Catching Up With Gretchen Bonaduce

gretchen bonaduce facebookGretchen Bonaduce Facebook

Gretchen Bonaduce is one resilient woman. It’s not easy when people remember you for the turbulent marriage you were in, a union once spotlighted on cable TV in all its guts and glory. The mom of two, rock band musician, television producer and entrepreneur (she once had a line of clothing and jewelry for Hot Topic), was also the wife of Partridge Family alum Danny Bonaduce. Although the couple divorced a decade ago after 18 years of marriage, and are with different partners today (Danny’s married and Gretchen is private about her own relationship), people still ask how she’s doing. This is due to her ex-husband’s volatile behavior having been captured on camera in VH1’s Breaking Bonaduce (2005-2006).

Gretchen and rock band

Gretchen Bonaduce Facebook

Back then, the former child star was struggling with his temper and mood swings maximized by a steroid addiction. Viewers honed in on the fact that not only was Gretchen very attractive and petite, but also incredibly patient and committed to preserving their union, as well as rehabilitating her husband.

In her upcoming “tell-some” book (“It’s not a tell-all,” Gretchen conveys, “because that has the connotation of being mean spirited and I’m not. I wanted to be funny and helpful to other women, but not at all malicious”) Surviving Agent Orange and Other Things I Learned from Being Thrown Under the Partridge Family Bus https://www.amazon.com/Surviving-Agent-Orange-Learned-Patridge/dp/194557285X, she reflects on the past few decades, the marriage that was under scrutiny, the good times, the terrible times, and other fascinating aspects of her life. The tome also contains a forward by Gretchen’s close friend Adrianne Curry, the America’s Next Top Model winner who went on to marry and divorce Chris Knight from The Brady Bunch.

Surviving Agent Orange Gretchen

Gretchen talked to me about the sisterly bond between her and Adrianne and so much more. Following is our interview:

I remember watching Breaking Bonaduce and being worried about you. Danny would get so angry at you and you seemed so kind…I would have cracked quickly. It didn’t seem like you knew what you had signed up for. Am I right?

It’s interesting because this was a time before social media took off. Had it been today, it would have been very different because of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and all those platforms. I would never want my kids to be able to see things online with the way things have exploded today…But back then, there was no way to look into the future and how social media would evolve as there were only message boards then. VH1 even had suggested we not look at those which were pretty much in their infancy. They were not a popular thing – certainly nowhere near as popular as social media is today. You are right that what we signed on for was a totally different show than what Breaking Bonaduce ended up being. The show was supposed to be Rock and Roll Dinner Party where rock stars come over and hang out together. That was the pilot we shot and then VH1 said ‘we don’t like this idea, but we like you two and want to do a show with you guys.’ Then it just went south from there.

Gretchen barbra porter photo

Barbra Porter Photography, All Access Magazine

Have your children watched Breaking Bonaduce and what effect did the show have on them? A fan named Amanda Lauren Kass was also wondering about your kids and if they had seen the show.

My kids didn’t, but it definitely damaged my daughter in some ways, although she is now 23 and engaged to an amazing man in a loving relationship. She was 10…11 years old then and could later get on the computer and read things. Had we known the direction of the show and had I been able to anticipate what would really happen with the Internet…I’ll just say I would advise today’s celebrities – or those in the public eye in some way – against reality TV if they are parents. I’ll use my own experience to say that you must consider how it can affect the kids.

My son was really young back then,  but the aftermath of divorce and not having his dad in LA (after the divorce) affected him.

Looking back, what do you most appreciate about that (Breaking Bonaduce) time period?

I had always wanted to deal with the infidelity as it was happening in my marriage. Once we were doing the show, I didn’t want any of the conversations to be recreated or reenacted. They needed to be authentic and as they were happening. I really wanted other women to learn from what we were going through. When there was a conversation that needed to be had at that time, I said I was not going to deal with it until we were shooting. From a producer’s perspective, I felt the authenticity in those moments was really important to capture and I wasn’t going to doing something manufactured.

breaking bonaduce vimeo

(Photo Credit: Vimeo, Scarier days doing Breaking Bonaduce. Gretchen says it was entirely authentic.)

