The untold truth of David Cassidy

David Cassidy passed away on Nov. 21, 2017 after a brief hospitalization for organ failure. Best known for playing Keith Partridge, the heartthrob lead singer and guitar player for the fictional family band The Partridge Family, Cassidy went on to a colorful entertainment career that included successful runs on Broadway, television, and as a touring musician.

But like many longtime entertainers, Cassidy also battled demons in his life: strained family relationships, failed marriages, substance abuse, and crippling health problems. It was even revealed after his death that he may have fabricated or exaggerated claims about being diagnosed with dementia in order to hide a near-fatal relapse with alcohol. 

You already know that Keith Partridge became a real-life teen pop sensation, but this is the story of the man behind the gloriously feathered hair and sequined jumpsuits. It's the untold truth of David Cassidy.    

He had a complicated relationship with his daughter

Although today's generation may not have grown up on The Partridge Family, they might have known Cassidy through his daughter, Katie Cassidy, an up-and-coming actress who's appeared on popular TV shows Gossip Girl and Arrow.

As Katie rose to fame, the father-daughter duo appeared to have an amicable relationship, as evident by this joint interview from People in 2009. However, by February 2017, David had completely changed his tune, alleging to People that he "never had a relationship" with his only daughter. "I wasn't her father. I was her biological father but I didn't raise her," he said. Katie grew up with Cassidy's ex-girlfriend, Sherry Williams, and stepfather. "She has a completely different life."

Katie echoed the sentiment in a 2018 interview with Fox News. Asked if being David's kid gave her a leg up with her acting career, Katie said, "My dad didn't help me. I think having the last name, in my opinion, put a lot more pressure on me throughout the process of auditioning because you're held under a microscope."  

Perhaps the most telling indicator of David and Katie's relationship came after his death when it was revealed that he specifically stated in his will that he would not "provide any benefits" to Katie or any "descendant" of hers. Oof.

He claimed he had dementia

In February 2017, David Cassidy told People that he spent the last part of his life battling dementia. "I was in denial, but a part of me always knew this was coming," said Cassidy, whose grandfather and mother also battled the disease.

The revelation came about a day after TMZ obtained footage of Cassidy performing at a concert during which he's seen slurring, falling down, and forgetting his lyrics. "I was concerned people would mistake my alcoholism with my diagnosis," Cassidy told People of the performance, referencing his lifelong battle with booze (more on that one in a moment.) "It's a tricky business."

However, several months after his death, producers of an A&E documentary (via People) about the late musician revealed just how "tricky" Cassidy's dementia diagnosis may have been — as in it was a total lie. In a promo clip for the doc, Cassidy can be heard on an audio recording admitting that his memory loss was the result of "a liver disease," and that doctors told him, "There is no sign of me having dementia at this stage of my life. It was complete alcohol poisoning."

His lifelong battle with booze

In the handful of years prior to his dementia claim, David Cassidy made multiple headlines for his ongoing battle with alcohol. According to People, he was arrested for DUI in 2010, then again in 2013 and 2014. Shorly after his third DUI arrested, Cassidy — who had been in and out of rehab — confessed to being an alcoholic.

"If I take another drink, I'm going to die, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I'm dead," Cassidy told CNN's Piers Morgan in March 2014. "You know, they say it's a slippery slope… It's not a slippery slope. It's from 12:00 to 6:00 on the clock and the whole face is ice. One sip, one drink, because there is no such a thing, not to an alcoholic. You have one and you're — you're done. I'd be done."

Unfortunately, it seems Cassidy never kicked the habit. In the aforementioned A&E documentary promo, Cassidy admits the dementia lie was all a ruse. "The fact is that I lied about my drinking," he says in the film. "I did this to myself to cover up the sadness and the emptiness."

