David Cassidy was the teen idol whose star went supernova and then turned his life into a devastating black hole of addiction and depression.
1. He Was Bigger Than Elvis
Long before anyone had heard of "Bieber Fever," there was "Cassidymania". For much of the 1970s, David Cassidy was the biggest teen idol the world had ever seen. His fan club dwarfed that of The Beatles and Elvis Presley. His devastating story, however, is a cautionary tale about what happens when a teen star goes supernova.
2. His Parents Were Stars
Even before his first mania-inducing concerts, David Cassidy was a star. His father, Jack Cassidy, was a famous actor and singer while his mother, Evelyn Ward was a star in her own right. There was little question, then, that little David Cassidy was destined for big things. But no one could have predicted the heights he would reach.
3. His Parents Abandoned Him
With so much star power in the home, little Cassidy didn't shine bright enough to get his parents' attention. At least, not a first. They spent so much time away from home, touring and filming, and away from the young Cassidy that they didn’t even raise him.
For the most part, it was Cassidy’s humbler grandparents who took charge of his upbringing—but this led to some devastating moments.
4. He Was The Last To Know
Cassidy was so distant from his parents that he had no idea what was happening with them. In fact, when his parents got divorced, Cassidy was the last one to hear about it. He only found out two years after the fact when kids in his neighborhood broke the bad news. Fortunately, a mother figure did eventually appear in Cassidy’s life.
5. His Father Business Was Chasing Fame
Cassidy’s father remarried before the future teen idol even knew he had gotten divorced. Nevertheless, when he found out, Cassidy moved in with his father and his new stepmother, Shirley Jones. But a change in parents didn’t mean a change in lifestyle. Jones was, herself, an entertainer and the Cassidy family business was still all about chasing fame.
6. He Had A “Momager”
In an effort to kickstart his son’s career, Cassidy's father introduced him to the talent manager, Ruth Aarons. For all intents and purposes, Aarons was the nearest thing that Cassidy had ever had to a mother. Or, more accurately, a stage mother. She was certainly the only person who actually looked out for him in those early days.
7. His Debut Was A Flop
Aarons could see in Cassidy an undeniable star power. So, she did everything in her own power to help him reach his potential. She helped Cassidy make his debut in the four-performance-flop, The Fig Leaves are Falling. Even though the Broadway production fizzled and failed miserably, Cassidy stood out from the crowd. Something that he became very accustomed to.
8. He Moved To Hollywood
A casting director who had seen the show spotted a rare quality in Cassidy—that quality of a natural-born entertainer. He invited the budding actor and singer to do a screen test and, from there, Cassidy couldn’t look back. He moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams. It seemed like nothing could stop Cassidy from realizing his potential.
9. He Made It Look Easy
For most stars, success in showbusiness takes years. For others, they simply keep dreaming of fame as they bus tables to pay their bills. But, for Cassidy, success in Hollywood only took months. Almost as soon as he landed in LAX, he also landed roles on hit shows such as Bonanza and Ironside. True success, however, was just around the corner.
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10. He Was A Partridge By Birth
Cassidy landed the role of Keith Partridge in the musical TV series, The Partridge Family. No one could have anticipated how wildly successful the series would become. Thankfully, Cassidy had a hand to hold throughout the entire series as he starred alongside his real-life stepmother, Shirley Jones. Once again, however, the spotlight found Cassidy—and Cassidy alone.
11. He Made Peanuts
Cassidy's agent, Ruth Aarons, made a shocking discovery. Her breakout star of a client had been underage when he signed his contract. As the biggest star on the show and the main draw for audiences, Aarons argued that Cassidy was overworked and underpaid. But better contract terms didn’t necessarily equate to a better life.
12. He Had The Right Stuff
The Partridge Family became a massive hit show, turning Cassidy into a household name all over the world. With his superior singing, swoon-worthy looks and Farrah Fawcett hair, Cassidy found himself center stage. The studio quickly made him the lead singer and wanted to cash in on his seemingly limitless potential. Even if some people had to get hurt.
