David Cassidy now has something in common with Ariana Grande. The aftermath of the Manchester Arena concert bombing in England that killed at least 22 of Grande’s fans and injured dozens more brings to mind the 1974 White City tragedy that all but ended David Cassidy’s career. Cassidy, who is now 67 years old, stopped touring at the height of his career after the 1974 tragedy when he was just 24 years old, and now some of Grande’s fans are afraid she will, too. Ariana turns 24 next month.
David Cassidy has been vocal about the 1974 White City Stadium concert and how it affected him both personally and professionally. At the time, David was riding high with the success of The Partridge Family. Cassidy played teen heartthrob Keith Partridge on the ABC musical comedy, and his solo career had him outselling the biggest names of the era, with a fan club that was reportedly bigger than the Beatles or Elvis Presley.
But on May 26, 1974, David’s high life came crashing down when hundreds of hysterical fans rushed the stage at his concert at the White City Stadium in London. Nearly 800 screaming fans had to be carried out of the arena, and 14-year-old Bernadette Whelan was crushed by the crowd. Whelan was carried out from the David Cassidy concert in a coma, and she died from her injuries four days later. Although Cassidy later found out that Whelan had been born with a heart condition, her cause of death was directly related to the suffocation from the crowd.
People reported that Whelan’s father said the family didn’t blame the “I Think I Love You” heartthrob for his daughter’s death.
“We don’t blame David. Bernadette would not have liked us to blame him,” the late teen’s dad said.
According to the Independent, Cassidy considered canceling his May 28, 1974, show, but ultimately performed one last concert out. Only 8,000 of the expected 20,000 fans turned up, with promoters at the time saying parents had returned tickets due to fears for their children’s’ safety. Six fans were hospitalized during the frenzy of what would be David Cassidy’s farewell show, and Whelan died two days later.
In order to avoid a media frenzy, David Cassidy did not attend Bernadette Whelan’s funeral services. Instead, David sent a letter and flowers to the young teen’s parents, Cassidy later told The Sunday Times (via The Independent) his first reaction to the news of his fans’ death was that he was “totally brought down.” David said the tragedy would haunt him until the day he died.
After that tragic tour, Cassidy hung up his spandex for good and never toured as a teen idol again.
“I’m as famous as I want to be,” Cassidy told People at the time. “Touring has retarded my growth as a human being. There’s a lot more to me than the public has seen. Now I’m free. It’s as if a tremendous weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
In the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing, there are rumors that Ariana Grande may not resume her tour.
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David Cassidy and Ariana Grande are not the only superstars whose concerts ended in tragedy. In 1969, The Rolling Stones’ free show at Altamont Speedway in California ended with the death of teenager Meredith Hunter, who was stabbed to death by Hells Angel member Alan Passaro. The tragedy was captured on film for the Rolling Stones movie Gimme Shelter.
In addition, in 1979, eleven people were trampled to death at a Who in Cincinnati as fans rushed to snag first come, first served festival seating for the show. In 2000, nine people were crushed to death when Pearl Jam played the Roskilde festival in Denmark after rowdy fans rushed the stage. The band canceled the remaining dates of their European tour. And in a smaller venue, dozens of people were killed after a pyrotechnical mishap caused a fire at The Great White show at the Station Nightclub in Rhode Island in 2003. Great White guitarist Ty Longley was also killed in the fire.
David Cassidy, who recently revealed that he is suffering from dementia, has not spoken out about Ariana Grande’s concert tragedy. In more recent years, Cassidy has played smaller club gigs and has embraced his pop star past. Cassidy recently announced he would be retiring from performing for good due to his dementia diagnosis.
For a look at David Cassidy’s terrifying teen idol heyday, take a look at the clip from the documentary, “Weekend at Wembley” below.
[Featured Image by Jack Kay/Express/Getty Images]