of the charts, I’m wedged in between Adele and Katy Perry, which is not bad for a guy.
There are times when police jump to conclusions. There are even those who are bigoted and some act on their prejudice, but they’re a tiny, infinitesimal percentage of the police who train and defend us, and do. So, of course, I feel the need to support them in songs. I’m not on a record label. I’m just having to let people know they can come to my website and get the songs or download them from iTunes. So, I’m busy, busy, busy.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): This presidential race is almost over, and it certainly has been one revolving around “character” perhaps more than “issues.”
Pat Boone: Oh, yeah. Filthy, filthy. There’s a herd mentality. There’s almost a panic sweeping the country. I’ve written over 250 articles for World Net Daily and others. We’re facing this coming election, perhaps the most serious in our history and two candidates that 70% of the public doesn’t like and doesn’t want or trust either one. God, over the past, has used very unlikely people to accomplish his will because he doesn’t have any perfect people to work with (laughs). Moses was a murderer. Paul was a guy putting Christians in jail, and then God chose him to not only be another apostle, but to write a third of the New Testament. He had only flawed instruments to work with.
Hillary and Trump are two flawed instruments. What we have to do is look at the platforms. Forget the candidates. What have they and their teams said they would do for or to us if they’re elected? We vote for the platform. Hillary has talked about abortion and planned parenthood and that we’ve got to get rid of these outmoded, old-fashioned, restrictive religious ideas.
She called it, in a debate, women’s health. I wanted so bad for Trump to say, “Oh, you’re pro choice? Describe what is that choice. Is it to kill a baby or let a baby live? That is the choice, isn’t it? She’s for partial birth right up to the last minute. Trump did confront her about that. She is for unlimited abortions, for unlimited funding for Planned Parenthood, same-sex marriage as the new norm, for transgender bathrooms and locker rooms even in high schools.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And Donald Trump?
Pat Boone: Forget who’s the head of the other platform because he’s not going to make it happen. If Trump’s elected, the platform will dictate that we’ll have a better economy, a stronger military, that we seal the borders and all the things that most Americans say they want. They don’t like the guy at the top of the ticket, and I don’t either, as a candidate.
I know Donald Trump, and I have communicated some with him, but not all the time. I did convey to him I wish he would say, “I’m not going to be a president in the manner of Ronald Reagan, but I’d like to be a Harry Truman type president.” He was a democrat, and I remember, as a kid, my parents panicked, saying, “He has no experience. What does he know? He’s just a war-healing, local Democrat.”
Truman was a blunt, sometimes profane guy who made up his own mind. He made difficult decisions that were unpopular because he was his own man, and he knew the Bible. He was influenced by the Bible, even though he was sometimes profane in his speech.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): By his own admission, Trump does not pray, so there has been a question whether or not he is a Christian.
Pat Boone: Yeah. But, I’ve talked to James Dodson and to James Robison, who is a very profound minister, and he travels with Trump. In other words, Trump is being taught. He’s not a practiced Christian. No. He’s not one who can speak the language any more than Obama did. He has to be told what to say (laughs). But, he’s also being told what it means.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has professed to be a lifelong Christian, a Methodist, and has stated that she does pray.
Pat Boone: Yes. She said that. Who knows? She may. In the Gospel of James, it says you sometimes pray amiss, in effect praying for what you want, not what God wants and not in accordance with his will. The things she’s promoting and promises to foist on the American people are things that are totally out of his will. So, either she doesn’t know what his will is, or she doesn’t care.
Just going to a church doesn’t make you a great Christian. She’s not giving any evidence that she understands what God’s will is concerning moral issues. She should’ve known those things in church because she would’ve been taught those things, but now she thinks those ideas are outmoded and restrictive. God says that he hates a man having sex with another man in both the Old and New Testament and women with other women. He hasn’t changed his mind.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You have endorsed Donald Trump?
Pat Boone: No, I haven’t. I’ve held back. We’ve only got two people to vote for, so I’m saying to forget who the people are and look at the platform, and you can make your decision.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): But, you like Donald Trump’s platform better.
Pat Boone: Oh, I like it a whole lot better! I think all Christians should because it’s in line with what Christians say they want and believe. If he’s elected, a Congress with any kind of backbone can hold a man like Trump to his promises and hold him accountable. At least, we’d have a shot. If you elect a woman who’s so liberally moral as well as politically, then she can appoint justices to the Supreme Court who mirror her views.
I’ve got a wife, four daughters, ten grandchildren and five great grandchildren. I am pro-woman down the line in every way. But, Comey said Hillary lied and hid the emails. Imagine an admiral or general having to call her his Commander-in-Chief, a 70-year-old woman with questionable health. Trump is a big, presidential looking man and a guy. Generals and Admirals could communicate with him. I know they must be gnashing their teeth thinking that this woman may end up being Commander-in-Chief of the military.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Biblically speaking, that’s not what a woman should do?
Pat Boone: I am a feminist in a biblical sense in that God created man and woman, and he said that in Christ, there’s neither male nor female. Women are capable of anything men are capable of and more. They can do some things men can’t do and don’t want to (laughs). But, women are capable. They can do anything, but in God’s design, men are supposed to be the leaders with women aiding and abetting by his side. Not walking behind, but by his side. But not calling all the shots.
I’m married to a great woman to whom I’ve often said could be president, and if she were, she’d have the country running and humming in about a week. She’s that organized. But, she doesn’t want to be president (laughs). Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher said in later years that one regret was they never had time to be the mothers they wanted to be to their children. Nobody can take the place of a mom, and it’s a very crucial job.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What is Debby doing these days, Pat?
Pat Boone: Debby and I did a concert together in Chicago. She’s performing around the country and working full time. She’s made a couple of new albums. It’s hard to get her albums heard or played because that’s not where radio is right now. I’ve made some albums and am very proud of the work I’ve done, but getting them played on the air is tough. But, Debby is performing, and I’m still doing concerts.
I did a full concert in Tel Aviv in March, and I’m going to finish the year in Manila in December. Once in a while, we link up on the road. She was here recently visiting with her mom who has been having physical problems and struggling. We’re hoping we’re getting the right answers in getting her strong again.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I hope so, too. Over your 60+ year career, what has made you the proudest?
Pat Boone: Wow. It’s hard to pick one thing, but I think being inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame has to rank near the top. I went in with Amy Grant and the Blind Boys of Alabama. That night in Nashville, I was quite emotional, remembering a young Pat Boone in his teens in high school wondering what he was going to do with his life.
I was on my knees in the attic of our house, which was my bedroom, asking God to use my life in some way that would be useful to others and pleasing to him. After praying that many times, I decided that perhaps I should be a schoolteacher like my teachers in the Christian high school where I was president of the student body, and I would be a teacher preacher.
When Shirley and I married at 19, that’s what she thought she was marrying and was thrilled about the fact that we’d have a settled, normal life and not an entertainer’s life like her dad Red Foley. But, all of a sudden, God knew the desires of my heart. Although I wasn’t praying or seeking a recording career, he knew my heart and knew that would please me and that he would give me some abilities. I’d said to him that if that ever were to happen, I would want to use that platform he made for me for his purpose. I’ve always felt that particular commission to do.
Anyway, the other thing I’m proud of are the words I wrote for the Jewish National Anthem, “This land is mine. God gave this land to me.” I wrote those words on the back of a Christmas card. Two years ago, the director of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Israel, asked if he could have whatever I wrote those words on to put on the wall of the Righteous Gentile at the Holocaust Museum. I told him, “Yes,” but I wrote it on the back of a Christmas card. He said, “That’s very appropriate because we know evangelical Christians are our best friends in the world.”
So, those words I wrote for what is now the second Jewish National Anthem are now in the Holocaust Museum in Israel, and I’m proud of that and proud to be inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Of course, I’m very proud of my 63-year marriage to a wonderful woman and the mother of my kids. I’m proudest of those three things. Not movies, not recordings, but those three things are what matter a great deal to me.
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