On the bus: Early publicity photo
The show takes off
With sister, Cecelia
With father, Joseph
Filming on Music Day
At school with teacher Juel Anderson
GH: In our interview with Bernard Slade, he said he had a totally different idea of what Danny was supposed to be until he saw your performance. Do you know what you did to help him change his mind?
DB: No. I am a proud participant of the Spencer Tracy School of Acting: Know your lines, don’t bump into the furniture.
GH: Once cast, how did it change your life? Was it immediate or gradual?
DB: It was gradual. You’d think it was right away, but I lived on the same block at ten that I lived on when I was 4. None of my neighborhood kids cared at all. I had more candy money than I used to, that’s all. But then things started to happen, like having 75 grown women in my driveway day and night. Needing security to go to the mall – that sort of stuff.
GH: Was your money put in a trust fund?
DB: I don’t know – I would imagine so.
GH: When the show started, how long did Susan Dey stay with you and your family?
DB: I think about a season. Which is how I tell time. I don’t actually go on vacation, I go on hiatus. Probably 6 months.
GH: Do you remember having her there?
DB: No, not really.
GH: Your Mom told me a great story about an earthquake happening one night, and she and your sister were huddled together. But all the guys went to see if Susan was OK.
DB: My Mom was a little upset -- it was a pretty large earthquake! (laughs).
GH: When did you realize the show was becoming popular?
DB: David and I both did TV Movies about The Partridge Family and this is one of the few stories that made it into both. We stole the Partridge Family bus. In my movie, David just felt like it. In David’s movie, it was because I kept screwing up my lines and he felt like teaching me a lesson – which I don’t remember and choose not to. But we were cruising the bus around, and it was mayhem! There was a real riot with police and everything because Keith and I were out with the bus. And I thought, “OK – this isn’t normal.” There was another time when we made an appearance on a fire truck in Chicago and it got out of hand. I mean, people were pulling and tearing at Susan’s clothes, and David’s head was bloody from girls yanking out his hair.
GH: Did The Partridge Family awaken any musical desires of your own?
DB: No. Listen to me! Yeah – I really wanted to sing. Me and Froggy from “The Little Rascals” were going to start a band!
GH: Did you have a close relationship with any particular member of the cast?
DB: Dave Madden. Dave was my surrogate father. It’s funny – looking back, I just thought, “what a charming kid I must have been for everyone to be fighting to take me home on the weekend”. But in watching those VH-1 and E! specials, apparently they were tired of waiting for me to have my injuries covered up by make-up, and they thought, “OK – we have to do something to protect this kid.” And they started taking me home on weekends.
GH:They have been showing outtakes on various specials, where Susan Dey breaks character and dumps a pitcher of milk on your head. It was cut from the episode, but do you remember what it was for?
DB: It wasn’t cut, it wasn’t part of any episode. I think I was screwing up my lines a lot and being an ass. The fact of the matter is that I was an extraordinarily ill-mannered young man and she just got tired of it.
GH: Well, she does take her craft seriously.
DB: Not her Kraft cheese, because that would have been a food product, and that couldn’t have been done (laughs)!
GH: David has said that his friends hated the show and always made fun of the fact that he was on it. What did your friends think of the show?
DB: My friends dug the hell out of it. Everybody liked it. You know, hindsight is usually 20/20. But I think David has hindsight blinders on. It was a fun show and everybody enjoyed it. If David’s friends are anything like he says they are in his book, I don’t know – I can’t imagine his friends NOT having a good time with it. You know, David’s book is called “Come On Get Happy”, yet he failed to. I’m 41 and by best friend, Scott, is 38, and we still have a good time with it. We still think it’s fun.
GH: What did your brothers and sister think of it at the time?
DB: I think everybody liked it. There is a weirdness about having a famous pre-pubescent in the house when you are going through the trials and tribulations of adolescence. I don’t know if they were always happy, but I think basically, they were all right.
GH: Your sister Cecelia is such a talented writer. Did you ever want to become a writer?
DB: No. Not at all. As a matter of fact, I met someone tonight while waiting for dinner, who said to me, “Let me guess – what you really want to do is direct.” And I said, “No!” Who the hell wants to get there first and leave last? I don’t get that at all. I personally look at acting – at least for television (I’m not talking Deniro) - as an occupation for the mentally challenged. It’s not a real job for real people who have any skill. I mean, they tell you what to say. They pick out all your clothes, and put your name on your chair in case you can’t figure out where to sit. It’s not a real job for real people.
GH: All of the people we have talked to so far have nothing but praise for your comedic timing and the way that you interpreted the role and lines. Someone said you could read an obituary and make it funny.
DB: Entirely depending upon who died. That’s just a little sample of that timing. Look, I am just the luckiest guy, ever. And I’m lucky for the third time now. I don’t do anything that special. Here’s what happens. And the juxtaposition would be me and David Cassidy, because we have had fairly similar lives. If you ever get rich and famous, by definition you are special. You have done something special, and therefore you start to behave special. Then if the floor drops out, and you become down and out, you have a really new perspective. And now your even more philosophical than you were. If, by chance, you get to make it back again, well now you’re Ghandi! Unfortunately, David believes that. And rightly so. He has a special element. He has been to special places in his career. But he doesn’t look at it as a roll of the dice and I do. Possibly because almost every member of my family is more talented than I. I just keep coming up sevens. David thinks he might be more talented than his father, his father might have been jealous of him, and his step-mother is an Academy Award winning actress, etc. etc.
GH: Did the problems with your father stem from your success or were there problems before that?
DB: Always. From birth.
GH: Did your siblings have the same problem?
DB: Yes. Worse. On the physical violence level, they had it worse. My Dad did not like me enough to hit. My dad thought he was disciplining. My dad never thought he was being abusive – ever. He always thought he was doing the right thing, and he did not like me enough to do the right thing by me. Which would have been to whip me – literally – into shape.
GH: Who would accompany you to the set every day?
DB: My Mom – always. My Dad came to the set very rarely, and after Year 2 he was banned from the set.
GH: What was the rehearsal and filming process like for The Partridge Family?
DB: We would go to the set really early on Monday morning and read the script for timing. Bob Claver would sit with a stop watch and time it out to make sure it was the appropriate 22 – 25 minutes that a sitcom script had to be in those days. Then we would break for lunch, and after lunch we would shoot the musical number for the rest of the day. The next four days we would shoot the rest of the show.
GH: What was school like?
DB: I went to school in the streetcar named Desire – literally. Our school was inside the streetcar from A Streetcar Named Desire – which meant nothing to me then, of course. It was three hours a day. The problem was you had to have 20 minutes in a solid block without it being interrupted for it to count. So I wound up going to school from 8 in the morning to 5 at night, and still never getting three hours in because I was constantly being called back to the set. The little kids had one scene per show. They would do their three hours solid, do their scene and go home. So I would be the only child on the set and have to make do for entertainment.