Written by: Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons
I missed the heyday of The Partridge Family’s popularity.
Thanks to reruns, I soon found myself crushing on Cassidy. We all know the plot of the show: The kid wanted to start a band. And hey! His mom could sing, too! (It didn’t hurt the mom in question was played by Shirley Jones, an Oscar winner for Elmer Gantry and stepmother to Cassidy in real life.) And when the mother/son duo enlisted the rest of the Partridge brood as their rhythm section, and the gruff but kind manager Reuben Kincaid (David Madden) as their manager, the Partridge Family was born.
David Cassidy played Keith who was the lead singer of the band and sang hits like “I Think I Love You,” “I Can Feel Your Heartbeat” “I’ll Meet You Halfway” and “I Woke Up In Love This Morning,” the latter being my personal favorite because it inspired a story and the title of my first book. Every episode had a story/problem that was solved at the end, be it Laurie (Susan Dey) having a radio station in her braces, Danny (Danny Bonaduce) getting into some kind of mischief, or Keith being hung up on a girl.
The show was a smash and suddenly David Cassidy was on every cover of every teen magazine.
He was literally everywhere.
When The Partridge Family ended in 1974, predictably, Cassidy found himself typecast as a teen idol. The same year during a concert in London, a young fan named Bernadette Whelan was crushed to death by overexcited fans–she died of traumatic asphyxiation in the middle of a rabid crowd.
Shaken, Cassidy said he’d had enough. No more touring, no more acting. During his hiatus tragedy struck; his father, the actor Jack Cassidy, fell asleep in his apartment with a lit cigarette in his hand. When he dropped the cigarette, the apartment went up in flames, killing him in the blaze.
Cassidy returned to acting, landing a role in the TV show Police Woman as an undercover cop which earned him an Emmy nomination. It led to his own show David Cassidy: Man Undercover, but the show was canceled. He married several times and continued making musci. Yet alcohol shadowed his life. Several times he had periods of sobriety. During one of them, he had success in London with brother Shaun Cassidy in Blood Brothers. During another period, he started in one of my favorite movies of the 90’s, The Spirit of ’76.
In 1994 he came out with a memoir called–what else? Come on Get Happy.
Me being me, I had to buy it. At Tower Records in Concord, I waited in line for him to sign the book. While I waited there was an announcement saying that he wouldn’t sign any Partridge Family memorabilia. Only the book. This caused many people who still had that Teen Beat with him on the cover to leave.
I stayed. I understood where he was coming from. He was still trying to break away–still trying to stop being Keith.
When he did sign my book, I said to him “You were great in Spirit of ’76.”
His face lit up. Was it because I gave him a compliment? Or was it because it wasn’t Partridge related? Not sure. He did say “Thank you so much! I loved making that movie.”
Not a love connection.
But still, David Cassidy talked to me!
So, my heart is breaking on this autumn night that David Cassidy is no longer with us. There are no happy endings, nothing tied up in a neat bow. Maybe we should remember him with the pukka shells and shag, as he sang, “Believe me you really don’t have to worry/ I only wanna make you happy and if you say “hey go away” I will/ But I think better still I’d better stay around and love you/Do you think I have a case let me ask you to your face/ Do you think you love me?”
We did, David.
And we always will.