It’s interesting that you say that because Mandy Jacobs, a fan of yours who watched the show, noted that it was ‘very dark.’ She worried about your safety and actually wondered if anything was ‘played up’ for TV.

Not at all. It was extremely difficult and emotional, but I needed everything to happen in the moment and to be real because I really wanted to make a difference in people’s lives once we were involved in this. And it did make a difference in people’s lives. I received mail from women who had built up the courage to leave doomed relationships. It meant everything to me to be able to help women who were trying to escape something bad and those who were in relationships with addicts…as well as those dealing with addictions. A wonderful thing about that time period was hearing from those who said the show helped them.

breaking bonaduce

A listener of the Reality Life with Kate Casey podcast, who also watched the show, asked what type of drug cocktail Danny was on back then.

He was on steroids…and that was another thing I wanted in there because it was happening and needed to be dealt with. I didn’t want to do this show with that specific problem being edited out and swept under the rug for the sake of what was shown on camera. Danny had always been very self-conscious about his looks and that had resulted from childhood. He was concerned with being in shape, watching his weight and maintaining a good body. The steroids would make him a lot more volatile and there may have been alcohol added in…I honestly am not sure – maybe Vicodin…I can’t say 100 percent what the exact mix was. But the combination of things is just going to make you nuts.

danny bonaduce daily beast

You got divorced about a decade ago. A fan named Brandi Celestino wondered if your relationship with Danny is amicable today.

I would say that we don’t really have much of a relationship except when it comes to our kids. We don’t talk very often. When we divorced, I didn’t think he was going to do well and I’m pretty happy for him that he’s OK and he has a family now. I never wanted anything bad for him and that’s something I talk about in my book.

I was raised in a very religious Southern Baptist family and I’m from the Midwest. What was instilled in me is that you never got divorced, you worked hard and you did whatever you possibly could to keep your family together. Because of that, I never wanted us to split up at all when we were together – no matter how bad it was getting. One day I was watching Dr. Phil and he said that it is better for children to come from a broken family than to live in one. That quote really resonated with me. I didn’t want my kids growing up in and being further exposed to a broken marriage.

breaking bonaduce 2

I remember that you and Danny were also once on an episode of Dr. Phil.

Yes! Initially, I was supposed to be on with Danny and then they made the suggestion of just shooting B roll with me. I became really upset with that because I didn’t want things to be manipulated in any way with what was shown about us. Fortunately, the next morning they called me to say they wanted me to be there and I thought it was important that I be included that way.

My readers were curious about your relationship status today.   

I don’t see myself getting married again – 18 years was plenty for me! I like to have a lot more control over my life than I did as a married person. I like to be able to go and come as I please and not explain to someone how I spend my money, but yes I’m in a relationship. I’m so happy with my life right now.

Danny has been married for…I don’t know, 5 or 6 years now. We built a really great life together in spite of the difficult times – the evidence of that being our two amazing kids!

danny bonaduce and new wife“B&%#@ stole her look?” Danny Bonaduce’s new wife with suspiciously similarly colored hair to Gretchen’s. Photo source: Celebrity Bride Guide

Tina Junes is someone who watched the show and she mentioned that you and Danny actually got married on the first date! Is that true?! Do you regret marrying him so quickly?

We got married within hours of knowing each other. However, it was more than 8 hours as one tabloid said.  We met in Phoenix and looking back, it’s hard to say why we got married so fast…He was sliding back into a drug habit – so that might have been part of it for him…With me, I had nothing better to do (Laughs) and thought ‘that sounds good, let’s get married’. Reflecting now of course, we really didn’t know each other and started dating after we got married. That was not necessarily a bad thing…As we got to know each other in our marriage, we really did fall in love with each other.

