Utah Valley’s Most Famous Sister
By Jeanette W. Bennett
If you’ve tuned in to Marie Osmond’s afternoon radio show on B98.7, then you know Marie. Sure, you haven’t swapped recipes with her in person or watched her discipline one of her eight children. But you know the real 45-year-old. She is 100 percent herself on the airwaves.
In preparation for my published “girl chat” with Marie, I’ve listened to her radio show during the afternoons while I run children to dance and piano and pick up drycleaning. As our interview began, I felt like we were on the air. I heard the same laugh. The same sense of humor. Same light-hearted yet thoughtful view of the world.
Perhaps she is so real because she began in show business before she could tie her shoes. She is the person we’ve watched grow from a little bit country to a little bit of an author to a lot of a mother.
Marie is one of Utah Valley’s most recognizable faces. You may have spotted her at Borders, the fabric store or at the soccer field. If you haven’t, just listen to “Marie and Friends,” and you’ll feel like the show’s title is talking about you.
Here is a portion of our friendly conversation, which centered on holidays, movie preferences, chocolate and alarm clocks.
Jeanette Bennett, Utah Valley Magazine: Marie, what are your Christmas traditions?
Marie: I make my kids pajamas every Christmas. Sometimes they match. Sometimes I theme them to things they love — like soccer. This year, we’re just going to go weird. Time is of the essence.
UV: Do you have a busy holiday season?
Marie: This year, besides doing the radio show, I’m doing a special holiday show. So I’m going to be doing two radio shows. I’m also going to be designing my dolls.
UV: What do you do on Christmas Eve?
Marie: We act out the Christmas story from Luke. Everybody wants to be the donkey.
UV: Does the greater Osmond clan get together for Christmas?
Marie: We try to get together after the holidays.
UV: Do you have any tips for avoiding Christmas stress?
Marie: Buy your kids a new sleeping bag every year. Then put a big red bow on it and put their presents inside it. It saves paper — it saves you wrapping!
UV: Is there a Christmas from your life that stands out?
Marie: They are all memorable. Every one is different. One of the most fun was when we rented a big U-Haul truck. Then we went to everyone’s houses and picked them up and went to a warehouse for a party because there are 2 billion grandkids!
UV:: Do people tell you that you are hard to buy for?
Marie: Yes, and I don’t understand that. I have no problems finding things to buy for myself! I think people think I want expensive watches and designer things. But it’s the things that are made that I love — the jam my neighbor brings over. The fresh bread. I am a simple person. You know how people say to live in the present? You could say that I live for presents — and chocolate.
UV:: Your love for chocolate is legendary!
Marie: I just talked about chocolate on the radio show. Chocolate has antioxidants, and it is really better than a multi-vitamin. So Merry Christmas!
UV:: What is your favorite time of year?
Marie: I love the fall, but the holidays are the best. Utah is a beautiful state. I was raised in California, but I love it here. In Los Angeles there are so many things to distract you from thinking. If you are going through a difficult time and need to think, Utah is the place. One of my favorite things is to drive in the mountains and sit there for awhile.
UV:: What does a typical day look like for you?
Marie: (Laughs) Typical?
UV: Do you wake up to an alarm?
Marie: The alarm goes off in my head at 3 a.m. Usually I get up around 5:30. My 2-year-old is my alarm clock. I start by getting her changed and ready for the day. If the house is still quiet, I like to read. I’m an avid reader.
UV: What’s the last book you read?
Marie: It was one of Hugh Nibley’s books.
UV: That’s ambitious!
Marie: I love that kind of stuff.
UV: Do you run carpool in the mornings?
Marie: One of the first things I do is get my daughter off to drill team about 6 a.m. And it doesn’t stop all day. Soccer. Football.
UV: How much sleep do you get each night?
Marie: As much as I can. Your body is ready to heal itself starting at 9 p.m. If you stay up late, you just get sicker. I’ve really made it a goal to make sure the kids get in bed early. My mom always said kids should be in bed by 8 p.m. and asleep by 8:30.
UV: What are your children like?
Marie: I’m sure a couple of them will write a book later in life about growing up in our house. I stayed up till 1 in the morning the other night with one of my daughters. She wanted to see all the jewelry from the first “Donny and Marie” show. She is into retro. She wanted to see items from “back in the day.”
UV: Have you ever done something as normal as toilet-papering?
Marie: I go with my kids now! I’ve learned that double-ply is best — it has the best air time. I never got to be a normal kid, so I like having a childhood with my children.
UV: What is it like to be you now that you are an adult and have been in the public eye for more than 40 years? Are you able to just anonymously run into Wal-Mart to grab a few things, or do you feel like you are “Marie Osmond” wherever you go?
Marie: People are very gracious. Sometimes when I’m out with friends, they’ll say, “Did you see those people staring at you?” And I usually don’t notice. But I understand people watching me because I love to watch people. People are fascinating and hilarious.
