The reality of child fame
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Danny Bonaduce can call himself an expert on child stardom, if anyone can, and it's easy to imagine that his new reality show, I Know My Kid's A Star, might just as easily have been called Welcome To My Nightmare. The premise is simple â€” Bonaduce invites a bunch of kids and their stage parents to live together in a mansion and compete with each other to prove to him that they have what it takes to survive child stardom in Hollywood today.
The stakes are a lot higher now than they were in the early '70s when Bonaduce had his first taste of fame for four seasons on primetime as Danny on the Partridge Family. His infamous flame-out in the years following is the stuff of legend, and he used it to give himself a second chance. Today, however, the money and fame is at a level unimaginable back then, and the flame-outs a lot messier.
"First of all," Bonaduce recalls, "I made literally $400 a week and that was for 26 weeks a year, and they would rerun them and we wouldn't get residuals. I don't know what that came out to â€” $70 grand for the whole four seasons of the Partridge Family? Whatever it was I never had any money, and I couldn't survive without my parents. Imagine you've got a 15-year-old Lindsay Lohan, and she's just brought home $22 million dollars last year, and you're a middle-aged woman with almost no education, and you look at your daughter who's just done something bad and you say 'Go to your room.' That daughter would laugh in your face, I believe. I think that's the thing â€” the worst possible motivation for putting your child into showbiz is because you need the money."
Only one episode of Bonaduce's new show has aired here, and already it has a star: Rocky, a gravel-voiced mom with a stripper's fashion sense and a child who isn't nearly as ferociously motivated as she seems to be. "I will tell you this," Bonaduce says. "When Rocky walked through the door I went, 'There you go â€” it's on.' I clapped my hands when I saw Rocky. She's wild. And I kept checking to see if I could find an Adam's apple. Because that's either the craziest woman or the prettiest tranny I've ever seen."
Bonaduce says that he's fought hard to recover some of the fame he had as Danny Partridge, and he doesn't have much patience for movie stars who profess that they want their privacy: "You get to pick â€” do you want my 11 dollars or do you want privacy? You don't get both. You don't get my money and my access to you." He says he feels sorry for child stars, like his friend Billy Ray Cyrus' daughter Miley, currently the biggest child star in Hollywood.
"I watched Miley Cyrus try to walk through a crowd and I thought the poor kid was going to get crushed," he tells me. "I think there should maybe be a moratorium. Even Miley Cyrus has sold me her privacy, and even if she didn't her daddy did. But the fact is that I saw her walk through a crowd and it wasn't fans, it was paparazzi, grown people, yelling and screaming at her and stepping on her feet, and I thought maybe there should be some kind of law that protects them until they're 18."
"And then a judge says, 'OK kid â€” do you still want to be a movie star? Because we're removing all the protection and all the privacy and all the fences. And you're not allowed to own sunglasses.'"