I’m thankful that it was me who Danny married because knowing who he dated in the past, those relationships would not have worked out or been beneficial to him. I think, despite divorcing later on, the marriage was amazing for both of us in some ways.

Danny had nothing when we got married and by the time we separated and divorced eighteen years later, we had houses and investments and things because of what he allowed me to do. When we first got married, I took charge of his finances so that money wouldn’t be spent in the wrong way. Then 4 months after we got married, he was arrested in Phoenix (1991) for the transvestite incident. https://www.deseretnews.com/article/154776/FORMER-CHILD-STAR-ARRESTED-IN-BEATING-OF-A-PROSTITUTE.html

That was really humiliating and put us in heavy debt because we were paying off legal fees. Again, it goes back to my upbringing and the fact that I was conditioned to stay married and wanted to help him. I don’t think most people would have stayed through that.

danny bonaduce zimbio

Magan Paulson from Kate Casey’s group wanted to know if you thought of yourself – in any way – as an ‘enabler’. Did you, or do you now, feel regrets about your support of Danny during that time?

I see it as being a kind and compassionate person who was trying to help somebody. To me, ‘enabler’ is just a term that I don’t get. It’s kind of weird to me that when you try to do something nice to help people you now get slapped with this term. I was trying to help a man I loved who was in big trouble and that’s the way we lived all the time. He would be fine, then be screwed up again, then be fine, then screwed up again…lots of ups and downs. There was a lot of trying to work with that and stay on top of him and I was committed to staying with him and making the marriage work. There were a lot of personal struggles for him. He was kind of a joke when we got married…that whole ex child star gone wrong story.

Yeah, I’m confused. What happened to his savings from being a child star?

He always told me…I think he only made, at the top of the pay scale, 600 dollars per week and the show ran for 4 years. He said that it wasn’t that much and he just blew through it. I know that they didn’t have the rules and laws they have now and the whole thing with residuals.  Danny’s dad was actually a successful sitcom writer who worked on One Day at a Time and All in the Family and I did always wonder where the money was, but according to him there wasn’t that much.

partridge family

Hmm…That’s a mystery we have to figure out….How do you know Adrianne Curry? I was fascinated by the fact that you seem to be a big fan of hers and that she wrote the foreword to your upcoming book?

Adrianne and I are both Midwestern and were married to ex child stars. The first time we met was at the Big in 05 VH1 awards. We’ve been good friends ever since – such good friends that we even helped each other move!

She was here for many years with Chris Knight and also before Chris and before the Surreal Life. Wehit if off because we have so much in common and we laugh so hard about the fact that she was married to a Brady and I was married to a Partridge! It’s funny to both of us how we have these connections. She’s very down to earth, approachable and a very sweet girl. She and I both got our feelings hurt a lot out here in LA because we didn’t grow up in a place where people did mean things. We would think ‘hey, I have all these great new friends here working on TV shows’ and then never hear from those new friends again! We both just didn’t get that. That’s not how we grew up.

Gretchen bon and adrianne


Do you regret your marriage to Danny?

Not for one second. I’ll be the first to admit that I had no plans for the future when we got married. I think that had we not gotten married, the best that would have happened to me was that I would have been a waitress. Or if I had been really lucky: a singing waitress. I have an 80s band now and that is my thing and what I put my time into. I absolutely love it. I do not regret marrying him because we have two incredible children.

In our marriage, I was the backbone and the hard-ass and he had the talent. Knowing what he was capable of, I wanted to help keep him in control and slow him down so he could do great things with his talent.  I had really hoped back then that all the positive opportunities brought to him would keep him out of trouble. It was a time when we saw what was happening with ex child stars like Dana Plato and Todd Bridges. Ex child stars were getting into trouble and people would have Danny on their TV shows to address that very subject. I don’t think they originally took him seriously, but later on he had more opportunities like that and had cleaned himself up which was amazing. I think that had he not cleaned himself up, none of those opportunities would have happened for him.

I’m just happy that he appears to be fine today and that’s great!

