Toward the end of production on the film April Love, the director thought Pat Boone should kiss his leading lady, actress Shirley Jones. Pat protested because the kiss wasn’t in the script, so he hadn’t discussed it with his wife yet.
“The Hollywood Reporter and Variety came out with a story that ‘Pat Boone refuses to kiss his leading lady because of religious reasons.’ It wasn’t that — I just wanted to stay married!” Pat tells Closer with a laugh.
In the end, Pat’s wife gave her blessing and the smooch wound up in the hit 1957 musical. Now 88, Pat remains as feisty — and wholesome — as ever! The singer, actor and author has a new book, If, being readied for a September 21 release. “I’m still at it, recording and writing — although I don’t expect to write another book,” says the performer, who also recently started a video podcast. “There is just so much that occupies my daily life.”
What was your childhood like?
“I grew up in a wonderful, close-knit family. Daddy was a building contractor and architect; Mama was a registered nurse. I have a brother and two sisters. We were a churchgoing family. When I came along, we were in the early struggling days with my dad and his contracting company in Nashville. It became very successful, but at first, it was a struggle for him economically.”
Did your parents try to protect you from that financial hardship as a child?
“We never knew that we were sort of below the median level because there was always food on the table. But we didn’t have a car until I was in the eighth grade, which was embarrassing. We had daddy’s pickup truck with the Boone Contracting Company advertisement on the side and a wood bench in the back for Nick and me. Daddy finally answered all of our pleading and bought a black two-door Chevy. The only accessory was a heater — no radio, just a heater. To me, that was the most beautiful car I had ever seen.”
You enjoyed a lot of early success. Was it hard to maintain your strong moral values in show business?
“My wife and I moved to California when my career was in full bloom. I said, ‘We’re not going to adopt Beverly Hills standards, we’re going to live by Tennessee standards.’ Those values have stuck with me my whole life. We raised our kids going to school and church, and people thought of me as a square. I was associated with all the good things, which I was glad about.”
Which brings us to your 28th book, If. How do you describe it and why did you write it?
“If is for people who don’t know who God is, who don’t read the Bible and are spiritually ignorant. I don’t say that pejoratively. They simply don’t know what’s going to happen when they die, and they don’t know there is a God that they could know while they are alive. It’s subtitled The Eternal Choice We All Must Make. Every last one of us is making that choice of where we will spend eternity.”
How did you come up with the title If?
“The word if is in the Bible 500 times, starting in Genesis when God pronounced his first if and told Adam and Eve, ‘If you eat the fruit of that tree, you will die.’ The other if is ‘If you believe me and if you do my word, we will share a heaven together.’ That’s what God wants. The book is going to be controversial, but it’s also loving. I wrote it in love and concern for those who simply don’t know their own destiny. I’m telling you that your destiny is up to you.”
You and Elvis started your music careers around the same time.
“He came along about eight months after me, and we were the same age. In the last half of the ’50s, I had 41 chart records, and he had 40. He was introduced to me backstage at a sock hop in Cleveland, October 1955. He let me shake his hand, but he didn’t shake my hand [with confidence] because his mom and dad hadn’t taught him that social grace. I could tell he was not comfortable talking to me.”
Did you ever meet again?
“Oh, yes. We met two or three years later when we were both making movies at 20th Century Fox. We’d visit each other back and forth. We were both renting homes in Bel Air, and we became really good friends.”
Did you know Colonel Tom Parker?
“I knew him well. I did an album in the early ’60s that was going to be called Pat Sings Elvis. But Colonel Tom was a hustler. He wanted royalties to use Elvis’ name in the title of the album. So, we called it Pat Boone Sings Guess Who? On the cover, I’m in a gold-lamé suit with a guitar doing the Elvis pose, but I never mentioned Elvis’ name.”
Wow, what happened?
“Well, it became a big hit. Tom Parker sent me a membership card in a club he started called Snowmen’s Club. It’s for people who snow or hustle other people. He was the ultimate snowman hustler and I hustled him.” [Chuckles]
You lost your wife Shirley in 2019 after 65 years of marriage. How do you keep her memory alive?
“I still say we’ve been married for 67 years. Two of those years she’s been in heaven! I’m living in the same house we lived in for 62 years — I fight off the realtors with a stick! We paid $159,000 in 1960, and I’ve turned down $20 million because it’s filled with all our memories. Everywhere I look it’s Shirley, the girls, us doing things together. It’s a memory bank of everything that’s happened in my life.”
And now you have a new video podcast to share some of those memories.
“I’ve done 15 episodes of it, and it’s available on patbooneshow.com. I’m telling my own history, playing music and talking about my involvement with other performers and famous people. I think it’s very interesting and entertaining.”
What else do you do for fun?
“I still like to try to play tennis and golf. I’m also involved in several charitable things. I’ve got 16 grandkids and 17 great-grandkids — they keep me hopping! I’m the patriarch. I’m 88 years old but still on the go.”
—Reporting by Fortune Benatar
For more on this story, pick up the latest issue of Closer magazine, on newsstands now.