Donny And Marie Osmond Were Squeaky Clean ’70s Stars – But Here’s What Really Went On Backstage

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They were members of one of the most iconic family groups in music history and blazed a trail as the presenters of their very own variety show. Yes, we’re talking about Donny and Marie Osmond, whose ’70s series Donny and Marie was a certified hit with audiences. But behind the scenes, there were darker forces at play – ones so traumatizing that they would continue to plague the brother and sister duo for many years afterwards. So, while Donny and Marie may have been all smiles in front of the camera, they were also masking some horrific secrets.

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When you talk about the most wholesome groups in musical history, you’d be remiss not to bring up The Osmonds. The heavily religious siblings took the world by storm with their clean-cut image and shimmering pop sound; and, ultimately, they became of the most popular acts of the early ’70s.

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However, Donny really took the lead in the group – despite the fact that he was a late addition. And he also started his showbiz career at a very young age – first appearing on television with his brothers when he was just five years old.

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Yet while his siblings had already been singing together before he joined, Donny added that special something to the group. Then, The Osmonds’ appearances on The Andy Williams Show and The Jerry Lewis Show in the ’60s catapulted them into the spotlight.

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But in the following decade, things really began heating up for the group; by that time, they had also made a musical transition from barbershop and gospel to bubblegum pop. The Osmonds’ desire to shake off the variety show stigma that had attached itself to them partly spurred this change – and needless to say, the shift in styles proved a success.

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What followed was something commonly dubbed at the time as “Osmondmania.” During the early ’70s, the group dominated the charts, embarked on tours across the U.S. and even had their own cartoon named after themselves. And that’s not to even mention the fact that there was a new Osmond in town…

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You see, Marie Osmond became the next one in the family to pursue a musical career. And while she achieved solo success early on, she didn’t forget about her show business family, as she also chose to perform on stage with them.

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Unfortunately, The Osmonds’ popularity subsided during the latter half of the decade; indeed, the group never quite reached the heady heights of their past accomplishments. And although the family members kept the Osmond brand alive, they weren’t the same group without Donny at the helm.

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Still, one man’s loss is another man’s gain, and the rest of the family found this out firsthand when Donny and Marie teamed up together to great success. To begin with, their initial collaboration spawned two hit singles in 1974: “Morning Side of the Mountain” and “I’m Leaving It All Up to You.” The best was yet to come for the pair, though.

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In 1976 the siblings found themselves fronting their very own variety show, entitled Donny and Marie. The program featured various performances and skits and became a runaway success – perhaps thanks in part to the chemistry between the two. Sadly, though, what we saw on screen didn’t tell the whole story.

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“I had producers take me out into the parking lot when I was 103 pounds and tell me that I was obese, disgusting and a disgrace to my family,” Marie told Closer in 2015, adding, “[They said] that I needed to keep food out of my fat face.” Naturally, the horrible treatment weighed heavily on the teen star.

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Marie went on, “This sent me on a head trip – that 250 people could lose their jobs because of me.” The result? Marie deprived herself of food until she weighed 97 pounds. The admission certainly paints a new picture of the show, although it isn’t the only complaint about the program’s crew.

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“We had a director who was a perfectionist,” Donny said in the same interview. He elaborated, “There were so many wonderful outtakes that weren’t used because he wanted it to be perfect. What I’ve learned over the years is that imperfection is perfection. You can’t make it too perfect to a point where it’s not real.”

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Incredibly, amid all of that chaos, Marie was also studying at the time. Then aged 16, the star was also faced with the stress of having to carry the show with her brother – despite the fact that Donny himself was only 17. And both teens were understandably out of their depth.

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As Marie recounted to Closer, “When other celebrities came on the show, sometimes they wouldn’t know their stuff. So Donny and I were required to make up the time so [that] we wouldn’t lose money. That was a lot of pressure.”

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What’s more, Donny maintained an admirable work ethic in his early years. That’s a regime with which he appears to have kept up too; as it happens, though, it seems that the star now finds it hard to maintain a balanced lifestyle.

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Indeed, Donny told the Daily Mail in 2009, “I was just on the phone to my wife, and we made some promises that next year’s going to be a little lighter when it comes to my workload. Next year belongs to her.” A grueling schedule on the road is something that may be second nature to him now.

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And Marie in particular has apparently suffered from her time in the spotlight. She even contemplated suicide in 1999 after the birth of son Matthew. The mother of eight told her nanny at the time, “I can’t stay here.”

