Well, dear readers, way back in 1971 I was a young actor who was lucky enough to have gotten back-to-back breaks in television – first a guest shot on The Young Lawyers, followed within two weeks by a co-starring role (when that word had some meaning) on a CBS pilot. And directly after that, I went over to the casting office of Shelly Ellison at Screen Gems to read for a sitcom called The Partridge Family. In those days actors didn’t have to waste their time reading for casting directors because casting directors did their job – they knew who the actors in town were, were up on young talent coming up, and, well, it was just a whole different and better world back then. There were five of us reading for a one-scene role – I read the pages and it was funny and right up my alley. And I had the confidence of someone who’d just come off two other big gigs. I went in read, the producers and director laughed a lot, and I left knowing I’d nailed it and would get the job – two hours later I did.
A week later, on a Monday morning at six, I drove onto the lot at the Columbia Ranch. I took note of the teenage girls camped by the gate. I hadn’t really seen the show – maybe I’d seen one episode from the first season. I loved Shirley Jones, though, and from what I’d read it was a fun show and, more importantly, a hit. I walked onto the soundstage (today it would be “I walked on set”) and was greeted by the AD, shown to my trailer, and then went into makeup. I was greeted by the producer and this episodes’ director, Mel Swope. After makeup, I was escorted onto the set and there met Shirley, Susan Dey (who I immediately went crazy for) and the fellow with whom most of the scene would be with – David Cassidy. We hit it off right away. Everyone was so friendly and sweet, David most of all. We rehearsed the entirety of the scene and they were all laughing and David had trouble keeping a straight face with me. We did the master shot, and the coverage – it took about two or three hours and I was done. I said goodbye to everyone and they were all super complimentary. Here’s David and I in our scene.
I had no idea of quite how much they liked what I’d done or how much they liked me personally, but a few weeks later I got a call to do another episode, this time without even reading for it, and this time a very big guest shot. Not as the character I’d played but another character entirely. In the same season. I have to believe that was a fairly unique situation. This time I was working the full week rather than one day for a few hours. Once again I was greeted so warmly and they were all so happy I was back. In this episode, most of my stuff was with Susan and I was even crazier about her than I’d been the first time. But David was in it, and we just became very friendly on that episode. We talked between takes and I just had the best time ever. The director, Jerry London, loved me and what I was doing – and that is so empowering for an actor – he would go on to direct Shogun. And even though it was only my second episode, I was being treated like one of the family. In the show’s final scene, the ubiquitous Partridge Family song, David sang a good portion of it to me – watching it today it’s pretty funny.
The following season I did two more episodes of the show – not big parts, not the same characters, but just because they wanted me there. I was crazier than ever about Susan, and David and I again just were chatty and friendly. In what would be their final season, I shot what would be my final episode – this was the 1973/1974 season. We shot on a boat – I’d cruised for a week, ending up in Acapulco, and we shot on the way back. The rest of the cast arrived in Acapulco. And we were all very tight on that ship, becoming even closer and having huge laughs and fun. I played the piano for Shirley as she sang for the boat’s guests, David and I hung out, Susan and I hung out (this was a romantic episode kinda/sorta), and I believe I gave Susan her first onscreen kiss (a peck – they suggested the cheek, I suggested the lips and won). When we got back, I’d written a musical called Feast that I was doing at LACC and these wonderful people, the producers, Susan, David, and others all came to see it and loved it. David had already heard some of my songs and wanted to hear more – he came over to dinner and my Darling Daughter, upon seeing him come in the apartment, ran to her bedroom – she couldn’t believe he was there. It was hilarious.
And I began to see Susan for a time and David knew that – have no idea what he thought about it, really. David talked about recording the song I’d actually written for Susan, I Don’t Have to Hide Anymore (it’s the end credit song in Nudie Musical), but it didn’t happen. The producers wanted to bring the character in that episode back and wrote a whole episode for me in which the character would be doing Feast – and the Partridges would come to the rescue when it looked like we couldn’t do the show. I have the first draft of it but before a second draft could happen, the show was canceled.
