Breaking Bonaduce 11/5 - Fear & Loathing at Harvard University
How many Bonaduces does it take to open a bathroom door? Only one, but he has to do it with a head-butt. And this is just what Danny does, in the show’s opening scene. Not surprisingly, Gretchen is still in Dr. Garry’s office bemoaning Danny’s behavior. Dr. Garry is still praising Gretchen and deriding Danny. In other words, same scene in every episode. Nothing new here. Maybe if Dr. Garry would break out into song, or something.
Anyway, Gretch mentions that Danny’s going to Harvard to get an award. In fact the head-butting scene we just saw, was Danny teaching Harvard students how to bust through a door with your head. (Well, the Lampoon award does include an honorary professorship.) Talking over the situation with Dr. G, Gretchen doesn’t think it’s a good idea for her to accompany Danny to Boston. She points out that while she’ll put on “a united front” for the cameras, “at home things are not good at all”. Dr. G says she should trust her instincts, she’s lived with Danny a long time. (Fifteen years; which by Hollywood standards is about a thousand.)
Car scene! Danny & Gretchen drive in separate cars to meet for lunch at ‘Vermont restaurant’, a small bistro-type place. Driving Danny says the day he receives his Harvard Lampoon Man of the Year award will be “the most important day of my life” & laments Gretchen won’t attend. “I don’t know if we can recover from that,” he said. (The most important day? How about when your kids were born, Danny?) Inside ‘Vermont’, red flowers and a white tablecloth adorn the table as Danny, bleary eyed (lack of sleep/no lack of alcohol?) asks if Dante has noticed he’s gone. Danny’s emotional pain is palpable. He seems immersed in it. Gretchen seems cool and calm as she says “Mm-hm” & adds that Dante is “caught up in Isabella’s hysteria of ‘let you come home’”. (Should children wanting a parent home be labeled ‘hysterical’?) “All I want out of life is to come home,” says Danny. After an uncomfortable silence, Danny says “I love you. Hence the suit”. Gretchen sadly says she loves him, too. Danny seems fairly reasonable, if a lot sad, at this luncheon. This is the type of quiet interaction we usually see between them, which makes it hard to fathom why she seems so shut-down around him, so numb. We’ll gather a clue on that, later this episode.
Arson Is Just Another Way To Say “I Love You”
Danny asks if Gretchen is going to Harvard with him. “I’m thinking about it,” she says. Danny says he’s angry, so he is “thinking about setting you on fire, but I’m not gonna do it”. Well, Danny, that ought to convince her. Now, hearing that would be the type of thing that would give me pause. Gretchen does have the right to make her own choices about her own life, including being single or married. But this sparks violent imaginings from Danny? Amazingly, Gretchen giggles. Danny smiles too. This might be a good moment to point out that these two both list their favorite film as Sid and Nancy. Sid and Nancy is a biopic of a punk rocker (The Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious) and his girlfriend (rock groupie Nancy Spungeon). The two had a pact to never be dull, but to “go out in a blaze of glory”. They each became hooked on heroin, were obsessed with each other, and Nancy’s life ended in an unsolved murder. Sid was suspected, though some pin it on a bad drug deal. And this is both Danny & Gretchen’s favorite film? Drugs and violence as romantic courtship rituals. Should we be disturbed that middle-aged parents admire this? To use one of Danny’s favorite words, “Niiiice”.
Car scene! Danny tells the passenger-seat camera that Gretchen is nearly flat-out saying the marriage is over. He is matter of fact about this. He says she gives out “little sparks of hope on the phone,” but after a week (it’s only been a week??) of begging, pleading and crying to come home, he only just now, after their lunch, feels there is a small chance he might come home. Or at least I think that’s what he meant. His lack of sleep or lack of lack of alcohol is beginning to tell, and his monologue was very convoluted. He then says that in movies, people rekindle their marriage by going to Hawaii, so, they should do the same in Boston. How is that logical? His words are a bit slurred, as well. It’s possible Danny is carb-crashing from the huge bowl of pasta he was served, but, what are the odds.
