Gretchen Bonaduce: Television Personality,
Business Woman and Owner/Founder of
Greenway Manor and Hacienda del Avion
Born in Waukegan, Illinois, Gretchen doesn’t call any one place home. She’s moved around from Illinois, to Germany, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Arizona. The daughter of a nuclear engineer and a homemaker, Gretchen studied travel and tourism at Lamson Business College in Arizona. Like any well-traveled and adventurous woman, Gretchen has held a motley of jobs ranging from working at “The Funny Firm” comedy club in Chicago, to renting out cars, to booking psychics on radio stations in Phoenix. It was in the latter job where she was set up on a blind date with future husband, Danny Bonaduce who was working at the local radio station, Power 92 KKFR.
Gretchen is a devoted mother to their two children, Countess Isabella and Count Dante. Gretchen has two brothers, Kurt and Derek and is currently working on an independent film about Derek’s experience in Iraq and her Uncle’s WWII experience as well as her own book about her life and struggles with her former self.
Singing has always been a passion of Gretchen’s. Growing up, she sang in both her school and church choirs. Gretchen promotes women through her music by performing at events such as “Chick Singers Night” at the Derby in Hollywood. She once shot a pilot for ABC’s Soap Network titled Soap Talk which got picked up by the channel. She has appeared on several television shows including Oprah, Phil Donahue, The Other Half, and VH1’s Behind the Music and Partridge Family.
(Courtesy of Gretchen Bonaduce’s website – http://gretchenbonaduce.com)
TSM: Lovely to talk with you, and thank you so much for taking time out of your day to do an interview for the magazine.
GB: It is my pleasure entirely.
TSM: Did you always want to be on television? And how did you feel when you got your first big break on TV?
GB: I believe as a child. We all want to be models, actresses or singers and I definitely fell into that category. The only issue I didn’t really get at the time was I’m not really a good actress. So it turns out, all I really can do is reality and be myself. So, it was a perfect thing for me that reality came along because if I was ever going to be on TV as an actress that was never going to happen.
TSM: Can you recall your very first business venture ever?
GB: I’ve thrown so many things against the wall, that it would be hard to remember them all. I know, we started like a card business, my friends and I would do our business cards. I have cleaned bathrooms for people or offices. We tried to do a catering company for movies, sets, and TV; none of those things worked out. It took me a long time to find my niche. Now that I’ve opened up hotels, and it’s going so well, I think I found what I was supposed to be doing.
TSM: Tell us about your ventures Greenway Manor and Hacienda del Avion, and how those came to be.
GB: I really never wanted to move to Los Angeles, we were in New York City. At the time my ex husband was a DJ, and wherever they said you had to go to do radio you just had to go. We had moved to quite a few places such as: Philly, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles. So it wasn’t about moving around. I really didn’t mind that at all, but I just loved living in New York City, and so I wasn’t happy that we had to move to LA for that reason. However, there were upsides to moving to LA. For instance, it’s so nice you’re around, so your children can play outside. So there were some good things about it, and not to mention, I kind of did LA like everybody in the world wishes you could do it. If you’re going to live there, first of all, you have to have money because it’s not fun to struggle in Los Angeles at all. Then, you know, I got to go to the Emmy’s, the Grammy’s, the red carpet events, and a lot of fancy parties. So that was kind of cool.
You know, I spent a lot of the years in L.A. waiting to leave there. One day I just googled mansions for sale in the United States, out of curiosity, and Greenway (it was called Greenway House at the time) came up. I was just blown away at how much you could get not living in Los Angeles for your money. I watched this house for a couple years as the price went down, and down, and down. Then I realized if I didn’t buy it right away, somebody else was going to. So I put my house on the market and ended up not being able to sell it for a year. It was very, very scary trying to handle two mansions in LA and in Bisbee. Somehow I pulled it off, and you know moved to Bisbee, Arizona, which is south of Tucson. My town is located like a few miles from the Mexican border. I just fell in love with the town, the people, and it’s very, very artistic. There are a lot of artists and musicians here. The house was just extraordinary, you know, they don’t build things like they used to. This house is 115 years old, and everything’s original – original fixtures and woodwork. It is just a spectacular house. I thought it would be kind of an interesting and fun idea to turn it into a rock and roll Airbnb. So, all of my rooms are themed for rock groups, like I have a Beatles room, Johnny Cash room, David Bowie room, and so on so forth.
