Not My Job: Shirley Jones Gets Quizzed On Partridge Shooting

Not My Job: Shirley Jones Gets Quizzed On Partridge Shooting

11:47am Jul 18, 2015

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

CARL KASELL, HOST:

We started the show with Florence Henderson one of TV's great moms. Her rival for the crown of best fictional mom ever - Shirley Jones of the "Partridge Family" joined us in November of 2013.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

She was a huge star long before her TV career, but it all came about more or less by accident.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHIRLEY JONES: Well, you know, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was an only child in a small town of Smithton, Pa., adored animals - raised everything in the world, you know, and decided that was going to be what I was going to do. But I could sing. And so I would sing everywhere and the - you know, went to the Pittsburgh Playhouse, and did some drama and dancing and so forth - still wanted to be a vet.

Went to New York on my way to college, and went to an audition for Rodgers and Hammerstein. I sang for the casting director, and he said, I'd like you to sing for Mr. Rodgers. And I didn't even know who Richard Rodgers was then.

SAGAL: Right.

JONES: I was 18. And he came down the aisle, and he said, Miss Jones. And I said what did you say your name was again?

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: He said Richard Rodgers - never to forget that moment. I sang for him, and he said, would you wait? I'm going to call my partner, Oscar Hammerstein. I waited, and I - my pianist had to leave, and so he said don't worry, we'll figure something out. Well, there was a symphony across the street, and he said, Miss Jones, you can come over and sing with the symphony, for Oscar Hammerstein. I'd never heard a symphony, seen one or sang with one, certainly.

SAGAL: So you walk into New York, you're there on a college trip.

JONES: Exactly right.

SAGAL: You go on an audition, on a lark, and the next thing you know, you're singing for Rodgers and Hammerstein - the guys themselves - with a symphony orchestra.

JONES: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And I want the kids out there who are thinking about a career in show business - that's how it works for pretty much everybody.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: Well, not really, but...

SAGAL: And you went into one of their shows in New York, but then...

JONES: I went into "South Pacific," the last three months of the Broadway show. And then they sent me to California, to screen test for the role of Laurie in "Oklahoma," and that's what happened.

SAGAL: And so the next thing you know, now you're 21, and you are playing the lead in the musical adaptation of the biggest musical in American history.

JONES: Mm-hmm.

SAGAL: Again, pretty much standard.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I love the fact that you also tell in the book that Richard Rodgers became first in a long line of show businessmen to hit on you.

JONES: Oh, yes. Well, you know, I - he asked me up to his office, and I was sitting there, and I - sitting there, and he put his arm around me. Then I suddenly saw him go and lock the door, you know, in the office. And he came over, put his arm around me again, and he said, do you have a boyfriend? And I said, oh yes, I'm engaged.

Of course, that was not true. I said, I'm engaged. He's waiting for me. And he said, oh, really? Well, too bad, you won't be there for a long time. I said, I know - and I said well, you know, I'm so thrilled to be here. And I said, the fact that I have a wonderful grandpa right next to me...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Oh, harsh. Now, another generation - I guess this includes my generation - first heard of you from "The Partridge Family." This was the sitcom in which you played the mother of a traveling musical family.

JONES: Right.

SAGAL: And you played the mother of - the lead singer was played by your...

JONES: David Cassidy, my stepson.

SAGAL: Your stepson...

JONES: Right.

SAGAL: Which must have been a little odd.

JONES: Well, not at all, no.

SAGAL: No?

JONES: No, they - I was the first person cast. And they came to me and said, Shirley, how do you feel about your stepson David Cassidy? And I said, why? And they said, well, we're thinking of him to play, you know, the role in the show. So I said, he'd be perfect for it. That's great. And they said oh, good, we want to make sure you have a good, you know, a good feeling about him. I said, of course.

And I went on the set, and they were testing him. He turned around, and he saw me. He said, what are you doing here? I said, I'm your mama.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And then of course, David Cassidy, who played your son - your stepson in real life - became a huge teen idol.

JONES: Huge, huge teen idol.

SAGAL: And then your other son, Shaun Cassidy...

JONES: Yes, became another teen idol.

SAGAL: That must have been odd.

JONES: It was very odd. Yes, it was.

SAGAL: What is it like to have sons who become international sex symbols for 14- and 15-year-olds?

JONES: Well for me, you know - I mean, I was one of these mothers that said you've got to go to college, kids. You've got to be doctors and lawyers. Forget the damn show business. But when David - when it happened to David, Shaun looked at me, and he said Ma, listen, if he can do it, I can do it.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: And literally, walked out the door and did it.

