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Danny Bonaduce: A Look at the Life and Career of ‘The Partridge Family’ Star

Looking back at his time portraying Danny Partridge, plus what he's learned from his medical battles


Who doesn’t remember freckle-faced redhead Danny Partridge on the 1970 to 1974 musical sitcom, The Partridge Family? Well, if you remember the character, you’ve got to remember the child actor who brought him to life, Danny Bonaduce, who went on to instant fame as the wisecracking middle son of the singing family headed by Shirley Jones.

MUST-READ: ‘Partridge Family’ Star Shirley Jones: 21 Photos of Her Life, Loves & 70-year career

He was born Dante Daniel Bonaduce on August 13, 1959 in Broomall, Pennsylvania. While he became a fan favorite thanks to the show and reveled in the fame and recognition it brought him, in contrast, and by his own admission, life at home was difficult due to the severe physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father, TV writer and producer Joseph Bonaduce.

( Learn much more about The Partridge Family)

The early career of Danny Bonaduce

After a brief appearance in season 5 of Bewitched, Bonaduce went on to a more substantial role on The Ghost & Mrs. Muir’s first season. The script for the episode, titled “Jonathan Tells It Like It Was,” was penned by Danny’s father, Joseph.  

Then came The Partridge Family, where the family band toured the country in their hippie-inspired painted school bus. The series ran for four seasons and Bonaduce became a pre-teen idol, gracing the covers of teen magazines and he even released a self-titled LP in 1973, which became a minor hit. 

His fame as a Partridge led to jealousies at home, making an already bad family situation worse. To get him away from that toxic environment, TV mom Shirley Jones and the other adults from the cast had Danny stay with them some weekends.  

Since Jones had children of her own around Danny’s age, he fit in with the household.  Partridge cast members Susan Dey and David Cassidy treated him like a kid brother, while Dave Madden was like a bachelor dad or bad uncle, teaching Danny to play cards, drive a car … and smoke.  “Shirley Jones could not have been kinder to me,” Danny Bonaduce said.

MUST READ: Susan Dey: Find Out What ‘The Partridge Family’ And ‘L.A. Law’ Star Is Doing Today

During his time playing bass guitar for the show, he also made several movies, with a few to follow the end of the series. One of them was Corvette Summer (1978), in which he and Mark Hamill (best known, of course, as Luke Skywalker) play high school students in search of a stolen customized Corvette Stingray.

He also made several guest appearances on TV shows like CHiPs, where he played a martial artist in eight episodes.  But by the time the 1980s rolled around, Bonaduce found little work and was so broke at the time that he lived out of his car near a dumpster. He would pose for pictures with fans during the day on Hollywood streets, only to go back to the car to sleep at night.

“When I was living on the street, I would be standing out in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, leaning against my car and signing autographs, and nobody had any idea that I was living in it.  No one had any idea that I was going to pull my car around the corner and go to sleep,” he revealed.   

With his Partridge Family co-star Dave Madden, the two made cameo appearances in a 1994 episode of Married…With Children.  That same year, Danny appeared on a Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode as well as two episodes of CSI, before appearing as the son of Shirley Jones’ character in the fourth season of The Drew Carey Show.

There would be other guest shots, including a celebrity episode of reality series Sex Wars. “Being a child star is great,” Danny Bonaduce observed. “It’s being a former child star that sucks.”

Related: Remembering ABC’s 1971 Fridays — ‘The Brady Bunch’ to ‘Love American Style’

Radio personality success

With little thespian opportunities coming his way, Bonaduce became an on-air radio personality, working the overnight shift at Philadelphia’s WEGX-FM.  Audiences liked his large persona and, from 1994 to 1996, he hosted The Danny Bonaduce Show in Chicago.  He moved on to hosting a morning radio show in Detroit and then to New York City’s Big 105 WBIX for a brief stint.  

A return to TV

Shifting back to television, he became the host of Danny!, a syndicated talk show featuring the house band The Critics, which lasted from 1995 to 1996.  Five years later, he co-hosted The Other Half, a daytime talk show made as a complementary show to The View, on which he starred with Mario Lopez, Dick Clark and Dorian Gregory.  During this time, he parlayed his newfound fame into being a Hollywood correspondent for the Australian morning show Today.  

Always one with a gift for gab, Bonaduce became both host and judge of the reality show I Know My Kid’s A Star on VH1 as well as the Australian version of the series.  From 2008 to 2013, he was a commentator for TruTV Presents: World’s Dumbest, admitting he got the job due to his own less than stellar track record.  

And then back to radio

In 2008, after being a part of The Adam Carolla Show, he was given a daily one-hour solo spot known as Broadcasting Bonaduce, which aired locally in Los Angeles.  But due to the station changing its format from talk to Top 40, his forum was gone. 

Then it was on to Seattle, where he co-hosted the morning drive show, but in late 2023 he announced he was leaving the air, having previously done so for a period due to an undisclosed medical issue.

Related: Suzanne Crough: What Happened to the Child Actress Who Played Tracy on ‘The Partridge Family’

Medical maladies

His medical malady was eventually diagnosed as hydrocephaly, which had been causing balance, speech and walking problems. The brain surgery to remedy it was successful and, a day after the procedure, the 64-year-old gave an update on how he was doing, tweeting, “I lived, bitch!”  

A shunt was put in to drain the fluid that had built up deep within the brain, to which he comented,  “I’ll never be able to run track or box again, but if I can get from here to the kitchen on my own, bravo.”  Due to his health problems, Bonaduce encouraged fans to focus on their own health and to be their own advocate.  “Take time to consider your health and what you’re doing.  Pay attention.”  

Danny Bonaduce fun facts

— He has a black belt in karate.

— He met second wife Gretchen Hillmer on a blind date and on a whim they married the same day. The two were together for over 16 years and had 2 children together.  

Partridge Family co-star David Cassidy and Danny remained friends until Cassidy’s death. 

— He released an autobiography, Random Acts of Badness, in 2002.

— Bonaduce boxed Donny Osmond and former Brady Barry Williams in separate charity events.  Bonaduce won both fights.  

David Cassidy and Danny Bonaduce laugh together during MTV Networks TCA - July 23, 2004 at Century Plaza in Los Angeles, California.
Jeff Kravitz / Getty

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