Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Debby Boone Ferrer!

I am a huge Debby Boone fan and when my friend Georga Osborne suggested a blog feature on Debby and then arranged for it to happen, I was thrilled. I am also looking forward to seeing Debby perform LIVE on Saturday night, July 28th at Ellsworth W. Allen Town Park in Swing This!
Debby  and I sat down to chat a week ago. This blog is the result of that conversation. Today, I am celebrating Debby's body of "worth"!
Deborah Anne Boone  better known as Debby Boone, is an American singer and stage actress. She is best known for her 1977 hit, You Light Up My Life, which spent a then record ten weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and led to her winning the Grammy Award for Best New Artist the following year. Boone later focused her music career on country music resulting in the 1980 No. 1 country hit, "Are You on the Road to Lovin' Me Again". In the 1980s, she recorded Christian music which garnered her four top 10 Contemporary Christian albums as well as two more Grammys. Throughout her career, Boone has appeared in several musical theater productions and has co-authored many children's books with husband, Gabriel Ferrer, son of Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney.
Doing the work has always been the motivating factor in Debby’s career rather than the fame. She is just as fulfilled singing in a small nightclub as she is performing a huge concert hall. When she first started doing cabaret with her Reflectionsof Rosemary project, performing in intimate clubs for fifty to sixty people has a whole different appeal for her. For Debby, seeing one person connect with what she is doing is a beautiful thing and it energizes and fulfills her in a deep way. She feels that that is what she is here to do whether it is for a few people or even in a studio recording when you never know who will hear it. It is so incredibly satisfying for her. 

