Wes Vernon interview with Pat Boone
January 9, 2006
RenewAmerica staff

Editor's Note: What's it like to raise a family in Hollywood? To be a Christian in Hollywood? Wes Vernon put those questions to longtime pop recording and box office star Pat Boone.

In the interview that follows, we learn that yes, there is a Hollywood blacklist, but not the one of Hollywood demonology--as well as the reasons Hollywood is so fanatically leftist; the movie roles Pat Boone did not get and why; the roles he turned down and why; thoughts on why Hollywood propaganda should be counted as an in-kind campaign contribution to the Democratic Party; Boone's review of the TV show "Commander-in-Chief"; women vs. men in politics; Pat's run-ins with the liberal media and how he fought back; the cultural rot that has set in on much of the music industry; and the star's pick for best and worst presidents in his lifetime.

What follows is lightly edited for context and clarity only. The integrity of the thrust of the points that were made remains intact.

WES VERNON: What is it like to raise a family in Hollywood? Hollywood seems to be a haven for so many things driving a culture that is not family-friendly. How many kids did you raise and how did you manage?

PAT BOONE: Four daughters only three-and-a-half years apart, so they were pre-teens and teenagers all at the same time.

WV: That must have been a handful.

BOONE: Well, it really was.

WV: You had to chase a lot of guys away, I imagine.

BOONE: Oh, we had to. We put gates, hedges, and a sign that said "Caution. Hungry Alligators." (Laugh) But Irwin Drake once wrote a great song called "Father of Girls." And the first line that repeats several times is, "When you're the father of boys, you worry. When you're the father of girls, you do more than that. You pray."

WV: Yes.

BOONE: And that's what we did. But Shirley and I [had] met and fell in love and married in Tennessee. We wound up going to school at North Texas State, where our first child was born, and then we moved to New York [commuting] out of New Jersey where three of our kids were born--one was born in New York, actually, and two in New Jersey--Betty and Laurie, the youngest.

But by the time we moved to California in 1960, I'd graduated from Columbia University with honors, but [I] had television and movie and recording contracts ... so it made sense to move out here right in the heart of "Sin City." They call Las Vegas that, and I guess it is, but Los Angeles and San Francisco are sister cities. So we decided we were going to raise our kids by what we called Tennessee standards. And that is, we had devotionals in the morning at breakfast, and we took the kids to school--nice schools, uniforms for the girls and the boys--it was a boys and girls school first, and then a girls school. Right through high school, they wore girls' uniforms.

And then at home, we had good-night prayers. We were at church services Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night--and I don't mean to make it seem as if we were a religiously fanatic family, but to me and to Shirley ... our active church-involved faith was a very vital part of our lives.

Of course, we knew it was a great balance [against] humanistic and relativistic stuff that was surrounding us, and really--we live right in the epicenter of Beverly Hills. We've been in the same house since 1960, so we've been here for 45 years now.

WV: Well, what is it really that makes Hollywood the way it is--so anti-religious? You have exceptions such as Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" and the CBS series "Touched by an Angel." But they are exceptions, not the rule. What is with Hollywood--not only hostile to devout Christians, but political conservatives, as well?

BOONE: Yes, and I've thought a lot about it, and of course, I move freely amongst all kinds of people who are 180 degrees on the other side of the spectrum from me politically and spiritually, and we get along fine, but I have seen that the basic underlying cause for the ultra-liberalism and humanism here is that Hollywood does not want rules. They don't want any restrictions on what they can do to make money or to be successful. So obviously, any religion embodies some form of rules and expectations for behavior, and even sometimes consequences, and they don't want to hear any of that.

So that's why they reject, in general--as a professional policy, and pretty much a social policy--not only religion but [there is] an antipathy to it. Not just Christianity [Hollywood generally believes]--but Judeo-Christianity--poses a tremendous threat economically, professionally, and socially [even though] it's not meant to be that.

Just as one tiny microcosm of an example, I was on the "Tonight" show with Johnny Carson. We had fun, I sang my song, did my interview, and then I moved over for the next guest who was Don Rickles.