13. His Fans Were Madly In Love
As Cassidy's face and voice entered millions of screens across the world, something powerful happened. Audiences, particularly the show’s young female viewers, fell madly in love with the teen sensation. But, from the studio lot, Cassidy had no way of knowing just how madly in love with him his fans truly were. He would find out the hard way.
14. He Was Fiery Famous
Having grown up as the child of stars, fame was nothing new to Cassidy. He had seen fans flock to his parents like moths to a flame his whole life. Despite growing up around fame and notoriety, he admitted to feeling "stifled". He had no way of knowing the fame firestorm that he had started. Some of those moths were going to burn.
15. He Beared It All
In an attempt to change his “teen idol” image, Cassidy did something totally unexpected. In May of 1972, he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone—without any clothes. Thankfully, the photo cropped out just above his "partridge family" but the racy cover had the opposite effect that he had intended. It kicked his fame into hyperdrive.
16. He Smoked Like A Chimney
Cassidy wasn’t terribly fond of his ever-growing star but he tried to put his platform to good use. He figured he could encourage his adoring fans to pursue healthy habits and lifestyles. He appeared in an anti-smoking ad campaign despite, himself, being a smoker. But he had good reasons for singling out about this particularly lethal habit.
17. His Father Went Up In Smoke
Cassidy's father had perished tragically in a smoking related accident. He had fallen asleep one night with a smoke in his hand. The lit stub fell onto the couch and ignited an inferno. Authorities found what was left of him sprawled out on the floor in front of the door the following morning. The devastating event impacted Cassidy for life.
18. He Went Solo
With his stardom reaching stratospheric levels, the studio saw an opportunity to cash in. They encouraged Cassidy to ditch his Partridge Family co-stars and strike out on his own with solo albums and worldwide concert tours. The frenzy that ensued rocked entire nations and turned his fans into fanatics with a fatal zeal for Cassidy.
19. He Was The Biggest In The World
The success of Cassidy's debut solo albums, Cherish and Rock Me Baby, proved that he was the only Partridge family member that audiences really cared about. Overnight, he became the highest earning entertainer in the world. The power behind his record sales and sold-out concerts? A rabid fan club with a manic obsession.
20. He Was Bigger Than The Beatles
Powered by his panty-dropping good looks and smooth vocals, Cassidy's fan club became bigger than any other in the world. At the height of his fame, his fan club was even bigger than those of legends like The Beatles and Elvis Presley. His fans’ obsession with him was positively out of this world. You might say he was the biggest star in the night sky.
21. His Fans Named A Star After Him
Who needs a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame when they could have a real star? In 1983, Cassidy's fan club did something for him that no other fan club had ever done. They turned him into an actual star. Perhaps not literally, but, at least, metaphorically. They named a real star in the night sky after him in the International Star Registry.
22. He Couldn’t Eat In Peace
Cassidy's fans' devotion to him was truly touching—too literally, apparently. Even though he appreciated their overwhelming love and support, Cassidy began complaining that it had become impossible for him to go anywhere without mobs of fans swarming him. Even in the privacy of his own home, Cassidy couldn't escape the spectre of his fame.
23. He Was On Cereal Boxes
In 1972, Cassidy asked his housekeeper to run to the store and pick up cereal for breakfast (seeing as though he couldn't set foot outside without sparking a veritable stampede of teenage girls). When his housekeeper returned with a box cereal bearing his likeness, however, he knew his fame had reached terrifying new heights: "I can't even eat breakfast without seeing my face".
24. He Sparked A Mania
Despite his reservations about the level of fame and obsession surrounding him, Cassidy continued performing at sold-out concerts all over the world. With every performance, however, his fans' devotion deepened. The media took to calling this phenomenon "Cassidymania". For one poor soul, it turned out to be a fatal fad.
25. He Went Down Under
Cassidy sold-out stadiums from Texas to Japan and back again. But not every country could handle the mass hysteria that was Cassidymania. When the teen idol arrived in Australia in 1974 for a concert at Melbourne Cricket Ground, the audience of over 30,000 people nearly broke out into a riot. Cassidy was lucky to escape in one piece.
