Gretchen Bonaduce and her band “The Fatal 80s”
Meet Gretchen Bonaduce – the new queen of ‘80s retro rock
In this Metal Sludge exclusive, the former wife of Danny Bonaduce and ex-TV reality star stakes claim to being the real driving force behind the TV smash “Ex-Wives of Rock”
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
HOLLYWOOD – Gretchen Bonaduce is carrying the torch for ‘80s rock these days, a dirty job but someone has to do it, right? She fronts Fatal ‘80s, an exceedingly popular cover band that plays a lot of big shows including a gig coming up New Years Eve at Agua Caliente casino in Palm Springs.
Bonaduce rose to prominence in 2005 as co-star of the groundbreaking TV reality series “Breaking Bonaduce” in which she went from being an enabler for crazed former child TV star Danny Bonaduce to divorcing him, all within the confines of 19 episodes over two memorable seasons.
She has done cursory interviews here and there, but in this probing Metal Sludge exclusive Bonaduce digs deep, and what follows is a story that’s a lot more substantial than we first thought it would be – including breaking news that Bonaduce was an original creative force behind the new TV smash “Ex-Wives of Rock.”
Had Bonaduc e not been snubbed because the Partridge Family was not “rock” enough for “Ex-Wives,” she might have been one of the co-stars to this very day. Fate can ber cruel sometimes, and Bonaduce admits her frustration, but she has more than landed on her feet.
Danny Bonaduce & Gretchen Bonaduce
SLUDGE: Gretchen Bonaduce, you’re keeping ‘80s rock alive.
BONADUCE: We’ve been getting some amazing gigs, primarily casinos and festivals. It’s going well. Playing bars doesn’t pay too well, so we’re concentrating on big gigs. Coming up, we’re playing Agua Caliente near Palm Springs on New Years’s Eve. That’s a pretty big casino. So I just feel so lucky to be able to do this, and I’ve got some incredible players with me.
SLUDGE: Well, I know you’re got Kevin Starr on drums. He’s a good friend. I remember him from the Zeros and Stars From Mars.
BONADUCE: I’ve also got Matt Fuller on guitar. He used to play with the Bow Wow Wows, or I guess it’s Bow Wow Wow but I always call ‘em the Bow Wow Wows. I also have Mury Douglas and Laura Saggers on guitar, and Julie Dolan on keys.
SLUDGE: That TV reality show “Breaking Bonaduce” gave you a lot of publicity, a big push.
BONADUCE: I thought so, and when I started the band, I oversold it that way. I didn’t know any better. There were no rock chicks in the scene, and I started this band and did a CD and figured everyone would want me to play, but I could have not have been more wrong. It was hard. We’ve been together five years with different lineups, and I changed the name to Fatal ‘80s, and I think that seems to have helped a lot, but sometimes it’s called Gretchen Bonaduce, it just depends, but I don’t care that much, I’m kind of used to it. I thought I could pull in a crowd with my name but my band is just so great that it stands on its own.
SLUDGE: What are some of the songs that get the best reaction?
BONADUCE: “Kids in America.” We open with that every show, and it’s just in high energy. Journey songs are really popular. I love doing “Sweet Dreams,” a lot of “Metro” songs from Berlin with heavy keys because that’s what the people want to hear.
SLUDGE: Do you do Missing Persons?
BONADUCE: Sometimes. We do the Go-Gos’ “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “We Got The Beat.” We just try to cover all the great songs, and they’re just so fun to play. People always come up and I say: “Oh, I loved that song or this song. Oh my god, I totally forgot how many great songs there were in the ‘80s.” We try to pick the best ones.
SLUDGE: You’re making an appearance in “Ex-Wives of Rock.” Metal Sludge is all over that show.
BONADUCE: Unfortunately, I was supposed to be one of the cast members.
BONADUCE: Yeah. What happened was, they were having no luck getting the idea off the ground, getting it sold, so I reached out to my contacts in Canada because no one was buying it in America, and I helped them put the show on. I knew it was a tough sell for me to be part of it because I wasn’t really married to a rock star but a member of the Partridge Family. It would have been awesome to be on it, but they really wanted ex-wives who were actually married to credible rock bands, so I kind of got left out, but they did let me be a recurring guest. I was pissed off but I said OK because I didn’t want to bite off my nose to spite my face on that one. I ended up making amends with them, so it all worked out, and I got paid for being on two episodes rather than the whole show, and it’s a great platform for me to get a lot of exposure. In the end, it’s great to be on the show at all. It was fun.
SLUDGE: Interesting. Tell me more.
BONADUCE: What actually happened was, how the whole idea started was, I did a show idea for E Hollywood on ex-wives but we didn’t have a full cast. It had me and Darcy La Pier, who was Jean Claude Van Damme’s ex wife, along with one of David Carridine’s ex-wives, and Sharise Neil – she was on it as well. The TV people, they didn’t want that lineup but said they were interested in that kind of show. Bobbie Brown at the time was trying to do the same thing with “Ex-Wives,” so we knew there was already some interest, so it ended up that I was a little disappointed. I’ve been on three TV shows, so I know how to get shows on. I’ve got a show with Warner Brothers about my band that I’m trying to pitch right now. I hope to at some point get it on. But anyway, that’s what happened.
SLUDGE: I really loved the show “Breaking Bonaduce.” Was that one staged like all the other reality shows? Because all them seem so staged, you know what I mean?