Are you still producing TV shows?

I do produce and have some projects in the works, some that I’ve pitched and others with networks, but I haven’t had a show on in a while.

I have to say one thing about reality TV and production – as it pertains to my own experience with Breaking Bonaduce: You get a lot of accolades for acting like an ass. Production crews love when egos get out of control. People continue going when they shouldn’t and production knows exactly which buttons to push.

There was an episode about my birthday and my friends were making a birthday party for me where they rented a hotel room at the W. My girlfriends planned everything and I told them not to tell me the plans in advance so it would be entirely authentic and honest.  I had no idea what was planned and Danny found out there would be strippers. The first season was so volatile and before filming the second one, the goal was to repair the damage to our relationship, but viewers got to see more volatility…Although we did go to therapy and go to church. But we knew that a third season would be terrible for us. We split up right after the second season, but had offered them a different idea which they ended up picking up. It was called I Know My Kid’s a Star. http://www.cmeg.com/press/i-know-my-kids-star-press-release-2

So the two of you were working on a show together and had recently split up…That had to be weird.

Yes, all of Danny’s sneaking around – being on the computer and texting – the infidelity was the final straw. There were other things but that was what really did it and also that Dr. Phil quote that really resonated with me about kids not staying in a broken home. It was time to get out of this crazy spot were in, one that it seemed we would always be in.

With this new show, Danny didn’t even want me coming to the set because he wanted to give his girlfriend a job on it. Our kids were young and so I said ‘fine, give me the money and credit and I’ll take care of the kids.’ I regret that now because it would have provided me with a lot of behind the scenes experience and it hurt me in terms of selling other shows.

What do you think about all the reality stars today who expose their own marriages to the cameras? The Real Housewives that came after you guys and similar types of shows?

People ask me all the time ‘do you think being on TV affected your marriage?’ I don’t think so because all of those things would have happened whether the cameras were rolling or not. I actually thought of the cameras as a form of protection because they caught it all and there could be no denial of certain actions. It’s possible they caused more fights because I wasn’t willing to back down. Maybe I would have let thing go without the crew, but I don’t feel bad about that.

I know some of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and was considered for that show at one point. But (Laughs) I think I would be too relatable for the average person who doesn’t run out to do errands in Louboutins and 900 dollar pants!

With the reality stars today I think more about the children. Our experience damaged my daughter…for sure. Today she is a woman, 23, and getting married in October to a man who adores her. So she triumphed despite all that, but it was not easy at all. The kids are the ones I would really think about if I had to weigh in on reality stars today.

My son is the sweetest and so smart. He’ll be 17 soon. I am so proud of my kids. They are wonderful, great human beings and I feel good that I’ve contributed to that.

Tell us about your book and how much of the Breaking Bonaduce time period is covered in it.  

I kind of see it as more of a Bridget Jones Diary than a memoir, except that it’s true. I had so many amazing and weird experiences like getting to meet Princess Di and traveling the world. I talk about all of those things in a positive way. I think my book is kind of funny and I hope people think so too.

Because Danny and I were married for so many years, a lot of my stories come from that time period, but also when I was a kid. Then there is also the 10 year span that we’ve been divorced. I cover all of that and there’s a lot of reflecting. If it helps people, that would be awesome…or if it makes them laugh. I’ve also recently gotten involved in animal rescue efforts. I think that if you have any sort of platform or any little bit of fame – no matter how big or small – you should try to do things that help others.



4 thoughts on “Catching Up With Gretchen Bonaduce

  1. D says:

    Enty led me here, and I have read your last couple of articles.
    I’m enjoying them. They are well written and resonate on a human level, rather then as former celebrity icons.
    Thank you, and keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Debora Bradley says:

    Great interview. I love your transparency, keeping it very real. I look forward to reading your book. We never know how our truths can impact others in a positive way. Thank you for sharing your heart. I believe everything happens for a reason. We learn from every thing.

    Liked by 1 person

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