Back at Bonaduce Mansion, Gretchen stuffs some wintry wear into a suitcase. Guess she has changed her mind again? In Danny’s new crackerbox apartment, he drops then stomps on some clothing inside his own small suitcase. They take their separate cars (Danny in that red convertible, Gretchen in her white SUV van) to LAX (airport). We see establishing shots of an airplane, Boston, and Harvard. I’m guessing this means the trip took place. In the Boston limo, Danny in a leather jacket and Gretchen in a jaunty newsboy cap and coat, are holding hands. Danny admits that he’s a “nervous wreck”. He must be, because instead of quips he’s going for cliches. Danny says the award is for one person, “so I don’t know if it’s for the team of Danny and Gretchen”. Gretchen good-naturedly says she doesn’t think it had to do with the show (Breaking Bonaduce) but is “more of a lifetime achievement award”. I thought it was a satirical award for the person most recently ridiculous in the media, but that’s just me. Danny tells Gretchen “Honey, no. It’s (for) shooting steroids in your ass”.
Harvard Lampoon’s ‘Not For Family’ Vacation
At the pre-award question and answer session, Adam Maeder (Harvard Lampoon President) introduces Danny, who says he’s honored to be there. “I thought if I ever got to Harvard, it would be because somebody asked me to clean something,” Danny quips, which has the in-theater audience pointing and laughing. Right now, Danny reminds me of the “Ralph Garcy” character from the movie Fame, who said “I don’t care if they laugh with me or at me. I just want them laughing”. Somehow, Danny’s always able to entertain. Danny offers to answer anything, and a man who watched Danny use his head as a battering ram earlier asks Danny what his butt looks like. *?* (Maybe the guy’s writing a thesis paper?) Danny first makes sure he heard right, then (always aiming to please) stands up and drops trou. Gretchen and the audience giggle nervously.
A woman asks “At what point did you realise you had a drug and alcohol problem?”. “When I didn’t have any drugs,” Danny quips. He seems in perfect control of the situation (well, he has been in showbiz most of his life) but a closer look reveals his hands clenched tight together. As he speaks, scenes of debauchery and rage play out on the huge screen behind him. A blond man asks, “How is your marriage?”. Danny broods silently, then finally asks Gretchen the same question. “We’re working on it” is all she’ll say. Danny, ever the blabber against himself, says he doesn’t live at home any more, Gretchen lives in their mansion. Danny, being serious for a moment, says “There is nothing like chick pain. There is nothing like a broken heart. My wife and I do not have sex. It is very, very, very difficult for me, the sexual relationship I have.” But, he says, he also loves his wife and wants her to stay, and making that sacrifice is the hardest thing he has to do. He tells the Harvard audience (and us, too) that he will do anything to stay with his wife. The speech is poignant enough to make this guy choke up -
but I have to wonder. Did Danny mean it?
I recently watched a bio-documentary about Danny. The following quote from his mother just came to mind - what a young Danny told her when she asked him if he was sober: “Mom, I’m an actor and a junkie. Why would you believe anything I say?”.
Early the next morning. Gretchen has an appointment at Aveda Day Spa. She certainly seems chipper. Danny is dining at John Thomas Brew House with the Harvard Lampoon staff. He’s got food in his mustache. “Why did you pick me, exactly?” he asks the somber crowd. The Lampoon (satirical magazine) staff all stare holes through their shoes, silently. Wha’ - does his question make them feel guilty? They’re on staff at one of the finest satirical publications in America. They’re comedy writers. But they look as if they’re about to send a man to the Chair. Danny innocently waits for their answer. Lampoon Prez Maeder finally replies that they’re all fans of the show, and in the end there’s a moral message about “you can overcome...”. Another Lampoonist interrupts: it’s because Danny beat other celebrities in boxing. “You are a tough guy and you have a beautiful wife,” he says. This is the same guy that asked about Danny’s butt, so I’m not sure how far his sincerity meter goes. Maybe he’s making it up as he goes along. The mention of Gretchen launches Danny into his millionth Lonely Guy speech this season. (“My wife doesn’t love me, she kicked me out, I love her so much” etc.) It is a speech many bartenders hear from many divorced men, but Danny’s telling anyone who’ll listen. The Lampoon staff listen politely, and after all, Danny’s Dissolution are what they are celebrating.