So Don comes out and we're friendly and I jostle and joke with him as he does with me and everybody else. He's talking with Johnny as I'm sitting quietly on his right. He [Rickles] starts to say something, and then he stops in mid-sentence, and looks at me, and then back at Johnny and says, "I can't say that with him sitting here." It was funny, but it was true that he felt restricted by my presence [although] I wasn't trying to restrict him in any way, I didn't care what he said.

But for Christians here in Hollywood, and most anywhere, if you are known to be a serious--and not just dabbling or nominal Christian--then people have a general idea of what motivates you and what should be acceptable.

For instance: When Ozzie Osbourne moved in next door to us--lived next door for three years--I had already done my heavy metal album. It was really a big band jazz album of heavy metal classics. And so it was roaring good music of some quality songs, and one of them was his song "Crazy Train," which was a huge hit for him.

Then the album created a tremendous furor and got me kicked off Christian television for two months, and then restored after they settled down and listened to the music and realized there was nothing wrong with it.

But then Ozzie and Sharon and their kids moved in next door. And you've seen on their television show the continual stream of profanity in all of their language. Mom, Dad, kids--even the dogs are profane--and yet when I went over to see them and visit them several times in their home, there was none of that language. And I didn't say anything nor did I suspect anything. But I can only surmise that either Ozzie or Sharon--most likely Sharon--said "Now, Ozzie, Pat Boone's coming over, let's watch our language." I'm just guessing, but all I know is it was just neighborly talk.

But now that he's clean and sober and drug-free, every time I see him lately, he's been a different, more socially-correct person.

My point is that I noticed that everywhere I went, there was a certain dampening on people's behavior. The underlying point is that Hollywood does not like that. They don't want any restrictions. They don't want anybody telling them what they can or can't do. If they get an idea for a TV show, or an episode or an excuse for nakedness or nudity like on "NYPD," it became known that any male star or any actor on NYPD was going to have his rear end exposed in some episode.... All the males and the women had to be eventually involved in ... a sex scene.

Obviously, any religion and that kind of attitude cannot coexist. So there is sort of the unspoken--but very real--wish that anybody who subscribes to these ancient Judeo-Christian concepts would get out of Hollywood, and let them go about their business.

WV: Now, that leads me into something else, Pat. You remember that ... we met at the [2004] Republican [National] Convention and I talked to you about the blacklist, and you said [at that time] you had been victimized by a blacklist.

BOONE: Well, it's an unspoken thing. It's not something that somebody has sat down and written out.

WV: Right--which makes it a little more insidious, I would think.

BOONE: It's just sort of a collective recognition of certain people that are not "in"--[who] are not welcome in the circles of those who feel that there are no restrictions on behavior, and who subscribe and who are openly committed to and vocal about moral precepts or conservative political ideas.

I see it from the other side. I see the same sort of rankling when I see--(chuckle)--certain actors and actresses [and producers] that I know demonstrate and rail against the administration and conservative policies every chance [they get], or make movies that [insert] very liberal anti-conservative plots into the shows [such as] "The West Wing."

When political figures are shown on television or in movies, it's always the liberal Democrats that are shown to be humane, caring people. Whether it's "Law and Order," whether it's "Boston Legal," whether it's any of these legal shows, whenever they take any current issue--almost without exception--those portrayed as conservative or Christian and seriously religious or pro-life, or any of those things, are shown to be pinched, narrow, and conflicted people who are more concerned with their philosophy than they are with human compassion.

I rankle at that because I move (in) and am part of the conservative side of things, always have been. And so it's not a surprise to me that ... the last half-dozen movie roles that have been offered me would have caused me to portray a Pat Boone-like person--a preacher, a husband, a citizen who on the surface lives like I do, and then it comes out that he's a hypocrite, a pedophile, an abuser. In other words, they want me to [play those roles] because it would be tremendously effective.

WV: So you turned those roles down.

BOONE: Oh, of course.

WV: But aside from that, you did get word--or you seemed to believe--that ... they also did not offer you roles that you wanted and could have played.

BOONE: Yes, [there has been] that too. Even a movie like Robert Wise's "Sand Pebbles," a role that Steve McQueen played, and of course, he did it beautifully. But I was up for that role, and Robert Wise, when I was proposed by a casting director--I was perfect for that role--[Wise] said, "No I don't want a singer. I want an actor. Well, I'd been in the top ten [at the] box office, and I think I had proven that I could act.

