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From Chicago to Stardom: The Unconventional Journey of Gretchen Bonaduce

Gretchen Bonaduce
Photo Courtesy: Sherry Lee

By: Gretchen Bonaduce

In the sprawling urban landscape of Chicago, amidst the bustling streets and vibrant neighborhoods, the story of Gretchen Bonaduce unfolds—a narrative rich with resilience, unexpected turns, and a journey through fame alongside her then-husband, Danny Bonaduce. This tale is not just about their time in the Windy City but also an exploration of Gretchen’s remarkable ability to reinvent herself and thrive against the backdrop of life’s unpredictabilities.

Gretchen’s roots trace back to Waukegan, adjacent to North Chicago, where she spent her later years before moving across various states due to her Fathers work as a Nuclear Engineer as well as early years her stepfather’s military assignments. Her return to Chicago as an adult marked a significant chapter in her life. It was here that she immersed herself in the creative chaos of living with Renaissance Knights in Little Wrigleyville—a testament to her adaptability and zest for life. This period was characterized by impromptu jousting matches in living rooms and rooftop gatherings to catch glimpses of baseball games, painting a picture of a young woman deeply ingrained in the fabric of Chicago’s cultural tapestry.

However, it was Gretchen’s serendipitous encounter with Danny Bonaduce outside Chicago that steered her life towards an unforeseen direction. Their whirlwind marriage—initiated within hours of meeting each other—echoed the spontaneous spirit seen among celebrities at the time. Despite initial skepticism about its seriousness, their union lasted 18 years, underscoring a deep, albeit tumultuous bond.

Chicago played host to some of their most memorable moments together. After relocating there when Danny secured a job at WLUP radio station, they experienced both personal and professional highs within this dynamic cityscape. From residing in their cool loft apartment in Printers Row to welcoming their daughter Countess Isabella into the world at Swedish Covenant Hospital—each milestone underscored Chicago’s role as a pivotal setting in their lives.

Danny’s career resurgence on WLUP brought him into the limelight once more, showcasing his redemptive arc from struggling with addiction issues to becoming a beloved radio personality under Disney’s Buena Vista Television production. Yet, it wasn’t devoid of challenges; Gretchen recounts navigating these successes amidst ongoing battles with addiction—a stark reminder of fame’s double-edged sword.

Danny’s career with WLUP was skyRocketing, WLUP  prior to Danny’s arrival became famous for an event orchestrated by fellow DJs Steve Dahl and Garry Meier at Comiskey Park—an event that resonated far beyond its intended humorous critique into a global phenomenon.the infamous Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in 1979.

As life would have it, their journey eventually veered away from Chicago towards new horizons in Detroit, NYC, LA—and for Gretchen post-divorce—Bisbee Arizona where she now thrives as an entrepreneur. These transitions mirror Gretchen’s indomitable spirit; transforming each challenge into opportunities for growth and self-discovery.

Today, Gretchen looks back on her time in Chicago not just as chapters filled with love and hardship but as formative experiences that sculpted her resilient character. Whether reminiscing about Navy Pier visits or nostalgic evenings at Burton Place following shifts at Funny Firm Comedy Club—the essence of Chicago remains etched within her memories fondly.

Her current endeavors capture this same tenacity; from managing Airbnb properties like Greenway Manor & Hacienda del Avion to helming Le Cornucopia Cafe—all while championing Bisbee’s unique charm through prospective TV projects about its eclectic community. It is clear that regardless of where life takes her next; Gretchen Bonaduce embodies strength woven through trials and triumphs alike.

In reflecting upon this intricate tapestry woven from threads of joyous encounters, challenging setbacks,s and everything in between—it becomes evident that Gretchen Bonaduce’s journey is one marked by perseverance undeterred by change or circumstance; truly embodying what it means to navigate life’s unpredictable waves while continuing to sparkle along the way. Below are Gretchen’s answers to our Q&A to help write our article about her.  tells us in her own words her Gretchen. 

We understand you grew up in Chicago.

I was born in Waukegan, which is the town next to North Chicago.  When I was a little girl I lived in Zion Il, which is right at the border of Ill and Wisconsin.My step father was in the Army and stationed at Great Lakes.  He was assigned to Buren Germany when I was 7 years old. We were going to live there for 3 years but my mother died in a tragic accident while he was stationed there.  My brother and I returned to the US and lived with our father in Kenosha Wisconsin until I was 15 years old. We then moved to Chattanooga Tennessee where I graduated high school.  

