Censorship in arts ‘healthy,’ Boone says

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A healthy society needs censorship to survive, 1950s musical icon Pat Boone said yesterday. He added that he would welcome strong content restrictions governing movies and other artistic works.

“I don’t think censorship is a bad word, but it has become a bad word because everybody associates it with some kind of restriction on liberty,” said Mr. Boone, who is in Washington making the rounds as the national spokesman for the 60-Plus Association, a conservative senior citizen lobby.

“But we do know that at some point a line that has to be drawn between one man’s liberty and another man’s license.”

Mr. Boone, a lifelong, devout Christian who turns 70 in June, also touched on his dealings with Elvis Presley when the two were up-and-coming singers in the 1950s, an early Ronald Reagan rally, and the film “The Passion of the Christ” in a 90-minute interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

The Federal Communications Commission has wrestled with censorship regarding broadcast decency recently, putting broadcast licensees on notice last month that indecent broadcasts “will lead to forfeitures and potential license revocation.”

Mr. Boone said that if he were in charge of standards, there would be stringent controls on material.

“It must be majority approved … voluntary … and self-imposed,” he said, clad in a yellow blazer, black slacks, a canary yellow tie and white leather shoes. “Censorship is healthy for any society, and that goes for arts, entertainment, anything. Self-imposed means that the majority of people say that is what we want, and it can be changed if people’s attitudes change, which is how a democratic society works.”

Figures like radio announcer Howard Stern, who has been fined and his show banned from several stations for broadcasts that have been called offensive and vulgar, “shows no discipline and no self-restraint at all.”

When Mr. Boone was invited to appear on Mr. Stern’s radio show several years ago, the singer agreed, but with a simple stipulation.

“I said that I will if Howard will give me just a gentleman’s promise that he will not say anything filthy about my wife or my daughter Debbie then I’ll come on. He wouldn’t even do that, so I did not go on. I said that if I did go on and he said scandalous things about my family I would be forced to walk out or punch him in his big nose.”

Of Mr. Reagan, Mr. Boone recalled an anticommunism rally about 40 years ago when a speech by the future president stirred him.

“I remember we were leaving, my wife, Shirley, and I, and I said, ‘Man, it’s too bad a guy like Ronald Reagan doesn’t run for office,’ ” he recalled. Mr. Reagan became governor of California a short time later, in 1967.

Mr. Boone has always been what he is: unapologetically inoffensive, a man in white bucks and sweater who cranked out 1950s pop hits that were the antidote to the renegade that was Presley. He still holds the Billboard magazine record of 200 consecutive weeks on the charts with more than one song at a time holding down a slot.

When he and Presley shared a bill at a 1955 sock hop in Cleveland, Mr. Boone already had a hit with “Two Hearts and Two Kisses.” But he had heard things about the young, hillbilly singer from Tupelo, Miss.

“I was backstage and Elvis came in with his entourage. He had one even then,” Mr. Boone said. “I had on my nice clothes, a tie and a button-up shirt my white buck shoes and he had his collar turned up and his hair was long and greasy. And I said to him, ‘Hi, I’m Pat Boone.’ And he had this weak, wet handshake and he kind of mumbled something to me, he was very insecure.”

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