It’s all about the work.
Professionally, she is Debby Boone. Off stage, she is Debby Boone Ferrer.  She says she gets confused in her personal life with who she is. When I asked her what her favorite quote or personal philosophy is, she says it would be difficult to narrow it down to one. There are favorites at different times in her life. I admit that I put her on the spot by starting my interview at this point. She does, however collect them. Her close friends and family members compiled a yearly calendar of their favorites. …365 in all! This made a great Christmas present and they are all in synch with each other throughout the year.  I asked for the quote for the day on the day I interviewed her, Thursday, July 12. She warned me that it does get spiritual. Being a spiritual person myself, that is fine by me.
This is from a woman named Gail Caldwell. Gail is the author of Let’s Take The Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship. She wrote this book after losing her partner and she writes, “What if death was not a bad thing? Caroline’s death has left me with a great and terrible gift: how to live in a world where loss, some of it unbearable, is as common as dust or moonlight, and then finally, unwittingly acceptance wraps itself around your heart.”
The very first show she ever saw as a child had a huge impact on her life. When she was a little girl, her father, Pat Boone, took her to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to see Jose Ferrer in Man of La Mancha. She was blown away. It impacted her so deeply. She loved that show. She remembers it so vividly to this day. She loved Ferrer in it. She loved the story and she fantasizes about some day playing  Aldonza . She is still finding her own inner Aldonza. She is so moved by the arc of her story.
Debby, a great singer in her own right, grew up being a huge fan of Barbra Streisand. 
When she finally met Streisand, she says it was a completely surreal experience. It was a television show that I actually watched when it first aired! It was the thirtieth anniversary of Israel declaring statehood. 
This was May 7th of 1978.  Barbra sang four songs, including "Hatikvah" (the Israeli national anthem), and conducted a mini-interview with ex-Prime Minister Golda Meir via satellite. The all-star program was televised by ABC and broadcast the following night. 
Also on hand were Anne Bancroft, Pat Boone, Sammy Davis, Jr., Kate Jackson, Gene Kelly, and Paul Newman  also appeared that evening.  Debby had met Barbra when Debby was a young girl visiting her dad in Vegas. Pat was playing golf and Streisand invited them to join her at the pool. Jason was still little and was running around. Debby says she was just as nice as could be, very friendly and welcoming. Many people want to talk about how difficult she can be but I only hear positive things from those who have actually met her or worked with her. Aspersions are cast upon those, especially women, who know what they want with their careers. Debby was completely in awe of her.  She had a similar experience upon meeting Michael Jackson.
When Debby was fourteen, her father, Pat Boone, put his four daughters in his act. The reason for that was not that he wanted his daughters to pursue show business careers. He was going to be doing a lot of traveling. 
He was about to embark on a tour of Japan and other countries in Asia. At that time, the Osmonds were his opening act. His thought was that if that family could travel together, why not his? When Debby got a taste of what it was like to get out on a stage, especially the feedback, that was it. She had the biggest loudest voice. 
At this point, she was usually being given the lead or solo parts. Debby loved the attention. She loved the thrill of it. She even embraced the nervous energy she experienced as a result of all of this. These were her first experiences of performing live. 
 I asked Debby what she has learned about making her relationships in the industry more solid and resourceful.
 She freely admits that that may be the weakest area for her. 
She’s talking about networking and building up a community. She says she is horrible at that. She’s great at friendships; working relationships is another story! She can’t remember people’s names. 
When she was going out on a lot of auditions, she was impressed by people who knew casting directors by name!  She says she can’t remember one from another. This is a total weak point of Debby’s. It is what it is and she supposes this is something one can work on. 
She is one of those people who never loved the audition process at all. She is grateful for the fact that she hasn’t had to do much of that lately.
Debby feels that her career has been odd. It is far from a career text book trajectory. Her career took off in a very unexpected way. She was happily traveling with her family in the Pat Boone Family Show. She got the opportunity to go to New York to record what would become her big hit record, You Light Up My Life in 1977. She didn’t expect this to amount to much. She was excited that someone wanted her to do a studio solo recording. 
Then, of course, we all know what happened! It became a major phenomenon. It was just a hit record, it broke ALL records. At that time, it lasted in the number one position on the Billboard charts longer than any other song in history. Suddenly, she had a career with no planning behind it. She didn’t have an album ready. She ended up releasing an album which included a few songs she had sung with her sisters and a few new things. Suddenly, she was asked to go on the road and she had no idea what she was doing.
She says she probably made career mistakes, she doesn’t consider them personal mistakes, because she didn’t have a career plan. She went out with her dad that first year and they co-billed. She says that she wasn’t ready. She was also confused for several years about what kind of music she wanted to be doing. She was letting everybody else tell her who she was and what was happening in top forty radio. They would tell her to do this or that. She felt like a pinball.  She would eventually go into musical theater and it was a time of great opportunities coming her way. She continued in theater. She wrote children’s books that her husband illustrated. Because of who she married, she had the opportunity of appearing with Rosemary Clooney. Debby was her “biggest fan” and admiring how she worked and how she approached singing. Debby feels like she was a mentor for her. She is now doing that kind of music and she feels that is where she always belonged. She feels that now she is being more her authentic self in her career and music than ever before.
Debby says there is no difference in how she approaches acting and singing. The reason she accepted the acting opportunities when they came her way was that she knew that she approached her singing as if she was taking on a character with whatever sound the music was conveying or digging a little deeper in her self. She could identify very strongly with a lyric. She felt that she could translate that into acting. She loves acting. She isn’t first and foremost an actress. She hasn’t done the kind of preparation and training to become the kind of an actress she would like to be.    
She knows that she has done some good acting. Her focus is being able to communicate with people and being able to identify with them through her music.
As my readers know, I am campaigning for Carol Channing to receive the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor. Debby, like almost everyone I have interviewed since starting this blog is surprised that it hasn’t happened. “Talk about an iconic performer. She is one of a kind and has brought so much joy  with her gift that is unparalleled.” Debby appeared with Carol in a Night of a Hundred Stars television special. They shared a dressing room with a lot of other ladies. Debby says she was a broad! She walked around in her pantyhose and nothing else!
Debby loves so many people and feels passionate about them at different times in her life. Right now, she is obsessing over a great singer named Grace Potter.  She has almost a country rock sound. She has the most powerful amazing voice. Debby has seen her live though they are not of the same generation. For Debby to go to a club where you only stand is saying something! Why do people do that? She is completely bowled over by her. Debby found something on line on her on the soundtrack for the now defunct TV series, PanAm. She was singing Fly Me to the Moon in a country rock style. 
She killed Fly Me To The Moon (in a good way!). It was a new way of doing it and it was powerful and great. Debby would have loved to meet Julie London. She and me both!
Debby is very proud of the work she did in musical theater when she toured with The King and I. She so connected with Anna. She feels that it was some of her best acting and singing and one of the most satisfying things that she ever worked on. She is also proud of the work she did when she went into the studio and did a tribute CD to her mother in law, Rosemary Clooney. She really feels that she came into her own. Every song spoke to her. She was not just telling a story but Debby’s story. She has such love and admiration for this woman she was privileged to know. I only saw Rosemary Cloonet perform live once. It was at the MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs). It was towards the end of her life and she was brilliant! What an incredible entertainer. She owned every song she sang. Debby used Rosemary’s musicians and musical directors for this CD and is very proud of that.