26. He Begged Everyone To Stop
As soon as Cassidy appeared on stage, all mayhem broke loose within the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Tens of thousands of people began to rush towards the stage, crushing Cassidy’s youngest and most vulnerable fans. In a desperate plea to save their lives, he begged, “I love you but I want you to do me a favor. Just push back so no one gets hurt. If you don’t I’ll have to go off”.
27. He Had To Flee The Scene
Unfortunately, news reports from the following day relayed a harrowing scene in which “250 youngsters fainted” and one poor girl broke her arm. Following the concert, even Cassidy found himself in harm’s way. While trying to speed away to safety from the out-of-control crowd or teens and tweens, Cassidy’s driver smashed into an iron fence. Thankfully, the pop star was ok.
28. He Was A Public Health Hazard
Cassidymania resulted in more than just physical injuries. After the carnage at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, newspapers ran with headlines calling the teen idol a health hazard. Concerned parents believed that the authorities should have deported Cassidy to prevent further harm to the public. Another Cassidy concert would prove those parents right.
29. His Final Concert Performance Was Deadly
The calls to deport Cassidy from Australia to prevent the mania that he caused might have been extreme but they were well-founded. Unfortunately, Cassidy’s British fans would learn this the hard way—and so would Cassidy. At the final concert performance of his infamous 1974 world tour, Cassidymania turned bloody and deadly.
30. He Fans Rushed The Stage
At London's White City Stadium, Cassidy gave a concert performance that would change his life forever. Just like in Australia, tens of thousands of his screaming, hysterical fans began rushing towards the stage. This time, however, not everyone would make it out alive. The chaotic rush left nearly 800 people injured—some more so than others.
31. His Stardom Crushed A Fan
30 people from Cassidy’s White City Stadium concert performance ended up in the hospital with various injuries. One girl, however, never made it out. Crushed beneath the weight of Cassidymania, 14-year-old Bernadette Whelan slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness. Four days later, she succumbed to her injuries.
32. He Didn’t Attend The Funeral
In the wake of Whelan's tragic demise at his concert, Cassidy found himself compelled to make sense of the horrifying incident. In a gesture of profound respect for the grieving family, and to shield the memory of the young girl from the insatiable glare of the media, Cassidy resolved not to attend Whelan’s funeral despite his own grief.
33. He Sent His Deepest Regrets
Despite not attending in person, Cassidy reached out to Whelan's grieving parents. With a voice trembling with sorrow, Cassidy offered a poignant tribute to his fallen fan in the form of fragrant flowers. Racked with guilt over the incident and haunted by visions of the crowds crushing his fans, Cassidy vowed that he would never forget that day.
34. He Quit Fame
Following the unspeakably tragic events of his 1974 tour, Cassidy realized that his fame had reached dangerous (and evidently deadly) levels. He decided that it was time for him to step back from the spotlight. In a shocking move, he announced that he would quit touring. But that wasn't the craziest part.
Then he really stunned his fans when he added that he would be leaving The Partridge Family.
35. He Was Still Too Famous
For a while, it seemed like David Cassidy was going to settle down and try to find a normal life. He met the actress Kay Lenz and married her in 1977. However, even in his early quasi-retirement, his starpower was still too much for some. “When we eloped it was on the national news,” Lenz recalled. Not necessarily good news.
36. His Fans Were Dangerously Jealous
As the wife of everyone’s favorite teen idol, Lenz expected some degree of hatred. All of Cassidy’s rabid fans either wanted to be her—or to get rid of her. “All of a sudden I was getting mail from women telling me that they had three of his children,” Lenz recalled. The jealousy was so intense that she had to hire the celebrity bodyguard Tommy Peacock.
37. His Stardom Ruined His Marriage
In the end, a lasting romance was not in the cards for Cassidy and his bride. Though there were many rumors that his substance problems had attributed to the breakup, Lenz later said her own unhappiness led to the breakdown of the marriage. But Cassidy hadn’t given up love quite yet.
