April 12, 1950 – November 21, 2017
– Spoken word from the song Doesn’t Somebody Want to be Wanted
David Cassidy spent his life having to constantly remind people that (1) he wasn’t Keith Partridge and even when he was a “teen idol” he wasn’t a teen. (2) Shirley Jones was NOT his mother. She was his step-mother, and she stopped being that in 1974 when she divorced his Dad.
It was a little confusing. Shirley Jones played mom Shirley, Danny Bonaduce played brother Danny, and David at age 20 started played 16-year-old Keith on the hit television show The Partridge Family (1970-74).
Unlike Keith, David himself was not a goody-goody teenager living in suburbia, he was the only child of Broadway actor-singers Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward. David appeared on the Broadway stage at age 19 where he was spotted by an L.A. agent and sent out to the coast for TV guest spots on Marcus Welby M.D, Ironside, Adam-12, and Bonanza. He had a boyish charm and a pretty face. He was a typical Hollywood young man of the 60s who had tried plenty of psychedelic drugs and enjoyed casual sex. He inherited an endowment like his dear Dad and he gravitated to older women and “slutty” types. His half-brothers from Shirley & Jack (married in 1956) gave David the nickname DONK, short for Donkey Dick. David wrote all about his junk and its admirers in his 1990s memoir.
When he auditioned for The Partridge Family (a sitcom based on The Cowsills minus the abusive perv father) he didn’t know that his stepmother Shirley Jones would be playing his TV mother. David & Shirley later convinced the execs at Columbia/Screen Gems that they could do their own singing and not have to lip-synch all the studio generated songs as they had in the pilot.
The Partridge Family was a hit and the song “I Think I Love You” became the top selling global single of 1970. They were nominated for a Grammy in 1971 for best “New Artist”. The kid actors from the ABC-TV Friday night lead-in sitcom The Brady Bunch wished they were as cool as P-Fam. Davy Jones is NO Bobby Sherman.
The Family house was actually located on the Warner Ranch lot in Burbank, near the FRIENDS Fountain.
The house was featured in Bewitched as the Kravitz house, the Stevens’ very nosey neighbor Gladys and her future corpse-snatched husband Abner.
So if this is the Partridge/Kravitz home… that must mean the Stevens’ house is across the street, right
Back to Donk:
When the show and his “teen idol” status blew up, the studio kept David at the Sunset-Gower Studio taping for 12 hours a day, followed by recording sessions for the steady stream of P-Fam LPs and radio hits, and he’d play concerts all weekend and be back to the set Monday. He reportedly played some 350 concerts in 17 countries while releasing 10 P-Fam albums, eight solo albums and 17 singles. David received so much fan mail that the Hollywood Post office reportedly had to annex an adjoining building to sort through the mail. Merchandise (coloring books, towels, lunchboxes) hit the stores with his face on it, and he graced the cover of dozens of Tiger Beat Magazine covers. In case you forgot his Tiger Beat “faves”:
His favorite dessert: Strawberry Shortcake
His favorite color: Blue
His favorite snack food: Dry-roasted peanuts
His dog’s name was Hashish (Tiger Beat changed it to ‘Sheesh’ for their nine-to-twelve-year-old readership)
His Favorite song? David once told fans: “I sing a song sometimes at the end of my act called “Cry.” It was originally a hit for Johnny Ray…My father taught me the song when I was a little boy, and I rearranged it for me as a tribute to him for all he gave me and taught me.”
“I was much more into the British blues thing, John Mayall and Cream. Clapton, Peter Gabriel. I saw Jimi Hendrix five times.”
His “feathered” hair was epic and became a fad. The “Rachel” of the 70’s. I even had my MOTHER take me to a stylist, NOT A BARBER with a picture of Cassidy and said, “THIS is what I want!”
About his Dad, his father Jack Cassidy was a very talented, bi-polar, bi-sexual alcoholic with a huge ego who grew resentful of his wife and son’s towering fame above his own. If you think about it, Jack had been plodding away for decades on Broadway and on television, superstardom *just* out of reach, then his child surpasses any success of Jack’s in such a short period of time. David hadn’t spoken to his father for a year when Jack Cassidy, age 49, burned to death in his divorced bachelor condo in West Hollywood. David said he wished he had the chance to say ‘I love you’ to his Dad before he passed. It haunted him.
I watched the David Cassidy documentary called The Last Session recently. It really was so very sad and uncomfortable, which was the entire point I guess. David desperately wanted his father’s approval.
David was thrust into international fame and chaotic life on the road without a real support system back home. The 20-something was making big money singing to hysterical teenage girls all over the world. One U.K. show led to a haunting tragedy when 800 platform-shoed concert-goers were injured by a stampede which killed 14-year-old named Bernadette Whelan who died from brain damage brought on by asphyxiation. Her parents publicly stated they didn’t blame Cassidy. These days he’d have been sued and destroyed. He sent flowers and a message of condolences to the family but avoided attending the funeral and turning it into a media circus.
“I wanted to close the book on the madness and hysteria.”
