Note: This was written in 2013, while its subject was still very much with us. I didn’t write about him when he died, so consider this a kind of belated tribute.
By Scott Ross
He was not my first celebrity crush. That honor fell to Jonny Quest. Yeah, yeah — he was a cartoon. So, sue me; I was seven.
(Hadji was pretty cute, too.)
Bobby Sherman caused a ping on my nascent, pre-pubescent radar when I saw him in the late ’60s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers teevee rip-off Here Come the Brides. But Bobby was a minor tremor. In 1970 The Partridge Family detonated an atomic bomb under my unconscious homoerotic imagination, in the lithe, compact form of a 20 year-old mop-top with the most beautiful face I’d ever laid my young eyes on.
At nine, I couldn’t have begun to articulate David’s appeal. But by 10 I was vying with my older sister in amassing the larger pile of 16 and Tiger Beat magazines featuring the beautiful young man who rang my chimes so decisively, if enigmatically. It would take me some time to understand why my heart raced a little faster whenever I watched David Cassidy move, or heard his sexy, understated baritone in the more “serious” moments of the sit-com in which he starred with his step-mother.
His singing impressed me as well. At 15, lonely, on the verge of discovering my sexuality and (although I didn’t realize it at the time) chronically depressed, I found a cache of Partridge Family LPs in the cut-out bin at Sam Goody’s for, I think, 50 cents apiece. I bought them all, listening through headphones as David sang to me:
“Brown Eyes, you’re beautiful…”
(Well, my eyes are hazel…)
“I can’t sleep at night / I ain’t been eatin’ right / Just seeing you and me / Together…”
(Me too, David. Me too.)
“We go on / Sneaking around / Meeting in shadows / Hidin’ away…”
(Why did I want to meet in shadows with David Cassidy?)
“This is you / This pillow that I’m huggin’ and I’m kissin’…”
In my early 20s I read that David once gave an interview, at the height of his then-massive fame, to a German magazine in which he admitted to a gay past. A few years later I read that, during those early years, his personal manager was also his lover. Yet even now, Cassidy asserts that he’s never been anything but 100% heterosexual (like his father?) Well, he’s had a lot problems…
I’ve also been hearing for years that all the Cassidy boys share an over-sized endowment. Not being a size-queen, ever, I really don’t care how big David’s shvantz might be. Or Sean’s, or Patrick’s. Although one also hears that Sean hasn’t been above sharing it with other guys. (Like half-brother like half-brother?) Well, a boy can dream, can’t he?
David Cassidy wanted to be a hard-core rock-n-roller, but he just didn’t have the chops for it. He had a great range, but his vocal quality was too gentle for the heavy stuff. After hearing him croon his way through all that bubble-gum pop, who could take a hard-rockin’ David Cassidy seriously? That’s not to disparage those songs. I liked them then, and I still do. There were a lot of very gifted songwriters churning them out for the series: Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill, Tony Romeo, Wes Ferrell — even Paul Anka and the young Rupert Holmes.
Aside: David had a cute tush too. There was an episode of The Partridge Family in which Danny (the eternally obnoxious Mr. Bonaduce) gave a fictitious interview to a gossip rag, in which “Keith Partridge” allegedly sported a rose tattoo on his… well, no one said the word, but the spot in question was clearly implied as his ass. In a later scene, Keith is taking a post-gym class shower when all the other boys in his class try to sneak a look at his butt, to see if the story is true. (What, they never saw it before this?) The camera discloses David, wearing a towel around his waist, smirking at the prurience of his classmates. How many of us wanted that damn towel to fall off?
What matters far more to me about David Cassidy than the elusive answer to the Did-He-or-Didn’t-He? question is just how preternaturally beautiful he was — “androgynous” is the term most often used for him, although I don’t think he looked all that feminine.
Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross