book reviews

Gretchen Bonaduce describes her crappy marriage to Danny…

I am a little young for The Partridge Family. I have seen episodes of it, but I was much more of a Brady Bunch fan, even though I think The Partridge Family was funnier and had more talented actors on it. Red headed Danny Bonaduce got his big break as the bass playing, wisecracking kid, Danny Partridge, on that show. Although he was a kid at the time, he was introduced to sex and drugs at a very young age. He grew up addicted to sex, with lesser addictions to drugs and alcohol.

Hmm… is he really singing this?

Gretchen Hillmer Bonaduce was born in 1965, making her six years younger than her ex-husband. She probably didn’t watch the show that made him famous, either. She and Danny met on November 4, 1990. They got married the same day, and proceeded to stay married until November 5, 2008. Although they had 18 years and two children together, the marriage was rocky and full of craziness. Gretchen Bonaduce shares her experiences in her book, Surviving Agent Orange: And Other Things I Learned From Being Thrown Under the Partridge Family Bus. Published on August 14, 2018, this book is all about Gretchen’s marriage to Danny, as well as other assorted stuff. But it’s just 187 pages, which means the stuff isn’t all that detailed. It also includes an introduction by none other than Adrianne Curry, the very first winner of America’s Next Top Model, who also has a marriage to, and divorce from, an abusive former child star in common with Bonaduce. That alone should give anyone pause.

I decided to read Surviving Agent Orange after I happened to see the E! True Hollywood Story of The Partridge Family on YouTube a few weeks ago. Bill was away on business and I was filling my time watching documentaries and shit. I got on a roll watching E!’s classic series about stars. I never happened to see the show Breaking Bonaduce, which was all about Danny’s and Gretchen’s highly dysfunctional marriage. It aired in the mid 00s. I remember hearing about it when it was on TV, but I didn’t actually watch it. I guess I wasn’t surprised when I heard that the Bonaduces divorced, although Danny has since remarried to Amy Railsback, who is 23 years younger than he is.

According to Gretchen Bonaduce, Danny is not an easy man to love. Her book describes him as a bit of a maniac. He’s supposedly very jealous, given to rages, and addicted to substances. Still, Gretchen writes that despite everything, she’d still marry him and go through the whole thing again. My guess is that, besides her marriage to Danny giving her two children, it’s because it also allowed her an inroad into the entertainment industry.

If I had to use a word to describe this book, I’d use the word “vapid”. It’s really not long on depth or intellect and it needs editing. Bonaduce misspells names, gets some things factually incorrect (like referring to the skin disease “impetigo” as “infantigo”), mixes up the names of actors and/or 80s era television shows (for instance, confusing Growing Pains for Family Ties), and seems to blame her problems and marriage failure entirely on Danny. I will admit, he probably was responsible for a lot of their problems, but she also made some pretty serious errors herself.

For instance, toward the end of the book, she writes of how she and Danny went to Amsterdam, courtesy of Danny’s radio show. They were going to see The Rolling Stones. While they were there, Danny “forced” Gretchen to go to a sex show. Then they went to a coffee house (she calls it a “drug cafe”). She proceeds to talk to a drug dealer and gets his number. Later, at a party, she ends up drinking something Danny spiked with Ecstasy, vomits all over an elevator, and tries to leave the country without her husband, who manages to catch her before she goes alone. Once they’ve returned to the States, she and her gay friend book first class tickets back to Amsterdam. Mid flight, she calls up the drug dealer friend, tells him she’s crazy, and meets him at a cafe, where she makes a complete ass of herself. I’m writing this because she actually admits to it in the book.

Some people might like Surviving Agent Orange because Bonaduce has a rather conversational style that may come off as warm and friendly. To me, it just seemed embarrassing. Besides, she gave her children– a girl and a boy– the legal names of Countess and Count. While it may have been her right to do that, it’s still kind of ridiculous, in my view.

I certainly have read worse books than Surviving Agent Orange. Parts of the book are legitimately funny and/or interesting. Some parts are bizarre, like her story about trying to stop Danny from eating a pie by peeing on it. Other parts are just kind of silly and, again, vapid. She doesn’t actually reveal that much, other than a few ridiculous stories about incredibly bad and irresponsible behavior, on her part and Danny’s. I’m all for oversharing about bad behavior, but if you’re going to do that, make it well worth reading.

I think if I were going to rate this on a scale of one to five, I’d give it a three. It’s not horrible. I have definitely read worse. But it really could have been a lot better than it is. I was glad to finish it and, fortunately, finishing it was somewhat easy given its relatively short length. I would recommend it only to those who really want to read all there is about either Gretchen or Danny Bonaduce. The good news is, Danny Bonaduce has supposedly quit drinking. He credits his third wife, Amy Railsback, for that.

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