February 20, 1997 in Nation/World

Boone Unplugged By Religious Network Fans, Unhappy With New Image, Complain

Los Angeles Times
 

Singer Pat Boone, one of America’s best known Christian entertainers, has been taken off the air by a national religious television network after showing up at the American Music Awards dressed like a heavy metal rock singer.

Boone’s weekly half-hour show was dropped by the Trinity Broadcasting Network on Tuesday after the network received thousands of phone calls and letters from contributors who were shocked by Boone’s bare-chested leather costume - augmented by faux tattoos and a studded dog collar - at the awards show, broadcast Jan. 27 by ABC.

“A lot of our (prayer) ‘partners’ had a real problem with that, more than a lot,” said an employee of Trinity, whose programming is carried by nearly 400 cable systems and television stations worldwide.

Even before the emergence of the black-leathered Boone, a lawyer for the network said, its viewers had been puzzled and dismayed by the shifting musical genre on the entertainer’s weekly show, “Gospel America,” which has been carried by Santa Ana, Calif.-based Trinity for four years. Boone had moved away from traditional and pop Gospel to more emphasis on lyrics from heavy metal rock hits - versions of which he has released on a new recording.

When they were besieged with the new complaints, Trinity president Paul Crouch and other network executives moved to strike Boone’s show from its broadcast schedule, at least until he “explains” his actions to their satisfaction. In the meantime, viewers who called the network were being urged to pray for Boone.

Boone said Wednesday that Trinity’s move was “real unexpected,” and that he told Crouch ahead of time not to be “stampeded” by “people who would jump to the wrong conclusions” by his appearance on the network show.

“They see garish looking pictures (of me) and say, ‘Oh no! Pat Boone has totally sold out, lost his salvation and has gone over to the devil,” Boone said Wednesday. “So they bombard Trinity with hundreds of calls and say if he’s on the air you’ve seen our last nickel.”

Known for decades for his squeaky clean, boy-next-door appearance, Boone, now 62, stepped onto the stage at the American Music Awards in leather pants, open vest, the numerous applique tattoos - and the studded dog collar and bracelets. It was all part of Boone’s promotion of his album “In a Metal Mood/No More Mr. Nice Guy,” in which he combines heavy metal lyrics with what he calls “a big-band, Pat Boone vocal version of some terrific songs.”

Boone said his goal was to introduce selected and inoffensive heavy metal lyrics to own fans - folks not likely to embrace or understand in-your-face hard rock like that performed by the group, “Black Sabbath,” which many see as evidence of America’s moral decay.

As it turned out, what some of Boone’s fans didn’t understand was him. By the thousands, they began flooding the network switchboards with complaints.

Trinity officials said Boone still could redeem himself. He has been invited to appear on the network’s flagship program, “Praise,” formerly known as “Praise the Lord,” or PTL, which is hosted by Crouch.

“Until that takes place, the overwhelming number of respondents and people who have called into the (network) have complained about the change and have otherwise requested that his program be discontinued,” Trinity attorney Colby May said Wednesday. “Trinity has assented to that request.”


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