But there was a certain disdainful view of me as a singer, a guy with a wife and four kids, and pretty straight-laced if not totally square. [There is an attitude of] "OK, let him do his thing, but we want somebody who can not only portray and do a dramatic role, but hopefully is living a pretty dramatic personal life, as well, and bring that image to the role."

WV: Speaking of these TV shows you were talking about where conservatives are always portrayed in the negative and liberals are played up as compassionate: In Seattle, a couple or radio talkshow hosts ... advocated an initiative on [the November 8] ballot that would roll back a stiff gas tax. A judge up there has ruled that their advocacy must be charged as a campaign contribution to those favoring the rollback. [The rollback initiative lost.] If we're going to go down that road, do you think "West Wing" and "Commander-in-Chief" can be charged as campaign contributions to the Democratic Party?

BOONE: I definitely do. I mean what's good for the goose is good for the gander. It is quite true--in fact, obvious on the surface--that the vast majority of dramatic shows and comedies, as well, advocate a liberal and humanistic and relativistic lifestyle and concept. And whenever they talk about politics, they are literally lobbying against conservatism, and for just letting down all the traces and letting any lifestyle is acceptable, no matter what it is. So, yes, they are really advocacy groups. They don't just portray both sides fairly.... It's always skewed to the left.

WV: I think you could easily say that "Commander-in-Chief" [about a woman president] is nothing but a very thinly disguised plug for Hillary in '08, don't you believe?

BOONE: Well, my quote would be it's a little suspicious. It's dramatic. It stretches credibility a great deal for--and I really think they're doing a great job. I must say I do like the show as a dramatic vehicle. I really like it. It's beautifully acted, written, and portrayed.

But the idea that this woman can apparently so effectively balance her marriage, her kids, and all the demands of the chief of state and commander-in-chief of the [most powerful] and perhaps the most troubled nation in the world--and she can move so freely back and forth and keep tabs on her children, and do her best to keep her husband happy.... But in the early episodes, she is proving to be an absolute saint of a woman. And you just don't get to that position--man or woman--without having to neglect something.

It's funny you bring that up because I've made something of a study of women in politics, and I have four daughters and my wife is an accomplished authoress, singer, and a reluctant performer with me for a number of years as a recording artist. She's very accomplished, and all my daughters are too.

So I've pondered the relative strength and abilities of women versus men. And I have seen that women are capable of just about anything that men are capable of, except for muscular physical strength. But when it comes to intellectual, business, political, or leadership qualities, women are capable of most anything men are, and they've risen to very top positions. So I've made it a point to [keep] my eye on Indira Gandhi, Golda Meier, Margaret Thatcher, and women who have become heads of state. It always seemed to me to be somewhat of an indictment of the men in those countries that there weren't enough strong able men who inspired confidence that the nation turned to a woman for a non-traditional leadership role over men and the whole society....

But in every case when they [Gandhi, Meier, and Thatcher] were asked late in their administrations or after they had retired, all of them said their greatest regret was that they had not been able to be good and caring and involved mothers to their children. They were so involved in the affairs of state and with the demands of their political careers, they now had that deep regret that they had neglected mothering their children.

So although women can do anything that men can't do, they can also do something that men can't do, and that is mother their children.

WV: The nurturing side is just so important.

BOONE: It is, and even to bear the children--there are certain things men cannot and never will be able to do.

So that's where I think the show [Commander-in-Chief] has been a little unrealistic, that a woman can take on all the demands--particularly in the early going, while being President of the United States--and still be involved with them and nuzzle and nurture them, and [also] look after her husband. He turned into a sort of a house husband there in the White House, and he doesn't like it--probably going to make another arrangement. It's just unrealistic.

WV: Have you personally, as one who is in the public eye, had run-ins with the liberal media? Do you think they slant to the left?

BOONE: (Laughing) Oh, yes, of course. In fact--statistically, as you know--people have done polls, research, and at least 80 percent or more or working media are liberal Democrats if they are involved with any party and certainly liberal in their philosophy.

And they're proud of it. If you have thought things out and you have come to political convictions, I think you should be proud of them.