UV: What is the best part about being Marie Osmond?
Marie: The best part is being the wife and the mother. My eight children keep me very, very busy. They each have their struggles and their strife. I love being with my kids. This is one of the reasons I love doing the radio show. I know the hours that it takes to do a TV show and to do Broadway. Those are hard things to do with a family. I love to make my kids dinner and see how their days were. I like to make sure they read a half hour every night so they have a good footing on their school work.
UV: If I were to peek in your closet, what would I see?
Marie: That’s where my husband sleeps. Just kidding! Everything in my closet is black. Black is the color of compassion, right? People wear it to funerals. I must be very compassionate.
UV: Is there something in your closet you just can’t live without?
Marie: Probably my slippers. I wore them to work the other day. It’s great to have a work environment like I have!
UV: What is your favorite room in your house?
Marie: The room my cute husband is finishing for me above our garage. I had to put a lock on that room because my children figured out they could do homework in there. Everybody needs a place where they can call their own. There were nine children in my family growing up and now I have eight kids. Everybody needs their own space. That is really, really important. As women and mothers, we need our own space and our own time.
UV: But we feel guilty about taking the time and creating the space.
Marie: True, but one of my favorite commandments is to love thy neighbor as thyself. We should love ourselves. Sure, we don’t want to promote selfishness, but we should know when to say, “I can’t.” We should take care of ourselves. I’ve been a single mother. I have struggled. But I’ve learned that even taking 10 minutes in the bathtub helps. Kids want to see us happy. They don’t want to see us feel guilty.
UV: With eight children of your own, are you also able to get to know your nieces and nephews?
Marie: I try to invite my nieces and nephews to my house quarterly, and we have a big party.
UV: How have you managed to raise a family with your busy career?
Marie: Promoting an album is not kid-friendly. I’d love to be on Broadway, but my children wouldn’t have the type of life they need in New York. I’ve turned down seven Broadway shows. I have to make choices.
UV: Has the radio show been satisfying?
Marie: Some of the e-mails that have come have been really awesome. I’ve had women write to say they are going through a difficult time such as a divorce, and they turn on the radio and hear, “This is Marie Osmond,” and that changes their whole day. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
UV: Do you have any pre-radio show rituals?
Marie: I’m a real believer in prayer. It gets you thinking clearly. And I believe in gratitude. Prayer sets you right.
UV: What makes your show unique?
Marie: It’s a positive show. Often on talk radio people are afraid if they call in they are going to get slammed by the host. We don’t do that. We don’t talk problems. We don’t talk weight. We don’t discriminate against social status. I grew up on TV and had people pull me aside in parking lots and tell me that at 103 pounds I was an embarrassment. There is too much of that in show business.
UV: Do you pick the songs you play on your radio show?
Marie: A lot of that is decided by groups and research. But I like avante garde kinds of songs, so people would not want to hear my play list.
UV: What is your CD collection like?
Marie: I love big band music. That’s not a big favorite on the radio. Music is what I do. That really is who Marie Osmond is.
UV: Do you get asked to sing in church?
Marie: No. That’s the first thing I say, “Don’t even think about asking me to sing in church! Let other people do it.” People don’t come to church to hear a professional sing. I’ve done a few funerals for friends, but I don’t sing in church.
UV: Do you have favorite musicians?
Marie: Most of the people who are big singers are my friends. Lionel Richie has been on our show many times. I’ve just talked to Garth Brooks, and he’ll be on my show. And he doesn’t do interviews with anybody. On Fridays I do “sports shorts for athletic supporters.” It’s basically the cliff notes to help women get ready for the weekend so they can talk sports with their husbands and their boyfriends. Garth came on the show and talked baseball.
UV: What is it like to be part of the celebrity scene?
Marie: People are so interested in the lives of celebrities. But “real life” is so much more interesting. One in four adults lives alone. We are more isolated now. Women used to hang clothes together on clotheslines. Modern conveniences have made us isolated. Our radio show brings women back together.
UV: Does anything make you nervous after all you’ve done?
Marie: You have to have nerves to be good at what you do. Nerves are invigorating.
UV: What projects are you working on right now?
Marie: I’m excited about Expressive Lace, my 3-D embroidery designs. I am launching my very own embroidery machine, exclusive to Bernina. It is fabulous! You can make lots of kinds of lace, Christmas ornaments, placemats and more.
UV: What will 2005 bring to you?
Marie: After the holidays I’m launching my own exclusive fabric line with the oldest textile company in the country. I’m also launching a family lifestyles collection featuring easy craft kits you can do with your kids, which is so essential. All kids want to do is go to the mall and hang out, and with my crafts you can make them fast and fun.
UV: Do your kids enjoy crafts?
