Cosy Dirty Thoughts
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.