News Articles - David's Australian Tour 2002
The Teen Idol Who Grew Up
The Weekend Herald Sun
Saturday, November 9, 2002
David Cassidy was a pop star by the time he was 24. But, as he tells Bob Hart, it took him years to realise what was missing from his career.
WE GO way back, David Cassidy and I - to a time in the mad, mad 1970s when he appeared to have the world firmly by the throat.
To a time when, though it was not apparent at the time, it was Cassidy, and not the world, being inexorably choked to death.
Cassidy was squeaky-clean pop idol with the world at his dancing feet; I was a hungry showbiz reporter working for a British newspaper, The Sun.
We hit if off, and he invited me to join him, and his entourage, in a chartered Caravelle jetliner for a free-wheeling, magical mystery tour of Europe - the sort of tour that will never, I suspect, be allowed to happen again.
Schedules and destinations were adjusted at random; we played fierce poker between destinations and he usually won; and when I suggested we slip off to restaurants and lose his minders occasionally, he jumped at the chance.
We meet again in Melbourne recently, for the first time in 10 years or so.
Cassidy, now a thrice-married, 52-year-old Florida resident with an 11-year-old son, Beau, to whose talented, songwriter mum Sue Shrifrin-Cassidy, Cassidy is still happily married, came to town to draw attention to his Australian concert tour that hits Melbourne on Monday.
And we talk, naturally, about the '70s. And the mischief.
I ask him if any of it - the madness, the hysteria, the adulation, the discomfort - could really be starting again.
"In a way, it is," he says.
"It wasn't my intention to reawaken all of that, but there does seem to be an incredible amount of energy, very positive energy, being generated.
"In the touring I have done so far, in Britain and in the US, there is real intensity. People tell me they've never seen the like of it before. I mean, you were there. You know what it was like in the '70s. Could something like that really happen again?"
Probably not, I suggest. But then...
"Well, I can never be 23 again, that's for sure," Cassidy says.
"I can only be who I am, do what I do, and enjoy myself, which I really do.
"This is a great way to celebrate the first time around, and I think that's what's happening - as much for the fans as for me. We're all celebrating an extraordinary time in our lives - letting go again, remembering times when life was sweet, happier and a bit more innocent and when the world, I suppose, was a better and safer place."
But hang on, are you sure you enjoyed it the first time around?
"Well, yes, but I didn't realise how much I was enjoying it at the time," he says.
"It took years for me to finally understand what it was all about.
"Now I know how much I loved those songs, and the way things sounded. Time does that."
But you hated those songs...
"No, I didn't hate them," Cassidy insists.
"I knew they were great pop songs, but I wanted to do other things, and those songs stood in the way of my doing them.
"The songs were closely associated with something I wanted to distance myself from so that people could see there was more to me than they had imagined.
"Or maybe so that I could see for myself that there was more to me.
"I loved the songs for what they were, but I wanted to carve out another trail and I couldn't escape from them. It was very, very hard."
Like turning around an ocean liner?
"Exactly like that. If I'd had an insignificant career at the beginning , it could have developed along natural lines.
"But the impact was so great from the start that I wasn't allowed to grow. I couldn't change anything.
"I had no control, and that's what's so fantastic about what's happening to me now. I have absolute control.
"I've had great teachers. The best. And since 1990, I've not had a manager. I manage myself. In fact, until about a year ago, I didn't even have an agent to handle bookings. I did it all.
"Now, I make every choice for myself. I do only those things I want to do, and I do them the way I feel I should.
"I refuse to be influenced by anybody who tells me what is going to be good for me, and what's not.
"I know now that my instincts are good. In fact, they always have been. It's a great feeling to be in control.
"Looking back, one of the problems was that I started out doing things because I enjoyed them, not for money or fame.
"And when it became important that I keep doing them for money and fame, I didn't want to do them anymore."
Cassidy now understands what nobody seemed to understand at the time: at his teen-idol peak, he was the envy of every kid in the world - kids who were having more fun, most of them, than he was.
"Most kids in America go from high school into college, and that's when they let their hair down," he says.
"They get drunk, they go to parties, discover sex, have a ball. All my friends did that.
"But I went to work, I had no life - no social life, no drugs, no drinking, no nothing.
"I had to remain as straight as I could possibly be for six years, almost seven - years doing which kids are supposed to go off the rails a little.
"I was 24 when it ended but, emotionally, I was still 18. I was being David Cassidy, the star, for 24 hours a day - going from home or hotel to a car that would take me to the studio or a TV show or to a concert or whatever.
"That was no life. It was just work. I never got to go and hang out with my friends and meet girls or any of that stuff.
"I was way out in front of anybody else in terms of my career. But in terms of personal development, I was way behind.
"Finally, too much work and no play made David an angry man.
"You know. You were there. You saw it."
Despite the discomfort, Cassidy's memory of the years during which he ruled at least part of the world are clear and sharp.
"Oh yes, I remember it all. My memories are absolutely precise and detailed. I can remember those years in truly frightening detail."
Do you remember a night in Madrid...
"Of course. I ended up under the table after a jug of sangria, right?"
"We had no concerts to play in Spain, and I did not have a particularly large following there. We went there for a break.
"And that was why I could relax. Go out and relax. Drink sangria. And meet a flamenco dancer..."
"Yeah, you never knew. I met her in that restaurant, and we got together later. She was extraordinary. She spoke very little English and I didn't really understand the culture.
"I had to go and speak to her parents for some reason..."
TIME to move on: I ask him how much is now known about the merchandise sold during his golden years ... something that set new industry standards, and alerted managers to new, unimagined revenue opportunities.
"The merchandise was huge, bigger than anybody could ever have anticipated," he says.
It took years to work it all out, but we finally calculated that it had generated, in total, just on $US50 million in revenue.
"And from all of that, I received exactly $5000. It was not exactly the deal of the century.
"If you translate those merchandise sales into today's money, it would probably equate to around $US10 billion, which is pretty scary.
"But on the other hand, I still have five, pristine, never-been-opened David Cassidy lunch boxes.
"Unfortunately, they're the only pieces of merchandise I own."
When the first, golden chapter of Cassidy's impossible career ground to a halt - still in the '70s, and partly because he wanted it to - we were still in touch, and I watched him struggle.
He was, I felt, in some danger of losing the plot at that point.
"That's true." he said.
"I had to discover all over again what life was about. I had to go through re-entry into the real world.
"I wanted a life at last, but it was very hard to achieve. I wanted to go to the supermarket and stuff like that, but it didn't happen overnight.
"I finally pulled it off. But it wasn't without a lot of bumps and serious potholes along the way.
"It was the equivalent, I think, of going cold-turkey from some sort of a serious addiction that you had not sought in the first place.
"But I survived. And I'm glad I did. Now, at last, it's really fun."
David Cassidy's new CD, Then and Now, is available on Universal. Tickets for his Melbourne concert - at Vodafone Arena on Monday night - are available through Ticketek.