Last Thursday morning I hopped on a plane to Boston that had a brief layover in Detroit. I normally take one of the two non-stop flights from Salt Lake to Logan airport, but due to scheduling conflicts I had to book another less direct connection. Scheduling conflicts, you ask? What sort of scheduling conflicts does a mommyblogger encounter? I see your left eyebrow arching in disbelief, your pinky finger itching to linger at the corner of your mouth. You see, exploiting my family for the sake of this enormous empire requires a lot more paperwork than you might imagine. And, my god, the paper cuts.
What’s always interesting about flights to the either coast is seeing local celebrities take a seat somewhere on the plane. I’ve seen my fair share of newscasters and politicians and can count on almost two hands the number of times Ty Burrell has occupied a seat very close to the front of the cabin on my flight. I’ve thought about saying hello since I met him once, but I doubt he remembers the time I accosted him and his brother outside a restaurant so that my friend could shake his hand and tell him that he was her favorite character on “Modern Family.” His friends most likely prefer to forget that night as I did not realize they were all still sitting in the restaurant and when I came back inside I did what those obnoxious football players do when they score a touchdown and I spiked an imaginary ball, twirled like a whirling dervish and loudly proclaimed to those sitting at my table, “YOU GUYS YOU GUYS YOU GUYS SHE MET PHIL DUNPHY! SHE MET PHIL DUNPHY! SHE MET PHIL DUNPHY!”
Because my approach to life is thoroughly subdued. Much like Phil Dunphy’s:
When I traveled to New York this past May both Ty Burrell and Donny Osmond were on my flight. I kept looking around to see who else from Salt Lake I might recognize and sadly Orrin Hatch was nowhere to be found. I have this fantasy that one day the prophet of the LDS Church is going to sit down next to me on a flight to LA because he’s heard that West Hollywood has a pretty active nightlife, but I imagine he’s like the President and has his own plane. Or maybe because he has regular conversations with God he’s like, travel? What do you mean, travel? I know I would not get on a plane to ANYWHERE when I could instead sit down with Jesus Christ and deconstruct the first season of “The Wire.”
Seeing Donny Osmond in person was, I admit, completely surreal. He was an ongoing fixture of my childhood as a Mormon as he was for many of us who grew up in the faith. I had a Donny Barbie and a Marie Barbie, and Donny, if you somehow end up reading this, I apologize in advance: maybe I had been reading a wee bit too much Flowers in the Attic but those were the first two barbies I ever stripped naked and stuck side-by-side in my plastic Barbie bed.
(Don’t worry, Donny, I repented on your Barbie’s behalf. I did, however, leave Marie to fend for herself.)
When I returned home from that trip both Leta and my mother were in the room when I thought to mention that he had been on my plane. I had expected my mother to express delight, but it was Leta who nearly lost her mind.
“JOSEPH?! YOU SAW JOSEPH IN PERSON???” she screamed.
I momentarily scratched my head and answered, “No. I did not see Joseph Smith, but I can see how you would be confused.”
“NO! MOM!” she ran over and clutched my arms and in her excitement could barely sputter: “JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHINCOLOR DREAMCOAT!”
Or more specifically “That Which I Had Never Hoped to Hear of Again In My Life” after she and her twin cousins watched it four hundred thousand times in the span of two days one weekend at my mother’s cabin.
“Oh, you mean that Joseph. Yes, I did see that Joseph in person.”
“Did you speak to him? Did he say anything?”
“I did not speak to him, no,” I answered.
She let go of my arms and let out a slightly disappointed sigh. “Oh, I wish you had. But that is sooooo cool that you saw him in real life!”
It is pretty cool. Some people like to be all snooty when it comes to seeing celebrities in person, like why would you get excited to see someone who is just a normal human being like the rest of us BLAH BLAH BLAH WAH WAH WHINE WHINE. And to those people I would very much like to say, please turn around so that I may yank the giant stick that is up your butt and smack you over the head with it. Just shut up and eat your kale.
Which is why I can kind of understand why a passenger on my flight to Detroit transformed into a circus clown when he realized Donny Osmond was walking onto the flight right behind him. I happened to be walking right behind Donny but was so preoccupied with having procrastinated packing and trying to make it to the airport on time that I hadn’t recognized him. But then, he wasn’t wearing the technicolor dream coat nor was he shirtless SO CUT ME SOME SLACK, LETA.
What ensued for the next twenty minutes as everyone else boarded the flight was straight out of a Ben Stiller movie, one that is so uncomfortable to watch that your entire body starts to squirm involuntarily. That passenger would not stop talking to Donny, would not stop announcing to the entire plane that he was talking to Donny. He called his wife, announced to the plane that he was calling his wife, and then asked Donny to talk to his wife. Donny was nothing but gracious to him, so kind and understanding and friendly. And then that passenger announced to the whole plane that Donny was being friendly.