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Marie added in the 2009 Daily Mail interview, “My body was racked with hysterical crying, and I began to understand for the first time why a person would want to take their own life.” Marie was eventually diagnosed with post-natal depression, although the support she subsequently received enabled her to work through it.

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Then Marie realized that her pressure-cooker childhood may have spurred on her sudden breakdown. She said in the same interview, “It hadn’t been easy growing up in the music industry in the ’70s – and for two reasons. Not only was I a girl, but I was [also] the only female Osmond. I felt a huge pressure on all sides.”

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In addition, Marie  had to overcome sexual abuse as a child and the suicide of her son Michael in 2010. Today, though, Donny and Marie seem in better places, and Donny can look back on their show with fondness. He told Closer in 2015, “I look back at my life as all these peaks and valleys, and Donny & Marie happens to be a peak. The bad times dissipate and you only remember the good. When I see those old clips, sometimes I cringe, but it still brings a nice big smile to my face.”

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So, what about other stars from the ’70s? Many celebrities made a name for themselves in that decade, but not all of them have managed to stay successful and in the public eye like Donnie and Marie. Let’s take a look back at some of the other biggest names in Hollywood back then and see how their lives and careers have fared since.

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20. Henry Winkler

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Henry Winkler may have shot to fame for his role as Fonzie in the ’70s sitcom Happy Days, but that iconic role didn’t stop him from taking on a range of  films during the decade, too. And since then, Winkler has gone on to write, produce and direct various projects. Plus, he’s also had roles in several hit TV shows, including the likes of Arrested Development and Parks and Recreation.

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19. David Cassidy

These days Justin Bieber is our teen heartthrob, but back in the ’70s it was David Cassidy – better known as Keith Partridge in The Partridge Family – who was breaking teenagers’ hearts. It’s Cassidy’s personal life that dominates the headlines today, however – and not always for good reasons. Indeed, not only has he now had several DUI arrests to his name, but in 2015 it was revealed that he has had to sell his home and declare himself bankrupt.

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18. Erik Estrada

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Erik Estrada had a steady acting career throughout the ’70s, but he really made his mark when he landed the role of Ponch in CHiPs back in 1977. Yet while Estrada has continued to appear on screen after the show ended, his career has arguably gone downhill since; in the intervening decades TV commercials, reality TV shows and made-for-TV films mainly decorate his resume.

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17. Tatum O’Neal

Tatum O’Neal bagged an Oscar in 1974 aged just ten to become the youngest person ever to win one – a title she still holds today. Her success continued during the ’70s and, despite a past heroin addiction, she barely looks any different to her teenage self decades on. The actress has since also enjoyed marriage to tennis player John McEnroe and a brief relationship with Rosie O’Donnell.

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16. Lee Majors

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Lee Majors was already a screen success in the ’60s; in the ’70s, however, he bagged his most popular role to date as Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man. But while Majors went on to further screen fame in the ’80s with his role in The Fall Guy, he’s only had minor acting roles since that show ended.

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15. Olivia Newton-John

Even today, we bet Olivia Newton-John is best remembered for the tight-fitting pants she wore as Sandy in Grease. And though she’d had a few previous hits prior, it was her role in the 1978 hit musical that truly launched her into stardom. Since then, Newton-John has enjoyed a degree of chart success with her memorable single “Let’s Get Physical.” And her personal life has been eventful, too, with two marriages and a thankfully brief brush with breast cancer within the last few decades.

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14. Lynda Carter

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Lynda Carter first came onto the radar as the winner of the Miss World USA pageant in 1972, but it was her role as Wonder Woman two years later that really made her a star. Indeed, Carter broke new ground as the costume-clad heroine, earning more than any other female actress in the world at that time. And although she went on to struggle with an alcohol problem in the ’90s, Carter is still active – both on screen and as the voice of various characters in the Elder Scrolls video game series.

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13. Maureen McCormick

Maureen McCormick seemed to have the world at her feet after landing the plum role of Marcia Brady in The Brady Bunch and its spin-offs. The star hasn’t always had it so easy since, though. And she was more than willing to reveal her personal troubles in 2008 memoir Here’s the Story, writing, “Over the years I battled drug addiction and bulimia. I was treated in a psych ward, went in and out of rehab.”

