PAT BOONE: ICON OF THE 1950S, IS STILL GOING STRONG AT THE AGE OF 82
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
BEVERLY HILLS, CA (November 5, 2016) – Along with Elvis Presley, Pat Boone was one of the undisputed icons of the 1950s and early 1960s, with a string of hits like his versions of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That A Shame,” Litttle Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” the Flamingo’s “I’ll Be Home,” Ivory Joe Hunter’s “I Almost Lost My Mind,” and Big Joe Turner’s “Chains Of Love,” among others, which were all wildly popular.
Boone also had other hits like “Speedy Gonzales,” as well as “Moody River,” and, along with his big rival at the time, Elvis, he starred in a string of movies, his first being “Bernadine,” where he also recorded the theme song written by Johnny Mercer.
Like Presley, Boone was a humble country boy aspiring to croon his way to pop chart fame. Both made their entrée through the budding R&B-based rock ‘n’ roll scene.
As we all know, Elvis Presley tragically died on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42. The cause of his death was allegedly covered up, but it is suspected that it was from an overdose of prescription drugs that caused his heart to stop.
What is so extraordinary about Pat Boone, is that he is still working as hard as ever, even though he is now 82-years of age. I caught up with him at the 18th Annual MFI Praise Breakfast held on Saturday, October 15th, 2016, at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where I was able to interview him for my TV show, “Inside Hollywood with Dan Wooding,” which is aired on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network in Southern California and also on Dove TV in Medford, Oregon.
I chatted with him before he was due to pay honor to two of Hollywood’s late and great Christians: Natalie Cole, the daughter of Nat King Cole; and, Andraé Crouch, the talented singer-songwriter, who revolutionized Gospel Music.
I began by asking Pat why he kept turning up at this yearly event for Christians working in the Hollywood entertainment industry, and he replied, “It’s because this is family, and we’re brothers and sisters, and when my brothers and sisters come together, I want to be with them. Also because I’m a fellow entertainer, and the whole idea of Media Fellowship International is to encourage people in the media in its various forms — whether it’s singing and performing in front of the camera, or behind the camera, or producing or writing all the parts that are necessary to present what we call ‘entertainment.’
“I know that for many, it’s a minefield, with temptation and all kinds of pitfalls, and many pay terrible prices to be in this business. So we’re offering help, strength and encouragement to fellow performers and saying according to Philippians 2:11,13, that “we can work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God working in you both to will and to do his good pleasure.” We cannot make it on our own and be good public servants, or even good human beings, without asking God’s help. The temptations and pitfalls and traps are too many.”
Charles Eugene “Pat” Boone, who was born on June 1, 1934 in Jacksonville, Florida, said that he first came to Hollywood in 1957, and his first movie was “Bernadine,” which he described as “the first teen musical.” He said the theme song, “Bernadine” was “my first million selling movie title song.” He went on to say, “In the same film was ‘Love Letters in the Sand,’ which became the biggest-selling hit record I ever had.”
I asked Boone if he felt that Hollywood had changed for better or for worse, since he began his movie career, and he replied, “I’d say, overall, for the worst, because Hollywood, by and large, has sold out and discovered that they can make money if they make huge movies about taboo things. However, not all of them succeed, and some of them are abysmal flops. It seems the darker more immoral more sensational and scandalous a film may be, they think the greater chance it has to succeed.
“But, Dr. Ted Baehr of Movieguide®, who is here today, lets the entertainment industry know that, if you want to have a successful film, your best bet is to make a G-rated family film because they make the most money. Right now we’re having some success with faith based films; and, I’m in three of them.”
Boone went on to explain that one of the faith-based movies he has recently appeared, was “God’s Not Dead II,” where he played an 80-year-old grandfather “on a walker.”
He said, “It’s doing extremely well and it followed ‘God’s not Dead,” the first one which was a $100,000,000 success. Now, ‘God’s Not Dead II’ is already up to about forty or fifty million. And ,that’s not the main point, as it is reaching people on current issues of the day. They included: Can you even speak the name Jesus in a classroom? Can you treat him as a historical character, and not just a myth or legend?”
“I’ve done another movie called ‘Boonville Redemption,’ which will soon be on sale on DVD. It’s about a little California town that exists and is called Booneville, although the name had nothing to do with me, except that we both trace our ancestry to Daniel Boone. It’s a western in which a minister is shot dead in his church in the beginning of the film. Even though the townspeople know pretty well who did it, they don’t know why. I play Doc Woods, an old doctor, who is another 80-year-old, and eventually my character helps to bring the guy to justice. So it’s a good role in a good faith-based film.
“The third is called ‘Cowgirl Story,’ a sequel to one that was done earlier. It’s about a cowgirl who is laughed at when she first comes to an urban school in southern California. Then, she wins them over through her prowess in horsemanship, and they start trying to do what she does. It’s a film for young people, and I play an 80-year-old retired Marine chaplain, and I took that role because I get to quote the 23rd Psalm at the end of the film.
“So I’m in three faith-based films and, of course, the word’s gotten out to casting directors that, if you have a part for an 80-year-old guy who can still remember his lines, give Pat Boone a call.”
I then asked Pat to tell people how they could pray for those working in Hollywood, and he suggested that they not only pray for believers working there, that God will use and protect them, but also that others in the industry will turn to “their savior” and “draw near forever to the eternal family of God’s own blood-bought children.”
With that, Pat Boone was off to speak at the star-studded event, and I was surprised when, during his introduction, he mentioned our interview.
“Dan Wooding just asked me why I keep coming to this event, and I was able to tell him,” he said. Then Pat paused and added, “Dan Wooding is a guy who actually tells what Christians are doing in the entertainment community better than anybody else I know. Dan, it’s great that you’re here and I thank you for your fine work.”
With that, I got some thunderous applause, which was deeply appreciated from such an august group of Hollywood friends.
You can see the entire “Inside Hollywood” show by going to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmQk1SRV-Bc&feature=youtu.be.
For more information on Media Fellowship International, please go to: http://www.mediafellowship.org/.
Author’s Note: I would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.
Photo captions: 1) Elvis Presley and Pat Boone together with an unnamed friend. 2) Dan Wooding with Pat Boone at the MFI event. 3) Shirley and Pat Boone with Rosey Grier at a previous MFI breakfast. 4) Dan and Pat together at a golf tournament with Pat wearing a kilt in honor of the Scots, who founded the game of golf.
Editor’s note: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. He is the author of some 45 books and has two TV programs and one radio show in Southern California. While still working in London, Dan was a senior reporter with two of the UK’s largest circulation newspapers, and also did regular interviews for BBC Radio, and LBC, London’s main commercial talk station.
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