”Ex-Child Stars Gone Bad!” ”Sunset Strip Junkies!” ”Dead-Broke and Starving!” ”Today a Blind Date, Tomorrow a Husband!”
Danny Bonaduce’s résumé reads like a laundry list of tawdry talk-show topics. But the ’70s icon — who descended from fame as the carrot-topped wise guy Danny on The Partridge Family to cocaine busts and an infamous brawl with a transvestite — wants his own new syndicated daytime talker, Danny!, to take the high road.
”I’m sure everybody intends to be different when they start, and when their ratings go south, ‘Naked Lesbian Nazi Nuns’ start to come on,” Bonaduce says. ”But I don’t want anyone to appear and be afraid to show their face in their neighborhood afterward. That seems just shy of evil.”
To that end, Danny!, produced by Disney’s Buena Vista, looks like a cross between Ricki Lake and The Price Is Right, pitting guests against one another in a goofy game-show atmosphere: One episode features a ”drag race,” with guys in gowns roaring through an obstacle course (the host himself dons gold-lamé shorts and fishnets); in another, two ”battling in-laws” who haven’t spoken in 10 years are tied together and forced to make sandwiches for the audience. Bonaduce occasionally even sits down for some straight talk with guests — but don’t expect 42 minutes of advice. ”I can’t even run my own life,” he says. ”How out of my mind would I be to tell some guest how to run theirs?”
Actually, Bonaduce, 36, hasn’t done so badly at running his own life lately. After he spent much of the ’70s and ’80s waiting tables and sometimes reprising his famous TV role (at Christmas, he’d perch at stores as a Partridge in a pear tree), his career took off in 1993, when he began hosting what is now one of Chicago’s top daytime radio talk shows, a job he’ll continue. He’s been sober for five years. And he and wife Gretchen, who married in 1990 after a seven-hour courtship, have a new baby, 9-month-old Countess Isabella.
He’s even found a sense of humor about the dark days. ”I made a living opening Kmarts for a year,” he says. ”You’d hear: ‘Attention, Kmart shoppers. In the house department, Coca-Cola, $1.77 a six-pack, and in the nursery, Danny Partridge.’ It was so horrible. But looking back, it seems hysterical.” As Danny Partridge would say: Come on, get happy.