Marie: Yes. My daughter made a double-lined fleece blanket recently, and homemade things make such great gifts.
UV: Have you always enjoyed making crafts?
Marie: When you ride on a bus and travel from city to city, you either sit and do mindless games or watch videos or you do something productive with your time. So I crocheted, I knitted. I made all of my kids’ Christmas stockings during breaks in “The Sound of Music.”
UV: Did you learn your love for the homemade from your mother?
Marie: My mother told me the things you make are the best things. When I was doing the first “Donny and Marie” show, I’d come home after 14 hours of work and my mom would say, “It’s time to learn to make bread” or “now I’m going to teach you how to bottle fruit or hem a skirt.” And now I find I’m teaching my kids the same things.
UV: What is your favorite sound?
Marie: Laughter. And kids’ laughter is the best. There is nothing I love more than to hear my kids laughing with each other. Last night when I went to bed my husband was up with our 13-year-old and 15-year-old, and they were laughing. What a great way to go to sleep! Of course, I wanted to shoot them all because they weren’t in bed yet!
UV: Do you watch TV at night?
Marie: I very, very rarely watch TV. We have more stations than we’ve ever had. And the reality shows … well, I’ve voiced my opinions many times on those. Probably the only show I care to watch is “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” I think that’s pretty funny.
UV: What is the last movie you saw?
Marie: “The Family Man” and “Napoleon Dynamite.”
UV: What did you think of Napoleon?
Marie: It’s huge. It is one of those cult, crazy movies.
UV: I was laughing and shaking my head at the same time.
Marie: I liked it because I have an offbeat sense of humor. So does my husband. That’s one of the reasons I married him. He is as nutty as I am. We just laughed out loud. My kids loved it, too.
UV: Do you have a favorite place to eat out in Utah?
Marie: I like a homecooked meal. I have eaten in so many restaurants my whole life. I’ve never been home. And I’m home now. It’s a wonderful time for me.
UV: Are you a good cook?
Marie: I am a good cook. And my husband and daughter are good cooks.
UV: You’ll turn 45 in October.
Marie: And if you print that, I will have a hit man come and hunt you down.
UV: OK, you are turning 29 on Oct. 13th.
Marie: That’s better. Yes, I was born on my dad’s birthday. I was born back in the day before babies were induced, and I legitimately arrived on his birthday. We’re going to celebrate by going to dinner together. I’ll pay for his dinner and he’ll pay for mine.
UV: What is your secret to looking like you are 29?
Marie: Oh, you are good. I don’t really know. Laughing helps. I’d rather have happy lines than frowny lines. A lot of it is attitude. And I believe in drinking a lot of water.
UV: When you look at what you’ve done in your life, it’s wide and varied. Singing. Theater. Books. Television. Dolls. Radio. How do you gear up for yet another big project in your life?
Marie: I have A.D.D. and I’m also dyslexic, so I’ve always thought, “Isn’t everybody like this?”
UV: Are there more books on the horizon?
Marie: I’m in the process of writing a book about my mother. She kept amazing journals and had a wonderful sense of humor. She had great insight, and I want to make sure it gets passed on.
UV: Do you keep a journal?
Marie: My journal right now is the show. I have a son on a mission and a daughter off to school, and I write them every week. We’re saving our letters.
UV: Do you scrapbook?
Marie: Actually what I’ve done is let my children create their own scrapbooks.
UV: Do you have a lot of something? Are you a shoe lady? Earring goddess?
Marie: I collect children. The older I get, the more I collect good friends. And I have a lot of fabric and dolls.
UV: How many dolls do you have?
Marie: Probably 1,000. We’re working on their display cases.
UV: Do you follow politics?
Marie: I love politics.
UV: Republican or Democrat?
Marie: I vote for who I think is best.
UV: Would you ever run for public office?
Marie: Honey, I don’t think they could handle someone like me with all of my opinions.
UV: We need decisive leaders. Who has been your mentor? Who do you turn to when you need advice?
Marie: My mother. Since she is not here anymore, I have great friends.
UV: What will your next 10 years be like?
Marie: I plan to spend a lot of time on my dolls. I like to do things that are multigenerational. Grandmas can collect dolls with their granddaughters. It serves purpose. Do you have children?
UV: I have three children.
Marie: Your kids would love these dolls. I have other projects in the works that I can’t talk about because contracts aren’t signed.
UV: Lastly, is there anything you wish people understood about you?
Marie: No. Just listen to the radio show and you’ll know I’m nuts!
Family: Husband, Brian; 8 children — one on a mission, one away at college; six at home
Current ‘to-do’ list: Daily radio show on B98.7 from 3 p.m.-8 p.m., doll designer and creator, QVC guest
Favorite meal: Anything homecooked
Last movie seen: “Napoleon Dynamite”
Favorite music genre: Big band
Favorite TV show: “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
Favorite sound: Laughter