If Debby could go back and speak to her twenty five year old self, she would tell her to lighten up and trust herself. She was very insecure at twenty five. She wishes that she could have had the confidence and the trust in her own instincts at that age that she now has.
Debby believes that the entertainment industry is changing in a positive way. There seem to be more opportunities opening up for people and not just for the status quo. When Debby’s career was just beginning after You Light Up My Life, it was all about top forty radio. The programmers were only playing a certain type of artist. She kept getting feedback that she was too “white bread” or too this or that.  She kept trying to be something that “they” would like. 
Now, because of YouTube and the Internet, you can be who you are. There is an audience for everybody, not everybody doing some horrible thing, but talent, real authentic talent, can find the audience that is moved by what you do. You are no longer confined by what a small group of people are saying is what’s happening now.  You no longer have to play that game anymore.
Debby is trying to get with the program and trying to get a little more connected in this world of social media.  She says she stinks at it and cannot remember to tweet to save her life! She does have someone helping her with a Facebook page. That really has helped to keep her connected with people she hasn’t been able to connect with, to let them know what she’s doing and when the next CD is coming out, where she’s appearing and all of that. She is excited that she has that up and running. She loves the fact that she can get more and more connected with the people that have been so supportive over the years.  She is just trying to get people who are smarter than her to help her.
As a singer, the advice that Debby gives to other singers when dealing with vocal issues is to up the dosages of vitamin C. She also does a lemon cleanse that involves cayenne peppers and lemon juice. She and her huband also drink this drink every day called Shakeology. It has all these super foods in it, fiber and protein and all these amazing ingredients and she hasn’t had so much as a cold, knock wood in almost two years. She feels like it has really strengthens her immune system.
To prepare for a performance, Debby vocalizes. She has worked with several coaches over the years. Now, her “go to” guy is Edward Sayegh, who also happens to be Victoria Clark’s master voice teacher,  from the Garcia-Marchesi tradition. Debby also knew him through Mary Beth Peil. They have been friends during the Sound of Music tour days.  Mary Beth is such a beautiful, talented, and fun person. She is grateful for knowing her. They did several additional shows together and Debby adores Mary Beth.  Mary Beth was doing a show in San Diego and on her days off, she would travel to Edward because she loved working with him. She convinced Debby to work with him. It has been amazing for her. When she is on the road, she vocalizes with Edward’s vocal CDs.
Sophia Loren as Aldonza in the film version of Man of La Mancha
There are so many productions, both straight plays and musicals, that Debby would love to see. Living in LA, she feels that she misses so much New York has to offer.  A show that she wished she had seen is Wait Until Dark, another play she would love to do. Aldonza and Wait Until Dark may not make sense together but they are on the bucket list.
Debby has so many fond memories but one stands out above all others right now. Debby’s daughter, Dustin, got married a few Julys ago in Paris. Debby’s husband, Gabriel, is an Episcopal priest and presided over the ceremony. He was filling for a month at the American Cathedral there. They stayed there in what is called the deanery at the American Cathedral. Their daughter thought if they were going to be there, why not get married there? About thirty friends and family went to Paris. Debby’s husband married the happy couple in the courtyard of the American cathedral.  Everyone stayed for ten days and they explored Paris, riding bikes and going to museums and fabulous restaurants, just being together. It was a beautiful low stress wedding. Debby sang a song at the wedding reception which has found its way into Debby’s show that she heard Blossom Dearie sing called Hello, Love. She shows pictures from the wedding as she sings this song. She gets teary every time. She can’t even look at the pictures.  
When I put on Facebook that I was going to interview Debby, a few questions were posted. Debby consented to answering those questions. The first question was regarding the additional songs that were written for the stage version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers which Debbie starred in. New songs were by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn and the show enjoyed a lengthy critically and commercially successful national tour. Debby was in the show a year before it went to Broadway and it was morphing with songs going in and out.  They did add some beautiful new songs and that was Debby’s first foray into musical theater. This is something she hopes to intermittently do for the rest of her life.  
Someone wanted to know if Debby had a Lifelift, too. She is the spokesperson. They went on to say how great she looks! She says she hasn’t done it yet but she investigated it and she is open to the idea although when you allow a doctor take a knife to your face, you’ve gotta be ready! She, fortunately, has inherited her dad’s genes.  She is fifty five years old and not quite ready to make that move. She is impressed with the women she has interviewed who have done it, what they looked like before and after the procedure and they are very happy with the results. It was because of that that she was convinced that she could be the host for this infomercial.
One person asked about Debby carving her name into the family piano one Christmas when she was a child. It was actually her younger sister, Laura Gene. She had asked for a bike for Christmas.  Santa did not bring it to her, but for good reason…her birthday is in January.  If she had only waited! She never carved anything else into the piano after that!
Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill wants to know how much those amazing Rosemary Clooney arrangements cost! Debby feels daily honored that Rosemary entrusted her with those arrangements. So far she has not made a decision to rent those out. She, along with Rosemary’s arranger, John Oddo, are still trying to figure out the best way to honor these arrangements.
Again, you can see Debby Saturday night in Farmingdale and it is a free concert! This is a version of Debby’s brand new show celebrating Las Vegas in the sixties. She used to visit there when her dad was headlining. That was truly when her dream to be a singer was born.
Thank you Debby Boone Ferrer for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!

Do you have any pics?
If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
My next blog will be... My exclusive interview with Jack Ryan (Lee Solters' Office) Regarding his memories of Hello, Dolly!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!


Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!


  1. loved the blog on Debby Boone Richard. Keep up the good work and great journalism. Barbara

  2. Another marvelous interview! --Alan K. Choy (alankchoy@yahoo.com)