Flash forward to the mid 1990s and Blood Brothers on Broadway. Petula Clark had just gone into the show and her co-stars were David and Shaun Cassidy. The producers had called me about recording it, so I went to see one of their pre-opening performances and loved it, so I said yes if the deals could be worked out. I had dinner with Petula – a wonderful dinner. And the night they played their first official performance I went again and then to the after-party at Tavern on the Green. By that time, the deal was in the final stages of being done and basically the three leads had agreed on their favored nations deal. And there, for the first time in over twenty years, I saw David. I had no idea if he’d even remember me, but when he saw me he turned to me, hugged me, and said, “You have no idea how often I’ve thought about you over the years.” It really took me aback and it was such a sweet thing to say. He was really excited about the recording, too. But in the end, whoever was managing him at the time (may have been his wife) screwed everything up, demanding he get a huge percentage of the album royalties – and since Petula and Shaun were favored nations, they, too, would have to get that – and that was the end of that and the last time I saw him.
I treasure all those memories of him – I know he had his demons but I never once saw even a trace of them. I just saw that winning smile, and a warm and funny person with whom I really got along well. And now he’s gone at sixty-seven, two years younger than me. I’m pretty pragmatic about people passing, but for whatever reason this one has been emotional for me – I think because that show has lived on and I was so happy to have been treated like family there – it was really a special time. David was a terrific actor/singer – and I hope and trust he is at peace now.
Yesterday, I got eight hours of sleep, got up, answered e-mails, and then Sami and her mom came by and we went to Casa Vega for lunch. She’s been doing her college auditions and she’s in a play at her school, so very busy. We had fun, then we came back here – they loved the new house a lot. Sami liked the way her voice sounded in the very reverberant living room, so I played and she sang a few songs. Then they left and I went and did some banking and bought two little bathroom wastebaskets for the bathrooms. I picked up the chair that Grant now has to assemble, that will be my kitchen workstation chair – I’ve been using a stool that is not at all comfortable to sit on for any length of time. The new chair is padded and has a back to it, so it will be much better. I relaxed for a bit, assigned songs, still have three to choose, and then I sat on my couch like so much fish.
Last night, I watched two more episodes of Stranger Things – nothing about my opinion has changed – it’s barely holding my interest but I’ll finish the season. Then I heard the David news and was bummed a bit. I went to my local Gelson’s and got a few snacks, even though I hadn’t planned to eat anything else. I ate them, and then wrote these here notes early, knowing they’d be long.
Today, the garage shelves are going to be attached to the walls so I can then unbox stuff and clear some room. My plan is to first get the Blu-rays up, then however many CDs I can. And one more bookcase is coming in the house for the bedroom, since we have room and they look good in there. Grant will come and assemble the chair at some point, I’ll eat, I’ll hopefully pick up some packages, and then I’ll relax. I also am on the hunt for a new helper – I have two weeks to find one and it’s making me very nervous. The old helper will then train the new helper for two weeks. I knew this was coming – she got a full-time assistant job and it’s been rather hellish getting everything done whilst she’s doing that. Hopefully we’ll find someone sooner than later because whoever’s going to do it will have to do the Indiegogo stuff and that needs to get done next week.
Tomorrow I’m going to the Pearl’s for Thanksgiving dinner. Friday I have a work session for the Kritzerland show with a new pianist, Saturday I’m seeing a show at the Group Rep and Sunday I’m resting and writing commentary and doing the show order. Then we begin our Kritzerland rehearsals week, and Levi has its pick-up rehearsal and then we play our final five shows, followed directly by the Kritzerland holiday show.
Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, unbox, have a chair assembled, eat, hopefully pick up packages, hopefully find a new helper sooner than later, and then relax. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s Ask BK Day, the day in which you get to ask me or any dear reader any old question you like and we get to give any old answer we like. So, let’s have loads of lovely questions and loads of lovely answers and loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, wishing David Cassidy a safe passage to wherever he’s headed.