Entertainer David Cassidy dies; lived in Ridgefield in mid-1990s

Former teen idol, pop singer and actor David Cassidy — who lived in Ridgefield briefly in the mid 1990s, decades after his role on The Partridge Family TV show and a series of hit songs brought him fame and wealth, which he later dissipated — died Tuesday, Nov. 21, in Florida at the age of 67.

Cassidy, who entertained in Las Vegas as well as appearing in movies and TV shows in the year after his initial stardom with The Partridge Family, bought a house on Olmstead Lane and lived in Ridgefield in 1995 and 1996.

Jack Sanders, local historian and retired editor of The Ridgefield Press, wrote the following profile of Cassidy this week for his Old Ridgefield Facebook page.

“The first time I drove down Main Street, I felt like I’d been here before,” said David Cassidy in a 1996 Ridgefield Press interview. “When I saw Ridgefield, I said, ‘This is exactly what I want.’”

The actor, his wife, songwriter Susie Shifrin, and their young son Beau, may have liked Ridgefield but they did not stay long. He sold their Olmstead Lane home two years after arriving.

A heartthrob for countless teenagers in the 1970s, David Cassidy died Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, in Florida where he had lived for 15 years. He was 67 years old.

The star of The Partridge Family in the early 70s, Cassidy went through serious bouts of depression, financial problems, and drug and alcohol abuse over his career, but continued to be a popular stage singer and film actor, recording artist, and writer.

Cassidy was born in New York City, son of  actor Jack Cassidy and actress Evelyn Ward. Later in life he would describe painful feelings of rejection caused by his parents’ divorce.

As a boy, he moved with his mother to California. His father, who married actress Shirley Jones, introduced him to Universal Studios, which signed him in 1969. A year later, he won the lead role of Keith Partridge in The Partridge Family, a sitcom about a mother — played by Cassidy’s real-life stepmother, Shirley Jones — and her five children who perform together in a band. During the show’s four-year run, Cassidy earned $8 million.

He also had  several hit songs, including “I Think I Love You” and “Cherish,” which was also the name of his gold album. All told, he performed on 10 albums by The Partridge Family and five solo albums while the show was airing; most sold more than a million copies.

Cassidy said he had a difficult time dealing with his almost instant fame. “Oh, they’re cute,” he said of his fans in 1972. “They get flustered and I get flustered, and it’s all kind of fun. But it’s no fun when they rip your clothes and take rooms next door in hotels and keep pounding on the door and slipping notes under it.”

He told another interviewer that year, “I’m exploited by people who put me on the back of cereal boxes. I asked my housekeeper to go and buy a certain kind of cereal and when she came home, there was a huge picture of me on the back. I can’t even eat breakfast without seeing my face.”

After the show ended its 96-episode run, Cassidy’s life went downhill. By 1980 the one-time multimillionaire had a net worth of $100,000.

“As I look back over my life, I’d say I began really spinning out, spiraling down, from about mid-1974 and stayed on a downward course for about a decade,” he wrote in his autobiography, “C’Mon, Get Happy,” published in 1994. “Even though there were some bright moments in the late seventies and early eighties, most of those years were spent in darkness. I don’t know how to describe it, other than to say I felt a real darkness inside of me.”

He became so depressed that “I didn’t want to live anymore.”

Adding to his problems was the tragic death of his father in 1976; Jack Cassidy died after, apparently drunk, he dropped a cigarette that started his West Hollywood penthouse on fire.

David Cassidy also went through two marriages and two divorces in the 70s and 80s.

Nonetheless, he made many appearances in television series and several movies — he was nominated for an Emmy for a part he played in Police Story. (He was also “fired” by Donald Trump on The Celebrity Apprentice in 2011.)

The Cassidys came to Ridgefield in 1995, buying the former home of actors Myles and Kay Young Eason a year after Ms. Eason’s death in 1994.  

In 1996, he took over the Las Vegas show EFX; he rewrote the show and turned it into one of the Strip’s favorites. The demands of EFX led him to decide to leave Ridgefield and move west.

In the years that followed he wrote, produced and appeared in many Las Vegas shows, was often on television, and continued to make recordings. A TV film about his life, David Cassidy and the Partridge Family Years, appeared on NBC in January 2000.

But he also had problems.  He drank heavily. His marriage to Susie Shifrin ended in divorce in 2014. A year later he declared bankruptcy, and in February 2017, he announced that he was suffering from non-Alzheimer’s dementia — his mother had Alzheimer’s disease, and Cassidy had several years earlier made a public service announcement about the disease.  However, his death in Florida was due to liver failure.  

His two years in Ridgefield seemed one of the happiest periods in his life.

“I like the idea of now being rooted some place,” Cassidy told Press interviewer Gerri Lewis. “I think this place has a lot to offer. People have been willing to embrace my wife and my son and to treat me as a citizen. I want to be someone who can make a positive contribution in some small way.”

Sitting in the open, bright, well-windowed living room, he said that his house had become a metaphor for the lifestyle he had chosen in recent years. “This,” he said, waving a hand around the room, “is a reflection of who I am today.”

Cassidy is survived by his son Beau, a musician; his daughter Katie, an actress; Ms. Jones, his stepmother; and three half brothers: Shaun Cassidy (who The Times said, "had his own moment as a teen heartthrob in the late 1970s"), Patrick and Ryan.

To the find out more about Ridgefield history and its notable residents, visit Sanders' site RidgefieldHistory.com