The Man of the Hour
Baby Danny - 1959, with sister Cecelia
The Andy Griffith Show
The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
With mother, Betty
Publicity photo, late 1970
Jerry Paris - Actor/Director of the PF pilot
By the time 10 year-old Dante Daniel Bonaduce booked The Partridge Family, he was already a Hollywood veteran. He showed his natural comedic abilities guest starring on such television series as Bewitched, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Accidental Family (for PF executive producer, Bob Claver), Mayberry RFD, My World And Welcome To It, The Andy Griffith Show, and countless commercials. But it was the quick-witted Danny Partridge that made audiences stand up and take notice of his incredible talents. After the series was cancelled, Danny made guest appearances in various series and movies, then turned his talents towards radio. But the career was eclipsed by the headlines when drugs entered his life. In 1991, he started turning his life around when he appeared as the opening act on tour with David Cassidy. Now enjoying sobriety and a wonderful family, Danny can be heard in the morning drive time on STAR 98.7 in Los Angeles. In this interview, Danny was incredibly open, honest, and extremely candid when talking about the ups, downs, and ups his career and life have taken. We are extremely grateful that he agreed to be interviewed by Gilmore Rizzo for cmongethappy.com on his brand new boat, in Marina Del Rey, CA on October 30, 2000. So sit back, but hold on! - cuz Danny’s driving the bus!
Get Happy: Where were you born?
Danny Bonaduce: I was born on August 13, 1959 in Broomall, Pennsylvania.
GH: When did your family move west?
DB: When I was four years old, we moved out to California. As it has been told to me, my Dad had some kind of deal with Dick Clark. But when we got here, that fell through. So we were out here with no job, no furniture, no food. We were basically huddled around a gas fireplace for heat, and right before we all had to move back to Philadelphia, he sold a spec script for The Dick Van Dyke Show. It was one of two that he eventually wrote. They were spectacular.
GH: How did you get into acting?
DB: Actually, I’m 41 and I have been a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) for 37 years. You don’t have to join until you’re four, so I did stuff before that – some local stuff in Philadelphia and some stuff for Dick Clark before we even moved out here.
GH: Do you recall your first acting job?
DB: No. I don’t recall it, but I have seen it. It’s something with Dick Clark, doing a local show about the differences between boys and girls getting their hair cut. I think the theme was how little girls are traumatized about getting their hair cut and how little boys are not. On film, though, I absolutely freaked out and threw a tantrum, which basically tanked Dick’s idea – but possibly gave him the idea for Practical Jokes and Bloopers. So I take the entire credit for his whole career! As a matter of fact, I’m tired of carrying him!
GH: Were your brothers and sister acting as well?
DB: If you’re a kid in Southern California, somebody – whether it’s you or your parents – somebody throws your hat into the ring and I think everyone had a commercial or two.
GH: What were your first roles on TV in California?
DB: My first credit was “Danny Bonaduce as Opie’s friend” on an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. I didn’t have any dialogue, though. I also did Mayberry RFD, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir – which was written by my Dad and the first time I played a boy genius by the name of Danny.
GH: You also did an episode of Bewitched. Do you remember anything about that?
DB: Not only do I remember the experience, I remember all of my dialogue. I think I played “Danny” again. Samantha says, “Danny! Don’t punch Tabitha in the stomach!” And I say, “Well, where should I punch her?” My inroads to comedy!
GH: You did two episodes of Bewitched...
DB: Yes I did. In the other episode, I lost my monkey, which was played by Lou Antonio – a famous director.
GH: What were your hobbies as a kid?
DB: Ducking my father!
DB:Yes! And horseback riding. My Mom and I had some horses. It’s weird because horses kind of come and go in my life. After The Partridge Family I worked as a stable boy for Kenny Rogers for a while. But during the show my Mom and I had a couple of horses named Beauty and Patience. Neither attribute was possessed by these horses.
GH: What was your taste in music? Did you like The Partridge Family sound?
DB: It’s hard to say. My knee-jerk reaction is to say "no" because I was into whatever my big brother (Anthony) was into, like Black Sabbath and Zeppelin. But if I look at those two forms of music now, I much prefer The Partridge Family. I never liked Zeppelin. I would have to say that aside from my disguise of not wanting to like the Partridge Family’s music, yeah, I did like it.
GH: Do you have any of their music now?
DB: Yeah, I do. I have the Partridge Family Christmas Album, the Greatest Hits, and another one. And they’re really good. I know all the words.
GH: Well, the “ooohs” and “aaahs” especially.
DB: No, I didn’t know any of the words. And if you watch you’ll see. The Partridge Family’s scripts were focused on the “Danny” character a lot. In fact, if you watch the E! True Hollywood Story or the VH-1: Behind the Music, you’ll see the producers were getting uncomfortable relying on me more and more for all the comedy. So I am in every shot on most of the shows. But if you look at the musical numbers, I’m rarely in it because I wouldn’t learn the songs. And I got to be a big pain in the butt in a big hurry.
GH: What do you remember about the audition process for your role?
DB: Almost everything. I went in and there were at least 30 kids and their mothers. I remember a lot of them having red hair and freckles. We all went in and read. I did an all right job. The frightening part is I went in, and there were the producers – who I didn’t know. But there was Jerry Paris. Do you know who he is?
GH: Sure. He played Jerry Helper on The Dick Van Dyke Show.
DB: Yes, but he also directed every single episode of Happy Days and won several Emmys. He was huge until cancer killed him. He was directing the pilot. But when I was 7 years old, I was doing a TV Movie of the Week. It was a TV version of Cat Ballou and Jerry was directing. He was telling me how to read a line, and I said “Wow! You’re a really good actor.” And he said, “Well, why don’t I act and you can direct the movie!” – just kidding around. And I said “I can’t direct – we’re far enough behind already!” I didn’t know it, but we were terribly behind. But he flipped out! I’m 7 years old. He grabs my script, rips out all my pages of dialog and throws them in my face and says, “There, kid! We’re all caught up and you’re out of the #%$@ picture!” So I walked into the audition for The Partridge Family, and there he is! So I have no idea if I was really good – which I would like to believe I was, or if he felt terrible about his behavior, which is more likely. But he really fought to get me that job.
GH: How so?
DB: They had two Partridge families at the end of all the callbacks and we shot 2 shows. Shirley was the Mom in each. David, Susan and the other kids were all in one family, and I was in the other family with a bunch of other kids. The other family got the job. But Jerry went to an editing booth and edited me into a scene with Reuben that I was never in. So I’m talking back and forth with Dave Madden and it never really happened. It was Hollywood magic. He showed the producers, they hired me on the spot, and we shot a third show and I got the job.