The year was 1976. Shirley Jones was in Kansas City, making one of her then-frequent trips to the local "Starlight Theater" - - a beautiful outdoor musical theater venue in Kansas City's famed Swope Park. Shirley was appearing as Maria VonTrapp in "The Sound Of Music". It was the summer between my 5th and 6th grade years in elementary school. Even though "The Partridge Family" had ended it's run a few years earlier, the show was alive and well in Kansas City in syndication. It came on after school right before "My Three Sons", and everyone in school was still watching. Yes...it was still "cool" to be a Partridge fan! Anyway, I digress...
My mother heard that Shirley and actor Gale Gordon were going to appear at a local department store (the now defunct Stix, Baer & Fuller) for a Q & A session. Mom knew how ga-ga I still was over anything Partridge, so she offered to take me. I couldn't hardly wait! I had gone to the same store the previous year to meet Johnny Whitaker, who was promoting his new Saturday morning show "Sigmund & The Sea Monsters." I got to meet him, shake his hand, and get his autograph. I only prayed that I would be able to get close to Shirley Jones.
Imagine my surprise when we got there and found this relatively small make-shift stage set up NEXT TO THE ESCALATORS OF ALL PLACES!! And whatsmore, there were very few people there! Shirley and Gale were to appear in just 10 minutes, and there wasn't anyone by the stage! What luck for me, finally a front row seat. Well, there were no seats actually. The ten minutes seemed to be the s-l-o-w-e-s-t 10 minutes of my life. Finally, she was introduced by the manager of the store, and she and Gale came up on the stage and took their seats. Shirley was wearing a wrap around her head, which I had never seen before. You couldn't see a strand of hair anywhere. She was wearing what I thought to be gypsy garb that day. Gale Gordon was wearing his usual suit, and looked terrific.
Finally, Shirley asked if anyone had any questions. My arm bolted upward, and she looked at me and smiled. She said "Young man, do you really have a question?" I said "Oh yes!" Then she leaned over and whispered something in Gale's ear. She then said "Go ahead, I'm ready." I was very nervous, but terrible excited too. I asked her if there was any truth to the tale one of my friends had told me about Danny Bonaduce: that he had moved to Kansas City and was going to attend high school here. She said she didn't believe that was accurate. She had an occasion to see him recently, and he was still living in L.A. with his family. She then asked me how old I was. I told her I was 11, and that I knew all of the Partridge Family songs. She chuckled and said "Good for you. That is really some nice music to enjoy, especially someone your age!" When it was clear that it was time for her to move on past me and to another question, she WINKED at me sweetly.
It was over in 30 minutes. But it left a huge impact on me and a wonderful memory I have to this very day. Interestingly, I went to see her the next night at the show. She was her usual wonderful self. And, even more interestingly, one of her "children" was played by a very young Sarah Jessica Parker! I still have my program from that show, just one of my many "Partridge" mementos.
Shirley, I don't know if you ever take a peek at this web site. Should you happen to read this someday, please know that there is a now 38 year old fan of yours who still thinks you are one of the coolest moms around! Take care, and God Bless!
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