If you're an atheist, be proud of it. [Tell] your kids why you're an atheist, but don't try to throttle everybody else into not embarrassing your kids because they believe differently.

The media is incredibly skewed to the left, and it has cost me in a number of situations. The Dallas Times-Herald ran a false story about me that was so defamatory. It was because somebody had made a legal claim against me in an investment I was in and ... actually said in the paper that I had made false statements in court. This was an allegation.

[Actually] he [the reporter] was referring to statements he thought were false in a deposition, not in court, and it turned out that he was completely wrong. It was totally defamatory, and I contacted the publisher [of the paper] and said, "I'm going to have lawyers approaching you because this is not only wrong and libelous, but it's very damaging to me. So you'll be hearing from my attorneys." And he said, "Let me check into it."

He got back to me right away, and said, "We're printing a retraction. You're right. The reporter was really out of line. You don't have to get lawyers. We'll print a retraction."

So I backed off, [but] the false story [had run] with a picture and a headline ... in the early part of the paper so [the readers] saw it. The retraction....

WV: [showed up] in the want-ads?

BOONE: A squib on the back page [with no picture], didn't mention my name, says "Singer denies allegation."

WV: That was not a retraction, really.

BOONE: No. And that publisher became editor of the L.A. Times.

WV: What is his name?

BOONE: Johnson. And then he went on from there to become head for a while at CNN. He served for a while, I think, as chancellor of UCLA. He's a big gun.

So he became editor and publisher of the L.A. Times, and they ran a big, big story on the front of their business section [with] a headline [and] big picture [that said] "Pat Boone's company seeking salvation."

What he was referring to was a gospel label--that I had originated and was running and was successful--of gospel music. And I had a running line of credit ... and like any customer with a business--you have [a] revolving line of credit. You borrow money, you pay it back [and you do this several times]. You're a great customer.

Well, the [savings] company went bankrupt and was absorbed by Western Federal, a much bigger banking conglomerate. And an ambitious attorney with Western Fed began to demand that all the debtors--all those who were their customers--pay off all their loans so they could get their books in order.

[But] I had a working business loan. There was no reason for me to pay that off.... I'd never missed any interest payments. I was just the ideal customer. And the lawyer then insisted that I personally sign for the loan since I wasn't going to pay him off. [He insisted] that I take them on personally while they were actually corporate.

It was a ridiculous request or demand, and my attorney said, "Pat is just not going to do that." So they said, "Well, we're going to take him to court." So my lawyer said, "Look, we'll go into Chapter 11, and [we will] take it before a judge before we let that happen."

[Then the Western Fed lawyer said], "Aw, Pat Boone's not going to do that."

"Well, we did. I wasn't going to be strong-armed or coerced.... I fully intended that all the loans be paid in time, as they always had been. But I wasn't going to take them on as a personal debt. There was no reason that I should.

So they [the Los Angeles Times] ran this huge big story and picture and headline making it look [as if] my company was declaring bankruptcy amidst allegations of fraud ... and fraudulent usage of borrowed money....

The [reporter for the L.A. Times] never interviewed me. [The writer] only interviewed ... this angry lawyer for Western Fed.

So I called this guy Johnson again, and said, "You've done it to me again. What is this about?"

And he said, "Well, our business people did the story. You were out of town, and couldn't be reached."

I said, "Do you just run with stories like this without talking to the guy who is most involved?"

WV: As if you're supposed to hang around the house because he just might call you someday.

BOONE: I said, "I came back to town yesterday, and this story ran today."

And he said, "Well, the man tried to reach you and you were out of town."

And I said, "So you just ran this defamatory story without getting my side of it?"

And he said, "Well, let me look into it. He [the business editor] is a very fair man." Then he gets back to me and says, "We're going to run a letter to the editor, so you can correct this [regarding] the things you think are wrong."

A letter to the editor! Of course, I completely cancelled my subscription to the L.A. Times. They keep trying to get me to subscribe. I'm not going to subscribe ... to a huge liberal rag.

