Okay, I just finished this memoir a couple hours ago & I was honestly smacking my lips like I’d just finished a tasty meal. Shirley Jones autobiography hit the bookstores in 2013, but as much as I loved my second-favorite tv mom I couldn’t bring myself to pay $15.99 for another celebrity autobiography—even if she did play a very happy part in my childhood as Shirley Partridge on ‘The Partridge Family’. Nope, wasn’t gonna happen.
And then the reviews came in, and fans cried foul over Shirley’s raunchy sexcapades. Wait, what? Now I’ve got to---no! I’m still not forkin’ over all that dough!
Cut to the present, and the day after the Presidential election I went on barnesandnoble.com looking for something to take my mind off things and Shirley’s book popped up with a reduced price of $7.99. And for a 55 year old “70s kid” like myself, who lived for Friday night television and the Brady Bunch & Partridge Family, Shirley Jones: A Memoir does not disappoint.
She starts out innocently enough, a small town girl from Charleroi, PA (about 30-40 miles from me) who dreamed of being a veterinarian. But she liked to sing too, and was told by her church’s choir director she had a good voice so her beloved dad drove her to Pittsburgh weekly for singing lessons.
Her singing teacher convinced Shirley to enter a local pageant to win a 2 year scholarship to the Pittsburgh Playhouse; she did, and won the title of ‘Miss Pittsburgh’ in 1952
The next thing ya know, while in New York one weekend visiting the former Pittsburgh Playhouse director, he invites her to sing on the empty stage of the theater he’s with, and who overhears her song? The casting director for Rodgers & Hammerstein, who informs her that Richard Rodgers is right next door, would she sing for him? She does, he likes what he hears & sees, and casts her in his new show “Oklahoma!“ A star is born.
Shirley in Oklahoma! "Being a Broadway star would be nice, but I wanted to be a vet.”
Her rise to fame in Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals isn’t anything new that you can’t read on Wikipedia for free, but I knew things were going to get interesting when she writes of meeting the sauve & debonair Jack Cassidy, and was warned by her agent Selma he was a skirt chaser—and married:
She meant so well, Selma did. She just didnt know that I was—and always would be—the kind of girl who would always do exactly the opposite of what she was asked, a headstrong girl who flew in the face of advice and went against convention, with her eyes fixed on the next adventure!
Uh-huh. Anyway, Shirley tells us that even though she’s always known she was very sexual, it wasn’t until her early twenties when she met Jack that she lost her virginity (and then some). On their honeymoon, when Shirley teases him about all the women he’s been with, he nonchalantly adds that he’s been with men too—including famed composer Cole Porter. (Hey, a struggling actor’s gotta do whatever it takes—especially if you’re a sex-addict like Jack Cassidy.)
Married from 1956 to 1974, Shirley says Jack was an absentee father to their three sons Shaun, Patrick & Ryan. He cheated on her constantly, once left her for Yvonne Craig (Batgirl), got her to participate in a threesome (she details who did what to whom) & made her life a living hell. She adds that “Jack will always be the greatest love of my life”
Shirley’s film career waned in the 1960s, but she claims it didn’t bother her at all as she loved being a stay-at-home mom to her 3 boys (and stepson David Cassidy). She also tells us that David was very well-endowed, so much that his brothers called him “Donk” and Jack once commented “where did you get that thing?”
(You can’t help but wonder how this became known, let alone a topic for discussion; c’mon!) Shirley sheepishly admits that things might’ve been a little too open when her son Patrick came downstairs while she was fixing pancakes one morning and excitedly told her he just had his first orgasm. All she could think to say was “That’s nice, dear.”
We then get into the 1970s, when Shirley lets Hollywood know she’d like a television series. (It was virtually unheard of then, a Broadway performer & movie star wanting to do tv.) She happily accepted the role of mom on ‘The Partridge Family’. She adds that a year prior, she’d been offered the role of Carol Brady on ‘The Brady Bunch’, but turned it down as she didn’t want to play another bored, smiling housewife. (How did I not know this?) But the idea of being television’s “first single working mother” on a show about a musical family excited her. Originally, I thought I was the one who would be singing the songs, but when David’s star took off, I didn’t mind at all.
Shirley shares a lot of Partridge lore that we’ve heard over the years. (Susan Dey’s crush on David, his many female conquests, etc.) She adds that when the ‘first Chris’ (bottom left) was let go after the first season for behavioral issues and replaced with Brian Forster for the remainder of the series, “we didn’t receive a single letter of inquiry or complaint”
She also writes of favorite guest stars (a very professional 11 year old Jodie Foster, Louis Gossett Jr, Rob Reiner as ‘Snake’) and guest stars she didn’t like--a drugged up Richard Pryor, Dick Clark of American Bandstand & Ray Bolger (the scarecrow from ‘Wizard of Oz’) who played her dad—and was a real diva.
What really surprised me though was her favorite episode, ‘Whale Song’—because she finally got her own solo. (Sorry Shirley, but this has to be the least favorite song of the series! You can watch it here.)
Shirley writes that Dave Madden (who played their agent Reuben Kincaid) was closest to Danny Bonaduce, but teased him constantly. Dave once asked Danny if he knew why the two of them were even on the show. “For laughs” Danny answered. Dave said “No, it’s because we’re so ugly. Look at Susan Dey, David Cassidy, Shirley Jones. They’re the beautiful people. They need us uglies to balance things out.”
After the end of ‘The Partridge Family’ (and Shirley’s marriage to Jack Cassidy) in 1974, she met & married Marty Ingels in 1977—much to all her son’s dismay. Hmm, they don’t look so distraught to me…
Shirley ends her book by telling us that she & Marty are still very happily married; sadly, this book was published in 2013 and Marty Ingels died in 2015.
There’s a lot I’m leaving out of course, but here’s two things that kind of surprised me. For one, towards the end of the book Shirley explains the importance of “self love” and not only when she does this (daily) but how she does it as well! Just when you thought you’ve seen and read it all...
And finally, an amusing story Shirley shares from 1979, when she was given another television series ‘Shirley’. She wasn’t expecting success on the scale of ‘The Partridge Family’, but was excited about being on weekly television again. Famed producer Fred Silverman owned the show, and as filming began he excitedly told her on a daily basis how great she was and how thrilled the network was with what they were seeing—so she was surprised when she drove to the studio one morning and the guard at the gate told her to go home, her show had been canceled. No calls, no nothing—I found out I was fired from a studio guard.
Soon after, Marty & I were having dinner at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel when all of a sudden I noticed Fred Silverman having dinner in one of the booths with three women. I turned to Marty and said “That asshole! I’m going to go over there and tell him exactly what I think!” Marty turned chalk-white and said “Please Shirley, please don’t do that.” But that’s exactly what I did! And for once in all my years of marriage, I finally got to be the crazy person!
It was her only swear-word in the entire book. Love you, Shirley!