Secret crush

Mama hen

A favorite episode

Another favorite episode

Rosemary DeCamp and Ray Bolger: The Renfrews

With Shaun, Patrick & Ryan

Shaun visits the set

Shaun follows David's footsteps

Shirley & Jack on The Merv Griffin Show

A rare duet on The Merv Griffin Show

An Interview with


GH: Susan Dey has discussed her struggles with eating disorders, but anorexia and bulimia werenít exactly diagnosed diseases back then. At the time, was there any concern that she was ill?

SJ: Well, we knew that she didnít eat, and her hands got yellow because all she would eat through lunch would be carrots. We were always on her back about eating, but she just tossed it away, and said she wasnít hungry. But nobody knew what it was back then.

GH: The recent TV Movies focused on this supposed "crush" Susan had on David during the run of the show. Was the extent of the interest exaggerated at all?

SJ: I talked to Susan about it at length then. I think she did have a crush. But in the beginning, she was living with a guy. She was living with the Story Editor, Dale McRaven. The crush didnít develop until later when they broke up. It wasnít the whole run of the show.

GH: What was she like to work with?

SJ: She was wonderful. She developed so beautifully as an actress. Here was a young model from New York ó obviously thatís where she developed the anorexia problem ó who had never acted before. She was a natural. She was so beautiful to look at. She had that willowy, wonderful look.

GH: Why do you think she is reluctant to talk about The Partridge Family?

SJ: I think she wanted to go on and do more things. She felt that being Laurie Partridge would be a problem for her. So she wanted to put it in the background. Thankfully, she didnít really have a problem. Itís too bad, I think.

GH: She certainly had success since The Partridge Family.

SJ: Well, maybe not as much as she would like.

GH: Danny [Bonaduce] has been vocal about the problems he was experiencing at home during the run of the series. Was it obvious to you at the time, too?

SJ: Yes, vaguely. Danny was always having problems with his father. His father obviously had a terrible temper and I think once in a while would knock the kids around. Danny was afraid of him, so they didnít want him around on the set.

GH: How often would Danny spend weekends with you and your family?

SJ: Not often. Every once in a while he would come over and do magic shows with Shaun. Shaun had a magic act then. He used to play birthday parties with his friend, Steven Solmeyer. They grew up together. So, Danny would come and go do the magic act with them.

GH: How much say did you have in the scripts? Were there any that you hated or rejected?

SJ: I didnít really reject them. We would have the readings every Monday, and read the scripts. Now, they would welcome changes but I never actually just threw out the idea. That would have been too difficult to do. I left that to Bob Claver. I have to tell you that Bob Claver was one of the most wonderful Executive Producers that I have ever worked with, in anything. He was sensational. I trusted him. I knew that he knew what he was doing. He liked actors. He would give them the benefit of the doubt, as opposed to so many of them today. If you had a problem, he was there to talk to about it. So, having that kind of trust was great. Most of the time, the scripts were pretty good. Now, the writers would change a line or a scene here or a scene there but we never threw one out.

GH: But he made you dress like a chicken!

SJ: (Laughs) That, I wasnít thrilled with! I figured, "Oh well ó you win some, you lose some."

GH: You have mentioned that the writers would spend time at your home with you and your family to get story ideas. Can you remember any "real" stories that became "reel" stories?

SJ: Two shows come to mind: When Danny got caught stealing, and when Chris and Tracy wanted to run away from home.

GH: Do you have a lot of fond memories of being on the show?

SJ: Gosh, there are so many of them. The Christmas show was a great show. I also loved the one with the skunk and the show with Richard Pryor and Louis Gossett, Jr. The guest stars we had were just wonderful. We had an incredible array of what are now famous celebrities. Jodie Foster was on a couple of shows.

GH: Danny remembers she always spoke in French.

SJ: Yes! She was going to a French school. We also had Farrah Fawcett. Ray Bolger and Rosemary DeCamp were the grandparents. From that standpoint it was wonderful because we had so many wonderful people to work with. And the Christmas show had Dean Jagger, who was just great!