In fact, I went to ... Jack Kent Cooke [former owner of the Washington Redskins] and got on my high horse. He owned the [L.A.] Daily News [at the time] ... a very widely respected [but much smaller] paper. And I said, "Jack--we were on a first name basis--and I said, "I want to be your paper boy.... I said I want to promote the Daily News. Since the [L.A.] Herald-Examiner folded, we only have one paper, this ultra-liberal L.A. Times. We need another paper in Los Angeles. Let me promote the Daily News in Beverly Hills. I'll even take a paper route. But mainly [I want to] promote the circulation of the Daily News [as] L.A.'s second paper."

He said, "Well, I appreciate it, but we don't want to take on the L.A. Times.... We don't make our money from circulation. We make it from advertising." And so he declined the offer, though he was appreciative.

Then I called the publisher of the Orange County Register, and made the same offer, and said, "Let me promote free your paper as L.A.'s second paper. We need two newspapers in Los Angeles." And they didn't want to take on the L.A. Times either.

[The only option left was to] start another paper, which I didn't have the expertise to do.

So yes, I've been the absolute victim of smears and skewed and false stories that have really threatened my reputation. I just don't think most people believe that I am dishonest or [an] unsavory person, but if you believe some of these stories, you would think so.

WV: I have always believed that if earlier generations of the Chandler family [longtime owners of the L.A. Times] could see what's happened to [that paper], they would have a heart attack.

BOONE: They might, I don't know about the original [Times].

WV: Oh, that paper forty or fifty years ago was very conservative.

BOONE: Was it?

WV: Yes, sir. It happens time and time again. The younger generations take over and [as it goes] from generation to generation, it gets more and more liberal.

I think I may have told you I was a [radio dee-jay] back in the fifties and [early] sixties.

BOONE: Yes, you did.

WV: I played your records big time, and I could always understand every single word you were [singing].

BOONE: Let me interject something. I've had a long running love affair with Japan and for that matter throughout the Far East. I just got a big offer today from the Philippines. But there was ... an affinity that grew between me and the Japanese.

I've had many successful tours, and I asked them, "Why is it that I am this popular in Japan?"

And he said, "Well, we think of you as a hometown boy.... By that, we mean you're a family man [and honor] traditional values and college and clean and no scandal," and at that time--in the Fifties and Sixties--the Japanese still treasured that. "We like that about you."

And the school teachers [in Japan] had used my [recordings] to teach English. And as you said, they could understand every word, and it's valid. I was singing slowly and articulately and they could understand every word. The teachers would play a few lines of the song, and then ask the students to write those words down, and say them.

It's interesting [because] before my career took over, I was going to be an English teacher.

WV: You would have been a good one.

BOONE: [Not only] English [but also] speech. Ironically, for a few million people in the Far East, I did become an English teacher through my music.

WV: Recently, XM [Satellite] Radio did a four-week marathon across six of its channels, starting out with the hits of the Thirties, and going right up to the Millennium. I followed most of that, I really enjoyed it until they got to the mid-Eighties. Right about then, I sort of fell off the sled. [At that point] they got into stuff I couldn't recognize [or] deal with. Is it just me? Is it a cultural or generational difference, or what?

BOONE: Oh, man, the whole music industry has been [dragged] into the ghetto. In fact, I see it as a ghettoization ... a coarsening of the culture, led by the entertainment industry. [This applies to] music in particular, because once ... hip-hop [and rap] music came in--because it was an outgrowth of ... a street or urban culture.

That is not to be derogatory. It was kids ... doing hip-hop stuff and rap and you know, throwing themselves under the pavement and doing all kinds of crazy gyrations, and really dramatic athletic things....

It captured the attention of not only the kids, but the record executives who saw a new thing that they could make a lot of money with, so they promoted it like crazy. And they discovered that if a hip-hop or rap artist had a criminal record, and if he was part of a gang ... out of it came an overnight hugely popular NWA [which stood for] "N**gers-With-Attitude."

Then there was Two-Live Crew, with them advocating that you should get a gun and shoot a cop.

All of this gangster mentality, and the danger and the guns, "Pimps and Whores and Bitches"--and all of this stuff was actively promoted by the hierarchy of the record business. They saw they could make millions promoting performers [who] made sure you knew they had been to prison, they'd been shot up.

