Saturday, October 09, 2010

Danny Bonaduce

Danny Bonaduce is the morning man at WYSP in Philadelphia, but during the 1990s he entertained Chicago radio audiences on the Loop.

Rick: You’re known for all sorts of different things (including obviously, "The Partridge Family"), but it’s been more than twenty years now since you started in radio. Do you consider yourself a radio guy now first and foremost?

Danny: Well, I’ve been doing it every single day for twenty years, so I guess the answer to that has to be yes. In life I guess you either have to follow the money or your spiritual beliefs, and since I have no spiritual beliefs of any kind, I follow the money. And for me, the money is in radio.

Rick: You and I worked together very briefly when you first started on the Loop. I was doing overnights on the FM while you were doing overnights on the AM, and I remember that as a very wild time. The hallways were completely crazy every night--it was a radio free for all, and Chicago seemed to embrace you almost instantly. Did you feel the same way about Chicago?

Danny: Absolutely. If you read my book, and I’m not saying this to sell the book because it’s out of print now, but there is more than one chapter dedicated to Chicago, and not just to radio, but to the city, and the people I met there. As far as I’m concerned, my radio career didn’t start the first time I cracked the mic and said “This is Danny Bonaduce.” My real radio career started when I did talk radio—entertainment talk—which is what I do—and that happened for the first time in Chicago. That was real radio, not playing some Debbie Gibson records.

The reason you remember the craziness in the hallway is because back then, just as now, I did absolutely no preparation. I still never write anything down. I don’t even carry a pen. I just introduce the show, and I sidekick for the telephone.

I wait for the inspiration of one moment that will start the show. Let’s say I get into a huge fight with my girlfriend, just to take an obvious example of something that everyone can relate to. I tell the story on the air, and then before I even get to the phone calls of people saying I was right or I was wrong, I get the calls from other people who got into fights with their girlfriends, and that leads to a discussion about resolving the fights because divorce is too expensive, and then calls about cheating, and before you know it, you’ve got a show. I usually have one story to start, and aside from that, I don’t prepare a thing.

Rick: The bit I remember most vividly from your early time at the Loop was the bit when you drove down the parking garage ramp in the Hancock as fast as you could.

Danny: (excited) Carioke! That was my all-time favorite bit. I loved that! That was the very best thing I’ve ever done in entertainment talk radio, and the best I ever will do.

The Hancock had this eight story spiral ramp going up to the parking garage (photo), and the bit was that you had to come into the car with me and sing a song all the way down while I drove as fast as I could, and if you could do it without screaming, you’d win. No one could ever do it, because I knew something they didn’t. That garage ramp was engineered in such a way that a car couldn’t flip over. And I didn’t care if I scraped it up or dinged it, so I would hit the sides, and sparks would go flying and everybody, and I mean everybody, screamed. Nobody made it down that ramp without screaming.

One day Johnny B told me that he thought he could do it, and so I took him down the ramp too. And I went fast, but not real fast, not as fast as I could have gone, and he was singing Happy Birthday or something like that and was doing great until we got to the bottom of the ramp. When we reached the bottom, he saw a woman standing there with a baby carriage, and it was right in our way. Well, I slammed into that baby carriage at full speed, and it went flying through the air, and Johnny B FLIPPED OUT. I mean flipped out!

And then the woman, my ex-wife, got the baby carriage and showed Johnny there was a doll in there.

Rick: (laughing) Oh my God.

Danny: I’ve tried recreating that in other places, but I can’t. It was just that spiral, and the engineering of it that made it work. On flat surfaces or other garages it wouldn’t work, because it would be too dangerous.

Rick: To a lot of people, the big highlight of your time here, the thing that everybody remembers is your fight against Donny Osmond. You’ve since fought a bunch of other people, and everybody knows that you’re a tough guy now, but nobody really knew what to expect for that fight. What are your memories of that night?

Danny: I didn’t know what to expect either. I came close to losing that fight. For one thing, I was drunk. Somebody asked me on my way into the ring what I thought was going to happen, and I said, "I’m going to kick his ass then get drunker."

I mean, c’mon, this is Donny Osmond we’re talking about here. I had a girl to hold my cigarette, because you know, I was smoking three packs a day. But that’s how unconcerned I was. And I started off by pounding away at this guy for like seventy five seconds, and then I stepped away, figuring he would just collapse onto the ground. But he didn’t. He had protected himself. And I thought, “Holy shit, if Donny Osmond kicks my ass, I’m going to have to leave the country!”

Rick: But you did win that fight. And you’ve fought a few more since then.

Danny: After that Donny fight, I took training more seriously. I recently fought Jose Canseco. And that guy was HUGE. I mean the measurements were hilarious. On weigh-in day he was 6’6, 265. I was 5’6, 165. He hit me once, and I’ve never been hit that hard before. I went flying halfway cross the ring, but I happened to land on my feet. I opened my eyes expecting to see him coming in for the kill, but he hadn’t moved. I had to walk back over to him. I think the only reason I didn't lose that fight was because he was tired of being hated.

Rick: Do you still have a tattoo of the Loop logo and Larry Wert’s name on your butt? (Photo: Life Magazine)

Danny: Sure, of course. You don’t think I would have that taken off do you? It’s a hell of an ice breaker in Chicago.

Rick: And Larry really is the godfather of your child.

Danny: I know people thought I was kissing the boss’s ass when I made him the godfather, but I didn’t do that because he was the boss. We really were best friends. And plus, I was already #1 by then. You don’t kiss the boss’s ass when you’re #1. You do it when your ratings suck.

