DAVID CASSIDY - THEN AND NOW
by Peter Szecsodi
David Cassidy has gone through so much it's inspiring to see that he has survived it all and is now thriving in his role as actor, singer, writer, producer and, most importantly, husband and father. His incredible rise to stardom came when he was very young. It isn't surprising that he chose the life of a performer, considering that his mother, Evelyn Ward, and father, Jack Cassidy, were actors and had stage and television careers.
We all remember David Cassidy as Keith Partridge in the 1970s TV show The Partridge Family, which captured the attention of a generation of young viewers and catapulted him to international stardom. From 1970 to 1974 he reined supreme on the hit show. Magazine covers featured him endlessly and he became a teenage idol to millions of kids the world over. By the time he was 21 he had become the highest-paid solo performer and had a fan club bigger than Elvis Presley's or the Beatles'. Cassidy was in such demand he would tape his shows during the week and give concerts on the weekends to sell-out audiences in the largest venues that were available.
During this time the pace was gruelling, and he was the centre of attention for so many. Through it all he was nominated for several Grammy awards and had seven chart-topping singles, including "I Think I Love You," the number-one-selling record of 1971. As a solo artist he had five hit singles, including one of my favourites, "Lying to Myself," a 1990 pop hit for Enigma. Cassidy has sold over 25 million units to date and toured the world countless times over.
With such early success, performers often experience a period of fatigue and burnout. Cassidy was not immune to this, and through the late '70s and early '80s he fell on rough times. Like the thoroughbred horses he loves so much, however, he was able to pick himself up and continue performing to audiences that truly were devoted to this incredible talent.
In 1981, Cassidy's career took a new path when he started performing in theatre. He began in George M. Cohen's Little Johnny Jones and later, in 1983, starred on Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He had a marvellous six-month run before he moved to England to resume his musical career. "Last Kiss" rose to number 6 on the British charts in March of 1985, and his album, Romance, made it to number 20 on the British album charts. This followed a fantastic sold-out concert tour of England.
The British have always treated Cassidy with absolute adulation and come out in droves to support him, but he yearned for a breakthrough back home. None of his new songs got any support in the States, and without the help of a major label it is almost impossible to achieve any longevity. It was frustrating for him. It's certainly ironic that when Cassidy was making everyone lots of money, they would never leave him alone; now there was dead silence.
Fate has a funny way of entering our lives when we really need a little help - a ray of sunshine that changes everything. In Cassidy's life, that ray was his wife, Sue Shifrin-Cassidy. "What I have been able to do from 1987 until now - I'm talking about rebuilding my life, from the bottom up - I surely could not have done without [her]."
It is a fact that behind every great man there is a great woman. With this realization Cassidy moved forward and prospered. Now with a much more positive outlook and a support base that was real in his life, he was able to start working on projects that were meaningful.
In the early 1990s he wrote the theme song to NBC-TV's The John Larroquette Show and starred on Broadway in Blood Brothers with his brother, also a former teen idol, Shaun Cassidy. The experience of working in Blood Brothers, which went on a national tour and broke box-office records, was very rewarding, and fuelled a creative fire that is obviously still burning today. Other career milestones include being nominated for an Emmy for his role in A Chance to Live, as well as performing in Time with Sir Lawrence Olivier in London's West End theatre district.
In 1994 Cassidy wrote his memoirs. C'mon Get Happy - Fear and Loathing on the Partridge Family Bus is definitely a tell-all book about his life, including all those juicy details the paparazzi clamour for. We won't get into the sex-and-drugs-and-rock-'n'-roll particulars of Cassidy's life here. If you're interested, you can log on to www.davidcassidy.com.
In 1996, with Shifrin-Cassidy and their son, Beau, by his side, Cassidy moved to Las Vegas to star in EFX, the $75 million special-effects-laden show. Cassidy was responsible for re-creating the starring role as well as writing original music. In his two-year run, it became the most successful show in Las Vegas history and drew over one-million paying customers. It must have been an incredible feeling to be back in demand and receiving critical acclaim. In 1999, for the second time in three years, Cassidy was named "Best All Around Performer" by Review Journal's Best of Las Vegas.
Today, David is hard at work in not one but two shows in Las Vegas. The Rat Pack is Back, which debuted at the Desert Inn in July of 1999 to positive reviews and sold-out audiences, is the creation of Cassidy and writer/producer Don Reo. It's now running at the Sahara Hotel and Casino in the famous Congo Room, which has featured the first-time appearances of legendary performers like Tony Bennet and Marlene Dietrich. This show takes us back to the era that made this town the entertainment mecca it is.
Another Cassidy-Reo creation is At the Copa, being staged at the Rio All-Suite Casino Resort in the fabulous Copacabana Showroom. Cassidy is both the producer and leading performer of this Broadway-type musical. He plays Johnny Flamingo, a waiter who rises to stardom at the Copa nightclub and is the love interest of Copa singer Ruby Bombay, played by Sheena Easton. It is a marvellous mix of drama, music and comedy. The two leading characters fight desperately to be together, battling dark forces in the form of Copa nightclub owner Lefty, played by Rick Pessagno, who will stop at nothing to make Ruby his girl. The comedic side of the show rests on the capable shoulders of Stewart Daylida, who plays Beaumont, a buffoon-type character, to a tee.
As the show's writer, Cassidy hopes to convey the message that, with love, time has no meaning and true love always perseveres. "The story has a wide and dramatic arc. We never take ourselves too seriously. It's about making people laugh while blowing the roof off."
The dancing in the show is spectacular, and the crowd is always receptive to the blend of stage performance and individual solos that makes you feel you are at a show and a concert. Cassidy provides the opportunity to see a master at work, and he doesn't disappoint; he performs some new and original material as well as his earlier hits, "I Woke Up in Love this Morning" and the crowd-pleaser "I Think I Love You." The fact that he ventures into the audience adds a human element that makes all the women in attendance go wild. The largest orchestra in Las Vegas is led by Lon Bronson and showcases many tunes from the second half of the 20th century, including "Steam Heat," "Mack the Knife," "Try a Little Tenderness," "Can't Help Lovin' That Man of Mine" and "If They Could See Me Now." Easton's singing is a joy, and no one is disappointed to hear her sing "For Your Eyes Only" and "Morning Train."
The onstage chemistry between Cassidy and Easton makes this show a gem. You take leave of your surroundings for a while and forget about everything else. Ultimately, that is the most important aspect of any successful show.
In a recent interview with Cassidy it was clear that he is grateful for all the support of his fans over the years, and for his happiness today. He is very active in charitable causes, along with Shifrin-Cassidy, and enjoys spending quality time with their son. In 1994 the Cassidys played a significant part in the Rebuild LA campaign: they composed the cause's anthem, "Stand Up and Be Proud," and in 1999 they helped out again by donating their song "Message to the World" to benefit War Child USA, which supported the Kosovo child refugees.
Supporting children's causes has been a big part of the Cassidys' lives, especially of Shifrin-Cassidy's, who founded www.kidscharities.org. This non-profit Internet-based organization is an umbrella for many worthy children's organizations. Most recently the third annual David Cassidy Celebrity Golf Tournament was held at the Rio Secco Golf Course in Las Vegas to raise funds for www.kidscharities.org. Some of the charities that benefited from the event were City of Hope, Special Olympics Nevada, Interfaith Hospitality Network and Planet Hope. For more information or to make a donation to the organization, log on to the above web site.
Cassidy's road hasn't always been paved with gold, but it's been filled with hard work and dedication to not only his fans but also to his family and friends. He's happy to be where he is now, and feels blessed every new day. When you've had so much at such a young age and then lost it, things are put in perspective. David Cassidy knows that time is the most precious commodity of all, and he is certainly using it wisely.