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Shirley Jones Casts Off Squeaky-Clean Image In Tell-All Autobiography

The 79-year-old actress talks about sex, aging and the importance of playing Mrs. Partridge

Actress Shirley Jones (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Shirley Jones, 79, is best known for her singing roles in "The Partridge Family" and "Oklahoma!" but won an Oscar (Best Supporting Actress) for her acting in "Elmer Gantry." — Chris Pizzello

Two curiously linked admissions bracket the eponymous new tell-all memoir from Shirley Jones.

The future working mother of The Partridge Family (1970-1974) was all of 6 years old, she confesses, when she stole a pack of gum from the only drugstore in her hometown of Smithton, Pa.

Busted by her mom and banished to her room, young Shirley trashed the place, then defiantly challenged her mother, "Why don't you come in and look at my room?" Her mother made her undo the damage, of course, but Jones "didn't feel guilty about what I had done. I was already a little hell-raiser, and proud of it."

Shirley Jones' memoir (Courtesy Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster)

Jones' memoir dispels her demure image. — Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

After 276 more pages, having divulged various graphic details of her sexual résumé (a three-way with her husband and a Vegas showgirl; sniffing amyl nitrite during sex), Jones still sounds remarkably like that petulant little girl: "I have always liked to shock people a bit," she informs us somewhat redundantly. "Despite my age, I still do."

To find out why someone with such a squeaky-clean reputation would dish all that dirt — about herself, no less — we talked to the Oscar winner (Best Supporting Actress, Elmer Gantry, 1960) in the middle of her book tour for Shirley Jones: A Memoir. (Read the interview below and watch the video at the bottom of the page.)

Q: Have early readers been shocked by your memoir?

A: I wasn't sure how it would be received, to tell you the truth. But so far it's mostly been very good.

So many people think of me as that little girl from Smithton, Pa., or as Mrs. Partridge. But I'm also a normal human being — and I like everything else that goes along with that, too.

Q: You write that "I've always been an extremely sexual woman, easily aroused, and intensely orgasmic." What's the strategy behind such candor?

A: Well, I certainly never would have written this book 10 years ago, or 15 years ago, or 25 years ago.

Q: Why do you say that?

A: I'm going to be 80 [next March], so my memoir might as well be a tell-all. I don't know how much longer I'm going to be around!

Q: You say you've always believed that "old age and sexuality are not incompatible. And that a woman can retain her sexuality at any age." That will be music to our readers' ears — can I get you to talk about that here in a bit less detail than you do on pages 283-285 of your memoir?

A: There's no reason sex has to stop. If one partner does not wish to do it, masturbation is OK — it's been around forever, and with older people, if you want to maintain some sort of sexuality yourself, it's the way to go.

Next page: Shirley Jones opens up about her late husband (David's dad) Jack Cassidy. »

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Video Extra

MRS. PARTRIDGE IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Movies for Grownups host Bill Newcott sits down with Shirley Jones for a candid interview. Subscribe to the Movies for Grownups podcast.

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