Stone Soul Partridge

Some people have a stash of porn in their home, or a little box of pills or a hoard of Twinkies or something shameful they've hidden away under the bed or in the back of a dark cupboard. I don't much care for pictures of people fucking, and I'm afraid of barbiturates, but I do own something more shocking and embarrassing than drugs or pornography.

My deep, dark secret is that I own all 11 Partridge Family albums. And sometimes, when no one else is around, I put them on my turntable and I play them.

I took out my Partridge albums the other day when Emily Stone came over. Emily is the new Laurie Partridge, so I knew she'd understand. She's just been cast in VH1's The New Partridge Family, in a role she won on the network's In Search of the Partridge Family, a quasi-American Idol in which the original cast of the '70s sitcom introduced kids (and middle-aged Shirleys!) who competed to replace them. The winners got to appear in a pilot for the series (which airs this Sunday) and record a new Partridge single (which really sucks).

Emily, a Phoenix teen, aced the Laurie competition with perky acting talent (the kid has chops: She previously played Eeyore in two local productions of A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail) and by singing Meredith Brooks' "Bitch" (as introduced by Shirley Jones, much to the horror of Partridge prudes everywhere). Now the country's cutest air pianist is preparing for the superstardom that comes with playing in a pretend rock band, and dodging e-mails and phone calls from weirdly obsessed, middle-aged Partridge fans everywhere.

New Times: You sort of blew away the competition on In Search of the Partridge Family. It didn't hurt that you grabbed your bosom during the acting contest.

Emily Stone: I didn't so much grab myself as bump the mike attached to my shirt. When I brushed up against it, it went "Boom!"

NT: No matter what happens to you, you'll always be the girl who caused Oscar winner Shirley Jones to say the word "bitch" on national television.

Stone: Come on — are you kidding me? She's married to Marty Ingels! Like she doesn't say that word every day. There's this message board on the Internet — which I read today, and apparently I'm pregnant — and these people get on there and they're writing that Shirley Jones looked like she was going to cry because she had to say that. You watch that episode and she's screaming it: "Here's Emily Stone singing 'Biiiiiitch'!" She's so excited to be saying "bitch" on TV.

NT: In the first episode of In Search of the Partridge Family, what was up with David Cassidy's wig?

Stone: I think he was really nervous about his receding hairline. And I really don't want to start on David Cassidy while I'm being tape recorded, because, seriously, he's The Special One. I don't know why that happened. He looks really good, but he never really thinks he does.

NT: How about accusations that the contest was fixed?

Stone: I'm not really the one to ask about it being fixed or not, but I wouldn't say it was entirely America's decision. We didn't know anything, but from people I've talked to, I don't know if the winners were all decided by the viewers.

NT: You're about to become a superstar — the next Lindsay Lohan, except with real breasts. Which means a lot of middle-aged men are swapping screen captures of you in a little gold mini-skirt. And there's a thread on the Partridge board called "I hate Emily."

Stone: There are some creepy people. There's this 40-year-old guy who started this Yahoo! group about me with screen caps and stuff, and that's so weird!

NT: And you know, you have to be careful now that you're a Partridge, because all the news people are going to be watching you. Look, here's a copy of FaVe! magazine from July of 1971. (Hands her magazine.)

Stone: No way.

NT: Yes, way. And on page 18, there's an article called "How I Licked My Weight Problem by Susan Dey," and it's all about how she used to be a cow but now she's skinny. I'm telling you, Emily, you'd better not get busted eating a muffin in public, or it'll be all over the front page.

Stone: Are you kidding me? I can't believe you have this magazine! Look at this picture of David — he was so young! It's so weird to see them like this — Shirley Jones is like 70 now.

NT: On this page, there's an ad for the book Boys, Beauty and Popularity by Susan Dey. Now that you're a Partridge, they're going to make you write books like this.

Stone: (Reading from magazine ad.) "Let Susan tell you how to become more popular, more attractive, more confident." You have to be kidding me. I cannot even believe this. This kind of thing would never sell now. Oh, no, listen to this (reading aloud): "I think I'm living proof that dieting is important, because if I hadn't lost those 15 pounds I certainly wouldn't be where I am today." No wonder she had an eating disorder by the second season.

NT: Playing the air piano can really take its toll.

Stone: I know! In the pilot, I tried to kind of look like I was really playing the piano, and they're like, basically, "Screw that." If you look at me in the pilot, it's insane — I've got my elbows up in the air, and I'm playing the air in front of the piano. I don't know how Susan Dey did it.

NT: No one is allowed to come to my home without telling me their favorite Partridge Family song. And you're not allowed to say "I Think I Love You."

Stone: It's not "I Think I Love You." My favorite is "Can't You Feel Your Heartbeat" or "Can I Feel Your Heartbeat" or whatever it's called. I love that song! I need to get more of their albums, but they're hard to get. It's, like, eBay!

NT: It might also be wise for you to develop some theories about why there were no singles released from the Crossword Puzzle album, or how come all the Partridge albums have 11 songs on them, or why Shirley's vocals were used on the show but not on the records. Because what if you run into one of those obsessed fans, and they ask you a Partridge question, and you don't know the answer?

Stone: I know. Have you heard of the Partridge Family Temple? The members have to actually legally change their last name to Partridge. We had some of the Temple members audition for the show. One of them had a partridge tattooed on the back of her neck. Psycho. Crazy. They go to David Cassidy concerts and pass out their fliers. It's psychotic. There are some crazy Partridge fans out there.

NT: It seems that way.

Stone: And they're very mad at me for singing "Bitch." Because Laurie would never have sung "Bitch." They're like, "You're ruining her image!" People hate me for not being Susan Dey.

NT: If you were Susan Dey, you'd have to develop an eating disorder, sleep with the director of the show, and later refuse to participate in any reunion specials.

Stone: Oh, I know. (Flipping through magazine.) I can't believe this. There are Partridges on every page of this magazine. I knew they were big, but this is wacky.

NT: You could do a remake of Cage Without a Key, that women's prison movie Susan Dey made. Or you could do a sequel to Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night, where Susan Dey played an alcoholic who murders her 4-year-old daughter.

Stone: Oh, no. Those horrible B-movies she made. Why did she do that?

NT: Nobody knows.

Stone: It kind of makes me nervous — that clan of people who are psychotically obsessed with the way it used to be. There are these Partridge Family role-play clubs online, chat rooms where you pretend to be the different characters. It was a bigger phenomenon than I think we can grasp today. They're TV characters for people to watch, not become. And that's why some of these people are so mad at us — because it's been their lifelong dream to become a Partridge, and we get to be Keith and Laurie. It's like, "You guys are 45 now! There's no way! Maybe you could be Shirley."

NT: But this might be your life in 20 years — being followed around by people obsessed about a Partridge you played on TV.

Stone: I don't think so. I don't think that people do that anymore, get stuck on TV characters. Do they?

NT: Maybe sometimes.

Stone: Really? (Long pause.) Oh, no.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela