Marriage to the Captain, Stuffed Muskrats and Insane Diets: 5 Bombshells from Toni Tennille's Candid Interview with PEOPLE

The singer lost her Grammy but held on to her ... muskrats?

Photo: Steve Schapiro

Toni Tennille is getting real.

The singer, who rose to fame as half of the iconic 1970s pop duo Captain and Tennille alongside her husband, Daryl “the Captain” Dragon, is spilling secrets from her extraordinary life in a new self-titled memoir exclusively excerpted in this week’s PEOPLE.

In the book, co-written with her niece, Caroline Tennille St. Clair, and in a new interview with PEOPLE, the 75-year-old star covers everything from her childhood in the Deep South to her often-troubled marriage to Dragon. Among the biggest revelations:

1. She wrote some of her biggest love songs out of unrequited yearning for Dragon.

Describing her husband of 39 years as emotionally distant, Tennille says she often tried to reach him through her lyrics to love songs like “Do That to Me One More Time” and “The Way I Want to Touch You.” “I felt that he just didn’t know what love was,” she tells PEOPLE of her ex, from whom she split in 2014. “I thought if I showed him what it was, if I were able to give it to him, that he would open up like a flower. It never happened.” (Dragon, now 73 and living in Arizona, declined to comment.)

2. She lost her Grammy but held onto her stuffed muskrats.
She and Dragon won a 1976 Best Record Grammy for their smash “Love Will Keep Us Together,” but today Tennille says she isn’t sure what happened to the coveted award: “I think I left it in a trunk.” But she has held onto a pair of stuffed muskrats – a.k.a. Susie and Sam – given to her in 1976 by a fan in honor of Captain and Tennille’s camp classic, “Muskrat Love.” (It’s a song about, yes, love-making muskrats.) When she first opened the box, “I put my hand in and thought, ‘What the heck is that?’ ” she recalls. “This guy explained that he’d taken 1-year-old muskrats in the prime of their lives. I was a vegetarian at the time. It appalled me!” (The muskrats now reside full-time at Caroline’s house.)

For much more on Toni Tennille’s hidden life with the Captain and her days as a ’70s pop icon, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE

3. She almost lost her right index finger in a freak wheelbarrow accident.
The eldest daughter of Frank, a onetime big-band singer, and Cathryn, a socialite turned TV talk show host, Tennille grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. At age 5, her right index finger was run over by a steel wheelbarrow. Although she underwent surgery to reconstruct it, the finger was never the same and she has tried to keep it hidden ever since. “When I was offered movie roles I said, ‘What if they have to see my hands?’ ” she says. “I wouldn’t do it.”

4. Dragon suffers from a condition that results in abnormally large eyeballs and underwent a failed hair transplant.
In her memoir, Tennille explains that the reason Dragon wore his signature sunglasses is because he suffered from megalophthalmos, which resulted in oversized eyes. “When Daryl was a kid, even though his eyes were beautiful, they would make fun of him and call him ‘Martian,’ ” she says. And she says a failed hair transplant left him so self-conscious, he feared removing his hat – even in bed.

5. She and Dragon did the 3-week grapefruit diet.
A popular fad diet in the 1970s, the regimen involved eating nothing but grapefruit – and only the white ones – for three straight weeks. She says Dragon was “terrified” of eating the “wrong” foods for health reasons and believed the grapefruit diet would “fix” whatever genetic damage might already be lurking. “At that point in the relationship, I was still holding my tongue about Daryl’s crazy ideas,” she writes, “so I did exactly as he proposed.”

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