David Cassidy lied about having Alzheimer’s
| One thing haunted him until the day he died
| AARP – A new documentary reveals the sad life of the singer who lied about his illness.
David Cassidy, the singer who said shortly before his death at 67 in November that his onstage collapse in February 2017 was caused by Alzheimer’s disease, actually died of organ failure related to alcoholism, according to a new documentary, David Cassidy: The Last Session.
In the poignant two-hour film, Cassidy — whose mother had Alzheimer’s — confesses:
“I did it to myself, to cover up the sadness and the emptiness. There is no sign of me having dementia at this stage of my life. It was complete alcohol poisoning. And the fact is, I lied about my drinking.”
Problem drinking is more than a show business affliction. Cassidy’s tragic story is about the need to maintain a public image in that business — but his generation faces an increased risk of alcoholism.
Cassidy’s case was also related to neglect by his famous father, actor-singer Jack Cassidy, who also was an alcoholic, according to his son.
Jack had left Cassidy’s mother for Shirley Jones, who played the young heartthrob’s mother on TV’s The Partridge Family.
During the course of the sitcom, from 1970 to 1974, Cassidy earned $8 million.
By 1986, he said he had less than a thousand left and found it impossible to be taken seriously as an actor or singer after being typecast as a teen idol who received 25,000 fans’ love letters a week.
“His fan club was bigger than the Beatles’ and Elvis’s put together,” says his Partridge Family costar Danny Bonaduce. Read the full story at AARP.
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David Bruce Cassidy (1950 – 2017)
David Cassidy (April 12, 1950 – November 21, 2017) was an American actor, singer, songwriter, and guitarist.
He was known for his role as Keith Partridge, the son of Shirley Partridge (played by his stepmother Shirley Jones), in the 1970s musical-sitcom The Partridge Family, which led to his becoming one of popular culture’s teen idols and superstar pop singers of the 1970s.
He later had a career in both acting and music. He died at age 67 of liver failure that was likely caused by long-term alcohol abuse.
Cassidy was born at Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital in New York City, the son of singer and actor Jack Cassidy and actress Evelyn Ward.
His father was of half Irish and half German ancestry, and his mother was descended mostly from Colonial Americans, along with some Irish and Swiss roots. His mother’s ancestors were among the founders of Newark, New Jersey.
As his parents were frequently touring on the road, he spent his early years being raised by his maternal grandparents in a middle-class neighborhood in West Orange, New Jersey.
In 1956, he found out from neighbors’ children that his parents had been divorced for over two years and had not told him.
His parents had decided that, because he was so young, it would be better for his emotional stability to not discuss it at that time.
They also reasoned that because they were gone so often with theater productions, home life after the divorce was not that much different, so there was no need to tell David.
In 1956, Cassidy’s father married singer and actress Shirley Jones. They had three children: David’s half-brothers, Shaun (b. 1958), Patrick (b. 1962), and Ryan (b. 1966).
In 1968, after completing one final session of summer school to obtain credits necessary to get a high-school diploma, David moved into the rental home of Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones in Irvington, New York, where his half-brothers also lived.
David remained there, seeking fame as an actor/musician, while simultaneously working half-days in the mailroom of a textile firm.
He moved out when his career began to flourish.
Cassidy’s father, Jack, is credited with setting his son up with his first manager.
After signing with Universal Studios in 1969, Jack introduced him to former table tennis champion and close friend Ruth Aarons, who later found her niche as a talent manager, given her theater background.
Aarons had represented Jack and Shirley Jones for several years, and later represented Cassidy’s half-brother, Shaun.
Aarons became an authority figure and close friend to Cassidy, and was the driving force behind his on-screen success.
After making small wages from Screen Gems for his work on The Partridge Family during season one, Aarons discovered a loophole in his contract, specifically that he had been under-aged when he signed it, and renegotiated it with far superior terms, and a four-year duration, a rare stipulation at the time.