I then returned back to Chicago when I was 22 and lived in Little Wrigleyville with Renaissance Knights. They toured with the Renaissance Faire’s all over the country.  It wasn’t unusual for us to wake up in the middle of the night to joust in the living room.  We lived in the first brownstone next to the Sports Corner Bar across the street from Wrigley field. We couldn’t afford tickets to the game but we would put on our tv to hear the game and sit on the roof top to peek over the walls. That was my first return to Chicago as an adult. The next time I moved there I was married to Danny Bonaduce and he was hired to work at the world famous Chicago Loop (WLUP) radio station.Our first apartment was in Printers Row.  A really cool loft apartment.  We then bought a house on Catalpa street on the north side.  My daughter Countess Isabella was born at Swedish Covenant hospital and shortly after we moved out to Barrington Hills.

How did you meet Danny?

I  met and married Danny in Phoenix Arizona.  He was a frequent guest on Johnny B’s show and was eventually offered a job on the overnight shift on WLUP.

You and Danny were married via love at first sight,, what was your Wedding like?

We got married within hours of knowing each other.  It was kind of one of those things people were doing at the time.  Drew Barrymore, Britney Spears.  I know Danny didn’t take it seriously, but we ended up staying married for 18 years. We did have an actual wedding 6 months after we got married.  It wasn’t the best time in our lives as Danny was in a bit of trouble from a legal incident in Phoenix Az.  I think one of the happiest times in our marriage was spent in Chicago no doubt.   

Danny worked in Radio in Chicago what station and was he famous in radio at that time? 

Danny, as I said, was offered a job at WLUP I think in 1993.  Johnny B had kind of made Danny a bit of a folk hero in Chicago.  He had been a guest on his show so often, and eventually they just offered him a job on overnights.  He was so popular he quickly made his way up to better shifts.  He also did a TV show in Chicago that was produced by Buena Vista television owned by Disney.  That is how much he had cleaned himself up, that Disney would hire him for a show.  

Tell us about Danny’s radio career? 

Danny started his career in Philadelphia.  He was let go from that job due to his addiction issues.  He ended up in rehab and then was offered a job in Phoenix Az.  That’s where we met and married.  He struggled with addiction issues for all of our marriage and ended up getting fired from that job too.  Interestingly enough, the Philadelphia radio station offered him his job back as they had hoped that he was not married to me, a hard ass, who insisted they keep random drug testing in his contract as I didn’t want to babysit him.  After that job, we moved to Chicago and I was thrilled to be home.  He worked in Chicago for a few years, then we moved to Detroit, NYC, and eventually to La.  

What is the famous Disco sucks story? 

There were 2 famous Dj’s on WLUP, Steve and Gary.  I remember this so vividly as I lived in Kenosha Wisconsin at the time.  There was a very big backlash over disco music.  Steve and Gary decided to throw an event at Kamisky park (where the White sox play) and blow up 1000’s of Disco records.  It made world news!  I think they did not expect it to make the news like it did.  

You had children in Chicago? 

My daughter Countess Isabella  Michaela was born there.  

Where did your parents live when you were married?

My parents were living in Phoenix at the time we were married.  

What places do you love to go in Chicago when you visit? 

That is a very tough question.  Chicago is such a wonderful town with amazing people.  I love Navy Pier and going to the top of the John Hancock for a drink.  The food…the Pizza and Italian food you cannot beat Chicago Italian food.  I used to work at the Funny Firm Comedy Club, I don’t think it is there anymore but all the waitresses and the comics used to hang out at Burton place.  The most fun job I have ever held.  Very fond memories of that place.  Danny did a lot of stand up while we lived in Chicago, loved when he would play the Funny Firm clubs.. 

Where did you and Danny move to after Chicago?

After Chicago, Danny was moved by the company to Detroit.  Then NYC, and La.  That was the end of my time with Danny.  He went on after that to work in Philadelphia again and then Seattle.  We no longer speak as our children are grown.  My experience with him after we divorced was not a positive one and I saw no need for us to keep in contact after that. I now have my own extraordinary  and amazing life in Bisbee Az, where I own and manage several airbnb’s, Greenway Manor, Hacienda del Avion  and own a restaurant Le Cornucopia Cafe.  I am currently shopping for a TV show about my super quirky town full of colorful characters.   I have been incredibly blessed to have an interesting life full of lovely people.  

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Indulge your taste buds at Le Cornucopia Cafe: [](

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