There's no doubt who the golden child was

Despite the tough relationship with his daughter, David Cassidy told People in February 2017 that he had a strong relationship with his only son, Beau Cassidy, whom he had with his third ex-wife, Sue Shifrin. "He's just one of the best people you'll ever meet in your life and it's that that I'm proud of," David told the magazine. 

Addressing his professed dementia diagnosis, David said his son "knows that I'm just a little off. Sometimes he cocks his head at me a little bit and goes, 'Dad do you remember?' … He'll give me reminders once in awhile." David added, "He's such a beautiful person." David's feelings for Beau were on display even after his death when it was revealed that Beau was the sole recipient of the assets David left in his will. 

In a touching remembrance post on Instagram, Beau simply captioned a playful photo of him and his dad with, "I'll always, always love you."

Speaking of his kids - Was there another one?

Shelly Wright came forward to Radar Online in 2013, claiming to be David Cassidy's love child from a one-night stand he supposedly had with her mother, Donna G. Wallace, who claimed to have hooked up with Cassidy while she was separated from her husband, "famed Nashville songwriter, James Bohon" in 1973. Wright claims she went public after getting "the run around" from Cassidy's publicist, who allegedly sent her a fake hair for a DNA test.

"I just want him to finally acknowledge me. I'm not getting any younger and I just want some closure. I want to meet my dad," said Wright, who also insists she's not looking for any kind of payout. Eventually, she reportedly touched base with Cassidy's son, Beau, who supposedly agreed to help but failed to follow through. In a last ditch effort, Wright wrote an open letter to Cassidy in 2014, published by Express, which read, in part: "This is not a gimmick. It's not a game. I'm frustrated and desperate, and I just want David to know that I've been trying to contact him … From the bottom of my heart, I'm begging David Cassidy — the man that I believe is my father — to agree to a DNA test. Then, and only then, will I find the truth." 

As of this writing, it's unclear if Wright received the closure she sought.

The third time wasn't a charm

David Cassidy met Kay Lenz on a blind date in 1977. Two and a half months later, they were married, according to People, though the "whirlwind romance" would only last four years. In retrospect, Lenz told People that she wasn't equipped to handle the fame that came along with marrying a teen idol and that there was no single thing that broke them up. She was just "unhappy," although she wasn't sure why.  

Just as Cassidy's marriage to Lenz was winding down, he reconnected with Meryl Tanz, an old acquaintance he knew through a shared passion for horses. After a chance meeting with the South African horse breeder at a race in Illinois, Cassidy fell head over heels. "We haven't been apart since. In his rock days, he was remote. Now he has time for me," she told People. But again, the romance wouldn't last. Cassidy and Tanz split just two years later in 1986.

Cassidy's third marriage would be his longest. He wed Sue Shifrin-Cassidy in 1991. Though they went strong for more than two decades, they split in 2015, in what became an ugly, albeit secretive settlement that resulted in Cassidy declaring bankruptcy and selling his South Florida home, according to the Sun Sentinel.  

The Partridge Family wasn't much of a stretch

Though they played blood relatives on The Partridge Family, Shirley Jones and David Cassidy actually shared a connection via marriage in real life. Shirley got hitched to Cassidy's dad, actor Jack Cassidy, when David was 3 years old, but according to a 2006 UK Sunday Express interview, the atmosphere was nothing like their TV family. "[Jack] was jealous of Shirley, who was a big star at 21, and then he was jealous of me," David told the paper, claiming his father was "a manic depressive and an alcoholic" who was "consumed with Irish Catholic guilt." 

Jack and Shirley split up in 1974 after a chaotic several decades together, according to HuffPost. Despite his dad and stepmom's marital struggles, David maintained affection for Shirley, confessing to the UK Sunday Express, "I don't see her often, but I love her. She was a good role model and friend. She taught me a lot about dealing with fame."

Unfortunately, that seems to have changed over time. According to Shirley, who spoke with Closer Weekly in 2015, "David has not had a relationship with anyone in the family for years. We are sick over it."