SAGAL: Wow. So I knew you like - again - in these wonderful innocent roles. I never got around to "Elmer Gantry," somehow. And then, of course, "The Partridge Family," where you were playing a sweet, all-American mom. And I'm reading your book, and your book has - shall we say - a lot of adult material.

JONES: (Laughter) Yes, it does.

SAGAL: Things, I will tell you, fascinating read...

JONES: I know.

SAGAL: ...Never wanted to know.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: I know. Well, that's the point. When they came to me and asked if I would write a book about my life - and I thought, do I want to do this? I mean - then I thought to myself, why not? I mean, they know me as "Oklahoma," "Carousel," Mrs. Partridge, all those characters. Why can't they know me as me?

And I thought, I want to tell people who I am, the life that I had as a child, being married all my life. I mean, you know, I never had affairs with a lot of men - that was not my case. But I was very devoted to the two husbands I've had.

SAGAL: And your devotion led you to do some very interesting things, which you describe in detail.

JONES: That's exactly right. Absolutely.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Everything you're saying makes perfect sense, and you have every right - and even an obligation - to let your public know who you really are, and what your life was like.

JONES: Absolutely, yeah.

SAGAL: On the other hand, I did not want to think about Marian the librarian getting freaky.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That's so - now I have to, you know.

JONES: But of course. It's called life.

SAGAL: Yes, I guess so. Anyway, Shirley Jones, we're delighted to talk to you.

JONES: Thank you.

SAGAL: And we've invited you here to play a game that this time, we're calling...

KASELL: "Look, It's The Partridge Family...

JONES: OK.

KASELL: ...Get Them."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So you played a Partridge on "The Partridge Family," as we've discussed, but we missed the episode where rich people stalked you with dogs, and tried to shoot you with shotguns. Partridge shooting is a big sport, especially in England, and we're going to ask you three questions about the sport of partridge shooting. Get two right, you'll win our game. Carl, who is Shirley Jones playing for?

KASELL: Shirley is playing for Junette Sheen of Los Angeles, Calif.

SAGAL: All right, ready to play?

JONES: Yes.

SAGAL: All right, first question. You begin - if you're a partridge shooter, if you are what is known as a gun - that's what they call you - you begin your day with a ritual known as the what: A, the peg draw; B, the partridge cartridge or C, the ritual sacrifice to Moloch.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: C.

SAGAL: The ritual sacrifice to Moloch?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I love the idea of British aristocrats in tweeds with broken shotguns, worshiping at the great idol of the Babylonian god Moloch.

JONES: Right.

SAGAL: That's - you sound very confident here.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: It's the peg draw, is what it was.

JONES: Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Your peg is your - yeah, your peg, you see, is the place in line where you stand with your gun; and you draw to see where you will stand.

JONES: I see, OK.

SAGAL: You still have two more chances. So if you go on your shoot, if you are a gun on a partridge shoot, you will be assisted by a person known as a what: A, lord high executioner;

B, the stuffer or C, the fluffer.

JONES: B.

SAGAL: B, the stuffer. You are right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: Very good. The stuffer is also known as the loader. He - usually he - loads a fresh shotgun, and hands it to you so you never miss a chance to kill a bird.

All right, this is very exciting; you've got one right, with one to go. If you get this last one right, you will win. What does the well-appointed gun wear on his day on the line of shooting partridges: A, a flexible pair of breeks; B, a sporty funicular or C, a wide-brimmed uvula.

JONES: Oh. A pair of breeks.

SAGAL: You're right, a pair of breeks.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: Breeks are the terms for the special shooting trousers that guns wear.

JONES: Right.

SAGAL: Carl, how did Shirley Jones do on our quiz?

KASELL: Pretty good, Peter. She got two right, and that's good enough to win for Junette Sheen.

SAGAL: Shirley Jones is a star of stage and screen, and has been for decades. Her book, "Shirley Jones: A Memoir," is out now. Get it, read it - you will never forget it.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Shirley Jones, thank you so much for being with us.

JONES: Thank you for having me.

SAGAL: Bye-bye now.

JONES: Thank you.

BILL KURTIS, HOST:

Support for NPR comes from NPR stations and Progressive Insurance, with its apron project, celebrating progress and the people who make it happen. The Pew Charitable Trusts, driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most challenging problems, at pewtrusts.com. Angie's List, where members and visitors can shop and buy services from local businesses, including house cleaners, handymen, landscapers and remodelers. Learn more at angieslist.com. And the Sy Syms Foundation, since 1985, supporting advances in science, education and the arts, towards a better life. More information is available at sysymsfoundation.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Support your
public radio station