“Hey! Everybody!” he yelled. “Donny is the real deal!” And then he pointed at straight at Donny. “Donny, you’re the real deal!”
I felt like my new boss had just invited me over to her house and within the first ten minutes her cat died and because I didn’t want her to think I did it I just casually shoved it under the couch because she wouldn’t ever discover it there!
I was busy squirming in my seat sending some last minute text messages when I decided to look up Donny on twitter. I read a few of his tweets and hit the follow button. I suppose between signing four different autographs for that passenger and speaking with that passenger’s wife Donny was browsing twitter as well and noticed that I had followed him. And then… well… much to the eventual delight of my older daughter, Joseph followed me back.
Not sure what to make of Joseph following Tara Reid. Potential conversion? She’d kill it in Relief Society, am I right? I bet she makes a mean potato casserole.
I couldn’t stop smiling for the first hour of the flight, couldn’t wait to share this whole thing with Leta. I was still smiling like a giddy teenager when I got up to use the tiny restroom, still smiling when I came out and he was standing there waiting his turn, chatting up a flight attendant. He did a double take when he saw me walk out and we looked at each other for more than a brief moment. That glance can be the only explanation for why, when the plane landed and parked at the gate, he stood up and yelled, “Heather!”
What does one do when Donny Osmond calls one’s first name? I believe they make an adult diaper for situations like this should they ever occur.
I waved at him, and after gathering my luggage ended up exiting the plane by his side. I cannot explain why every molecule of blood in my body rushed to my face, except that maybe Donny is like Elvis to Mormons? Is that it? The Wholesome Alternative. The man every Mormon girl in the Seventies and Eighties wanted to marry and populate a planet with.
“What a coincidence!” he exclaimed. “I saw you on twitter this morning and read all about you.”
OH PLEASE DEAR GOD TELL ME YOU DID NOT GOOGLE MY NAME. Go ahead. Do it. And then you will know far more about my divorce than I do.
“It says in your bio that you exploit your children for millions of dollars? I couldn’t stop laughing.”
I was trying to balance my camera bag on my carryon luggage without the use of my eyesight. I had gone blind. I could not see or taste or feel or maneuver my body. I defied physics and magically transformed into a spaghetti noodle.
“Yeah, that’s a bit of a joke,” I somehow muttered. “It’s a way… to… I mean…”
“Tell me what it is that you do,” he said as we entered the terminal.
“I’m a blogger,” I answered and then somehow found my footing and continued, “and some of my more vocal critics like to reduce what I do to exploitation and in doing so have given me a much more succinct way of explaining what that really means.”
“You blog about your family?”
“Yes, I do. Mostly that among a few other things… music, fitness… the occasional baby elephant that has been violently ripped from its mother… sometimes I mention my butt.”
We had reached the screens informing both of us where to find our connecting flights when he very kindly offered, “That’s so fascinating! I can’t wait to read some of it.”
“That’s really sweet of you,” I said as he studied the screen above our head, and then I paused before telling him what I knew I had to tell him. I mean, a ten-year-old girl was counting on me. Who on earth gets a second chance to say something to Donny Osmond other than all his family and friends and colleagues and the thousands of people who come and go in a career spanning 60 albums? Just those few.
“I’ve seen you on a flight to New York before, and my daughter would kick me in the shin if I saw you a second time and didn’t tell you that Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is her favorite DVD of all time. She knows every word to every song. She absolutely adores you.”
He got a huge grin on his face, and at that precise moment the circus clown passenger approached him and interrupted us with a request for two more autographs. Donny held him off for a few more seconds to ask, “How old is she?”
“She’s ten,” I answered as I slowly began to back away and give him room.
“Well, tell her I said hello!” he offered, and then he turned his smile to the man from the plane. Yes, I absolutely wanted to get a photograph of him or with him, but even the supernatural level of friendliness that he possesses deserved some mercy. Seriously, what a great guy. He was the real deal.
I texted Leta right away and I think at least for several hours I was the coolest person she had or would ever know, but it was the response from my mom that made me giggle:
How quickly my mother forgets that I was president of seminary in high school. Of course I remembered Potiphar’s wife. DUH. I even made a joke about Moses last week on my website, MOTHER. My mind is full of very specific Biblical knowledge that will accompany my descent into hell where all the atheists will want me on their team for Trivial Pursuit.
I couldn’t resist saying something about my encounter on twitter in case Donny was following along:
I just chatted with @donnyosmond while getting off my plane in Detroit and as of this tweet my mother has put me back in her will.
— Heather B. Armstrong (@dooce) August 7, 2014
Several responses to that included something along the lines of “was he a little bit country or a little bit rock and roll?” I didn’t get to know him well enough to be able to answer that with any authority, but if I had to guess he’s still little bit of this: