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Cosy Dirty Thoughts

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My Catholic mother feared that David Cassidy would inspire dirty thoughts when he was on the covers of Teen and Tiger Beat in the early 1970s. The magazines weren’t permitted at home; I read them greedily when I was sent away to camp. He heated my ten-year-old blood when, on Friday nights in 1970, The Partridge Family first aired on TV. I followed him on the show for the next three years. He was so charming, so un-intimidatingly sexy, that he inspired dirty thoughts – well, cosy dirty thoughts – even when I wasn’t looking at the magazines or watching the TV show. He seeped into my dreams.

He was different from other romantic leads because he charmed with his awkwardness, a sort of 1970s version of Cary Grant. His stumbling, always with a grin, made him all the more alluring in his tacky, blue-ruffled shirt and white bell bottom jumpsuit – and then he had that hair, the feathered shag ’do of the quintessential 1970s heart-throb. At my all-girls school, we twittered about him on Mondays, long before Twitter was a thing.

When he appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice in 2011, facing off with Donald Trump in the ‘boardroom’, looking meek and small (and did he slur?), I wondered what had happened to the spark and the smile that had defined him. His hair and the brightness of his green eyes were gone. Where had life failed him?

When I heard last week that he had died of liver failure, at the age of 67, I wondered about the early deaths of child actors. What happens when the shows end? When even on the Las Vegas stage they are replaced by Cirque du Soleil? What happens when fans walk past, maybe even shirk away from these faded stars instead of thronging for autographs?

My 27-year-old son, home for Thanksgiving, said of David Cassidy: ‘Yeah, I don’t know who that is.’ Why would he? But to me, David Cassidy represents a first rush of pleasure from seeing a man on TV, a first hope that there might be a happily-ever-after somewhere outside my Cinderella colouring book.


  1. bertibus says:

    Those magazines weren’t allowed in our house, either… though now and then my sister would smuggle one in, and spend an illicit hour admiring Bobby Sherman. As the younger brother, I spent most of my Partridge-related energies fixated on Susan Dey. That glossy, gorgeous, vaguely extraterrestrial look in her eyes! Even her retainer was sexy!

    It all seems so impossibly innocent now, in the age of twerking, etc. All those teen idol boy singers, most of them consigned, by lack of any real musicianship, to shaking a tambourine as they sang. Davy Jones! Thanks for these memories… RRC

  2. tjacob says:

    I was about 7, growing up in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California when I first became aware of David Cassidy. The partridge family show was filmed nearby and we used to see the bus driving around on the freeways sometimes. I spent a lot of time listening to their records and to David Cassidy’s Cherish record, staring at his pictures on the album covers. To me, he was impossibly beautiful. Now, looking at film and photos of him from that time period I understand why I was so drawn to him. There was a melancholic quality to his beauty that made him appear fragile and vulnerable at the height of his success. I could not bear to watch him self destruct in the years that followed and still cannot bring myself to watch his more recent appearances. For me he will remain the perfect, gentle, fragile soul of the 1970s.

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