What happened to Susan Dey from “The Partridge Family”?

April 18, 2024
9 mins read

If you grew up watching “The Partridge Family”, the chances are that you must remember Susan Dey, who portrayed Laurie Partridge. The musical sitcom “The Partridge Family” premiered in 1970 and quickly became popular, catapulting the entire cast to stardom, including Susan Dey. The show, loosely based on the real-life musical family The Cowsills, follows a traveling family of six who embark on a music career; it ran for four seasons and concluded in August 1974. The sitcom became one of the most famous in the ‘70s, but its popularity took a heavy toll on most of the cast members, who found it hard to cope with watchful eyes. So, what happened to Susan Dey, and was she one of the actors who caved-in under pressure?

Who is Susan Dey?

Susan is a former actress and model, who gained worldwide popularity for starring in the “Partridge Family”, and later the legal drama series “L.A. Law”. She was born under the Zodiac sign Sagittarius on 10th December 1952, in Pekin, Illinois, USA, to parents Ruth Pyle, a nurse, and Robert Smith-Dey, who was the editor of the New Rochelle newspaper “Standard-Star”.


Her mother died when she was eight,, and so was raised by her father, Robert. Regarding her education, Susan attended the Columbus Elementary School in Thornwood, New York, and later relocated to Bedford, New York, where she enrolled at Fox Lane High School, and became very interested in the school’s drama club, and often participated in school’s plays.

How did she land the role in “The Partridge Family”?

After matriculating from high school, Susan went straight to work as she launched a career as a model. Allegedly, her grandmother had sent Susan’s photos to a modeling agency, which subsequently offered her a professional contract. Her natural beauty made her ideal for modeling, and she gained popularity rather quickly. Susan landed her break in the modeling industry after appearing in the printed ad for Pursettes Tampons, which offered some facts about menstrual cycle and the application for tampons entitled “Getting to Know Yourself”. Even though she hadn’t thought about a potential acting career, she never excluded that possibility.


In 1970, she auditioned for the role of Laurie Partridge in the sitcom, without any prior experience, and 17-year-old Susan scooped the part, which would inadvertently mark her career and her life.

Despite her lack of experience, Susan displayed her natural talent and charisma, and became the fan’s favorite, sharing her throne with David Cassidy, who played the family’s lead vocalist, Keith Partridge. As a member of a very musically endowed family, Laurie played keyboards/ piano and sang back vocals, and for her unique portrayal, Susan garnered the nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress-Series, Miniseries or Television Film.

After “The Partridge Family”

Her successful stint in “The Partridge Family” landed her many other projects and roles. In 1972 she made her movie debut portraying Elly Brewster in the disaster film “Skyjacked”, followed by a minor role in the comedy-drama “The Candidate”, alongside Robert Redford. In the following year, Susan shared the screen with Dennis Weaver and Estelle Parson in the horror movie “Terror on the Beach”.

During the last two years of “The Partridge Family”, she made a one-episode appearance in the horror series “Circle of Fear”, and lent her voice to the character Laurie Partridge in the animated series “Goober and the Ghost Chasers”. Successfully navigating her acting career, after the show concluded, Susan bounced between various movie roles, and appearances in series such as “The Rookies”, “Hawaii Five-O”, and “S.W.A.T”.

Even though it seemed that Susan had moved away from her role as Laurie, it would continue to follow her and her career. Additionally, after “The Partridge Family” ended, Susan allegedly had a brief fling with her co-star David Cassidy, who later published a memoir in which he revealed some details about their relationship. She was not particularly happy about this, and it made her even more confident in her decision to break from “The Partridge Family”. According to sources, she refused several projects in which she was supposed to reprise the role of Laurie, and even rebuffed being a part of the reunion program, distancing herself from the show.

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Her Other Roles

Luckily, she made a great impression while on the show, so she continuously landed roles in various series and movies, such as “The Quest”, “The Streets of San Francisco”, and “Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night”. In 1977 she was cast as the lead role of Jane Benson alongside Kenneth Gilman in the sitcom “Loves Me, Loves Me Not”, but the show, which follows a new couple, didn’t garner the expected attention and popularity, and was canceled after one season. During the same year, she stepped from her usual roles, and played Caroline in the romantic erotic drama “First Love” alongside William Kat. Susan then landed the role of Jo March in the miniseries “Little Women”.

She also snagged various roles in film in the ‘80s, such as “Looker”, “Echo Park”, and “The Trouble With Dick”. In 1983 she was cast as Celia Mallory in another short-lived sitcom entitled “Emerald Point N.A.S.”, appearing in 22 episodes, and in the following period, Susan focused on her career on television rather than movies, and appeared in two TV films, “Malibu” and “Love Leads the Way”.


“L.A. Law”

In 1986, she would land her second career-defining role, as Grace Van Owen in the series “L.A. Law”. Created by Steven Bochco and Terry Fisher, the series focuses on the partners, associates and staff in an L.A.-based law firm. The show became quite popular, as it successfully reflected the social and cultural ideologies present in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and covered some controversial issues such as capital punishment, homophobia, and sexual harassment. Besides Susan, the show starred numerous actors such as Richard Dysart, Alan Rachins and Corbin Bensen. Additionally, the show was known for featuring new and relatively unknown actors at the time, who would later become megastars, such as David Schwimmer, Bryan Cranston and Kevin Spacey among several others. It premiered in September 1986 and ran for eight seasons, concluding in 1994.

“L.A. Law” was very popular among audiences and critics, which explained why the show received 15 Emmy Awards.


Susan’s performance as Grace as an associate and later Superior Court Judge did not go unnoticed, and she received several nominations for Primetime Emmy and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. It seemed that Susan had finally separated herself from the character of Laurie and “The Partridge Family”.

After “L.A. Law” concluded, she appeared as Wallis Porter in the first season of the sit-com “Love & War” alongside Jay Thomas and John Hancock. For the remainder of the decade, Susan switched between TV movies, and minor roles in series such as “Bed of Lies”, “Family Law”, and “Blue River”. In the new millennium, she had a couple of roles in films such as “Rain”, “Disappearance”, and “L.A. Law the Movie”. Her last appearance was in two episodes of the crime drama “Third Watch” as Dr. Breene.

What happened to Susan?

After this last role in “Third Watch”, Susan officially retired from the entertainment business.

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Having been in the industry for over three decades, she thought that it was time to call it quits, and focus on other goals in her life. Allegedly, she felt exhausted from acting and had no interest, or even in switching to producing or directing. Susan also wanted to step away from the limelight, and enjoy a quiet life with her family. However, even though she isn’t active on screen, she still keeps herself busy.

After her retirement, she became engaged in a wide range of other projects which promoted economic, mainstream and cultural development in smaller areas. In 2013 Susan organized a venue for “Battle of the Bands”, as a way to promote music and bring people together. Talking about it in an interview, she said: ‘It was very important that it was free to the public. We had some troubles raising money, but the whole point is that it should be free, we want them to come, share, and be a part of it.’


As of  2022, Susan is serving on the board of the Rape Treatment Center at the UCLA Medical Center; she also collaborated with one of her former co-stars from “L.A. Law”, Corbin Bernsen, and co-narrated a documentary about campus rape.

Battling Eating Disorders

Achieving fame and popularity at a young age can be overwhelming at times, and coping with the fame can be challenging. Similar to David Cassidy, Susan also found it hard to deal with the sudden surge of fans and media outlets following her every move and her private life. While she was filming “The Partridge Family”, she battled with the pressure of looking perfect on camera, perfectly slim, even skinny, which was supposedly the ideal. With the pressure mounting, Susan developed several eating disorders, affecting her mental disposition and physical health. Reportedly, she hit rock bottom after having dropped to 92lbs (41kgs) following her low-calorie diets and unhealthy habits, and consequently stopped menstruating – at the time, she ate so many carrots that her fingers would turn orange.

During an interview, she recalled an unpleasant situation while filming the series, when fellow actor Danny Boundace looked at her and said: ‘What’s wrong with you? Your skin is orange, you look disgusting.’

Susan said that the eating disorders stemmed from the stress of being a very visible 17-year-old at the time, when the focus shifted to independent women and sticklike models. She said: ‘You feel like an adult, but you are not an adult, and society does not treat you as an adult…one of the choices you do have is what you eat and what you don’t eat. Also, the sexual revolution started, and when you’re anorexic you have the body of a man, and you don’t have a lot to deal with.’

She was consequently diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia, and later reflected on her warped self-perception and her disorders, saying: ‘I’m not in the clear yet – I’m still trying to overcome my anorexia. It’s something that has been plaguing my life. Beating a severe eating disorder is something you cannot do alone.”


Is Susan married?

Susan has always been vocal about her personal life. She’s walked down the aisle twice; in 1976, she married the 25-year-old senior actor and agent Leonard ‘Lenny’ Hirshan, with whom she welcomed a daughter Sarah Dey-Hirshan. The marriage did not last long, and the two divorced after five years. There were some rumors that their marriage ended due to Susan’s drinking problem. Lenny, who is best known for his roles in “Tatletales” and “Biography”, died of cancer at 86 in 2014.

In 1988, she and theatrical producer Bernard Sofronski tied the knot, and have been together ever since. Susan’s daughter, Sarah, followed in her footsteps and launched an acting career, and is known for role as Claire in the 2009 movie “Danger Island”.

Susan’s Drinking Problem

In 1993, a tabloid revealed that Susan had battled with alcoholism for years, after an undercover journalist infiltrated one of her Alcoholics Anonymous meetings (AA).


She later talked about it with the Parade magazine, saying: ‘I usually don’t talk about it because I feel it is my business and nobody else’s. After I had been sober for a year, I was given a cake at an AA meeting. The tabloid ran a big story about it. I was furious that they’d planted an informant in the AA group.’

later adding that the tabloid story about her alcoholism stopped her from attending AA meetings.

What happened between David Cassidy and Susan?

David Cassidy was one of the most sought-after teen idols in the ‘70s, and finding a female companion was not a problem for David, who had girls lining up in front of his house. Susan also felt powerless against his charm, and while filming “The Partridge Family”, she fell in love with David.  Even the other co-stars noticed it, including Shirley Jones, who said: ‘Susan had a giant crush on David. She was mad about him.’ Susan and David became close friends on the set, but he never saw her as anything more than a friend. In 1994, David released the memoir ‘C’Mon Get Happy …Fear and Loathing on the Partridge Family Bus’, detailing their relationship, or more accurately, David rejecting Susan’s advances toward him.


He said: ‘“She told me in great detail — we must have spent three hours sitting there – how long she had loved me and how difficult it had been for her, and how afraid she was of what was going to happen with our future.’ Later she visited him at his ranch, and David said that he wasn’t sure about his feelings about Susan, but that he wasn’t romantically interested in her, writing: ‘I thought she was really attractive. But sexually — I never had that hunger for her. Susan lacked the slutty aspect of a female that I always found her pretty. To me, she wasn’t dirty. She wasn’t nasty. She was good.” Ouch!

While at the ranch, David wrote that Susan openly expressed desires to be intimate with him, which further complicated the situation for David. He eventually began making jokes, and they fell asleep together. According to his memoir, in the morning they had a short ‘sexual encounter’, which was, in his opinion, very unsuccessful. Susan has never commented about David’s book and the information he shared. During an interview, he was asked about his relationship with Susan, and revealed that the memoir caused a permanent divide between them, saying: ‘“I never heard a response, and I don’t know why,” he said. “Neither has Shirley, neither has Danny [Bonaduce], neither have any of them.’ It’s safe to assume that she didn’t enjoy the descriptions, and the content of his autobiography.

Martha Clifford

As an Author at Net Worth Post, I guide a dedicated team in the art of revealing the stories behind the world's most influential personalities. Fueled by a relentless curiosity and a knack for uncovering hidden stories, I immerse myself in the intricacies of our subjects' lives, weaving together accurate data and compelling narratives. My involvement spans the entire editorial process, from the seed of research to the final flourish of publication, ensuring that every article not only educates but also captivates and motivates our audience.

At Net Worth Post, we are committed to providing thorough investigations into the net worth and life achievements of innovators across diverse sectors such as technology, culture, and social entrepreneurship. My method merges meticulous research with eloquent storytelling, designed to bridge the gap between our readers and the remarkable individuals who redefine our tomorrow. Through spotlighting their journeys to success, the hurdles they've surmounted, and their contributions to society, we aim to give our readers a deep and inspiring insight into the luminaries who are paving the way for progress and ingenuity in the modern era.

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