“I’m engaged!” Lorraine Connors, 51, announces gleefully, shortly after returning from Holland, where she met her fiancé, Willem, for the first time in person. “I just told Donny,” she continues. “He squealed like a fan!”
That’s Donny as in Osmond: the singer, actor, winner of the ninth season of Dancing With the Stars, and star of “Donny and Marie,” a variety show at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, so popular it’s been extended to 2012. And Donny as in www.Donny.com, a website Osmond runs for his fans to connect and stay up to date on all things Donny, where Vancouver-based Connors first encountered her fiancé. So far, they are the only “Donny.commers,” as they call themselves, to get engaged. “It’s beyond a fairy-tale story,” sighs Connors, a long-time Donny fan, though she points out that it began as “a huge tear-jerker.”
As her first husband was dying in 2008, he made her promise she would go to Vegas to see the Osmonds perform. So in November 2009, for her 50th birthday, her friends and family pitched in and sent her off with her mother to see the variety show.
“I just broke down when Donny was singing Any Dream Will Do and I knew he could feel my hurt,” remembers Connors, who gets around via walker or scooter after injuring her spine three years ago. “He came over and held my hand and wiped my tears.” After the show, “He gave me a hug as I cried, trying to tell him my story. He was the first man in more than two years I had let hold me.”
Osmond had been an emotional mainstay for Connors since childhood. “Their family just always seemed so caring. The love was something I’d always dreamed of.”
Growing up in an abusive home, her own life was a “nightmare. My brother and I would watch Donny and Marie on TV and pretend we were them. It was like Donny was holding my hand, showing me there was a better way of life out there.”
After her trip to Las Vegas, she became a member of Donny.com and “began writing about what I was going through. All of a sudden, the support was overwhelming. Donny was right. I was not alone.” Donny.commers “are like family, such caring people.” One in particular stood out: a man in Holland, Willem, who, she soon learned, owns every single Osmond record and has a large tattoo of Donny’s face on his leg.
“We just clicked. I got butterflies with him. Then we started to email and use the webcam.” For hours.
Meanwhile, at last summer’s Donny.com Vegas GT—“get together”—she was one of 10 people chosen to receive $300 from Osmond’s “Make a Difference program,” where fans come up with and implement a pay-it-forward idea. Lorraine Connors’s idea was to send crystal angels along with inspirational notes to fellow Donny.commers and others in need of a pick-me-up.
Donny calls the winners once a month to check in on their projects. “He usually only talks to people for five or 10 minutes, but when I told him about me and Willem, we talked for over an hour and a half,” says Connors. “He kept saying, ‘Lorraine, I’m going to be late for rehearsal!’ But he wouldn’t get off the phone. He just kept saying, ‘I don’t believe this.’ ”
Donny.com members, who witnessed the Internet romance evolve through the site’s forums, were equally enthusiastic. When Connors left for Holland, some posted bon voyage notes: “Oh WOW, Lorraine. How exciting for both of you.” Later, when Connors posted photos of her engagement ring on the website, congratulations poured in.
The wedding will be in Amsterdam, though the couple’s plans have changed a tad since sharing their big news with Donny. Now they’re also having a ceremony in Las Vegas, prior to the GT next summer—because Donny and Marie are trying to arrange their schedules so they can attend the wedding. All guests, by the way, will be going to the Osmonds’ show.
The narrative arc is satisfyingly clear to Connors: “This is about a guy with a Donny tattoo on his leg and a girl with a broken heart. Donny pulled me out of it and I met my soulmate.”