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[The Strip Sense]

Defending Donny and Marie

An ex-manager’s lawsuit against the duo reeks of desperation

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Marie and Donny Osmond
Photo: Leila Navidi

Before those who enjoy such spectacles start cackling that the wholesome, can-never-do-wrong Donny and Marie Osmond are about to be exposed as phonies and frauds amid the brutal breach-of-contract lawsuit that just hit them, they might want to consider the source.

That is, one Harold “Chip” Lightman Jr. Their now-and-forever ex-manager.

Normally, ex-managers are pretty good for the inside scoop on what stars and celebrities are really like. Except that Lightman’s move here smacks of a naked desperation and blinding anger that makes his claims harder to buy.

Lightman believes Donny and Marie breached their contract with him when they recently shitcanned him. Fine. Yippee. If he thinks that, he ought to go ahead and sue and let a judge decide that. It’s the American way.

But apparently, the American way these days is also to make a round of calls to journalists to alert them that you’re about to reveal the deepest, darkest secrets of those who have trusted you for years. It’s to take to Twitter to huff and puff and talk about tell-all books. And then it’s to infuse what ought to have been a fairly straightforward document with TMZ-ready gossip.

I almost hate to reprint it here because the only reason Lightman did this was so journalists would repeat his accusations, but the lawsuit alleges that Donny Osmond’s “wholesome, all-American, good-natured image” is baloney, and that he’s actually “underhanded, devious, fraudulent and greedy.” He aims to “line his own pockets with ill-gotten gains to fund his lavish lifestyle of exotic cars, luxury hotel suites and private jets—all off the backs and hard work of those who worked tirelessly to support his career.” As for Marie, she’s got a “seemingly innocent nature,” but she helped Donny pull off some big scam.

Again, I have no clue whether Lightman’s right about the contractual dispute. But I do know that Lightman’s aim here isn’t simply to get what he views as rightfully his. It’s to burn down the entire Osmond enterprise, and that sort of vengeance reflects worse on him than on his marks.

The thing is, I don’t actually remember Donny or Marie ever really pretending to be perfect. Oh, some in the media may have tried to paint them that way because they came from that nice Mormon family and Donny, in particular, navigated the temptations of his earlier, Bieber-level stardom amazingly well. But if you take a careful look at what each sibling has said in countless interviews over the years, you hear them going out of their way to insist they’re flawed human beings, that they have problems and moods, that they don’t mean to suggest they’re any better than anybody else.

Does it really surprise anyone that Donny and Marie are in it for the money? That they enjoy the finer things in life? This is something, in America, to be ashamed of?

Perhaps Lightman has some proof of serial adultery or cocaine-fueled romps or expletive-laced voice messages or donations to pro-Nazi groups with which to smear the Osmonds. But what does any of that have to do with the mechanics of his contract tiff? Also, who will ever want him to rep them now, knowing he’ll air their dirty laundry if he doesn’t get his way?

And one more thing—“Ill-gotten gains”? Really? So far as I’m aware, Donny and Marie are the talent. Yes, they get direction and there are writers, musicians and a crew who support them, but they are the only people who are irreplaceable. Chip Lightman didn’t even put them together; that was done in the 1970s when their brand was minted. If he did, as he claims, revive their careers by arranging their marriage with the Flamingo, my suspicion is he’s been handsomely paid already for that.

Lightman, so far as I know, doesn’t dance or tell jokes or goodheartedly needle his also-famous kid sister. He does sing, though. And that’s kind of a bummer.

Follow Steve on Twitter at TheStripPodcast or head to VegasHappensHere.com for his blog and weekly celeb-interview podcast, The Strip. E-mail him at SteveFriess@aol.com.
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Steve Friess

Steve Friess is a freelance journalist based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His work has appeared in the New York Times, ...

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