Life HappensBeing thankful for guilty pleasures


By Jeff Gates - For The Madison Press



Columnist Jeff Gates interviewed Debby Boone when she performed in Springfield, Ohio a few short years ago. An autographed eight-track tape of the singer is displayed proudly in his office.

Columnist Jeff Gates interviewed Debby Boone when she performed in Springfield, Ohio a few short years ago. An autographed eight-track tape of the singer is displayed proudly in his office.


From Polka music to Soap Operas … and everywhere in between.

We all have them.

By definition, a guilty pleasure is “something such as a film, television program or a piece of music that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard, or is seen as unusual or weird.”

Whether it is not getting enough of the movie “Goonies,” watching reruns of the “Lawrence Welk Show” or knowing the words to a song that others might consider annoyingly-sappy.

It can’t be wrong when it feels so right.

See, Debby Boone herself sang it in her classic heartwarming 1977 ballad mega hit “You Light Up My Life.”

Ah, those guilty pleasures. Things you don’t want to admit you like, but you can’t help adoring.

Boone was two rolled into one.

As a middle school boy in the mid-1970s, I of course had the classic poster of Farrah Fawcett in the red bathing suit donning my wall. But I also adorned my room with photos of those pretty singers of the time — Marie Osmond, Karen Carpenter, and yes — Debby Boone.

Boone had it all — the smile, the laugh, the feathered back hair … and the song that could not escape your head.

The song resurfaced for me in the early 1980s as a student at Buffalo State College.

The dormitory in which I lived in as a freshman — Neumann Hall — hosted a weekly ‘Coffee House’ in the basement lounge. It was an opportunity for college kids to share their (self-perceived) talents with their fellow dorm mates.

For years I have fancied myself as someone who can do impersonations. I’m by no means a Rich Little or Frank Caliendo, but I think some of them are pretty good.

Despite being a shy kid, I thought I would give it a shot. When deciding how to present my act, I came up with the idea of singing a song. But what song would best mesh the voices of Kermit the Frog, Howard Cosell, Carol Channing and John Wayne?

I had to choose one of which I knew all the words. The Debby Boone cult classic was the first that came to my mind. Needless to say, that fateful night in the bowels of Neumann Hall was the only time that the famed Monday Night Football announcer would ever be heard crooning the words, “You light up my days and fill my nights with song.”

This week 40 years ago, Boone’s campy ballad spent its only week atop the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.

Appropriately, each year the anniversary of this event occurs the week of Thanksgiving. While sometimes hard to admit, I still cherish that spotlighted on-stage tragedy that was self-inflicted as a college freshman.

As fate would have it, a few years ago, I had the opportunity to relive that highlight of my musical history when I had the privilege of interviewing Boone for The Madison Press as she visited Springfield on her concert tour.

Gracious, and still stunning, Boone was the female equivalent of Tim Tebow — too good to be true.

We talked how the heartfelt ballad launched the wholesome beauty to instant stardom, rivaling that of her famous father Pat Boone, the 1950s and 1960s matinee idol.

It was in the tremendous spirit of Pat’s years headlining in America’s most glitzy city as Debby starred in “Swing This: Vegas, The ’60s, and Me.”

“I’m crazy about what I’m doing now — this is the kind of music where I feel most at home,” Debby Boone said to me at the time in an exclusive interview with The Madison Press. “My intent was to do a show I would like to see.”

Filled with sparkle, moxy and glamour — and joined by a Big Band of talented musicians — the show was highlighted by the delightful exhilaration of Debby’s stage presence as she shared her versions of her favorite songs as she led the audience on a musical adventure.

“I have so many songs I love from that time period — ‘Mack the Knife,’ ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ and the torchy ballad ‘Cry Me a River,’” Debby said. “I’m also a big fan of ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking.’”

Not only did the song’s success earn her a Grammy Award for Best New Artist, but threw her in the mix with Marie Osmond, Olivia Newton-John, Farrah Fawcett and Brooke Shields as the potential ‘Dream Date’ for many young men (including yours truly).

“I guess I must have had a lot of teenage girls mad at me,” laughed Debby, when reminded she beat out Teen Beat regulars Shaun Cassidy and Andy Gibb for the Grammy. “It was flattering — always exciting to know boys would have my picture on their walls.”

And as I have already admitted, I was one of those boys.

This Thanksgiving season, embrace our guilty pleasures, and be thankful that there are things that make us unique.

One of my most-cherished possessions is an eight-track tape of her classic song signed by Boone with ‘a blast from the past’ as part of her personalized message on the item’s cover.

“No one was more surprised than I was,” Debby said of the popularity of “You Light Up.” “I never thought I would hear about it again.”

Particularly from the voices of a frog puppet and an iconic cowboy.

Columnist Jeff Gates interviewed Debby Boone when she performed in Springfield, Ohio a few short years ago. An autographed eight-track tape of the singer is displayed proudly in his office.
http://www.madison-press.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2017/11/web1_GatesandBoonepiccol.jpgColumnist Jeff Gates interviewed Debby Boone when she performed in Springfield, Ohio a few short years ago. An autographed eight-track tape of the singer is displayed proudly in his office.

By Jeff Gates

For The Madison Press

Jeff Gates has been a freelance writer for The Madison Press since 1996. Future column suggestions and/or comments? Contact: lifehappenscolumn@gmail.com.

Jeff Gates has been a freelance writer for The Madison Press since 1996. Future column suggestions and/or comments? Contact: lifehappenscolumn@gmail.com.

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