On January 2, 1969, Cassidy made his professional debut in the Broadway musical The Fig Leaves Are Falling.
It closed after four performances, but a casting director saw the show and asked Cassidy to make a screen test.
In 1969, he moved to Los Angeles. After signing with Universal Studios in 1969, Cassidy was featured in episodes of the television series Ironside, Marcus Welby, M.D., Adam-12 Medical Center and Bonanza.
In 1970, Cassidy took the role of Keith Partridge, son of Shirley Partridge, who was played by Cassidy’s real stepmother and series lead Shirley Jones.
The Partridge Family series creator Bernard Slade and producers Paul Junger Witt and Bob Claver did not care whether Cassidy could sing, knowing only that his androgynous good looks would guarantee success.
Shortly after production began, though, Cassidy convinced music producer Wes Farrell that he was good enough, and he was promoted to lead singer for the series’ recordings.
Once “I Think I Love You” became a hit, Cassidy began work on solo albums, as well.
Within the first year, he had produced his own single, a cover of The Association’s “Cherish” (from the album of the same title), which reached number nine in the United States, number two in the United Kingdom (a double A-side with “Could It Be Forever”), and number one in Australia and New Zealand.
He began tours that featured Partridge tunes and his own hits. Cassidy achieved far greater solo chart success in the UK than in his native America, including a cover of The Young Rascals’ “How Can I Be Sure” and the double A-side single “Daydreamer” / “The Puppy Song” – two UK number ones which failed to chart in the States.
In Britain, Cassidy the solo star remains best known for “Daydreamer”, “How Can I Be Sure” and “Could It Be Forever” (UK number 2/US number 37), all released during his 1972–73 solo chart peak.
Though he wanted to become a respected rock musician along the lines of Mick Jagger, his channel to stardom launched him into the ranks of teen idol, a brand he loathed until much later in life, when he managed to come to terms with his bubblegum pop beginnings.
Ten albums by The Partridge Family and five solo albums were produced during the series, with most selling more than a million copies each.
Internationally, Cassidy’s solo career eclipsed the already phenomenal success of The Partridge Family.
He became an instant drawing card, with sellout concert successes in major arenas around the world. These concerts produced mass hysteria, resulting in the media coining the term “Cassidymania”.
For example, he played to two sellout crowds of 56,000 each at the Houston Astrodome in Texas over one weekend in 1972.
His concert in New York’s Madison Square Garden sold out in one day and resulted in riots after the show.
His concert tours of the United Kingdom included sellout concerts at Wembley Stadium in 1973.
In Australia in 1974, the mass hysteria was such that calls were made to have him deported from the country, especially after the madness at his 33,000-person audience concert at Melbourne Cricket Ground.
A turning point in Cassidy’s live concerts (while still filming The Partridge Family) was a gate stampede which killed a teenage girl.
At a show in London’s White City Stadium on May 26, 1974, nearly 800 were injured in a crush at the front of the stage.
Thirty were taken to the hospital, and one, 14-year-old Bernadette Whelan, died four days later at London’s Hammersmith Hospital without regaining consciousness, after the excitement and press of the crowd caused a pre-existing heart condition to trigger cardiac arrest.
The show was the penultimate date on a world tour. A deeply affected Cassidy faced the press, trying to make sense of what had happened.
Out of respect for the family and to avoid turning the girl’s funeral into a media circus, Cassidy did not attend the service, although he spoke to Whelan’s parents and sent flowers.
Cassidy stated at the time that this would haunt him until the day he died.
Cassidy’s first wife was actress Kay Lenz, whom he married on April 3, 1977, and divorced on December 28, 1983.
Cassidy soon married his second wife, horse breeder Meryl Tanz, in 1984. They met in 1974 at a horse sale in Lexington, Kentucky. This marriage ended in divorce in 1985.
His daughter, actress Katie Cassidy, was born in 1986 from a relationship with fashion model Sherry Williams.
