Pat Boone is saying hello -- and goodbye -- to local audiences.
The longtime entertainer, famous for his clean-cut image and white buck shoes, plays the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace for the first time Monday and Tuesday. And Boone likely won't be back: He's saying goodbye to show business.
Boone, who has sold 45 million records, says he will step into a quieter life by the end of this year.
"I have a strong feeling that this is my last time around," Boone, who turns 79 on June 1, said in a telephone interview.
He discussed his upcoming shows at the Drury Lane Theatre -- "a theater I have heard about my whole life" -- as well as his long career in music and movies.
He also talked about the anniversary gift he's giving to his wife of nearly 60 years: retirement.
Q. What can fans expect from your two shows at the Drury Lane Theatre?
A. I call the program these days '50 Years of Hits.' I know that most of the people who are paying to see me will be of my general vintage. I'll be doing many of my biggest hits like 'Love Letters in the Sand,' 'Friendly Persuasion' and 'Tutti Frutti.' Folks that are closer to my age will sometimes bring a child or a grandchild to the show with them. They'll say, 'I want you to hear the kind of music we liked.'
Q. So it is a trip down memory lane for both you and for the audience?
A. My audiences have lot of prematurely gray hair. But there's something about the music of the 1950s that seems to work a wondrous change in people. They start acting like teenagers again. Sometimes, women in the audience will scream, or they'll want to get up and dance. I encourage them. I say to them, 'You look five years younger now than when you came into the theater.'
Q. Why are you leaving performing?
A. I'm in great shape, in good health. I am told my voice sounds exactly as it did 50 years ago. But I knew I had to eventually quit. My wife Shirley and I will celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary in November. Shirley said to me, 'Pat, will we ever have some time for ourselves -- just for us? Can't we just spend the latter years of our lives together?' So I want to do that for her. That's my anniversary gift to my wife.
Q. At one point in the 1950s, Elvis Presley was the opening act for you.
A. That was just once, back in October of 1955. I was headlining at a sock hop at Brooklyn High School in Cleveland. They brought in this young kid named Elvis Presley. Elvis came in and his collar was turned up -- he was wearing scuffed-up white shoes, like me. He had long hair and looked like a typical 'greaser.' He seemed nervous to me. But he got out there and sang 'That's Alright Mama,' and the kids gave him a big response. So I had enough sense to never let myself follow Elvis onstage again.
Q. But you and Elvis became friends?
A. We stayed pals. We visited each other's homes over the years. And we would play touch football in a park in Beverly Hills. Elvis had a group of guys, and I set up a team with (singer) Rick Nelson and some others. We had fun playing football on those afternoons.
Q. Is is true that you once turned down a movie role, starring with Marilyn Monroe, because you felt the script was inappropriate?
A. Yes. I was under contract with 20th Century Fox. They wanted me for a film where Marilyn would play a slightly over-the-hill cabaret performer. I would play a young kid who was enamored with her -- and the two would have an affair. I told the head of the studio that I had millions of young fans. I said, 'I can't play this part. It sets a bad example.' The studio head thought this was medieval. He threatened me with suspension. They did make the film ('The Stripper') with Joanne Woodward and Richard Beymer. It was a colossal flop. Maybe it would have been a hit with Marilyn and me.
Q. What's next on your agenda?
A. I'm going to enjoy life with my wife and grandkids -- we have 16 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. I doubt I will be performing anywhere by the end of this year. I'm going to say 'good night.'