Publicity photo, 1972
With Tiger Beat editor Sharon Lee
With photographer Henry Diltz
With mom Jennifer Raine
With recreation director Mike Schackne
Rehearsing the drums
An Interview With
GH: Tiger Beat published a magazine, called "Tiger Beat's Official Partridge Family Magazine." Did you actually participate in their stories and surveys, or were they handled by Screen Gems' publicity department?
BF: Most of them are authentic. The "Letters To The Cast" section was written by the magazine. I mean, they took the answers from their own archives of previous interviews with us.
GH: How often did they visit the set?
BF: Sharon Lee was there all the time. It seemed she was there almost as much as we were. There were always photographers around. I have no idea how many were Tiger Beat photographers, or studio photographers, but it seems like there were always still photographers around.
GH: When you weren't filming, did you return to public school or were you tutored at home?
BF: Education was really important to my Mom, so I went to an Episcopal private school. Radames Pera ["Kung Fu"] also went there. It was a pretty tough school, academically. I was supposed to do three hours of school a day, and my Mom had them deliver the assignments to the set. There was no way I could get the work done at the studio in three hours. So, I would do the three hours at the studio and then another three hours when I went home to finish the work.
GH: What did your friends think of you being on TV?
BF: They thought it was cool. I think one of the things that helped me in a lot of ways, and kept me sane is I really lead a pretty normal life. All my friends in my neighborhood were still my friends and nothing really changed. It's not like I turned into some egomaniac.
GH: Do you remember how much you were paid?
BF: My Mom handled my finances, but I think it was about $700.00 a week. For a 12 year old, that was pretty good.
GH: Did you get along with Danny well?
BF: I did! He was always a challenge. He and I almost came to terms a couple of times. But I could outwit him. I could always manage to get out of trouble with him. Most of the time we got along fine. I've told this story before, maybe you've heard it. But he and I had a crush on the same girl when we were shooting the episode at King's Island Amusement Park in Ohio. But she liked me and not him, and he did NOT like that!
GH: Really? What did he do?
BF: Well, he threatened me. I seem to remember he was ready to punch me and somebody from the studio came along and kept him off of me. It was soon after that, that the studio hired what they called a "recreation director", which was a guy named Spanky. He was a stocky football player type guy. Basically, I think my Mom went to them and told them they needed to hire someone "to keep Danny in control and off my son." And we probably needed somebody anyway. I mean, we were three kids and probably need some guidance.
GH: It sounds like your homelife was much more stable than Danny has reported his to be. Were you aware of the problems Danny was having at home?
BF: We got along but we were very different. I was somewhat aware of his problems. I remember his Dad was there a few times, and our dressing rooms were only about 40 feet apart. I remember him screaming at him and stuff. He didn't come on the set too often, but I knew there was some stuff going on, but didn't know exactly what.
GH: At one point there was a kidnap threat against David Cassidy. What was security like on the Ranch?
BF: Security was pretty light from what I remember. I think everyone knows by now that David went through another gate that was not publicized. We all came in through the main gate, where there was a guard shack. But once on the Ranch, there wasn't too much security. There might be one guy at the front door to the stage.
GH: Do you remember the kidnap threats?
BF: I seem to remember there were rumors. It's hard to say if stuff like that was hidden from me or if they didn't make that big a deal out of it.
GH: Did "The Partridge Family" awaken and musical aspirations in you? Did you take drum lessons?
BF: I certainly have taken an interest in music over the years, but not because of "The Partridge Family". As soon as I got the part, the studio bought me a set of drums that we had at my house, and had a drum teacher tell me what I was supposed to be doing. Now whether I was doing it or not is another question. It's funny, because when I watch it now, I can see the progression and I was getting better towards the end. The first year, I'd be behind the beat but at the end I was anticipating it. I always did take it seriously, though I remember that. I was definitely trying to get it right.
GH: Tell us about filming the musical day.
BF: Well, we're up on stage with our various instruments, which are NOT plugged in, and my drum set, which is the only one that doesn't need to be plugged in. And there were loud speakers blaring the music. Usually we filmed the overall shot first, of the whole family. Then they would break it down into two shots and single shots and crowd shots. And you would have to do the same part over and over again for the different angles. It took most of the day.
GH: Was there someone off camera that you would look at in order to keep the beat?
BF: Oh, yeah. The drum teacher was there every day we had the musical number. He would stand on a ladder and "air drum," trying to get me to do my thing. And then they decided after about the first year that Suzanne was hopelessly NOT banging her tambourine on beat so they tried to get him to help her. But she didn't have her own person. She was just supposed to watch the guy who was helping me out.
GH: How did you learn the words to the songs?
BF: They sent us records of the songs we were going to be singing. I'm not sure how far in advance, but I was listening to it at my drum teacher's house. He'd be hearing it for the first time too, so he'd have to listen and scribble notes down so he could teach me how to do it. So I would have heard it several times before we actually did it.
GH: Did you keep the record albums that the producers gave you to learn the music?
BF: Yes, I think I do have them all. It's funny, because they are blank with a plain label on them, typed out. My Mom was really good at saving stuff. I have the records and I have every script. I even have some of the fan letters that people wrote me. I have letters from Germany, Singapore... all over the world!
GH: Do you still get recognized on the street?
BF: Oh yeah. I always know when the VH-1 interview has aired. People come into the winery, and there are times when months will go by without anybody saying anything and then all of a sudden I'll get three people saying "I just saw you on VH-1!"
GH: Is it annoying after all these years?
BF: No, in a lot of ways it's fine. There's a part of me that really wants to be in show business. It's in my blood, literally. Part of me also remembers what it's like to be recognized and not be able to go anywhere without being stared at or pointed at and all that. The beauty about my deal is I grew out of it. So I can be anonymous now. When it comes up once in a while and I'm not in a crappy mood, it's OK and I'll answer the same questions over and over again. But I can understand why people like Michael Jackson are such freaks, because they cannot lead a normal life.