“From LA, With Love”
Daniel Boone’s great-great-great-great-grandson, Pat Boone, keeps leading me into new territory. How else to explain my journey from tiny Gerald R. Ford Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to massive LAX? The plane lands in eternally sunny, palm-lined Los Angeles, where I am whisked by taxi to the Beverly Hilton hotel. I’ve seen its white façade with its red-lettered name countless times on TV, watching celebrities walk the red carpet. Now I’m here to attend Boone’s eightieth birthday party celebrity roast.
Well, really I’m here because of my new memoir, The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, which revolves around three previous encounters with Pat Boone. My fascination began when I was a New Jersey teenybopper drawn to his squeaky-clean 1960s pop music, music that frequently outsold that of Elvis Presley. Back then, I attended his live TV show, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, broadcast from Manhattan. Afterward I got his autograph.
But my obsession went deeper. I wanted him to adopt me. He already had four daughters; would he even notice a fifth? To my young self, the overtly Christian, all-American Boone offered refuge, safety from my abusive Jewish father.
Decades passed before I saw him again, yet his presence remained. He was the safest father I could imagine. Even as I went on to be a fan of the Beatles, the Doors, and other rock ’n’ rollers, I never relinquished my crush on Boone.
Then I happened to hear that he would be giving a concert on May 6, 2004, at the Calvary Reformed Church near my house in Holland, Michigan. Of course I attended the show. More important, I barged backstage afterward. I tracked Boone down and told him about my childhood, about my father, and how it was he, Pat Boone, who offered me hope.
Months later, when he returned to Michigan to give a Christmas concert, he formally invited me backstage. By then he’d read Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, my book about growing up in an incestuous family. So when he pointed to a flower embroidered on my jacket and said, “You are like a flower growing up through concrete,” I knew to what he referred.
And now I’m at the Beverly Hilton. Boone had even invited me to attend the evening’s VIP reception, preceding the dinner, and asked me to bring him additional copies of my book so he could give them to his family and friends.
I wait at the cocktail party watching him walk the red carpet. I want to be the first person he sees when
he enters the room. I am! He hugs and kisses me, remembering me immediately. He reiterates how much he likes my book, and we briefly discuss the ending, which describes a dream I had about him.
During the dinner in the International Ballroom, I sit surrounded by hundreds of people. But I can’t stop watching him, amazed that I have ended up here.
Later, after the festivities, I have the chance to say good-bye. He takes my hand. He says it’s cold. He warms it between his.
Then I watch as he walks up a ramp leading to the back of the stage. A curtain closes. He’s gone. Yet, for me, Pat Boone remains: warm, comforting, despite all the odds.
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