My favorite teen idol, David Cassidy, died last night.
While I haven't woke up in love with him since I was 12 or 13, it still saddens me. For some girls, it was John or Paul. To others, Davey Jones or Bobby Sherman. For me, there was none like David Cassidy. I look at the photos of him in his prime and even today, when I'm old enough to almost be the age of whomever his grandma was then, I think, Wow, was he handsome! He was spectacular!
Indeed, his moment in the stratosphere of young girls' hearts was fleeting. I'm 59 and most every American woman my age probably gets what I'm talking about. But if you are five years in either direction of my age, you might look puzzled and try to remember who exactly he is. Or was.
Of course as a sheltered Hoosier farm kid growing up in the 1960s and '70s, I had no access to David Cassidy or to anyone like him. On TV's Partridge Family he portrayed a squeaky-clean, talented and popular high school kid who loved and enjoyed performing with his California-based family.
The reality was he was old enough then to be post-college instead of high school, was not squeaky clean in the least, and not happy about singing bubble-gum tunes to millions of girls like me.
It is widely reported that he would go on to struggle in various ways. A teen idol's story often is not what it would seem. The person who appears to have it all might indeed have what the "world" can give, but lack profoundly in ways that matter more.
Still, 10 years ago when I heard David was to perform at the Indiana State Fair, I had to go. He still sang like a dream, and the old tunes took me back to the end of the 1960s and early 1970s. At one point, he held up a ticket stub someone showed him from the last time he performed at the Indiana State Fair, 1972. The ticket was $5. He joked that those in the stands probably didn't pay a whole lot more for their tickets in 2007.
No one in that audience had the heart to tell him that we paid nothing. He was on the free stage.
Here's the column I wrote for the New Castle Courier-Times about my night with my favorite teen idol. It's from Aug. 18, 2007.
I think I love him
(with apologies to my husband)
by Donna Cronk
In the early 1970s, if you were a girl between 12 and 15, a continuous debate among your friends concerned who was the cutest. There were three choices: Bobby Sherman, Davey Jones or David Cassidy.
I was in the Cassidy camp.
Can it really have been 35 years since I held the cover of Tiger Beat and gazed into David's blue eyes? The thought was so clear then: He is the cutest guy in the world. Could it be, then, that he still is?
It's been a while since I was a teenybopper but I played one Wednesday night when my old-school heartthrob appeared in concert at the Indiana State Fair.
Ever since I heard he'd be there, I knew I had to go. And write about the experience. The fair is a nostalgic trip back in time as it was always the highlight of my childhood summers. Few things stay the same but I can always count on the state fair for consistent tastes, sounds, smells and experiences.
There is the obligatory corn dog, the beautiful handicrafts in the Home & Family Arts Building and the tractor shuttle around the grounds. It could be 2007 or 1972.
It was 1972 on Wednesday night as I headed onto the track near the grandstand where I had permission to take photos below the stage, inches away from David. I didn't see him at first but a woman in the crowd did as she hoisted her album in the air that he had signed when she was 16.
I stood by the tunnel where he would make his entrance. Beside me were a pair of women my age who won a radio contest to meet him. One said for me not to be fooled: She was a responsible woman by day with a professional job. Who would guess, she added, that by night, she's a David Cassidy groupie? Hey, I got it.
When he walked out of the tunnel, there was a rush of adrenaline. Then, the thought: He is so small! Astonishingly so. But cute? You betcha.
He hit the ground running and started singing immediately as he took the stage. I snapped photos not far from his feet. Surreal. I channeled my inner 12 year old. But where were the screaming fans? Where were the throngs of teenyboppers? Oh yeah. This isn't really 1972.
In the grandstand lobby appeared a skimpy display of T-shirts. No eight tracks, cassettes or albums. I saw only one woman (one!) buy a shirt. An Elvis-lookalike wore one too. That was it for the commercial side.
David interacted with the front-row women, shaking hands. He seemed genuinely interested in looking at the vintage memorabilia brought by fans such as old albums and Partridge Family goods.
For two hours with no break and barely a sip of water, he raced around the stage and crooned the old songs: "I Woke Up in Love This Morning," "I'll Meet You Halfway," "Come On Get Happy," "Cherish" and more.
The show was nearly over before he belted out his most famous hit: "I Think I Love You." It was the 1971 song of the year and David explained that he would always sing it. For a time he distanced himself from the pop songs. No more. Now he realizes that the songs and the fans who love them made him who he is.
So what has he been up to all these years? Pursuing acting, starring on Broadway in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," and touring with his 1980s teen-idol brother, Shaun.
He didn't speak of family but an internet search says he's married with a son. He has an older daughter, too, He name dropped about the New Year's Eve he and John Lennon sang "You Got To Hide Your Love Away" together at Cassidy's home.
But on Wednesday night, he was in Indiana and I was in heaven.
"Indiana wants me and I can't wait to come back here," he said. "I love you all so much."
I don't think he made it back.
But I'm glad we had that night together. Sure, a few thousand other women joined us but I won't tell if they don't. And I still love to hear that man sing.