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George Osmond, 90; patriarch of famous family of singers, including Donny and Marie

November 07, 2007|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

George Osmond, the patriarch who launched the singing and entertainment careers of the Osmond family 45 years ago during a fortuitous trip to Disneyland, has died. He was 90.

Osmond, who had been in failing health, died Tuesday of complications related to old age at his home in Provo, Utah, said family spokesman Kevin Sasaki.

Less than a day before, his daughter Marie Osmond, who is a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars," dedicated her latest performance on the ABC TV show to her parents. Her mother, Olive, died in 2004 at 79.

"He was a man of integrity, of honor. He was the best man I've ever known," a tearful Marie told "Entertainment Tonight" on Tuesday before boarding a plane for Utah with her brother Donny.

Donny, who recently has been a correspondent on "Entertainment Tonight," said of his parents' influence in their lives, "We stuck together. Stayed together as a family. My hat's off to my parents."

Her father always wanted a big family, Marie once said, and the Osmonds had nine children.

George was a singer who taught four of his sons -- Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay -- to perform as a barbershop quartet. When he failed to get his sons an audition with "The Lawrence Welk Show," Osmond took the youngsters to Disneyland as a consolation prize.

After giving an impromptu concert at the park, the brothers were hired to perform regularly. Within weeks, the father of singer Andy Williams saw their act in Anaheim and recommended them to his son. They debuted on "The Andy Williams Show" in 1962. About a year later, a 6-year-old Donny joined the group.

In an interview last year with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Donny recalled how his father -- a devout Mormon and strict disciplinarian -- had once upbraided Frank Sinatra after Sinatra's daughter Nancy used inappropriate language during a 1969 rehearsal in Las Vegas in front of the Osmond brothers.

With the Jackson 5 as role models, the brothers began to broaden their musical range and had a hit in 1971 with "One Bad Apple (Don't Spoil the Whole Bunch)," the beginning of about a decade in the spotlight. Marie began appearing with the group in the 1973.

In 1976, the "Donny and Marie" variety show on ABC featured the teenagers and -- at the stars' insistence -- their siblings, including the youngest brother, Jimmy.

The family motto was "all for one" but George Osmond also had declared, "We don't care which Osmond is out front -- as long as it's an Osmond," the London Daily Mail reported in 2003.

By the show's second season, the family wanted to return to their hometown of Orem, Utah. The remaining telecasts originated from a facility the Osmonds built for $2.5 million, according to "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable Shows."

Once the show went off the air in 1979, the family's fortunes crested. The recording studio failed to work as a long-term venture, leaving the family facing bankruptcy; but Osmond refused to walk away from considerable debt, and the family eventually worked its way out of it.

In the 1980s, four brothers achieved respectable commercial success performing as a country act. Marie followed a similar musical path, and Donny starred for much of the 1990s in a touring production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."

A descendant of a pioneering member of the Mormon Church, George Virl Osmond was born Oct. 13, 1917, in Star Valley, Wyo., and went on missions for the Mormon Church in Hawaii and Britain.

During World War II, Osmond served in the Army and met his future wife at a military depot where she worked as a secretary. They married in 1944.

He worked in real estate, sold insurance and was a postmaster for the city of Ogden, Utah, before moving to California to oversee his children's entertainment careers.

Osmond's first two sons, Virl and Tom, developed degenerative hearing disorders that affected their speech, which led Osmond and his wife to form a foundation. Now known as the Children's Miracle Network, it raises funds for children's hospitals.

Osmond is survived by nine children, 55 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren.

Services were being planned. Instead of flowers, the family suggests donations to the foundation at childrensmiraclenetwork.org.

valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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