Actor and singer who became a teen idol thanks to The Partridge Family but always hated his superstar status
Girls are following me around theyre ruining my whole life! cried Keith Partridge in a fraught moment on the 1970s sitcom The Partridge Family. Keith, played by David Cassidy, was the shows heartthrob, and for its four-year run Cassidys offscreen life mirrored his. Teenage girls didnt just follow him around they spirited themselves into hotels, camped in the air-conditioning unit of his house and howled at the sight of him. At his peak he received 25,000 letters a week and his fan club was said to be the biggest in the music business.
Cassidy, who has died aged 67 after several years of living with dementia, was a new kind of teen idol. While the Monkees had been groundbreakers in using television as a route to adolescent hearts, Cassidys weekly appearances were just one strand of an unprecedented marketing plan. Recognising that his run at the top would be brief, the TV studio ensured that every possible cash stream was exploited: 12-hour filming days were followed by night-time recording sessions both for his own albums and those released under the Partridge Family name and weekends were spent playing concerts.
If there was a surface where his photo could appear, it did on everything from lunchboxes and plastic guitars to pillowcases and dresses. The merchandising earned Cassidys handlers about $500m of which, he claimed in a lawsuit in 2011, he received only $5,000 and turned the young performer into a worldwide star.
Most teen idols eventually find fame a grind, but Cassidy resented it almost from the start. His aim was to be recognised as a serious actor, but that was scuppered by playing cute Keith, the eldest of five singing siblings. I was pigeonholed as a teen idol [and] theres no credibility, he said in the 80s. I paid a tremendous personal price its a very empty, isolated, lonely existence.
He often reminisced bitterly about the turn his career had taken: just before The Partridge Family, he had believed he was on his way to professional acclaim after winning one-off roles in a handful of US TV dramas. But while he proved competent, nothing could distract attention from his fine-boned prettiness. Even before The Partridge Family launched in 1970, the teen magazines were circling, with introductory articles such as David & Those Special Kisses. Gloria Stavers, editor of the top-selling 16 magazine, said: Id been waiting for [someone like] him for years. Cassidy, for his part, responded: Ill feel really good when its over.