Donny Osmond talks the highs of being a teen idol and the lows that came afterward: 'I couldn't get arrested'

Are the Kids Alright? is Yahoo Entertainment's video interview series exploring the impact of show business on the development and well-being of former child entertainers, from triumphs to traumas.

In the '70s, Donny Osmond was beyond groovy. He had begun his career singing alongside his older brothers when he was 5, and, a decade later, he had a successful solo career. He was also a full-fledged teen idol, with his photos plastering the walls of his young fans.

An 11-year-old Donny Osmond, front and center, performs with his older brothers and Nancy Sinatra on
An 11-year-old Donny Osmond, front and center, performs with his older brothers and Nancy Sinatra on "The Andy Williams Show" on Oct. 25, 1969. (Photo: Everett Collection)

“It was exhilarating,"Osmond, now 63, tells Yahoo Entertainment. "It was… euphoric to hit the stage and all these thousands of girls were screaming your name. What guy wouldn’t want that?”

He even remembers forgetting the lyrics to his hit 1972 song "Puppy Love." On stage.

"Now I'd sang it, what, three or four times in the studio. And we released the record, it's being constantly played on the radio," he says. "All these teenage girls are listening to it every second of the day, they know it like the back of their hand… I sang it three times. So, we come on stage, the intro starts… then the screaming, it’s like crazy! The audience goes beserk. And I forgot the words."

Donny Osmond was a teen idol of the '70s. (Photo: Everett Collection)
Donny Osmond was a teen idol of the '70s. (Photo: Everett Collection)

At least no one seemed to notice because of everything that was going on.

But, as often happens with celebrities labeled "teen idols," the good times didn't last. The Donny and Marie star grew up, and his fans seemed to outgrow him. The screams stopped.

Siblings Marie and Donny Osmond, pictured here in 1976, starred in their own show from that year until 1979. (Photo: Everett Collection)
Siblings Marie and Donny Osmond, pictured here in 1976, starred in their own show from that year until 1979. (Photo: Everett Collection)

"When I lost my career in the ‘80s .. it was horrible," he says. "I can't find the words to tell you what the feeling was of being rejected after selling out stadiums and all this stuff, and then playing half-filled high school gymnasiums. I mean, it's just horrible."

Osmond recalls feeling unwanted and having anxiety for the first time.

"I couldn't get arrested," he says. "Couldn't get a record deal, nothing."

His career drastically improved in 1989, when he had a hit with the song "Soldier of Love," which soon had him playing standing-room-only venues. And that was only part of his comeback. He was cast as the lead in a stage production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a role which he played from 1992 to 1997.

"You'd think that that would fix anything right?" Osmond says. "It did just the opposite because now, I've gotta be perfect, because, if I'm not, I'm gonna lose it again."

He recalls having a panic attack one night just before he was supposed to go on stage.

“They called half hour to show time. My hands started getting clammy. Fifteen minutes to show time, they announced, and I started shaking," Osmond says. "Finally, about 10 minutes before the show, I’m throwing things in my dressing room. I said, 'Get the understudy… get him ready, cause I can’t go on stage.”

Fortunately for Osmond, Debra, his wife since 1978, was at the venue to give him some good advice. She told him to "just do an average show," which is what he worked toward.

But he says that it turned out to be, "The best show I ever did."

Osmond released his latest album, Start Again, this month.

— Video produced by Anne Lilburn and edited by Jason Fitzpatrick