The guy that was on with Dave Letterman last night calls himself Fifty-Cent. The first question was, "You'd been shot nine times?" [His answer was] "Yeah." And then he talks about being in prison and being in gang wars and selling drugs. So that [supposedly] makes him a very hip artist.

So all these artists--I say artists, [I should say] these performers--are making millions, driving Rolls-Royces, and buying [fancy homes], and dragging urban and suburban kids into a ghetto culture. It's one of the most ironic, crazy things that I have ever seen in my life.

WV: About as idiotic as you could imagine. Pointless.

BOONE: Yes, I mean they wear big diamond rings, put diamonds in their teeth.... [They get] all kinds of endorsements and people around them just making them into glamorous figures. They put out a record [and for] most of it, you can't understand a single word even if they perform it [live]. You're distracted by them grabbing their crotches. They've got--they say--"skanky-looking" women behind them, chanting and making all kinds of suggestive moves. All of it [is] designed to make this rap performer--and occasionally a white performer just trying to get in on it--making him look like [someone] who is able to serve as many women that they all desire. He takes his pick of all the women, and gives them ... champagne. I mean, these are all in the lyrics of their songs.

One that I saw on "Saturday Night Live" recently ... was doing a song called "You Can Lick my Lollypop." He makes it very clear what he's referring to. This is about a four-minute number as he struts around the stage, and the background singers act [as if] they just can't wait to get to him.

The kids see this, and they play the music and they emulate it. Then they find out on Oprah and other shows that pre-teen girls are engaging in oral intercourse [in] the hall closets at school.

All of this is sort of accepted [as] exciting.

WV: [A couple of quick political questions]: Can you [tell us who you think] was the best and who was the worst president either in history or in your lifetime?

BOONE: Well, you know my answers to that. I think the best president--because he changed the whole mood of the country, the whole economy of the country, and stood up to Communism ... that was continuing its causes around the world, and backed them off and caused them to collapse--and that was Ronald Reagan.

[He did it] just through the strength of his convictions, and his ability to articulate and employ those convictions in the first hundred days of his presidency.

Harsh liberal critics said that what [Reagan had done] in the first 100 days ... will take us ten years to undo.

The things he said he would do and was elected to do he set about immediately to do.

[For that], he took tremendous vilification, brickbats--but he just stood his ground, looked Gorbachev in the eye, and Gorbachev saw he was not going to be able to intimidate this man. Gorbachev said he just went home and realized his political system was doomed.

So I think Ronald Reagan turned [around] a country that had been told by Jimmy Carter to lower its expectations, accept the malaise into which we had fallen.

[Reagan] re-inspired the country's patriotism and confidence.

History, I think, will judge him alongside Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, and possibly Teddy Roosevelt.

[His] legislative achievements were important, as well.

[Of course] Lyndon Johnson [also] proved to be very effective [in that regard]. But [what's more important are] the things you enact.

For instance [what Johnson] did with immigration laws ... caused there to be 8-million illegal aliens who are now moving freely, getting Social Security, drivers' licenses, and the government [does not know] what in the world to do.

WV: And that [8 million illegals] is a conservative estimate, too.

BOONE: Anyway, legislative ability, I think is second to the ability of a leader to inspire and literally to lead in positive directions.

So I would say Reagan was the best, and certainly Clinton the worst.

Though he had legislative abilities, he created a moral stain on the presidency--not just on a blue dress, but on the office.

WV: Yes.

BOONE: [This involved] behavior, world opinion of America and its leaders, and what is expected of us, and [the effect] on our young people.... A major, major reason that young people today--young girls--are acting so immorally in schools is they will say [as Clinton did], "Well, it's not sex." They'll say that openly to their parents, on national television. And these are 12, 13, 14-year old girls. You know they're directly influenced by the behavior of the president who said from the Oval Office, "I did not have sex with that woman." What he was saying was, "I didn't have full intercourse. I did have sexual activity, but that's not really sex."

WV: Do you have a favorite as to who should be on the Republican ticket in 2008?

BOONE: No, I really don't have a well worked-out idea ... at this point. I hope a great young Reagan will emerge.

Pat Boone's success as a top recording and motion picture star has spanned several decades.

Wes Vernon is a Washington-based writer and veteran broadcast journalist.


They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. —Isaiah 40:31