Meanwhile, at the Day Spa
In a white robe getting a mani/pedi, Gretchen tells someone off camera that she asked for a separate hotel room (as a condition of the trip). “If we were fighting I’d have somewhere to go,” she explains. “I’m trying to keep him even, and get him where he needs to be,” she enthuses. This is her version of ‘captive audience’ - I’m sure all manicurists, just like bartenders, have heard troubled marriage tales before, too. I have to be honest, Gretchen’s not very likable in this episode. It seems clear she’s happiest when Danny’s winning. Also clear she loves the perks of being a celebrity wife. There’s nothing wrong in either of those thoughts, per se. But there is, if it’s the only reason you’re around someone.
Award Time: Danny is in apparently the one suit he owns, (he’s worn it in almost every scene this episode), and Gretchen is in her fashionably torn jeans. They’re riding in the limo and Danny thanks Gretchen for her kindness in joining him on this trip. It seems there are perks in it for her too, but okay. Danny tells her the award would not have meant anything to him, without her there. They exit the limo, and Danny shakes hands with the very small crowd assembled on the street to watch the proceedings. He then approaches a squad car and asks a policeman if it would be Ok if he accepted his award in the nude. The policeman laughs, but says he could possibly get arrested. (Do I really need to tell you what happens?) This exchange is interesting, as it shows that for all his seeming wildness, Danny does have a large degree of control over his antics. In other words, he’s an actor. I’d say maybe he doesn’t realise when the cameras are off, but, the cameras never are, for him.
Still clothed, Danny climbs the stairs outside Ma Lampy’s Castle (the Harvard Lampoon offices), where the Lampoon group, in winter coats, hand him the Hasty Pudding pot (which they traditionally hand out). Inexplicably, they shove a fast food hamburger into it. Danny reacts by stuffing the entire burger into his mouth at once. Everyone watching, including Gretchen, laugh ‘til their eyes water. “Man, that’s flat!” Danny garbles out, his face beet red. (I’m not sure what a burger has to do with Danny Bonaduce - he was never a food addict. Maybe the secret sauce was Absolut?) Well, the Lampoon’s corporate sponsor is Flat Patty Hamburgers, but it still makes little sense. ‘Go the Distance’ Danny chokes down the burger remnants, and Butt Boy from the Q & A hands Danny his Man of the Year award.
Danny asks to be excused for two minutes. The baffled onlookers wait, and this is what returns:
A nude Danny, covered in the crucial area by his Pudding Pot. The policeman laughs and drives away. I’m not so sure that’s a compliment. “Man, that’s flat” Danny says again. And that’s what we see. According to one news story I read, Danny’s acceptance speech also included a friendly demonstration on how to head-butt a man and break his nose...Danny must like teaching that. Maybe Harvard will begin offering Bonaduce Barfighting 101. Anyway, Nude Danny bows, the pudding pot never slipping, then exits into the warmth of Ma Lampy’s. An onlooker tells Gretchen she should be very proud and a practically ecstatic Gretchen says she is.
The brief award presentation is over. An elated Danny poses in front of the party bus the Lampoon has rented to celebrate. A huge banner drapes the side of it announcing his award. He cackles and stretches out his arms. Danny and Gretchen enter the party bus, which is tricked out inside like a disco/strip joint, complete with flickering lights and a stripper pole. “Who’s getting laid on this bus?” Danny announces, and Gretchen sing-songs, “Not youuu!”. Party in full swing, Danny sits and cradles his award in both arms. He kisses Gretchen romantically. A conga line snakes around the ‘dance floor’, and Danny joins it, then dances around the stripper pole. Well - at least the stripper pole’s not rejecting him. When the party is over and the bus is quiet, Danny combines thanking the Lampoon for the award (“Gretchen will be proud of me”), with just a touch of Lonely Guy monologue. It’s clear, though, that he really was touched by this experience.
Still celebrating later, apparently, Danny ends up at the Bell in Hand bar, where he strums guitar along with a local band. He doesn’t do too badly. Who knew Danny could play guitar? He kisses Gretchen from the stage, and for a moment, she can live her Nancy Spungeon daydream. Danny whispers to Gretchen that he loves her “so much”. But the kiss she gives him is just a peck. In the limo Danny asks if Gretchen will “be with him” tonight. Gretchen hems and haws, and it’s obvious she draws the line at any more than platonic contact. Danny still gazes at her, doe-eyed. Gretchen reminds him that he promised he would not ask this of her. Danny counters that he thought they agreed that “if things went well, we would be romantic”. He’s forgetting what she told him on the bus, apparently. It’s clear the answer is “No”, and Danny looks crushed.
How Not To Woo A Woman
3 A.M., and Danny is raging at Gretchen, in his hotel room. He is ranting and raving and not making much sense, but the upshot is that he wants to go to bed with her, whether they are back together for good or not. We are hearing all this through the open hotel room door; but eavesdropping isn’t good enough for the Breaking Bonaduce director, who walks into the hotel room, right into the bedroom. That shocked me...what if they hadn’t been dressed? What if...? It just seems like such an intrusion, regardless of any contract. I mean, the Bonaduces did not open the door to the film crew. Not surprisingly, Danny charges at the man like a bull, telling him to “Back the F*** up”. We see Gretchen in a far corner, huddled in a chair in her white robe. Danny does not appreciate the man’s insisting “I’m the director, and I’m going to be here for this”. Um...didn’t this crew watch Breaking Bonaduce, Season One?
While Gretchen faintly protests “Danny...Danny” in the background, Danny rips off his shirt and begins threatening the film crew. I might add here that in the bio documentary I mentioned earlier (there is so little explanation on this show - I’m trying to fit in the puzzle pieces) Danny explained this type of thing. He said that last season, when he was screaming (“Back up, what part of no don’t you understand”, etc.) at the film crew, he was drunk and did not remember that he was doing a show! He had no idea, in that moment, why men with cameras were in his home. We don’t know if that is the situation this time, but it’s something to consider. 45 minutes later, apparently things have been settled regarding the crew, as all the lights are on and the camera is right next to the Dysfunctional Duo. Did the time it took to do that, give Danny a chance to calm down? No. Danny is still on the same rant at Gretchen. It’s as if he picked up where he left off; wheedling and verbally bludgeoning her. At this point, my sympathy is with her, because who hasn’t been at the bad end of this type of exchange from an obsessive person, when a relationship breaks up? Only I think it’s a lot more rare when both parties are in their forties. Anyway, Danny continually harangues Gretchen, who seems very stressed, but is keeping quiet. One gets the sense she goes through this a lot at home. The glib quip artist from the Q & A is gone, and now, Danny just sounds like a drunk.
But Gretchen is part of this dynamic, too. While Danny harasses her to go to bed with him, and on and on about what he needs from her - I wonder why she doesn’t go to that spare hotel room she told the spa staff she has for just this purpose. Instead, she tries to talk him out of his rage, which instead, seems to fuel it. Danny’s quieter by then, but still seething. All of his ‘hurt feelings’ have been channeled into anger. Gretchen seems afraid and confused. I wonder whether Danny actually believes haranguing someone will lead to ‘romance’ as he puts it obliquely. Does he think crazy monologues will help ‘rekindle their marriage’ as he kept saying prior was his aim? Does he take her silence for culpability? Danny’s having some kind of tsunami, and Gretchen is just trying to surf the wave. From the look on her face, it must never get any easier.
Limo monologue! Danny says he doesn’t know what’s going on, but he “thinks she’s through with it”. He said that by midnight last night, Gretchen told him she wants a divorce. (So then, why was he still harassing her verbally, nearly four hours later?) Danny has a radio appearance next, and Gretchen listens from her hotel room while the DJ tells Danny “you’re a train wreck”. The DJ asks him if he and Gretchen are still together. Danny responds that he has no idea why, but he was suddenly kicked out of their house. We don’t know why either, but because the show’s editing is so choppy, there’s no way to tell whether Danny really was kicked out without cause, or whether that’s just his selfish point of view. After hearing his diatribe against Gretchen for rejecting him, I’m thinking there was probably some cause. In standard Danny the Performer style, Danny cracks jokes about his marital situation “My view from my apartment is all the other men who were kicked out by their wives”. Back in the hotel room, Gretchen is not laughing. Danny recounts last night’s argument on live radio. “I’m so over this,” Gretchen tells the camera in her room. “I really want to file papers. I just don’t want to live this way.”
But the merry go round continues - next week, Danny complains (in his car) about Boston, Gretchen complains to a friend about Danny, and Danny gets the results to the drug test from last week’s show. And Gretchen (looking prettier and healthier, the longer Danny is away) once again tells Dr. Garry she wants to divorce Danny. Surprise! Or not.