I was sitting in the green room at CBS This Morning in New York, looking down at my phone answering an email or something. Toward the back of the room was a small table set up with a few hard bagels, cinnamon rolls, OJ and coffee for guests. The only other person there was a guy pouring himself coffee into a small white Styrofoam cup. I looked up and said, “hello.” He said something about the taste of the coffee, but since I don’t drink that stuff, I didn’t know how to respond. But I did recognize that unmistakable voice. That’s David Cassidy: teen idol from the 70s, my sister – everybody’s sister’s – massive CRUSH.
Cassidy is best known for his role as heartthrob Keith Partridge in the musical sitcom, The Partridge Family. He was Tiger Beat Magazine’s constant cover boy.
I looked back down at my phone, trying to figure out what to say next. I’ve met a lot of famous people, and I always feel like they appreciate it if you don’t say the same thing they hear over and over again.
I put my phone in my coat and I sat down next to him. “Your posters were all over my sister’s wall.” I began, immediately breaking my rule of not saying something everyone else says. He laughed, sipped from his cup and replied, “Really? I had posters?” We both laughed.
I felt incredibly comfortable with him. Maybe it was his small stature. He just seemed so harmless – fragile even.
I like how he called me Curt. Using someone’s first name is powerful, especially after you first meet. He’d say, “Curt, it’s weird how people think they know me just because I was on TV and on stage. They don’t know me, but I have to act like I’m their best friend.”
I told him that I think famous people are just people who have interesting jobs. Then I said, “David, I wish people would just ask how you are.” He looked tired. I don’t know if it was because it was early in the morning or the fact that he was 60 and, in my mind, he was forever 19. But he definitely had that “I need a vacation” look about him.
He didn’t want to talk about himself. He asked why I was here, and I told him I came with a little boy named Rex – a blind, autistic musical savant who was about to perform “live.” He was fascinated and he asked if he could meet him. Of course, I obliged.
Rex this is David Cassidy, David Cassidy, this is Rex. “I’m honored” David told him.
A few years later, I learned that he had been battling alcoholism. He said he drank to cover up sadness and emptiness. There were a few run ins with police. His third marriage failed, and he was broke. He filed for bankruptcy just two years before his death.
He didn’t just look tired.
My 15 minutes with 70s fame bothers me to this day. David Cassidy, that incredibly good-looking kid who stole America’s heart, needed something solid in his life.
The joy he gave everybody else somehow eluded him.
Seven years after our encounter on the couch, David was in bed dying of alcoholism. His daughter Katie said his last words were, “So much wasted time.”
Heartbreaking. Not because he was David Cassidy, but because he was a person whose last chapters weren’t happy ones.
In one of his last interviews he said, “I did it to myself, man. I did this to myself.”
It’s weird. I was a little boy in 1974. And every Friday night, wearing my footy pajamas, I watched The Partridge Family at 8:30pm right after The Brady Bunch. I sat way too close to the screen as David Cassidy made me smile. Flash forward to that day in the CBS green room and David Cassidy, a troubled man sipping coffee, found a smile when he met the little boy I was with.
I remember the immensely talented teen.
And the man who was kind.
“So much wasted time.”
Not really, David. Not really.