The public loves it when squeaky-clean celebrities reveal their naughty sides— remember the flap after Julie Andrews flashed her tits in S.O.B.? My former boss

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Inside Donny Osmond

The public loves it when squeaky-clean celebrities reveal their naughty sides— remember the flap after Julie Andrews flashed her tits in S.O.B.? My former boss used to recount being on the phone with Sandy Duncan when an earthquake hit her California home; as her collection of Hummel figurines crashed to the ground, little Miss Wheat Thins let loose a string of expletives that would have sent Peter Pan into a tailspin. So it is with perverse pleasure that I must disclose something profoundly disturbing about one of America's most wholesome stars:

Donny Osmond made me like a song from Rent.

Since when does a homosexual need any help gushing over a Broadway show tune? When it's from a musical written after 1981 by anybody other than Sondheim, and especially when it's "Seasons of Love," the so-called hit from the overrated La Boheme rip-off. But apparently, as Donny sings on another selection from This Is the Moment (Decca Broadway), his collection of 13 tunes lifted from (mostly) contemporary productions on the Great White Way, "anything is possible."

So when the chance to chat with Donny presented itself, I leapt at it—partially because I am a huge geek, weaned on The Donny & Marie Show as well as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's good musicals), with which Osmond toured for six years. But mostly, I hoped that my charisma would prove so disarming that the 43-year-old dreamboat would let something scandalous slip out.

Fat chance. Osmond's interviewing skills are as polished as his smile. He apologizes for calling five minutes late. Every second or third answer, he addresses me by name ("here's a story you're gonna love, Kurt"). I do get to enjoy a few moments of heavy breathing down the line, but only because my subject's deep in thought. Nevertheless, I try my best to drum up some Donny dirt.

I pick an easy target first: Where does Donny weigh in on today's crop of teen stars? "I went to an 'N Sync concert not long ago, and sat there in the audience and watched all those screaming girls, and thought, 'I know exactly what that feels like.'" What, to be driven into a hormonal frenzy at the sight of Justin Timberlake in leather pants? Alas, no. Donny was just remembering his own days as a singing pinup, admitting it's fun to "live vicariously" through the Backstreet Boys, et al.

Of course, youth culture has changed markedly since his '70s heyday. And when asked whether he agrees with Marilyn Manson's assertion that negligent parents—not the media—are to blame for kids' running amok, the father of five backs up the self-appointed Antichrist. "Marilyn Manson is absolutely correct. He . . . she . . . it . . . however you want to say it . . . is right on the money. Whether you agree with what he does is neither here nor there, but what he said is gospel truth. I've always lived by the philosophy that if you teach correct principles, wise decisions will follow."

Lucille Ball, John Wayne, Boy George, Fishbone—Osmond doesn't have an unkind word for anyone he's worked with. The closest he comes is when he mentions the departed Donny and Marie talk show's fighting Dr. Laura for midday airtime. As I let out a disgusted "eeew!" upon hearing the homophobic advice Nazi's name, Donny chuckles. "I know," he says, then keeps bubbling along.

As fans of Howard Stern—who couldn't ruffle Osmond with questions about oral sex—can attest, Donny is unflappable. (Alas, I'm too cowed by his good nature to follow up on a rumor that New Order bassist Peter Hook once greeted the purportedly well-endowed Osmond at an industry fete by grabbing his package.) "I learned not to let people get my goat back in '89 when I was promoting 'Soldier of Love,'" he explains. "I would go into a radio station, and immediately they would start playing 'Puppy Love' or hand me a toothbrush or go, 'Where's your purple socks?' And it would irk me to no end." Finally, he caught on. Donny started stomping into studios singing his old hits, demanding a glass of milk, and blabbing about Marie. "It defused the situation, got the joke over with, and then I could actually talk about my music."

Oh right, the music. This Is the Moment features some fine performances from unlikely sources (Jekyll & Hyde, Seussical the Musical), a clutch of numbers as empty as the shows that spawned them, and the obligatory cutesy duet with Rosie O'Donnell, all buffed to a tasteful pop sheen by Elton John/Billy Joel producer Phil Ramone. It's better than you might expect. Then again, if Donny Osmond can sing the praises of Marilyn Manson and 'N Sync, it's no wonder he can find something worthwhile in a crappy ditty from Rent too.

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