38. He Ran Out Of Money
Cassidy stepped back from the spotlight and focused largely on songwriting. But, by 1980, he announced that he had somehow run out of money. Cautiously, he stepped back into the spotlight and began touring again. This time, thankfully, no fans were harmed in the making of his comeback. The same, however, could not be said for Cassidy himself.
39. He Tried To Make A Comeback
Cassidy attempted to make a comeback in the early 1980s, but, by then, his star had faded. It was both a blessing and a curse. He tried touring with a pre-Broadway production but critics hated his performance so much that the show’s producers had no choice but to replace him. He might have missed the days of his adoring fans.
40. He Bet On The Wrong Horse
Even Cassidy's love life was falling apart around him. Back at the height of his fame in 1974, he had met a horse breeder named Meryl Tanz. A decade later, the two decided to play their odds at marriage. But Cassidy had clearly bet on the wrong horse. Less than four years later, their marriage fell apart. This time, he had no one to blame but himself.
41. He Returned To The Top
Failed marriages and failed comebacks became a running theme for Cassidy. That is, until 1990. The aged former teen idol made a daring comeback on the music charts with hits like "Lyin' to Myself" and blockbuster films like Spirit of '76. However, his days in the dark when his star hadn’t been shining had taken their toll.
42. He Turned To The Bottle
In his lowest years, Cassidy had turned to boozing to ease his loneliness. Fortunately, it seemed that he had gotten over his addiction when, throughout the 1990s and 2000s, he enjoyed an unexpected resurgence. He even got over his trauma surrounding touring and returned to concert performances. It was obvious, however, that he had lost his edge.
43. He Relapsed Into Bad Habits
Cassidy clearly struggled to deal with the small resurgence of his fame. Between 2010 and 2015, he relapsed into his darker habits. In a series of embarrassing incidents, the former teen idol received several DUIs and went in and out of rehab, even spending time behind bars. It seemed that he couldn’t find happiness, with or without fame.
44. He Forgot His Lyrics
At a 2017 concert performance in Agoura Hills, California, Cassidy stunned audiences—for all of the wrong reasons. The seasoned performer and entertainer began stumbling over lyrics to songs that he had performed for decades. Then, to everyone's amazement, the former teen idol fell off the stage. He had hit a new low.
45. He Was Losing His Mind
Cassidy excused his Agoura Hills performance by claiming that he was not well. He made the devastating revelation that he was suffering from dementia and claimed that he had a family history of the disease. "I was in denial,” he confessed, “but a part of me always knew this was coming". Apparently, he forgot to tell the truth.
46. He Collapsed Without Explanation
At a studio recording later that same year, Cassidy suddenly collapsed and ended up in the hospital once again. In an interview a few days later, Cassidy claimed that his doctors had diagnosed him with liver disease and that he had been mere moments away from drawing his last breaths. But, to observant fans, something didn't add up.
47. He Admitted To Lying
In the interview following his hospitalization, Cassidy made another shocking revelation. The star revealed just how far he had fallen. He confessed to having lied about suffering with dementia and admitted that he was still struggling with his drinking problem. "You know, I did it to myself, man,” he lamented. “I did it to myself to cover up the sadness and the emptiness".
48. He Had Run Out Of Time
The revelation came as a shock to all of Cassidy's friends and family. He had told them that his days of boozing and wild driving were behind him. Little did any of them know, however, how powerful his addiction really was. Sadly, by the time that it seemed like Cassidy was willing to overcome his feelings of emptiness and drop the bottle for good, it was already too late.
49. He Needed A Liver To Live
In late 2017, Cassidy's addiction landed him in the hospital once again. Doctors put him into a medically induced coma and hoped that they could get a liver transplant in time to save his life. But the stars didn't align. On November 21, 2017, Cassidy's star finally stopped shining and the world seemed a little less bright.
50. He Became Stardust
The 67-year old former teen idol passed away full of regrets. His daughter Katie Cassidy, said that his last words had been, "So much wasted time". In the end, fame and fortune had destroyed Cassidy's life. He didn't want it to ruin his afterlife as well.
In keeping with his wishes, his family didn't hold a memorial service, cremated his remains, and scattered his ashes to the wind so that one day, they might become stardust again.