Danny Bonaduce TV bad boy talks about his rough-and-tumble life, but keeps mum on upcoming TV series

Danny Bonaduce decides to tell the tranny hooker story tonight.

The 53-year-old former child actor turned reality TV star and Seattle disc jockey is onstage at Tacoma Comedy Club, and the incident is already familiar to many that have kept up with his tabloid-worthy antics over the years.

Bonaduce was arrested in 1991 for assaulting and robbing a transvestite prostitute, after leading Phoenix police on a high-speed chase. It is the type of episode that might come up during a parole hearing or a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. But he dresses his sordid memory up with enough quirky detail and self-deprecating humor to cash it in for laughs.

“There’s a kind of transvestite that isn’t trying to trick anybody,” he said, in a gravelly voice that is all too familiar to morning listeners to KZOK-FM (102.5). “I look over and ‘she’ has a five o’clock shadow. I’m not startled. I’m bummed. I was hoping for something else.”

Bonaduce has been hosting the first Sunday of each month at Tacoma Comedy Club. He does not so much write jokes as revisit wild exploits – the drug arrests, the brawls – that have made it harder and harder to believe he once played lovable Danny Partridge.

Backstage with his wife, Amy, Bonaduce is polite and personable, belying the reputation he has developed – thanks, largely, to VH1's “Breaking Bonaduce” – as a half-cocked wing-nut. But there are dark, disturbing memories just under the surface, still shaping his worldview. As our interview begins, he recalls a time, after the luster of starring in “The Partridge Family” had faded, that he found himself lost and desperate on the streets of Los Angeles.

Bonaduce: I had no possessions, and no money, and no way to get money. I was as poor as you could get. It’s weird. I’ve done very, very, very well for myself in the last 20 years. But you can’t wash the taste of homelessness out of your mouth.

There is nothing scarier, nothing scarier, than an abandoned building in the middle of the night. On those ghost shows [he knocks on a nearby table.] “What was that? Did you hear that? Goodness gracious.” I always want to get up and go, “You want me to show you something scary? Let me take you to an abandoned building on Yucca, in Hollywood. And when you hear (knocks) it’s alive, and it wants something from you.” That is scary. 

Tacoma Weekly: When was that?  

Bonaduce: Between 19 and 24. Man, I’m tellin’ you, when they take your house and you’ve got nowhere to be, I’ve got no reason to have a recollection of exactly when that was.  Actually, that’s in my book (“Random Acts of Badness,” Hyperion, 2002) and they really wanted more specifics. I said, “I can’t help you. I don’t know where I was or when.”

TW: What stands out most from that time period?

Bonaduce: From homelessness? Fear. It’s really, really scary. There’s no bond or anything weird like that, or whatever you see in the movies. There’s just people that want what you have in your shopping cart more than you want what you have in your shopping cart.

I don’t think I’ve said this before. I got to be, actually, a dangerous human being around that time. ... Plus, I was recognizable. I was ashamed of myself. But the people that were in the abandoned buildings with me and stuff like that, they could just schitz out. They could be crazy. Actually, 70 percent of the time they were screaming at a woman, “I’ll kill you. I’ll murder you. I’ll cut your throat.” There was no chick there. They were frightening. So everything about homelessness was scary.  

TW: From the period you were describing, what was the turning point that brought you back?

Bonaduce: Um, employment. Money. … A place to be every single day, and people in suits and ties that told me, “I’ve never seen anything like you.” They were proud of me. 

I work hard, man – even when I don’t have to. I work people to death. That’s how I got where I am. I worked until people dropped. I’m not that funny or that talented. At a comedy club, that’s probably a bad thing to say, “I’m not that funny.” But on the radio, you know, there’s people better than I am, and I beat them all. It’s ‘cause I don’t sleep. I was gonna say, “I don’t sleep.” And (to his wife) how long has it been since I’ve eaten? 

Amy Bonaduce: About a week. 

Bonaduce: Yeah, sometimes I just decide, “What are you made of? Don’t eat for a week.”

TW: For about the past year and a half you have been in Seattle. How did you end up there?

Bonaduce: CBS (Radio) asked me. Nothing fascinating. What’s fascinating to me, anyway, is how much I like it. I have full-blown back piece of the skyline – a tattoo on my back – of Seattle.

TW: When did you get that?

Bonaduce: The last sitting was yesterday – no, day before yesterday.

TW: You have done radio for a while. What stands out about this market and the fans versus Philly or other places you have worked?  

Bonaduce: I was born in Philly. They always say you meet the same people on the way up as you meet on the way down. I really can’t tell you and feel safe about my friends in Philadelphia if I tell you the difference between Seattle and Philadelphia.

Let’s just say … people in Seattle are really, really smart. They make a lot of money. They read a lot of books. They know how to do really interesting things on computers. ... They don’t have a lot of man caves and over 35-year-olds [tries to think of a video game console.] If I say Atari, she’s gonna laugh at me again, ‘cause that’s old. I asked to borrow her Walkman. What was it?

Amy: He calls the computer a typewriter. 

Bonaduce: I’m a thousand years old. Blow me! (To interviewer.) Not you. Although, you are adorable. 

TW: No, thank you. 

Bonaduce: But what was the thing when we were livin’ together? 

Amy: You meant iPod, and you said Walkman. 

Bonaduce: I asked to borrow her Walkman, and she laughed at me like I was a thousand years old. That’s still a viable thing. People have them. They do! Somebody somewhere in an antique store has a Walkman. Leave me be. 

TW: What is next? Do you have new projects coming up that you want to tell your fans about?

Bonaduce: I can't tell you what it is, 'cause every “I” isn't dotted, every “T” isn't crossed. But I've sold a 10-episode series that shoots in Tacoma.

TW: Really? What’s it called?

Bonaduce: I can’t, ‘cause until the cameras are rolling and the checks are clearing it could fall apart. It’s show business, man. But they love it. Just tell ‘em I sold a 10-episode show that shoots in Tacoma. I can’t (say more.) It’s not a reality show. But it’s all real. It’s not scripted. (But) that stuff can fall apart on ya. 

Danny Bonaduce Presents

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