Like a lot of other thirtysome-things, I felt like I knew David Cassidy -- or at least Keith Partridge. With his trademark shaggy haircut and soft, sweet voice (not to mention that crushed velvet maroon pantsuit) -- what more could one ask of a teen idol in 1972? So what if his story line seldom got beyond asking Shirley for the keys to the bus? Keith Partridge was the most.
David Cassidy's the most, too -- the most egotistical, sexist, foul-mouthed and vapid teen-idol-turned-author yet. The guy makes Bobby Sherman look like Henry Kissinger.
Cassidy, the son of actors Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward (not Shirley Jones, who played his mom on TV), skyrocketed to fame as Keith Partridge, the bubble gum star of ABC's "The Partridge Family" from 1970 to 1974.
He almost declined the role: "I don't want to be a teen idol. I wanted to be a serious actor. I don't want to be a Frankie Avalon or a Fabian. I don't want to be associated with people I think are lame."
Didn't these people know anything -- he was going to be the next Brando. Didn't they see him play a killer on "Bonanza"?
Who knows why David Cassidy decided to write his memoirs now? Perhaps it was the new audience for "The Partridge Family" on Nickelodeon, his return to Broadway in "Blood Brothers," or the campy success of Greg Brady's "Brady Bunch" expose. Maybe it's because Hugh Grant quotes him in "Four Weddings and a Funeral," telling Andie MacDowell, "I think I love you." Whatever the rationale, this one was better left in a drawer somewhere -- locked.
Cassidy seems oblivious to how he comes across in the book, making no apologies. For example, when the queen of England invited him to lunch during his British tour, he responded to the press: "The queen! I don't care about the queen. The queen means nothing to me. The monarchy is a joke. What makes her the queen? She waves and she's the richest person in the world. Well, I'm rich, too, and I'd much rather meet Eric Clapton."
You'd think Cassidy would have realized how he translates to print when he allowed a writer for Rolling Stone magazine unrestricted access for a piece on him in 1975. "I was happy to be given a chance to speak, to let people see the real me. I liked the idea of being profiled in a respected rock journal, rather than just another teenybopper fan thing."
But when the piece detailed his early cocaine, heroin and LSD use and his sexual exploits, Cassidy was appalled: "She wasn't greatly impressed by me." The piece was accompanied by a nude photo by Annie Leibovitz, allowing fans and corporate sponsors alike to see a new side of their idol -- both figuratively and literally.
His new book has gotten some press because of co-star Susan Dey's reaction to his comments about her. Cassidy says Dey, who played Keith's sister Laurie, never appealed to him sexually. "She lacked the slutty aspect of a female that I found so attractive." However, after the show was canceled he did have sex with her, because "if a woman doesn't feel attractive to someone, I don't think there's anything you can do to cut them more deeply than reject them in bed."
Feminists -- no, women in general (as well as men, children and household pets) -- will find this book incredibly offensive. Cassidy expects a medal for refusing a 14-year-old girl's offer of her virginity. "That was as great a temptation as I have had."
He admits that "I did things I now think are degrading toward women that I'm ashamed of. Once I got them into my house or hotel room, I found I could tell them to get down on their knees and bark like a dog or act like a choo-choo and they'd do it gladly. I think they were happy just to get close to me."
This is typical of the singer's treatment of women -- a lot of "T & A" talk, women as groupies and sex objects -- throughout the book. His opening comments to groupies who got to see him puts things in perspective: "You can see me for 10 minutes. Do you want to talk to me for 10 minutes or do you really want to have sex with me? Tell me the truth."
He says of his first wife, actress Kay Lanz: "I felt I gave her a lot the day I married her. Her career definitely came first in her life. What irony! I marry the one woman who doesn't want me."
On the chance that history ignores David Cassidy's contribution to the music world, he offers another claim to fame: "I'm embarrassed to admit, it was I who started the pooka shell craze. I'd strung together some shells in Hawaii one time -- and suddenly countless teens would decide they had to have necklaces like that."
Several passages in the book deny rumors that persisted throughout his career that he is homosexual. "I had a pretty strong gay following. I kind of liked it. Gay publications ran pinups of me. I was named gay pinup of the year by one. . . . I never did anything to encourage or discourage anyone's interest. If there were guys who found me attractive or perhaps fantasized about me, I was flattered."
Interestingly, after his father's death, he discovered that Jack Cassidy had been bisexual and had been involved with, among others, Cole Porter. Now, that would have been a book.
The senior Cassidy is a sort of tragic hero in this book. David recalls his first camping trip with his father where he showed up dressed in sheepskin gloves, boots, silk scarf -- all new -- looking for all the world like "f------ David Niven." He speaks of his dad's striking good looks, but the reader had better have a good memory. Though there is a full-color photo section, there are no photos of Jack Cassidy, nor of anyone else in the family, for that matter. Just David in dozens of poses -- with his dog, kangaroos (caption -- "Australian fans"), a nameless woman ("Me and an admirer"). My favorite: "Me and my ever-popular embroidered overalls." Obviously, the guy has read a Tiger Beat or two.
Which is more than I can say for "co-writer" Chip Deffaa, who needs some pointers in basic editing and grammar. Perhaps he thought Cassidy's conversational tone was endearing. It actually sounds more as if Cassidy recorded his own ramblings and Deffaa quickly transcribed them to capitalize on the current inexplicable fascination with all things '70s.
The introduction says it all:
"All of us who claim we only want to share our experiences of strife and struggle since having donned this meaningful cloak of fame for any other reason than profit or the pursuit of more fame, are simply full of crap."
Say good night, David.
C'mon Get Happy:
Fear and Loathing on the Partridge Family Bus
By David Cassidy
with Chip Deffaa
242 pages, $11.99