White on White

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After that, the word on the grapevine was that Stillwell, Kramer and White would be guillotined in order to make room for Bonaduce, who by that time had even appeared as a guest on the show. Instead, White, who says she kept Kramer informed of developments every step of the way, returned from her summer vacation to discover that Christensen wanted her and Bonaduce to join him for dinner to talk things over. By all accounts, the encounter didn't go well: As White tells it, "I was a bitch, and Danny was a jerk. We hated each other. After it was over, I called Ken's voice mail and told him, 'You can take Danny Bonaduce and shove him up your ass. I quit.'"

It didn't work out quite that way. Christensen was actually encouraged by the way the dinner went: "There was absolutely chemistry there, even if it was hydrochloric acid and zinc, and bits and pieces of conversation were spontaneous and absolutely hilarious." Before long, White was sent to Christensen's office, where, she says, "Ken told me, 'Here's the deal: We're getting rid of the show. Frosty and Frank will be paid off for the year and a half they have left on their contract, and they'll be placed somewhere else -- maybe in L.A., maybe not in L.A., but we'll take care of them. But if you don't agree to do the show with Danny, we won't pay off your contract, because you'll be insubordinate. Your contract doesn't specify who you'll do the show with, so you're going to be released without pay.'

"In a weird sort of way, it was like blackmail," White continues. "They could put me with whoever they wanted. They owned my soul. I went to my radio attorney, and he said, 'Sorry, but if they want to change the show, they can.' It's just like if I worked at McDonald's; if they want to change the fry guy, they can do that, and if I don't want to work with the fry guy, then it's 'See you later.' So I was trapped -- and then the next thing you know, Ken's telling me, 'We're letting the boys go today.' And I'm like, 'Oh, my God!'"

Just how shocked White was by this turn of events quickly became a matter of debate: Despite the seemingly genuine bitterness White unleashed during her first shows with Bonaduce, gossipmongers whispered that she was putting on an act. Such theories got a boost when Don Barrett of reported that "once she realized that management had made an irreversible decision to bring Danny aboard...she turned her attention to money. Danny is rumored to be under contract for $800,000 a year, and Jamie makes far less. Emphasis on the 'far.' The morning change was delayed while management and Jamie were locked in a bitter financial battle" that ended with White getting a substantial raise, albeit one that left her short of parity with Bonaduce. Christensen confirms that this issue was raised: "All negotiations were, in fact, afterwards. She went on with her old contract, but we made an agreement that we would revisit it and make it work." Christensen, who wouldn't talk about the specific figures mentioned by Barrett (nor would White), adds that Jamie and Danny went into a studio together to do a mock show ("It went pretty much the way the dinner had -- flashes of great stuff between the craziness," he says) well before Stillwell and Kramer went bye-bye.

For her part, White scoffs at the idea that she was anything other than totally loyal to her longtime partners, noting that if she'd been part of engineering the scheme, the change "would've been done a lot differently than it was, which was so abrupt -- boom!" (Indeed, the deal came down the day after a shindig celebrating the release of a best-of-Jamie, Frosty and Frank CD.) She insists that she spent each night for her first week of shows with Bonaduce sobbing on the phone with her husband, surgeon David Strom, who continues to live in Denver. But after a confrontation with Christensen, who she says "basically smacked me around -- verbally, anyway," she realized that she needed to "act like an adult, you know? It wasn't Danny's fault that he replaced my partners, but I was taking it out on him. So I got a new attitude and told myself, 'You need to make this happen.'"

Bonaduce didn't get himself overly worked up over either White's mood swings or the intense hatred spewed at him by callers that first week: "I have the one where the caller went, 'Why don't you die of cancer and bring back Frosty' on tape," he says. "I play it on a loop in my house." After all, Bonaduce, who's done radio in Detroit, Chicago and Phoenix (where he was arrested for punching out a transvestite prostitute he allegedly paid for sex), has been through this drill many times before. "It happens in every city. They hate you for a couple of days, and then they get over it and everything works out."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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