Danny Bonaduce was a freckle-faced boy of 10 when his name and face became familiar to millions of Americans as a member of television's Partridge Family. For five years beginning in 1970, the story of the musical Partridges unfolded each week on ABC, with the widowed mother (Shirley Jones) driving an old school bus as she led her five-member family band to performances around the country.
None of the cast members was a professional musician; in fact, the backgrounds on their records were done by studio professionals. But their records sold well. I Think I Love You, the tune that in the storyline got them started when the kids talked their mother into joining one of their recording sessions as a vocalist, sold 4-million copies.
Once the show left the air, however, music dominated the careers of only Shirley Jones and her son, David Cassidy.
But Danny Bonaduce continued to work in show business, doing what he describes as "basic TV." He also was in the restaurant business for a while, or in his words, "My wife had a restaurant, and I had a wife for a while."
That was while he was still in the Los Angeles area. Then, about 14 months ago, he went to Philadelphia to visit his mother and his career took a new turn.
"I ran into the morning team of a radio station at a bar," he said. "They were drunk enough to think that having Danny Partridge on the air with them would be funny. So they did, and it was funny, and I was offered a job."
Bonaduce went on the air Dec. 5, 1988, as a disc jockey with no experience, broadcasting from a studio "not far from where I was born."
"I was hired for only six months," he said. "But when six months went by, I had the station's only No. 1 rated show."
And Bonaduce, who reportedly had started at a salary of only $22,000 a year, suddenly was drawing a salary estimated to be around $100,000. He confirms that those figures "are close."
For that, station WEGX-FM gets four hours of Bonaduce five nights a week _ from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. "I play mostly top 40, with some rock 'n' roll," he said, "and I do more talking than I'm supposed to. I get yelled at a lot for that."
In fact, he has on several occasions angered his boss to the screaming level.
"One time I had two girls on the radio," he said, "and I guess we got to talking a little bit provocatively. My boss called and screamed at me, and I put him on the air without telling him.
"And another time, I did the entire show calling in from men's rooms in bars. My boss went crazy. I guess it's a good thing I'm not in pro football or I'd be fined every penny I earned."
But WEGX obviously was hesitant to let such a popular figure get away. In addition to the ratings he brings the station, he wins considerable free publicity for it through his appearances on MTV, VH-1 and regular television shows such as Entertainment Tonight and the Oprah Winfrey Show.
And he has not forgotten that the station took a chance by hiring him in the first place at a time when his career was going nowhere. "They say when you do Love Boat your career is over," he said. "And I had been on it twice, so that tells you something."
Bonaduce can afford to joke about that now, but his real feelings surfaced recently when another opportunity came his way.
"I was offered a job across the street when a new station came into town," he said. "They offered me a great deal of money to come work in the morning. My station offered me a substantial raise, but not as much as the new station. But I'd been out of work for so long, and nobody had ever given me a radio job before, so I took a little less money and stayed with the station that I began with."
In recent months, Bonaduce appeared ready to try marriage again, even going so far as to set a date. But that's over now, he says, and he is thinking only of his career.
"I'd like to do more work," he says. "I'd like to go out on the street and be very visible. I only need four hours of sleep, so that leaves 20 for working."
And although he likes his job with WEGX-FM, he's not crazy about living in Philadelphia. "It's cold here," he says, "until it gets hot _ really hot. And besides, I'm used to living on a boat. I lived on a boat in California."
So at this point in his life, 15 years after the breakup of television's Partridge Family, Bonaduce, at 30, finds himself sold on radio and looking longingly at Florida. Partly because of the boat, partly because of the weather, and partly because of what he's heard about the ratings brawl between two radio stations on the Suncoast _ Q-105 and the Power Pig.
"I'd love to get mixed up in something like that," he said.