BONADUCE: I thought that “Breaking Bonaduce” was the most real of the reality shows. It was groundbreaking because no one had ever seen anyone do that and really expose themselves, even to the bad things. I love that show because I’m so proud of that show, plus it helped a lot of people. I got a lot of mail. The original idea of that show was from another idea, a rock and roll dinner party where you’d have a house party and rock stars would come and make their signature dish. The TV people said they didn’t like that idea but they liked me. It was right after “The Osbournes” had really broke big, so there were a lot of ideas out there.
SLUDGE: Who was in the dinner party show?
BONADUCE: It was me and Teri Nunn from Berlin and I think Janice Dickinson and someone off Survivor., and Sam Rubin I think. It wasn’t quite an all-rock show, and in the beginning of these shows, it doesn’t pay any money, so we had a hard time getting good people on spec because no one wants to work without a paycheck. With “Breaking Bonaduce,” what happened was, once we started shooting, Danny went off the rails, and the producers, they had no idea what he was doing, so they just followed whatever happened and what happened was, they kind of captured the implosion of a marriage, so in a sense it was lucky timing and unexpected. There was no plan with that show with what we were doing.
SLUDGE: It was a great show.
BONADUCE: I get mail from so many women about how it took guts to leave. There are so many women in bad marriages who were inspired and so they went on and tried to get help because of that show. It was a good thing, but the show itself is real hard to watch. We wanted it to be real, and it was all true.
Beauty and the Beast, Gretchen with Porn Legend Ron Jeremy
SLUDGE: When are you on “Ex-Wives”?
BONADUCE: No one has seen the episode yet. It’s coming up. It’s about former child ex-stars with me and Susan Olsen from the Brady Bunch and Erin Murphy, who was Tabitha on “Bewitched,” and Corey Feldman. It’s a really funny episode but it hasn’t aired so I guess I shouldn’t reveal too much about it.
SLUDGE: How is Danny Bonaduce doing now? Do you still talk to him?
BONADUCE: We don’t really speak, but he is doing radio in Seattle, and he is doing well. Honestly, once we got divorced, I thought he would fall apart, and I’m happy I was wrong about that. He’s going strong.
SLUDGE: I loved him on L.A. morning radio especially when it was him and Adam Corolla. They made a great team.
BONADUCE: Yeah, but Danny had a hard time doing that because Adam Corolla is a total lead guy, the lead person on the show, so Danny was back to being a side kick, and that was impossible for him. It’s like having two Eddie Van Halens in the same band. Sometimes I would be listening over the air and it would feel like Adam wanted to strangle him. It was just too hard because Danny wanted to be the lead.
SLUDGE: And now you’re together with Kevin Starr from the Zeros and Stars From Mars. You look at Kevin, and you look at Danny, and they’re like total opposites, Gretchen. I’m sure I’m not the first one to point this out.
BONADUCE: I know. I don’t think I have a type. I just love intelligence and a sense of humor, and with Kevin, it doesn’t hurt that he’s 6-foot-5 and super sexy. By the way, he’s also in a band called Lords of Altamont, which is a fantastic band even though there have been a lot of member changes. Anyway, I didn’t think I would be in another relationship after Danny because after people saw the show, no one would want to do that. They’d be worried.
SLUDGE: I do notice that Danny can be very aggressive. He loves to fight. Why does he like to fight so much?
BONADUCE: You know what? I think it’s a Napoleon complex. Whenever he gets challenged, he thinks he doesn’t have any choice.
SLUDGE: But he goes out and PICKS fights, Gretchen. Fuck, he got in the ring with Jose Canseco, who is twice his size.
BONADUCE: A lot times he gets dragged into it because he was Danny Partridge so people engage him, but yeah, you’re right. It’s a mixture.
SLUDGE: I have to admit, he is a tough little guy.
BONADUCE: He is. He’s Italian, so you know what? You can beat him and beat him and beat his face to a pulp, and he will never let you win. But he has really calmed down these days, and he’s married again. We don’t really talk too often but I know he’s doing really well, and that’s good.
SLUDGE: You have two kids together, and both have unusual names – Countess Isabella and Count Dante.
BONADUCE: The names were entirely my idea. I thought it could help them when traveling through Europe, a count and a countess. My daughter is now 18, and my son is 13. My daughter is really beautiful, and she does a lot of modeling. She has her own place and everything. She did a lot of commercials when she was younger, and I invested her money for her, so when she was 18, she had a nice little cushion. My son, he looks exactly like Danny, so much so that people who meet him say, “Oh, you’ve got a little Danny Partridge on your hands,” and I tell ‘em, “Yeah, that’s his dad.” We live in Los Feliz.
SLUDGE: You appeared with Lita Ford and Cherie Currie and an awards show recently in Malibu. How was it?
BONADUCE: It was great. Cherie got a lifetime legend award, and Lita gave it to her. They ended up playing “Cherry Bomb” together, so they were onstage playing together for the first time in god knows how long. Our band, we opened the show and kind of set the mood.
SLUDDGE: One last thing: You used to work with drummer Traci Michealz before he died. I really liked him. Your thoughts?
BONADUCE: Talk about a beautiful disaster! He was one of the best drummers in Los Angeles, hands down. He made me raise my game every time I played with him because he was always upstaging me behind my back! I let him slide with a lot of unprofessional behavior because he was so good — showing up late, missing rehearsal stuff like that. I would kind of put up with it to be working with a genius. I didn’t know he was so ill though..
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at [email protected]