- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2006

David Cassidy can’t understand the contestants on today’s reality television shows.

“I just hear people wanting to be famous. For what?” the quintessential teen idol wonders. “‘I just want to be on TV. I just want to be a rock star.’ I was never in pursuit of fame. It happened because of the work I did.”

Mr. Cassidy will be showcasing that work tomorrow night at the Birchmere in Alexandria. Screaming women will likely remind the 56-year-old of just how famous he was and is. The fame is nice, Mr. Cassidy admits, but the intrinsic rewards of creative success are better.

“That’s always been it for me: Write good records, write good songs, write a good play,” he says over a background chorus of barking dogs from his home in Saratoga, N.Y., where he breeds horses.

Mr. Cassidy first rose to fame as a member of “The Partridge Family,” the television sitcom about a musical widow and her five children who tour the country in a parti-colored bus performing songs.

The show, which ran from 1970 to 1974, was one of the first to blend fact and fiction, reality and fantasy. The series was inspired by a real singing family called the Cowsills. ABC had invited the children to play themselves but instead found a talented young cast that included Susan Dey and Danny Bonaduce.

Mr. Cassidy played Keith Partridge, while his real-life stepmother, Shirley Jones, played mother Shirley Partridge. Mr. Cassidy’s good looks and vocal chops propelled the group to No. 1 on the music charts in 1970 with “I Think I Love You.”

Mr. Cassidy doesn’t believe “The Partridge Family” has much in common with today’s reality music shows, however. “It was a well-written, extremely well-executed idea,” he says, noting that it was created by Tony-nominated playwright Bernard Slade. “Now it’s ‘Let’s make it up as we go.’ I’m really proud I was a part of it. It was the last gasp of innocence in America.”

After four years and 10 albums, Mr. Cassidy took a break at the height of his fame.

“I couldn’t sustain it,” he says of a grueling touring schedule. “I talked to John Lennon: The Beatles couldn’t sustain it. The security, the crowds, the madness of getting in and out. That’s why the Beatles stopped playing, why in the end it was pointless for them to remain together.”

It wasn’t an easy decision. “It was tough for me after. There’s no question,” Mr. Cassidy says. He quit the entertainment business entirely for 31/2 years.

“When I came back, I tried not to compete with my fame,” he says. “I just made it about the work. When you do good work, all the rest of it comes.”

That ethic helped Mr. Cassidy to buck the odds — many teen idols are washed up by 30 — and reinvent himself not once but multiple times. After a solo music career and acting work that led to an Emmy nomination, he went to Broadway, starring in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” He then became a Las Vegas showman, revamping the MGM Grand’s high-tech extravaganza “EFX” in 1996. The $75 million production became the most successful show in Vegas.

So, what can fans expect at his concert here tomorrow night?

“More than anything, a celebration of my life and my music and the things that I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of that are really special to me, having worked in the theater and Vegas productions,” he says. “I dug out some early Partridge Family things, the hits, but also some early David Cassidy stuff, to take people on a musical journey of my life from when I was 13 years old and saw the Beatles break — I got to know John quite well and played with him a few times.”

Here, Mr. Cassidy breaks off into a tangent about the great talents he considers himself lucky to have worked with. “My life has been pretty full and incredible,” he says with a sense of wonder. He seems hardly able to believe it himself that his was the largest fan club in music history.

“I love doing what I do now,” he says, “I strap on my guitar and feel like I’m 19 years old.”

No matter what he does, that’s how many of us will remember David Cassidy.

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