Interview with David Cassidy — a Partridge in a good place [classic article]

Reuben Kincaid managed the finances in the ’70s for the fictional Partridge family, but David Cassidy and his cousin keep their eyes on his real-life money.

The public has become jaded when it comes to packaged teen heartthrobs; it knows when a choreographed waif has been propped up in front of a camera to serve as flavor of the month. Those faded stars all wish they could be David Cassidy, with his bona fide career and fans that have loved him for more than 30 years. Born in 1950, Cassidy’s mother was actress Evelyn Ward and his father was actor Jack Cassidy. Jack Cassidy went on to marry the maven of musical theater, Shirley Jones. In later years, Jack Cassidy would be plagued by alcoholism and depression before dying in a house fire.

At 19, David was cast by sheer coincidence as the son of his real-life stepmom in ABC’s smash success, “The Partridge Family.” During that year, Cassidy had appeared on the cover of every teen magazine in the world, had the No. 1-selling single and several Grammy nominations. His official fan club grew to become the largest in history, with more members than those of Elvis or the Beatles. His picture appeared on lunch boxes across America. Cassidy’s concerts sold out stadiums across the world, making him the world’s best-paid performer at the age of 21. To date, his records have sold 25 million copies worldwide and received more than 20 gold and platinum recordings, including four consecutive multiplatinum LPs. Even so, at the age of 25, Cassidy went into “retirement” for nearly 10 years.

Cassidy’s acting has brought him accolades, as well. His appearance on “Police Story” was the highest rated in the show’s seven-year history, in which he earned an Emmy nomination. He has performed on Broadway, London’s West End and toured North America with his half brother Shaun during the run of “Blood Brothers”.

But it’s Cassidy’s stage and backstage expertise combined that has amazed the industry. In 1996, he opened at the MGM Grand for the $75 million production “EFX”. Under Cassidy’s leadership, it became the most successful production in Las Vegas. In fact, Cassidy was singularly responsible for bringing over 1 million paying customers to see EFX. After striking gold with that show, Cassidy decided to back a show in which he did not perform — “The Rat Pack is Back!,” which also is a hit. Cassidy could not resist the lure of the spotlight for long; he then performed in “At the Copa.”

On Sunday, Nov. 2, the legendary performer will portray a character spoofing over-the-top entertainers on Fox Channel’s “Malcolm in the Middle.”

Bankrate: Tell me about your latest projects.

David Cassidy: I have a new CD out, it’s being released in the U.K., but will be available online next quarter. It’s called “Touch of Blue” and it’s on the Universal label.

Bankrate: You seem to have a nostalgic side to you, with your performances and “The Rat Pack is Back!” Do you have other projects that capitalize on nostalgia?

David Cassidy: Projects that excite me are things that deal with the early ’60s, the era I was raised in. My business partner Don Reo and I feel very connected to the genre. I’m fascinated by the artists then, like Bobby Darin, who sang, wrote and produced. Something that I’m starting to do, which I’ve never done before, is to perform with symphonies! I’m anxious, but in a good way. I’m not nervous or anything. I’ve been in the business for 35 years, so it’s something to say I’ve never done it before. There’s not much I haven’t done before. On Nov. 22, I perform with the Orange County Symphony. With the symphony, the music is rich, really lush.

Bankrate: How would you compare the business environment between Los Angeles and Las Vegas?

David Cassidy: They are very different! The nature of entertainment in Las Vegas, it’s not their reason for being; it’s the gaming. It used to be, gaming was the No. 1 attraction. While I was there, that all changed. Gaming is now the No. 3 attraction, behind entertainment, which is No. 1, and shopping, restaurants. In Vegas, most of the system is corporate; they do what they do — gaming — very well. They don’t do entertainment well. I don’t recommend it. They are very difficult, they don’t want to hear why you know an act will work. They have no expertise in it. They say, “Oh, this works. Let’s do it, too.” That is why in Vegas, you have six Cirque du Soleils. It’s just impersonation, magicians and acrobats. The truth is, in the corporate environment, there’s no creative division. The girl who sells tickets yesterday in a booth is booking bands today. In L.A., you have to survive based on success. The person booking entertainment is someone who decided to focus on that, who has experience in that, from 15 years ago. That is why I invested my own money in “The Rat Pack is Back!” and I own the show. I own the trademark and I can have the show touring.

Bankrate: Everyone knows you had to audition for “The Partridge Family,” but did you ever benefit from nepotism?

David Cassidy: No! My very first job, I auditioned for. I auditioned for “Partridge Family” with a different name. My father was not a household name then. When I was in “Partridge Family,” his career took off.

Bankrate: How did he take that?

David Cassidy: He hated it. He was resentful.

Bankrate: You seem to have a very positive attitude about the kitschiness, the campiness of your past; there’s no “Just call me Rick Schroeder,” about you.

David Cassidy: Yeah, I love it! If you don’t have a sense of humor, you’re dead. I’ve been doing this for 35 years. On “Malcolm in the Middle,” I’m playing the character of Boone Vincent, the combination of every egomaniacal, egocentric, really and truly lame individual in entertainment I’ve ever met. It’s kind of like an omelet of them. People will think I’m sending up myself, because I do a Vegas act. And, in a way, I am!

Bankrate: You’ve had severe tragedies in your life, including your father dying and substance abuse. How would you advise people to keep on keeping on?

David Cassidy: The ultimate issue is character. I’ve never cared about the money or fame, even when I was younger. If I play for five people or 50 million, it doesn’t matter. I never really looked for power. I will find work or create work for myself. No matter what you do in life, talent is always the most important commodity. We’ve all gone through loss. Drugs are a one-way street; you either stop or die. I connect with God, as I see God.

Bankrate: You have another career as a horse breeder that you started as a teenager. How did you decide to turn your hobby into an investment at such a young age?

David Cassidy: I read volumes and volumes on horses before I invested; I read them on the “Partridge Family” set. It’s a business and I treat it like one. These horses are an asset. I love animals. Lexington, Ky., is kind of Mecca; I still go there.

Bankrate: You and your wife, Sue Shifrin-Cassidy, are involved in www.kidscharities.org, which she founded. How did you decide to do another umbrella-like organization, like United Way?

David Cassidy: She did it, we became devoted to children’s charities. We were told we couldn’t have children, but through the miracle of God, we had one! I am mindful that much of my success came from children.

Bankrate: Do you manage your own money?

David Cassidy: No, I have somebody who helps me diversify my portfolio. He’s a family member and he does it very well. I do stay abreast of what’s going on, but I’m not preoccupied. He’s been helping me for 13 years. He’s an attorney who does all kinds of investments, wills and estates. He’s my cousin and I trust him. We’ve been very close for over 20 years. I never could find anyone I could trust in Hollywood, I went through 10 managers. I used to be very naive; people in my group were all about peace and love.

Bankrate: Do you see residuals from “The Partridge Family”?

David Cassidy: I own a piece of my renegotiated contract. I was originally making $600 a week. They were making half a billion. Dolls that sold for $2 now sell for $30. I should have had about $20 billion.

Bankrate: $20 billion?

David Cassidy: Sure! You do the math. There were hundreds of millions involved over a period of 30 years.

Bankrate: Well, how did you get them to sit back down at the negotiating table?

David Cassidy: I was under 21, which was the age of majority at the time. They didn’t get my parents’ signature. I was able to go back. I was groundbreaking in this, it was one of the significant factors in actors getting residuals today.

Bankrate: Did your dad teach you lessons in handling money?

David Cassidy: No! He had absolutely no business acumen whatsoever. He would get paid $1,000 and spend $950 on clothes. He wouldn’t even have money for rent.

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