Bankrupt after three divorces, Cassidy was forced to auction his home Is alcoholism a medical condition.
Singer spent $1million renovating his beloved home of 14 years
He claims that his break-up from his third wife is to blame
Published: 02:16 BST, 13 August 2015 | Updated: 18:03 BST, 13 August 2015
At 21, he was already the highest-paid performer in the world. In his prime he sold over 30million records and when he warbled ‘I Think I Love You’ to 20,000 crazed fans, he almost caused a riot.
Today, though, David Cassidy has lost more than his boyish good looks. The former teen idol has been forced to declare bankruptcy and on September 9 will auction off his $3million (£1.9million) mansion in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
As the vultures gather, hoping to snap up David’s five-bedroom, 7,000 sq ft waterfront mansion for a song, the less jaded among them may pause to ask themselves why the former superstar has sunk so low.
He is saddled with debts that run into hundreds of thousands of dollars — including a $292,598 mortgage and almost $40,000 on credit cards — and has scores of creditors clamouring to be paid.
So why has Cassidy been forced into the humiliating position of declaring bankruptcy and auctioning his beloved home, which he bought for $1.1million in 2001, spent $1million renovating and has lived in for the past 14 years?
The sale may go some way to resolving his problems, but why has the 65-year-old’s life imploded so dramatically?
His own explanation is the messy aftermath of his break-up from third wife Sue Shifrin, 66 — but that isn’t the whole truth.
Nor is this the first time David has faced financial ruin, in 1986 he was $800,000 in debt and had only $1,000 to his name.
It was then, however, that he became deeply involved with actress and song-writer Sue, who became his partner and business associate and with whose encouragement he went into therapy three times a week for three years.
Professionally, he replaced Cliff Richard in the musical Time on the London stage and started to turn around his life and finances. At the time, he credited Sue — whom he married in 1991 — for much of his success and happiness.
But while the intricacies of divorcing Sue might have taken their toll on David’s finances, the real reason for his dire situation is far more complex.
Is alcoholism considered a medical condition
First and foremost is his drinking. Last year, after facing his third drink-driving charge, he finally admitted that he has been battling alcoholism for years, has had three stints in rehab, and that his heavy drinking changed his personality.
The first offence was in November 2010 when he was arrested in Florida.
He blamed the fact that he had been to a friend’s funeral, and afterwards claimed: ‘It was a great wake-up for me and something that I’m grateful for,’ swearing that he was now sober.
But in 2013, he was arrested in New York State for driving with full lights on, failed a sobriety test and was banned from driving for six months.
His last such driving offence, in January 2014, took place in Los Angeles after he made an illegal turn on a motorway, was found to be almost double the legal limit, and half a bottle of bourbon was discovered underneath the seat of his white Mercedes.
He was put on probation for five years, and sentenced to 90 days in rehab.
And although David now swears that he is clean once more, for years his drinking has impacted on his singing career, and both alienated and disappointed many of his most devoted fans.
More than once, he’s had a complete melt-down on stage. In a 2010 performance in Elgin, Illinois, distraught fans walked out of the show, and a critic observed, ‘He was either strung out on drugs or drunk’, after Cassidy introduced the band a total of five times, started one song three times and botched the lyrics over and over. He then spent 15 minutes trying to make a date with some German girls.
In July, 2012 in Las Vegas, he performed only a handful of songs in 90 minutes, kept repeating himself, and more than 50 fans walked out in disgust.
And although these days he strides the stage once more with confidence — and with no signs of wear and tear from drinking — the negative reports of his past shows have had a ripple effect.
This year, he has performed just ten times, and only has two more engagements scheduled. And although this January his fans launched a petition to be considered as an inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, at present he has less than 17,000 signatures, suggesting no swell of support — humiliating for a star who used to draw that many fans for just one concert.
As well as his heavy drinking, there have been other pressures. Physically, he lives with the pain of arthritis. And he has faced the stress of a protracted legal battle with Sony over the profits from The Partridge Family, the wildly popular Seventies sitcom on which he shot to fame. It ended with him winning only a relatively paltry $158,000 out of the millions in unpaid compensation he sought.
But perhaps the greatest strain has been witnessing the slow and tortuous demise of his mother Evelyn from dementia.