This was going so well before Covid, which you know, kind of sucks that I opened up an Airbnb right before there was a worldwide pandemic. That wasn’t the smartest thing in the world, but you know, it hit everybody. It wasn’t like I was the only person that was having a hard time as the whole world has been struggling. Thank God it just took off, and I was able to still be able to rent it out with a lot of business people in town. I did have to close down for three months because nobody really could travel in that time. Somehow I was able to get by and be fine. Then in May when they lifted it, it just went back into gangbusters, and having lots of people, and so I have just been very, very fortunate. When that went so well, I decided to buy another place because a really great opportunity came up at the Bisbee airport to buy a gorgeous home out there that has a hanger in the house. So you can fly your plane in, it’s literally off the runway and drive your plane right into the house into the hanger. I thought that would be a really good investment as well, and that’s been going really well too. So I’m just lucky because I’ve been at the right place at the right time two times.
TSM: Awhile back, I know you fronted the band Ankesenamen. Are you still doing anything with music these days?
GB: There was Ankesenamen. That’s King Tut’s wife’s name, and I thought that would make a super cool name for a band. Although, everyone thought we were like a jazz fusion band with that. So, I ended up changing the name to fatal 80s, which, you know, made a lot more sense for an 80s band. I did that for ten years, maybe twelve. It was so much fun, and we were so fortunate to play. we headlined City Walk for 30,000 people, and opened up for Flock of Seagulls, The Tubes, Missing Persons, and a lot of the 80s bands. Since I’ve moved, my band is all in LA, so I don’t really have an opportunity to play with them. I’m so busy here running two hotels, and I’m also about to buy a restaurant. I close on that in a couple of weeks. I’ve been trying to ride out Covid before I get into that because they still have social distancing with seating, and so I feel like it’s kind of hard to make money in a restaurant when you can’t be at full capacity. I think we’re at the tail end of it, so I think it kind of makes sense to get in now before someone else buys the same thing. So that’s kind of my next thing I’m doing. But yes, with music I haven’t really had time to do it with all my bands back in LA. There has been no opportunity for live music. Maybe there’s a few places that are allowing live music, but it’s pretty rare. In Bisbee they don’t allow live music and they haven’t since March at all. So even if I wanted to do it, there isn’t a real opportunity. But you know, I would do it in a second, if I can come up with a band here and maybe play a couple times a month. That would be really fun, and I would totally be interested in doing that. Although, I’m not sure how good a shape my voice is in anymore since I haven’t sang in a year. I’d probably have to practice a lot. I wouldn’t rule it out as I have a lot of opportunities to meet great musicians here. There’s so many good ones and they’re very creative here. However, I’d like to come up with something different to do, as much as I love the 80s because that’s my era. You know if I could come up with something funky, cool and interesting, I’d be into that as well. So who knows? You know, never say never, you never know.
We were trying to do themed dinner parties right before Covid hit at Greenway Manor. We did 1920s night and everybody showed up dressed up in the 1920s. I had an upright bass player, I have a baby grand in my living room, and a girl came and played clarinet. So they did that that era of music, and that was really fun. We also did a Moulin Rouge night, where everybody had to come dressed up as Moulin Rouge, and we played French music. So I’ve been doing things like that. I just want to make the best experience for my guests. So, the more things that I can provide for them to do, it’s more incentive for them to pick to stay with me than somewhere else.
TSM: What inspired you to write the book Surviving Agent Orange: And Other Things I learned From Being Thrown Under the Partridge Family Bus? What process did you go through in creating the book?
