What’s the craziest thing a fan ever threw onstage at Las Vegas legend Engelbert Humperdinck?
“Besides keys, panties and bras? I had trunkloads of them,” the still-handsome crooner, 84, tells Closer Weekly with a laugh. “Once I got a paternity suit thrown at me, and it wasn’t real, anyway. I got over it!”
Fans still love him, but Engelbert’s heart belongs to his wife of 56 years, Patricia, mother to his four kids. “I met her on a dance floor, and we’ve been dancing together ever since,” says the artist formerly known as Arnold George Dorsey.
“The old saying is that it’s love at first sight. She was my first real date — when I danced with her that night, I asked her for a date the next day. I said, ‘I won’t marry you until I make a name for myself. I want to take care of you.’ I was a nobody and wanted to keep her comfortable.”
Now, having sold more than 140 million records like After the Lovin’ and Release Me in his six-decade-plus career, Engelbert’s recording new songs and waiting to get back on tour. Closer talked with the legend about his family, fame and a remarkable career that’s still going strong.
How are you doing out there in Los Angeles?
We just had a couple of quakes, I think — I was all shook up. I thought Elvis was in town! [Laughs] Elvis accepted me as a good friend, and I am so happy about that.
What have you been up to?
Besides doing my livestream performance on YouTube in July, which was wonderful, there’s not much else you can do. I’ve been getting the house decorated.
We hear you’ve recorded some new songs?
“One World” has a message of peace, love and tranquility in this universe. “Forever Young,” the Bob Dylan song, has been one of my favorites for a long time. Hopefully, they will become part of an album [or EP].
How have you been able to keep your voice in such great shape?
I’ve been very, very lucky. They say as you get older — and I hate mentioning the word, because I try to keep as young as possible — your voice gets lower, but [that change] has almost disappeared. It’s like I have a new lease on life. I’m singing better than ever.
You started in the late ’50s as Gerry Dorsey, but in the ’60s you took the name of the composer who wrote Hansel and Gretel. Why?
I made a semi-name for myself that lasted until I got tuberculosis [in 1961] and went down the tubes. I was still Gerry Dorsey when I was in the hospital and got letters, flowers and things from fans. But then I got friendly with Gordon Mills, who was handling Tom Jones at the time. We were best friends, Gordon and I — he was the best man at my wedding and I was the best man at his. After about a year of him handling Tom, he took me on and then, bingo, I took off.
How did the tuberculosis affect you?
I thought my life was over. After a charity show in Manchester [U.K.], I realized blood was coming from my mouth, and then I got a pain in my chest. I had to drive home to Leicester, which was about  miles away.
My mother took me to a doctor, who said I just had a throat infection, but my mum wanted them to do an X-ray. So I got one, and within an hour I was in a sanitarium, isolated for six months on my back. In those days there was no cure. But I came out of it, and I’m talking to you today.
What was it like to be in the middle of a fan frenzy from the mid-’60s to mid-’70s?
That was a very hot time in my life. I was doing around 300 shows a year, and my traveling schedule was outrageous. One time I did 80 concerts in a row! It was hard. My four children were tiny. I never got to see them very much growing up, and my wife did a great job of raising them. She would always put a little threat on: “If you keep this up, I’ll tell your father when he comes home!” But I wasn’t that strict.
Can you tell us a bit about your childhood and how you got your start?
I was born in India when my father was in the army. When he left, we went back to England, and a few years later I took his place and was in the army, stationed in Germany. Growing up, I wanted to be a bandleader, so my father bought me a saxophone. I took lessons from when I was 11 until I was about 17. But I found my best instrument was the one in my throat.
How did you and Patricia meet?
When she was 17 years old, I asked her to dance. Today we have four lovely children. Our girl lives in Nashville, one son lives in Australia, another lives in Arkansas, and another one lives with me over here. I’ve got eight grandkids: my granddaughter [Olivia] did a  duet with me, “I’m Glad I Danced With You,” and she was only 9 years old at the time! And today, I would say she’s in the category of a Whitney Houston. I’m not prejudiced, I’m just telling you the truth. She’s got those kinds of pipes.
You’ve talked about having affairs in the past. How did that affect your marriage?
I was in the process of growing up, and sometimes this business has a way of leading you astray. I took a chance at doing silly things, which obviously I regret, but I have a woman that I’m totally in love with. I’m so glad she stayed with me through thick and thin. I want my life to be with her. There have been ups and downs, but I would never change it for the world.
You’ve talked about her Alzheimer’s disease, and that she said your name at Christmas for the first time in three years. What has this been like for you?
I believe there is a cure that is being held up for some reason, so I decided to treat her with holistic medicine and acupuncture and a way of producing new stem cells. It’s taking a lot of time, but it’s working. She doesn’t talk much, but only yesterday I said, “I’m going to pull some weeds.” We live on top of a steep mountain and she said, “No.” So I let the gardener do it! I’m waiting for a cure for her. A lot of people are praying, and I believe that one of these days, she will start talking again.
What’s next for you?
At the moment, I’m gobsmacked because I don’t know what’s happening! This was going to be a massive year for me — I was going to do big tours everywhere, so they’re rebooking it for 2021. In the interim, I’m not going to get any older. I haven’t used this year, so I’m staying the same age!
— Reporting by Katie Bruno
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