After David and Williams ended their relationship, Katie was raised by her mother and stepfather Richard Benedon.
David has spoken of his absence from Katie’s life, saying in February 2017:
“I’ve never had a relationship with her. I wasn’t her father. I was her biological father but I didn’t raise her. She has a completely different life. I’m proud of her. She’s very talented. It’s hard for me to even accept how old she is now.”
Cassidy married Sue Shifrin on March 30, 1991, his third and her second marriage. They had one child, Beau, in 1991.
In August 2013, Cassidy’s Los Angeles publicist confirmed that the couple had separated, with Shifrin filing for divorce in February 2014.
Cassidy moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2002. In 2008, Cassidy publicly admitted he had an alcohol problem. He filed for bankruptcy in 2015.
Alcohol-related driving incidents and criminal charges
He was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida on November 3, 2010, and was arrested for DUI a second time in Schodack, New York, in the early hours of August 21, 2013.
He was pulled over after failing to dim his headlights as he passed a police car going in the opposite direction.
After performing poorly on a field sobriety test, Cassidy was subjected to an alcohol breath test, returning a blood alcohol level of 0.10%, which was above the New York legal limit of 0.08%.
The arresting officer, named Tom Jones, reported that Cassidy was polite and courteous, and jokingly asked officer Jones “What’s New Pussycat?” in reference to the 1965 hit song by the singer Tom Jones.
Cassidy was subsequently charged, taken to jail, and released several hours later on $2,500 bail. He faced felony charges because of his prior DUI in Florida in 2010.
On May 12, 2015, Cassidy was sentenced on the 2013 charge of driving while intoxicated in New York, to community service, a fine, and other consequences, including a suspended license for six months.
Cassidy was arrested on suspicion of DUI in California on January 10, 2014, after he made an illegal right turn against a red light. He was held overnight in jail.
In that case, he was ordered to go to inpatient rehabilitation and was put on probation for five years.
Cassidy was cited in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on charges of leaving the scene of a car accident, improper lane change, expired tags, and driving on a suspended license (his license had been suspended for six months in May 2015) on September 9, 2015.
Activism – called leading Republicans “pathetic”
In 2011, Cassidy recorded a public service announcement for Alzheimer’s disease research and prevention – due to his mother, Evelyn Ward, having the condition – and said that he would campaign for that cause whenever possible. He planned to address Congress in 2012.
Cassidy was a long-time registered Democrat. During a 2012 guest appearance on The Colbert Report, he expressed his views on the leading Republican candidates for president, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Cassidy stated, “I believe the both of them are the most embarrassing, sad, pathetic … I mean, really, this is the best we can do?”
Illness and death
On February 20, 2017, following a performance in which Cassidy had difficulty remembering the lyrics of songs he had been performing for nearly 50 years and appeared to fall off the stage, he announced that he was living with dementia and was retiring from all further performing.
He said that his mother and grandfather had also suffered from dementia at the end of their lives, and that “I was in denial, but a part of me always knew this was coming.”
Later in 2017, Cassidy fell ill at a recording studio and was hospitalized. In a later phone call from an A&E producer, he said he had just met with his doctor and, “I have a liver disease – my life has changed dramatically.”
He said he had been unconscious and near death for the first few days after the incident, but that in “the last week or so my memory has come back.”
He said the head doctor at the hospital had told him, “I believe that your dementia was directly related to your alcoholism.”
He said, “You know, I did it to myself, man. I did it to myself to cover up the sadness and the emptiness.” He had told his family and others that he had given up drinking.
On November 18, 2017, it was announced that Cassidy had again been hospitalized, suffering from liver and kidney failure, and was critically ill in a medically induced coma.
He came out of the coma two days later, remaining in critical but stable condition.
Doctors hoped to keep Cassidy stable until a liver became available for transplant, but he died of liver failure on November 21, 2017, aged 67.