Actor and singer Pat Boone had a serious problem. He’d been in several movies and had refused to kiss his leading ladies. At first, he told one director he couldn’t because he hadn’t discussed it with his wife, Shirley. Boone received praise from fans for his refusal.
But, in 1961, he was filming the movie “All Hands On Deck,” and the director told him he’d have no choice. Boone would have to kiss his co-star, Barbara Eden. He went home to talk it over with his wife.
Shirley understood his dilemma.
“I knew when you got into movies this was a possibility. … I knew this day would come,” she said. “Just promise me you won’t enjoy it.”
Boone, 88, reflected on the conversation held 61 years ago while he attended Elvis Week at Graceland.
“I still remember that kiss. … I told Shirley I didn’t enjoy it,” he said with a laugh.
Elvis and Boone both broke into national notoriety in 1955. Once, in Cleveland, Ohio, Elvis was slated to open for Boone who would eventually have 41 chart topping hits during the 1960s. Before the show, he approached Elvis, but the burgeoning superstar shunned him. Years later when the two became good friends, he asked him why he did that.
“Elvis told me that I was a big star and he didn’t know how to talk to me,” Boone said. “This was in June. I told him ‘my first hit only came out in March.’”
There was one thing Boone learned that night in Ohio.
“I had the good sense to never follow Elvis ever again,” Boone said.
Boone’s career began in Nashville, and some of his earliest hits were remakes of popular songs sung by Black artists, such as the Fats Domino hit “Ain’t That a Shame.” When Little Richard released the song “Tutti Fruttie” Boone decided to sing it as well. Richard was still working as a dishwasher when he first heard Boone singing his song, Boone said. As soon as he heard it, he quit on the spot because he assumed it would turn into a massive hit, he added.
Boone parlayed his early singing success into a television and movie acting career. He starred in “The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom” for several years. He played key roles in movies such as “April Love,” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”
He wrote several books during this period and graduated from college in 1958. By the time he graduated from college, he had four daughters including his daughter, Debbie. She would have a lengthy music career which would include winning a Grammy for newcomer of the year in 1978.
Boone noted that he and Elvis never won a Grammy Award, but said the award began in 1959 after most of their singing careers had faded and they would spend the next decade making movies.
Toward the end of the decade, Boone decided he wanted to do a tribute album, “Pat Sings Elvis.” It was common at that time for artists to do whole albums of songs made famous by their musician friends as a way to honor them. There was only one problem. When Elvis manager Col. Tom Parker heard about the idea, he demanded royalties for the use of Elvis’ name.
Boone hatched a plan. He changed the name of his album to “Pat Boone Sings Guess Who.” The cover was a picture of Boone surrounded by the titles of Elvis hits such as “Love me Tender,” “Hound Dog,” and others. The back was dedicated to a made-up character named “Guess Whosely.”
Parker, who was notorious for making shady deals that benefited him, was so impressed with Boone’s idea he presented him with a special gift. Parker prided himself on “snowballing” people to get what he wanted. On the rare occasions he got “snowballed” he presented the person who did it with a unique gift. He allowed them to join an exclusive club.
“I went to check the mail one day and there’s a card from Col. Parker. It was a card for the Snowman’s Club, and he put my name on the card,” he said with a laugh.
Boone spent decades as a musician, writer, actor, and in other entertainment pursuits. He has been well-known for his Christian beliefs and conservative, political activism. But his refusal to kiss his co-stars is one thing that has stayed with him for more than six decades.
Eden, who also attended Elvis Week, said she won’t forget when she kissed Boone, either. The day of the kiss there were five extra people in the room that day – Boone’s wife, and four little daughters.
“You talk about pressure,” Eden said.