David Cassidy shot to fame in The Partridge Family in the early 1970s, playing the role of a squeaky-clean teenager in a band with his siblings and mother. Thanks to his wholesome appeal and good looks, David became a teenage idol, earning the adulation of throngs of young female fans, with some describing him as being more popular at one point than Elvis Presley and the Beatles combined. And while it’s been well-documented that Cassidy wasn’t all too thrilled with his teen idol status, his death on Tuesday prompted a former teen magazine editor to give a first-hand account of his overnight success as a young actor and singer, and how he dealt with his sudden fame.
From the late ’60s to early ’70s, Ann Moses served as the editor of Tiger Beat magazine, which allowed her exclusive access to some of the most popular young stars of the time, including David Cassidy and his on-air siblings in The Partridge Family. In an op-ed written for CNN, Moses recalled how Cassidy was a “number one fave” at Tiger Beat, thanks to a similar formula to the one that created the Monkees, a “made-for-TV band” that enjoyed massive success in the ’60s thanks to their own prime-time TV show, a series of stadium concerts, and singles written by some of the music industry’s most talented songwriters.
According to Moses, David Cassidy was “giddy to be appearing” on The Partridge Family during the show’s earliest days. Just 20-years-old at the time the show premiered in 1970, David was “cheerful and cooperative,” and as Moses recalls, that made it easy for Tiger Beat to write stories about him. These included seemingly trivial stories about Cassidy getting his bangs trimmed and quitting smoking, but Moses noted that she couldn’t write about David’s use of recreational drugs, or the fact that he named his dog Hashish, as such topics had the potential of turning off his preteen fans.
“But we could publish page after page of him cuddling Sheesh (his public name for the pooch) and ‘confessing’ how much he loved his young fans,” Moses added.
With David Cassidy and The Partridge Family becoming pop culture phenomenons in the U.S. and other parts of the world, the fame made Cassidy avoid attention in between scenes, making him much less available for interviews than he was at the start. Moses said that this problem was briefly averted when David’s father, actor Jack Cassidy, talked to his son and convinced him to continue opening up to the press. But with a busy schedule of shooting TV episodes and touring, Moses said that David suffered from a loss of privacy, and began to feel “lonely” as he became further established as a teen idol.
“Without the support of a loving family, his fame became a nightmare, way too much for a young person to handle on his own,” said Moses.
Separate from Moses’ recollections of David Cassidy’s rise to fame through The Partridge Family, the Daily Mail’s Jane Fryer touched on a similar topic, focusing on how Cassidy was uncomfortable with the “goody-goody” image he had to preserve. While he had to keep himself clean and wholesome for the teenage girls who idolized him as Keith Partridge, the real David Cassidy wanted to “rock like Jimi Hendrix, take drugs and sleep around like the Rolling Stones, and be taken seriously as an actor,” Fryer wrote.
Furthermore, the Daily Mail quoted previous interviews with Cassidy, where he admitted having to go above and beyond the call of duty as a pop star, having to sing despite being hoarse, being forced to record an album in time for the holiday season, and barely getting any sleep due to his extremely hectic schedule. Those factors, as well as a desire to “reinvent himself,” reportedly contributed to Cassidy’s decision to pose naked on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1972, a move that led to an “international outcry” and a public apology from David to his management, his fans, and their parents.
In the end, both retrospectives on David Cassidy’s time as The Partridge Family’s biggest star had one thing in common: ex-Tiger Beat editor Ann Moses and Daily Mail contributor Jane Fryer both painted a picture of an unhappy young man who wanted to be more than just a teen heartthrob.
“During the time I knew him, David Cassidy’s favorite color appeared to be blue,” Moses concluded.
[Featured Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]