Legendary entertainer Pat Boone still lives in the sprawling Beverly Hills home he and his wife, Shirley, bought in 1960. Though she died in January 2019 after a battle with vasculitis, Pat says he still talks to his longtime love “all the time.”
Surrounded by his memories and memorabilia from a seven-decade career in entertainment, he has no plans to move. “I’m living here alone with a housekeeper and my dog, a little cocker spaniel,” he tells the latest issue of Closer magazine, on newsstands now. “Shadow is his name.” Pat gently sings, “It’s just me and my shadow, all alone and feeling blue.” Then he smiles, adding, “I’m doing fine. I mean, gosh, I miss her.”
To ease his loss, Pat, 86, relies on the same bedrocks that have always sustained him: faith and family. He and Shirley married at 19 and had four daughters, including “You Light Up My Life” singer Debby Boone.
Though he frequently earned jibes for being a Goody Two-Shoes, Pat stayed grounded as his music climbed the charts with songs like 1961’s “Moody River,” and his films, including 1962’s State Fair with Ann-Margret, became box-office hits.
“We made our commitment in marriage to God and to each other,” says Pat, explaining his and Shirley’s faith. “We make our own decisions, but we are helped supernaturally. [I’m] willing to be led in doing the right things.” And he’s still doing them.
Recently, Pat released a song he wrote in 1992, after four police officers were acquitted of the beating of Rodney King sparked riots in L.A. “Can’t We Get Along” draws from King’s plea after the city had been set ablaze. It wasn’t released then, but after George Floyd’s death, Pat says, “I thought, ‘Man, this song is [even] more appropriate now than it was.;” And he insisted it be sung by black artist Wendy Moten.
Pat often pushed the envelope for good in his career. In the late ‘50s, he invited black artists like Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald on his TV show The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom. When he looks back, he still marvels at his early success. “I was the youngest guy ever to have his own network music variety show, at 22,” Pat says.
He’d not yet graduated from Columbia University — where he went because he “didn’t expect the entertainment thing to survive,” he says — and was already married and on his way to having his fourth child. “It was unbelievable,” he admits. Pat’s career flourished, but he stayed true to Shirley, even asking her permission before a screen kiss with Shirley Jones in 1957’s April Love.
The daughter of country singer Red Foley, who’d grappled with alcohol, Shirley Boone knew fame’s perils. Pat recalls her telling him, “‘There’s going to be some kissing involved, but just promise me one thing: You won’t enjoy it.’ I said, ‘OK, I promise.’” He kept that pledge, despite a period of “having drinks and staying out late,” he says. “It could have broken up our marriage, but we recommitted ourselves. Marriage and family was the top priority.”
That remains true today. And though Shirley is gone, he believes he’ll see her again. Before she died, he tells Closer, “I’d written a song called ‘You and I,’ and it expresses the thought that eventually we will be together in heaven.”
Until then, Pat continues to write music, work on a new faith-based book entitled If, and count his many blessings. “My greatest accomplishment is our marriage of 65 years in Hollywood,” he says, “being an entertainer and my four kids. We’re living a good life.”
For this story and more, check out the newest issue of Closer magazine, on newsstands now!