GB: I decided to write the book because, frankly, I just wanted to represent myself. I would hear a lot of times from people, “Oh, you know, all of this city hates your guts.” My ex husband, you know, he’s been in radio for twelve years. So he would go on, and talk about me, and say a lot of things that weren’t necessarily true. My feeling was, if you hate my guts over something someone has said about me, I don’t accept that. If you know me and read my book, and you still hate my guts then Okay, I totally accept your hate. That was why I wanted to do it because I didn’t want someone else out there representing me. I wanted to talk about things from my perspective, and that was my whole motivation in wanting to write that book. My process was that I’d never written anything really, not not an article, or anything. So, I didn’t really know how to do it. I just sat there and wrote. I would just write about something that happened to me, and I didn’t try to even write it in order because I couldn’t wrap my head around doing that. If I started to write and I got stuck, I just start writing about something else. Eventually, I was able to put it in an order, but I just kind of just wrote. There are stories in there that I’m not super proud of, but if you’re writing and it’s the truth, then you have to write about things about yourself that maybe you don’t want people to know. In writing a book, you just have to kind of be that honest, I think.
I thought it was a pretty funny title and this is how it came about. When Danny and I were married, we did a TV show for VH1 called Breaking Bonaduce. We did two seasons of that, and decided not to do a third. We were like, if we do a third season of the show we’re going to get divorced, which ultimately ended up happening. Now I wish we would have done it, so that we would have had that extra income for the year. Instead, we brought another idea to VH1, which was called I know My Kid’s the Next Child Star. It was an idea that I had come up with, and we just thought it would be a really interesting TV show to bring in parents, and their children who wanted to be actors. We were looking for the best combo, like we didn’t want a kid who was really great, but they had a really bad stage parent. We were trying to find a stable parent and a talented kid. One of the titles we threw out was Agent Orange. It just made me laugh so hard, and that’s kind of where I got the title when I was thinking about the book.
TSM: What advice would you give those currently 10 years younger than you about how to make best use of the next decade?
GB: I would just have to say be resourceful. Keep an open mind, because you just don’t know where life is gonna take you. You know, I don’t think in my 20s, 30s, 40s, even that I thought about what the last part of my life was going to be. It didn’t occur to me with the life I was leading that I might want to move to a small town, and run hotels or Airbnbs and all that stuff. Who knows the way things are going to play out on the planet. I feel like a lot of people have lost their businesses, and there’s just been a lot of terrible things that have happened to people. So I think people, at this point in time in our history, just have to be open minded, resourceful and try to figure out new ways to get by. I do think it is going to be a time to maybe reevaluate what’s important. I just think people became so wrapped up in the rat race and we all got forced into being in our homes for months at a time. I think this whole year has put a lot of things in perspective for people.
TSM: If you had the power to do something in the world today, what would it be and why?
GB: Wow, that’s a deep question. Where do you start, you know what I mean? Anything we can do with the climate, anything to do with animals, preserving our wildlife. Those things are super important to me. We really have to figure out this climate change thing and what we can do. If there is anything, I’m hoping it’s not too late. I hate that we have overrun so much of the wildlife. I wish that we could stay in our own lane as humans instead of going over and making things difficult for the wildlife, you know, getting into their way. I think those are the the things that are most important to me. Hunger too, as nobody should be going to bed hungry in the whole world. I look over and I see what’s happening in Syria and Africa, and that that shouldn’t be, there should be enough food for everybody. I think if I could figure those three things out, those would be the things I would be working on to try to make the world a better place.
TSM: What is one of your favorite quotes(or lines) that inspires you?
GB: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
“If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you wont give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy…Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” ~ Bob Marley
TSM: Anything else you’d like to share? And where can readers find out more about you and your work?
GB: Well, you can find Greenway Manor and Hacienda del Avion on Verbo, Airbnb, Expedia and booking.com. The book is on Amazon, so if you are interested in laughing at me and my absurd situations, you’re welcome to go buy a book. I have all the social media: Facebook, Instagram, and I run them myself. If you are writing me, it’s actually me responding. I guess that’s probably the best way to find me.
TSM: Thank you so much again for doing an interview.
GB: Thank you so much for for wanting to interview me. I just appreciate you, and you having any interest in me at all. That’s pretty awesome.