Me and Ms. Jones

Partridge-under-glass with Shirley Jones

She's survived in show business for nearly 50 years, she says, because her career has had various phases. For instance, she notes, she spent "five years on television, doing Partridge."

Ah, there we are. She's brought it up; now I can relax. I ask her if she now has fondness for the show, in which she co-starred with her heartthrob stepson, David Cassidy.

Sure, she says, because "it afforded me that stay-at-home time to raise my kids, which was wonderful. They sent me a script, and I thought, 'Wow, this is gonna be a hit, I know, 'cause it has music and it's different, it's fun. And if this is, then I can stay at home, raise my kids, earn a good living."

Shirley Jones
Shirley Jones

Not exactly a ringing tribute to the aesthetic quality of the show, but "Let's face it, I'm Mrs. Partridge to everybody, certainly to the adults of today, 'cause they grew up with the show," says Jones. "And the power of television is so great that when you're in people's living rooms every night for five years . . ." She shrugs. "I'd done 30 motion pictures before I did The Partridge Family, and nobody knew my name."

Her name is well-known now. In the years since Partridge, Jones has appeared in TV movies and indie films, hosted on AMC, toured as a concert singer -- she's fronted the Phoenix Symphony -- and appeared on four episodes of The Drew Carey Show as Carey's older-woman girlfriend. She's been the subject of a two-hour A&E Biography -- only the third two-hour edition they had done at the time, she notes, after John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe -- and of a Lifetime Network Intimate Portrait.

These and other documentaries might lead one to worry about Jones, who has seen some tempestuous times in her personal life: She lost her ex-husband, actor Jack Cassidy, in a 1976 house fire, and relations have been strained between her children and her second husband, actor Marty Ingels.

Jones herself, however, is dismissive of the idea that her life's been particularly tragic. "I think it's the typical fair share," she says. "You know, I've had two husbands -- lost one in a fire -- and problems with my children, stepparenting problems. So yeah, I've had all that kind of stuff, but that's called life. It doesn't just happen to movie stars, it happens to everybody. . . . I think I've been lucky."

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