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12. Goldie Hawn

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After bagging an Oscar for her role in Cactus Flower in 1969, Goldie Hawn went on to become a big Hollywood star throughout the ’70s, appearing in a wide range of films and receiving a Golden Globe nomination to boot. Further hits followed throughout the ’80s and ’90s with the likes of Bird on a Wire and Death Becomes Her; since the dawn of the new millennium, however, the actress has taken it rather easier.

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11. Deborah Harry

Deborah Harry helped make the ’70s such a defining era in music thanks to her part in the group Blondie. And Harry’s unique voice and style led her to become both an icon of cool and, given her hand in iconic hits like “Heart of Glass” and “One Way or Another,” a much-loved singer/songwriter. Blondie eventually split in 1982, allowing Harry to pursue a solo career, but the band would reunite 15 years later and are still active today.

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10. Mary Tyler Moore

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Mary Tyler Moore made it big in the ’70s as the star and producer of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And as the independent, single and successful Mary Richards, its star was part of a series that both broke new ground for women and reflected their changing roles in society. In later years, however, Moore would suffer from alcoholism and diabetes, and the veteran actress would sadly pass away on January 25, 2017.

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9. Sissy Spacek

Sissy Spacek shot to fame and shocked audiences after starring in the classic horror Carrie, and she was rewarded for her efforts with her first Oscar nomination. Spacek has since been nominated for a grand total of six Academy Awards and has had a steady acting career to boot, as well as raising two daughters.

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8. Cybill Shepherd

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Cybill Shepherd launched her career in the ’70s thanks to roles in The Last Picture Show, The Heartbreak Kid and the classic Taxi Driver. And her burgeoning screen presence led her to even bigger things – in particular, a lead role in ’80s TV hit Moonlighting and her own eponymous sitcom the following decade. Behind the scenes, though, Shepherd has been rather busy – at least, according to her 2000 autobiography Cybill Disobedience. In it, she made a whole host of extraordinary claims, including that she had once dated Elvis Presley, had been chatted up by Robert DeNiro and even slept with Don Johnson.

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7. Alan Alda

Alan Alda first won hearts as the lovable, flirtatious Hawkeye in the hit TV series M*A*S*H and was nominated for over 20 awards during his time in the show. And since then, Alda has gone on to have successful stints in other films and TV shows, including The West Wing. From 1993 to 2005, moreover, he was the host of PBS pop-science program Scientific American Frontiers.

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6. Jimmie Walker

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Through his role in TV show Good Times, Jimmie Walker had one of the most popular catchphrases of the decade with “Dyn-o-mite!” Since his time as J.J., though, Walker’s acting career has gone pretty quiet, with only a handful of on-screen appearances to boast of since the ’70s ended. Perhaps that’s because he’s decided to focus on his stand-up comedy act instead.

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5. Shaun Cassidy

Shaun Cassidy was somewhat of a teen heartthrob throughout the ’70s: all down to The Hardy Boys Mysteries and a successful singing career that produced hits such as “Da Do Ron Ron.” But in later years Cassidy went from being in front of a camera to working behind one and became a producer/writer; it’s him you partly have to thank for NBC show Emerald City.

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4. Robert Redford

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With hit films including The Sting and All the President’s Men, it isn’t difficult to see why Robert Redford was so popular throughout the ’70s. Indeed, he was even voted Hollywood’s top box office name from 1974 to 1976. Since those days, however, the veteran star has gone on to act in some of Hollywood’s biggest films and has received numerous awards, including, in 2016, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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3. Richard Dreyfuss

Richard Dreyfuss has Steven Spielberg to thank for his rise to fame throughout the ’70s, after his roles in Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But the Oscar he bagged for his role in The Goodbye Girl was all him. And while Dreyfuss battled a drug problem throughout the ’80s, he later made a return to the screen and can still be seen acting today.

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2. Raquel Welch

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As Playboy’s “Most Desired Woman” of the decade and a Golden Globe winner for her role in The Three Musketeers, the ’70s was a pretty good decade for actress Raquel Welch. Since then, however, Welch has turned her hand to business instead, producing skincare products and a range of wigs.

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1. Susan Dey

She played Laurie Partridge for four years in The Partridge Family, but today Susan Dey is best known for her portrayal in L.A. Law as Grace Van Owen, a role for which she has won a Golden Globe. Dey’s acting career seems to have slowed down since the early ’00s, however, with no screen credits to her name since 2004.

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