David Cassidy was a teen idol in his heyday – and a world-famous one. He dazzled and thrilled an entire generation of young girls, but then suffered the same fate that so many teen idols do. As the years went on, he turned to substance abuse and endured legal problems. He was only 67 when he died, and his life had certainly not always been an easy one. Now, his family have spoken out about the funeral arrangements – or lack thereof.
David Cassidy shot to fame as Keith Partridge in The Partridge Family in the 1970s. That role would change the course of his entire life. He became the archetypal teen idol, with pictures of him plastered inside every teen magazine and fans constantly fawning over his good looks. But no matter how many girls fell at his feet, he still didn’t seem to be happy.
In fact, Cassidy spent most of his life trying to shake his teen idol image. He loathed it and longed to be seen as a serious adult entertainer, but none of his attempts seemed to work. Even way back in 1972, when The Partridge Family was still going, he posed naked for Rolling Stone magazine. In the corresponding interview he revealed that he was a drug user – but his legions of young female fans weren’t put off.
Unfortunately, tragedy seemed to dog Cassidy. In 1974 something terrible happened to one of those aforementioned young female fans. When Cassidy performed a show at London’s White City Stadium in May of that year, a stampede took place. Almost 800 concert-goers were hurt. And, tragically, one fan with a heart problem had a coronary and subsequently died in hospital.
Cassidy felt devastated about the incident. The fan, Bernadette Whelan, had only been 14 years old. Although Whelan’s parents publicly stated that they didn’t blame Cassidy, the singer chose not to go to her funeral service. He feared that his presence would turn the event, meant to be a private time of mourning, into a media circus.
Just a few years later, another terrible incident occurred. Cassidy’s estranged father, Jack, died in a house fire. The elder Cassidy was bipolar and an alcoholic, and David hadn’t spoken to him for almost a year. In December 1976 Jack returned drunk to his apartment and fell asleep while smoking. The cigarette dropped and set the room on fire, killing him.
Sadly, David Cassidy would himself have problems with alcohol in much the same way that his father had. As The Partridge Family ended and the decades went by, it became clear that he had problems. He subsequently claimed that by the 1980s he had spent all his money, and he rarely saw his daughter Katie, who was brought up by her mother.
Then, he started to encounter legal difficulties. Cassidy was arrested several times for DUIs between 2010 and 2014. Consequently, he was ordered to go to rehab. And around the same time, Cassidy also filed for bankruptcy. In September 2015 he appeared on the British TV show This Morning, but appeared drunk and angrily shouted at the hosts.
But there was another reason for his behavior. In February 2017 Cassidy made the announcement that he was suffering from dementia, a terrible brain disease that affects people’s ability to function. “I was in denial but a part of me always knew this was coming,” he told People magazine. “I want to focus on what I am, who I am and how I’ve been, without any distractions… I want to love, I want to enjoy life.”
But, sadly, Cassidy didn’t get the chance to. On November 18, 2017, his liver and kidneys failed and he was admitted to hospital. He was put into a medically-induced coma for a couple of days, and once he came out of it doctors hoped that they could get him a liver transplant. They were too late, though. Cassidy passed away due to liver failure on November 21.
Many people subsequently eulogized Cassidy on social media. But the day after he died, media outlets began reporting that he wouldn’t have a regular funeral. “Sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell [us that] in lieu of a burial/funeral, the family is planning a private memorial after the holidays for close friends and relatives to attend,” website The Blast announced.
Cassidy would be quietly cremated, as per the wishes of the family. According to The Blast, however, the family did also recognize that many fans wanted to pay their respects to their idol. Therefore, they had plans for a public memorial as well. “We’re told a time and venue for the public memorial is far-off, but you can bet it will draw a gigantic crowd,” the website stated.
It’s actually not that unusual for the family of a deceased celebrity to opt for a private cremation. When music megastar David Bowie died in 2016, his family didn’t have a big service, but instead scattered his ashes on the island of Bali. And it could be said that after the death of Bernadette Whelan all those years earlier, Cassidy knew as well as anyone the importance of a quiet funeral.
Nonetheless, members of Cassidy’s family did pay public tribute to him. For instance, the day after he died, his younger brother Shaun posted a series of tweets and photographs. “Thank you for all your love and good wishes for David. It means the world to all of us,” Shaun wrote, before sharing a story.
“When I was a little boy and my big brother would come to visit, the first call of business would be a punishing pillow fight,” he wrote. “During the battle, he would regale me with hysterical stories of our father, often culminating in his taking a giant leap off my top bunk. I tried to catch him of course. I always tried to catch him. But I never could.”
“Now, I will carry him, along with all of the funny/sad/extraordinary days we shared, none more filled with love than these last few at his side,” he finished. And Cassidy did indeed die with his family at his side. His representative informed E! that “David died surrounded by those he loved, with joy in his heart and free from the pain that had gripped him for so long.”
Cassidy’s daughter and oldest child, actress Katie Cassidy, also left a message on Twitter about her father’s death. “Words can’t express the solace our family’s received from all the love & support during this trying time,” she wrote. “My father’s last words were ‘So much wasted time.’ This will be a daily reminder for me to share my gratitude with those I love as to never waste another minute.”
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous people immediately tried to exploit that incredibly personal moment. In December 2017 CNBC reported that the Cassidy family were taking legal action against bootleggers selling Cassidy T-shirts with “So much wasted time” emblazoned on them. “People don’t even wait until somebody’s cold. It’s like virtual grave robbing,” Cassidy’s ex-wife Sue Shifrin Cassidy said.
“It’s really bad. It was a private moment, and to have people making money off of that makes me wonder what kind of people have we become,” she added. The family had hired an LA law firm to serve cease-and-desist notices to the illegal merchandisers. On the same subject, Shifrin Cassidy posted on Twitter, “It is the poorest of taste to see people trying to make money off of our loved one’s death.”
David Cassidy struggled with his fame during his life, and now his family struggle with it after his death. It remains to be seen when the public memorial will take place, or what form it will end up taking. But it will almost certainly be attended by a lot of fans. Even several decades after his heyday, people still missed David Cassidy.