He wasn't down with Don Johnson

In David Cassidy's heyday, he was as big a celebrity as one could become. He once told Entertainment Weekly that his "fanzine" publisher received up to 25,000 letters from adoring fans per day. Naturally, Cassidy rubbed shoulders with some other huge stars of the era, including Don Johnson of Miami Vice.

Cassidy wasn't impressed with the '80's TV icon. In his book, C'Mon, Get Happy…Fear and Loathing on the Partridge Family Bus," Cassidy describes Johnson as "a blatantly rude egomaniac, who snubbed him badly at a party." Cassidy later told the Star Tribune, "I was more than kind to him in the book. I don't call him every name I could." He added, "If I saw him today, he'd probably apologize. He needs friends, because he doesn't have many. In Hollywood you hear Don Johnson stories. You never hear David Cassidy stories." 

Shots. Fired.

Keith Partridge was a 'bimbo'

Cassidy also revealed to the Star Tribune that despite achieving dizzying fame as a pop sensation, he would have rather been known for his more serious artistic work. "I had everything I wanted — except creative expression," Cassidy said. "I created this total airhead. He was a bimbo, and people thought that was me. They don't take you seriously if you appeal to young people, like it's less important." Cassidy said he has no regrets about walking away from that character, even if it temporarily damaged his marketability in Hollywood. "It's inevitable that I went out of fashion," he said. "I walked away from it with my integrity, because I didn't want to end up being some tragic clown, sitting in some hotel lounge."

He's not entirely bitter about the experience. In fact, in 2012, Cassidy kicked off a nostalgia tour which covered his four-decade career, and he happily included those bubblegum tracks that elevated him to stardom. "I do the songs people expect to hear whether they've seen me a hundred times or one time they won't be disappointed, he told the Phoenix New Times. "Of course I do the hits."

He didn't leave a fortune behind

David Cassidy filed for bankruptcy in 2015, citing "assets and debt of up to $10 million," according to People. The former teen idol was reportedly on the hook for $290,000 to Wells Fargo Bank, $21,000 to American Express, $17,000 to Citi Bank, and owed a Florida lawyer $102,000. Cassidy later downplayed his money problems in a February 2017 interview with People when he said, "The financial part is not an issue." 

However, after he died, the debt collectors came calling. According to The Blast, the same law firm that claimed he owed it money before his bankruptcy reasserted its claim. Another lawyer, Damaso Saavedra, also alleged Cassidy owed him $19,006. A rep for Cassidy's estate "objected" to both claims.

In Cassidy's will, he claimed to have "approximately $150,000 in various assets," which were left to his son, Beau. Granted, $150,000 is nothing to scoff at, but it's a surprisingly low figure for a musician with a high-profile career that spanned decades.

Not everyone can namedrop John Lennon

David Cassidy is best known for that classic track from The Patridge Family, "I Think I Love You," as well as his own subsequent chart-toppers, such as "Cherish," "How Can I Be Sure," and "Lyin' to Myself." But the former teen idol wasn't just a pretty face playing pretend with a guitar. Long before he ever dreamed of being a TV star, Cassidy was playing in garage bands and honing the musical talents that kept him on the scene long after the teenyboppers lost interest.

According to Rolling Stone, Cassidy collaborated with The Beach Boys and George Michael and even becoming pals with a certain legendary member of The Beatles. "John [Lennon] and I became good friends when he was recording Rock and Roll so I was able to come down to the studio a couple of times and if you could imagine Phil Spector walking around with a f***ing gun … It was nuts," Cassidy told the magazine.   

Cassidy also wrote, "I Write the Songs," which, according to the Star Tribune, became Barry Manilow's "signature song." He also penned and performed The John Larroquette Show theme under the pseudonym, Blind Lemon Jackson. In other words: Cassidy could have easily made a living performing under the disguise of Keith Partridge, but he chose to do it his own way, and it was through the creation of that fictional musical hero that Cassidy actually became one in his own right.