David found solace during these crazy touring years by visiting with friends, including pal Kim (Bette Davis Eyes) Carnes (who opened for him on tours). She told an interviewer: “As David used to say, he couldn’t go to a market, he couldn’t go out anywhere, and our house became a safe place for him. We’d get out a bottle of wine and smoke a joint…and put on what we all liked: Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck…He had the best laugh, the best smile, and the biggest heart.”
His white-hot fame finally cooled down after the sitcom ended in 1974. David married his first wife, actress Kay Lenz, in 1977. In 1979 he starred in a TV detective show titled, David Cassidy: Man Undercover which was cancelled after ten episodes.
The 1980s were not as welcoming to him and he grew depressed and drank more. His marriage to Kay Lenz dissolved in 1983, and offers for work dried up while P-Fam reruns played daily around the world. Perhaps his ego was also bruised by seeing his TV sister Susan Dey starring in movies and an Emmy-winning hit series L.A. LAW. David later told his fans, “There were times, most of them in the 80’s, when I felt very lost and despondent. I was frustrated by my lack of opportunity to reach you, and to share my life and talent with you…”
David Cassidy was the first to admit he had no real skills or talents outside of show biz. His love of horses, racing, and horse breeding could only occupy him for so long. He appeared with brother Shaun in Blood Brothers on Broadway in 1993 and stayed with the show for the U.S. National Tour in 1994 – I saw it with Petula Clark. All three were great. (I saw Petula in concert in 2019 in the very same theater I saw Blood Brothers in. She very sweetly acknowledged David and his death.). He then went to Las Vegas and took over the fantasy stage spectacle EFX from Michael Crawford and stayed with it from 1997 to 1999. He performed 44 weeks a year. He drafted his brother Shaun to help re-tool the show for his own talents and fans loved seeing him entertain again. A couple fans I know had read his memoir and yelled DONK!!! when he took the stage.
Cassidy went on to create his own Vegas show at the RIO from January 2000 to January 2001 called At the Copa, which co-started Sheena Easton and featured songs from the 40s to 70s, including his own hits. He toured regularly throughout the early 2000s and occasionally stepped in to play Bobby Darin in the long-running The Rat Pack is Back! show in Las Vegas that he co-produced & co-created.
In 2011, Cassidy sued Sony (current owner of Columbia/Screen Gems) for back royalties of P-Fam merchandise of which he claimed to have only received $5,000 in 40 years. Under his 1971 contract with Screen Gems, Cassidy was supposed to get 15 percent of net merchandising revenues for the use of his image, voice or likeness, and no more than half of that for items in which other cast members appeared. In July 2012, Cassidy was denied a jury trial in the case with a judge citing an arbitration clause in the actor’s original 1971 contract. That arbitrator finally ruled on the case, awarding Cassidy $157,965.
The victory lap in court was short-lived as Cassidy’s drinking began to manifest in legal woes. He was charged with DUI (drunk driving) three times between 2010 and 2014. Cassidy’s alcoholism and abuse of prescription medicines for depression ended his 23-year marriage to third wife, Sue Shifrin and they divorced in 2014. I n 2015, he filed for bankruptcy, and was later cited for leaving the scene of another accident.
After a bankruptcy, Cassidy had to sell his mansion and boat, so he bought this condominium in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
After a disastrous concert (footage leaked to media) at Agoura Hills CA in February 2017 where he forgot lyrics and almost fell off stage. Fans got angry, Cassidy responded with “Are you stupid or deaf?!”
Cassidy was booked on Dr. Phil to discuss his retirement from concerts and his inherited affliction of dementia. Later in life, he was reportedly close to his mother Evelyn, who developed Alzheimer’s Disease of which she died in 2012. David tried his hardest as caregiver and spoke publicly about caregiving for dementia patients.
He later confessed to an A&E documentary crew shortly before his death that his mental deterioration was really caused by his excessive drinking and that he’d continued to secretly drink after his 2016 rehab treatment.
“I did it to myself to cover up the sadness and the emptiness.”
Danny Bonaduce told People mag:
“Part of alcoholism is lying. When you’re an addict, you know you can’t be honest with people. You say what you want them to hear. I can’t be mad at David for that, but it’s still a tragedy.”
David Cassidy died of liver and kidney failure on November 21, 2017 at age 67 in a Ft. Lauderdale area hospital. His family was with him at the end, and his daughter told fans that his last words were, “so much wasted time.”
An announcement was made to press: “On behalf of the entire Cassidy family, it is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our father, our uncle, and our dear brother, David Cassidy. David died surrounded by those he loved, with joy in his heart and free from the pain that had gripped him for so long. Thank you for the abundance of love and support you have shown him these many years.”
He was survived by his (half) brothers Shaun, Patrick & Ryan and his two children, Katie, 31, and Beau, 27. He left no provisions for his children in his will, but his son was listed as beneficiary on life insurance and a retirement plan for a reported combined value of $1.6 million.
David Cassidy was cremated with his ashes reportedly scattered in Bali.
Shirley Jones told the press, “As a little boy, his sweet sensitivity and wicked sense of humor were already on display, and I will treasure the years we spent working and growing together. I will also find solace knowing that David is now with his dad.”
Thank you Mark Langlois for the story and thank very much Mark and Laur for the Florida snaps.