GH: Do you have a favorite guest star?

SJ: Lou Gossett, Jr., Jodie Foster, and Richard Mulligan.

GH: Any memories that you wish would just go away?

SJ: No, not really. I had a good time. We had the usual problems. We had an assistant director and the two of us came to blows every once in a while. Not actual blows ó but verbal blows. I would get upset when he would call me in at 8:00 in the morning, and I wouldnít shoot till 5. So from that standpoint I had a problem with him, because he tried to cover his tracks a lot. But they do that, and finally we came to a meeting of the minds. But other than that, I thought the show went smoothly. We liked each other, and as I said, when you have somebody at the head like Mr. Claver, it works well.

GH: In our interview with Bob Claver, he spoke very highly of you too. He said all he had to do is be upfront and honest with you and you were a joy to work with.

SJ: Well, thatís true. But thatís true with anybody. But you donít find Executive Producers that do that! And every once in a while he would argue with me, and I would see his point of view, too.

GH: Was there ever any serious consideration to marrying Shirley off?

SJ: I had boyfriends or dates, but I donít think they ever considered that. They would rather bring in guest stars as a date.

GH: How did your kids react to their Mom being on The Partridge Family?

SJ: They thought it was great! They loved it. First of all, I was home and working with kids, and they loved the show. They thought it was a great idea.

GH: Iím sure they were used to you being recognized on the street, but that must have increased quite a bit when the show became a hit?

SJ: Sure, at that point it became a lot more so. They went through that whole thing of kids saying, "Is she really like that?" at school, or "We wish our mother was like that" and all that kind of stuff.

GH: How often would your children visit the set?

SJ: The boys visited the set very seldom. When they did, they played with Danny and the other children.

GH: Why werenít they ever in any episodes?

SJ: Because I wouldnít allow it. I didnít want them to go into show business.

GH: How close were David and his brothers when they were growing up?

SJ: They were close. David was quite a bit older than they were. They got quite a bit closer as they became adults, because when you are all adults the age difference doesnít matter. Shaun, Patrick and Ryan were quite little when David was a teenager. But heíd come over and take them places. I think David really appreciated having brothers because he was such a lonely little kid.

GH: How did they react to David becoming a teen idol?

SJ: Well they all wanted to emulate him. Shaun did, as you well know! He was their big brother and really hot then. I think it was at that point, when they all decided they wanted to be in show business, which was unfortunate in my eyes. Nevertheless, I think he was the leader of the pack for the rest of them.

GH: Much has been said in various specials regarding Jackís problem with Davidís success. Was there an actual jealousy or was it a lack of respect?

SJ: No, it had nothing to do with jealousy. It had to do with the fact that he thought David was selling out. He called him a monkey in a cage. He lost respect for what David was doing. David started on Broadway and Jack respected his talent. He wanted him to be an actor. He thought by doing what David was doing, that he would end up exactly as he ended up. He had to start all over again.

GH: David didnít have any control over how that ended up, though, did he?

SJ: No, but for the most part, that is the way it works. He started so young and started making all that kind of money very fast -- in records basically, although The Partridge Family helped that too -- that he ended up feeling exactly the way his father felt ó like he had sold out. He wasnít doing the kind of music he wanted to do, he wasnít acting in the roles he wanted to act in, and he decided to give it up for a while.

GH: Did Davidís popularity change the atmosphere on the set? Was it more difficult because of his schedule?

SJ: Oh, yes. He would show up late for the Monday morning readings, or whatever. I mean, who could blame him? Because he had been working every weekend going out and doing concerts. It was difficult. I donít know how the boy managed. But still, he had a responsibility to the series, so he and I had it out once or twice about that.

GH: Danny said he realized the show was a hit when he and David drove the bus off the studio lot and a mini-riot occurred. When did you realize that the show had become as huge as it was?

SJ: Probably around the same time as Danny did. We had never really been to Davidís concerts at this point. After that, of course, we did. We went to several of them. But I had no idea that this was beginning to happen until that incident. All of a sudden people were pounding on the bus and jumping all over the place. It was chaotic!

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