Rick: I don’t know if people remember this, but Johnny B was also critical in the beginning of your radio career. I talked to Johnny the other day and mentioned that I would be talking to you, and he told me to say hi.

Danny: I love Johnny (photo). The reason I give Johnny the credit for my radio career is because even though he never actually hired me anywhere, even at the Loop, he gave me my start with a bit he did.

An article came out in the National Enquirer that Danny Bonaduce was homeless and hungry, so he did a mock food drive for me. I got a call from Chicago saying: "We’ve got 7000 pounds of canned food, and about 12 grand in cash, and would you come to Chicago?" So I did, and you have to remember I was living in LA where everyone is apathetic. If a DJ told someone to do something there, maybe five people would show up. When I got to Chicago though, there were hundreds of people in the airport with signs and billboards. I remember one very well. It had a picture of a red-headed skeleton, and it said “Stop hunger before it stops Danny Partridge.”

I couldn’t believe it—that’s when I discovered the power a DJ could have.

And Johnny had me come up on stage with him and sing “I think I love you” and I wrote funny new lyrics to it, but while I was up there, I felt like I was being pelted with ice. I thought, "man these people in Chicago turn on you fast," but then I noticed it wasn’t ice. It was coins. It was money, and I was running around that stage picking it up. Sure, it was a funny bit, but I really was homeless. I needed that money.

So, DJs being the scum that they are, started stealing the bit. And it became so popular, I went around the country one station at a time, repeating the bit. And one station in Philly even hired me to come on their lame show and be a sidekick and play Debbie Gibson records.

And then Larry Wert saw me do stand up. He called his boss Jimmy de Castro (photo) and said “I’ve seen Danny’s show four nights in a row, and it’s completely different every night. I think he’d be great for the Loop.” So, when my contract ran out in Philly, I went to Chicago, and I got the overnight shift. One night I was on the air on a Saturday, because I worked six days a week back then, and Jimmy called Larry Wert, and said, “Is this what this fucker does? He just screams into the microphone all day?” Just as he was saying that to Larry, I guess I actually said, “What I lack in talent, I make up for in volume.”

I had a contract offer to do overnights, but before I even had a chance to sign it, they moved me to nights, and then to middays, and I never actually signed it. Jimmy finally said to me, “Is it OK if we just shake on it?” And we did. We just shook hands. They gave me a raise and gave me a great deal of money, and I worked for their company and the company it became, which is Clear Channel, for 16 years—all without a contract. The only time I actually signed a contract is the time I was fired.

Rick: And where was that?

Danny: That was in LA.

Rick: Right. That was the Adam Carolla show in LA. What is the real story about what happened there?

Danny: I liked Adam Carolla (photo) a lot, I thought he was a genius, but I heard his show, and knew that he just didn’t know how to do radio. I figured if someone ever taught him, it could be an incredible show. So I really fought hard for that job. I fought like crazy to get it. And I became his sidekick, and I was very happy to be the sidekick. I went out of my way to say, 'Hey, the sign on the wall says the Adam Carolla show.' I was very careful not to step on any toes.

We went from #18 to like #4. But Adam said he didn’t like my comedy. I said:“Why? Because it’s funny?”

He said “Yeah, it’s not my brand of comedy.”

I will say this for him, he’s not a coward. He said that he didn’t want me on his show anymore right in front of me . But CBS wouldn’t let me go. So they gave me morning show money to do a one hour show. Then they hired me to do mornings in Philly.

Rick: Which is where you are now. How is it going in Philadelphia?

Danny: Great. There were something like five different morning shows in the four years before I started here, and I just started my third year, so it’s going well.

Rick: Can people in Chicago hear your show on the internet?

Danny: Sure can. Just go to and check it out. We’ve actually got a pretty big following in Chicago already.

Rick: In addition to doing the radio, you’re also a reality television mogul these days, aren’t you? I’ve seen you in several reality shows over the years, but you’re more than just a star in them.

Danny: Every reality show you’ve ever seen me in, except the one with Hulk Hogan, I either wrote, hosted, or produced.

Rick: Do you have your own company?

Danny: Yes. It’s called Graveltone Productions.

Rick: And people probably pitch you all the time.

Danny: They do, and I would take the offers if they would fit around my schedule, but that’s getting harder to do. I’m in Philadelphia now, so it would have to take place here, because I’m not giving up the radio gig. Anyone that gives up radio for TV is out of their mind, unless you’re Ryan Seacrest or something. I’ve done a ton of reality shows, but the problem is that they are years and years apart sometimes. On the radio, I’m on the air every single day, collecting a very healthy regular paycheck.

Rick: Do you ever make it back to Chicago?

Danny: Not as often as I’d like. I come to Zanies every few years, and I suppose it’s about time for that again. If you have any ideas that will bring me back to town, believe me, I’m all ears. Let’s hear ‘em.

Rick: Are you working on anything else these days?

Danny: Yes, on October 23rd I’m playing a 1500 person shed with David Cassidy. I had him on the show recently, which is something I really don’t like to do. My biggest fear is that someone will tune in to my show for the first time at that one moment he’s on and say, “OK, so he talks about the Partridge Family all the time. Is that all he can do?”

But I did The Today Show with him and he seemed to be in a better place about the Partridge Family, so I invited him on the show. And on the air he dared me to learn to play one song on the bass, and join him on stage for the first and only time for real.

So, even though I have a million jobs now for CBS, I’ve got a bass lesson in about a half an hour.