Before her death in 2012, David declared that ‘watching your mother disappear, and a loved one disappear, is very, very difficult. It was really very emotional for me’.
With the death of Evelyn, a former actress and great beauty, David lost the strongest link with the man who ultimately planted the seeds of his destruction: his father Jack Cassidy, a sex addict, manic depressive and alcoholic.
‘It’s clear to me that David is extremely like Jack. David has his charm, but also his dark side,’ said David’s stepmother Shirley Jones, who also played his mother in The Partridge Family. Or, as David’s half-brother Shaun Cassidy put it: ‘The trait David and our father shared is the acknowledged self-destructive streak.’
A matinee idol with white-blond hair and blue Irish eyes, Jack Cassidy was the architect of most of David’s present-day problems. Raised by a mother who routinely beat him and a father who was a womaniser and a drunk, Jack meted out similar cruelty to David, his eldest son.
David was regularly smacked for the slightest thing by his father and grew up petrified of even being in his presence. ‘When David was nine or so, I’d often see him crying in the corner because of something Jack had said or done to him,’ Shirley Jones remembered.
Tragically, no matter how cruel and distant Jack was to him, David still adored his father.
When he was just three and a half, he saw Jack on the Broadway stage and declared that when he grew up, he wanted to do exactly what Daddy did. He would watch what his father watched on TV, professed to like what he liked, and obeyed his every command.
But that wasn’t enough for Jack. ‘My father didn’t seem satisfied with anything I did. He criticised everything about me,’ David later said.
And however much the boy adored his father, nothing could protect the seven-year-old David from the shock of him divorcing his mother — particularly as Evelyn made no bones about the fact that Jack was a philanderer.
When David discovered that his father was now marrying Shirley Jones he was inconsolable.
Worse still, Jack made no bones about his drinking, and once downed 17 scotches in front of his son over dinner. Nor did he disguise his profligate attitude towards money, characterising it as ‘only green paper’.
But when Jack was burned to death in a 1976 fire at his home, aged only 49, David was devastated — even though Jack had cut him out of his will and left all his money to David’s half-brothers Shaun and Patrick, his sons by Shirley. Jack’s death left David grappling with the ravages of his genetic legacy which, as the boy grew older, became clearer.
A rampant sex addict, Jack aged just 16, had won a part in a Cole Porter Broadway show by sleeping with the world-famous composer.
‘I’m not gay, but if I need a job, I’ll do whatever it takes to get it,’ Jack later said.
Part of Jack’s attraction for Cole was his vast endowment, which David inherited, winning him the crude soubriquet of ‘Donk’, as in donkey.
Is alcoholism a medical diagnosis
Perhaps as a result, David was sexually precocious. At 13, after he and six friends convinced a 15-year-old girl to allow them to feel her breasts, he made a date with her the following week and they had full intercourse. After that, he confessed: ‘I wanted to touch every girl I saw.’
Once the teenager bagged the part of heart-throb Keith Partridge in The Partridge Family, it seemed that every girl wanted to touch David as well.
His appeal only grew as he launched a career as a pop singer on the back of the show, about a group of musical siblings.
Girls followed him everywhere, stripped naked the second they saw him, and were ready and eager to be intimate with him within a moment of being in his presence. He felt that intercourse, ‘should mostly be saved for more meaningful relationships. Well, OK. Maybe not meaningful. But at the very least, I’d need to know her last name’.
After The Partridge Family ended for him in 1974, he married three times: first to actress Kay Lenz in 1977, then to South African horse breeder Meryl Tanz. In 1986 he had a daughter, Katie, by former model Sherry Williams, and then married his most recent wife Sue Shifrin, with whom he had a son, Beau.
He is currently involved with a Florida interior designer, Maura Rossi. But the legacy of his sex-addict father still appears to have him under his spell.
This January, using a tracking feature on David’s iPhone, Maura traced him to the Boca Raton house of another woman, Georgina Zahran.
A cat fight ensued, ending up with Maura being rushed to hospital. She’s recovered now, and - given David’s fabled charm - may still hope to find their happy-ever-after.
His friends and family can only pray this time he will finally succeed in shaking off his dark past once and for all.