The wild ride that was David Cassidy’s life and career came to a close Tuesday and, despite all the ups and downs the 1970s teen idol experienced, especially later in life, he will always be remembered fondly at the Saratoga Golf and Polo Club.
“He was a great guy and was always so pleasant,” said Bill Brahler, the club’s head tennis pro. “He’d walk into the clubhouse with a huge smile. He was very personable.”
While Brahler hadn’t seen Cassidy at the club since 2014, he was a fixture there each summer and at the Saratoga Race Course for more than two decades. In 2005, he gave the keynote address at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame induction ceremony for trainer Nick Zito. It was Cassidy’s second wife, horse breeder Meryl Tanz (they married in 1984), who got him interested in thoroughbred racing more than 30 years ago.
A star of the 1970s musical sitcom “The Partridge Family,” Cassidy stopped making regular visits to Saratoga following a DWI arrest in August 2013 in Schodack, in Rensselaer County. Cassidy had an earlier DWI arrest in Florida back in 2010, and five months after he was stopped in Schodack, Cassidy was again arrested for DWI, this time in Los Angeles.
Along with his alcohol problems, he was divorced from his third wife, Sue Shifrin, in 2014, and filed for bankruptcy in 2015. On Feb. 7 of this year, Cassidy announced in an interview with People magazine that he was suffering from dementia. Cassidy added that his mother, actress Evelyn Ward, and his grandfather also had dementia.
“I was in denial, but a part of me always knew this was coming,” Cassidy told People. He also announced at that time that he would no longer tour. During a performance in California back in February, TMZ reported that Cassidy was forgetting the lyrics to songs and had also fallen off the stage.
Cassidy died Tuesday, due to organ failure, in a Fort Lauderdale hospital near his Florida home. Among those at his side were his daughter, Katie, and son, Beau.
Born on April 12, 1950, he was the son of actor Jack Cassidy, who after divorcing Ward married Shirley Jones, who became David’s co-star on “The Partridge Family.” The show was a huge hit from 1970-74, but before that success, Cassidy was already working in television as a teenager, getting guest shots on “Bonanza,” “Ironside,” “The F.B.I.,” “Marcus Welby M.D.” and “Mod Squad,” to name a few.
Cassidy earned his role as Keith Partridge and had to plead with producers to let his own singing voice be used for the show. The series was about a family musical group led by Jones, as the mother. Jones was the screen star of “Oklahoma!” and “The Music Man.” Keith was the oldest son and lead singer of the family band on the show. He proved to be much more than just adequate, and in 1970, “The Partridge Family” had released a huge hit, “I Think I Love You,” suddenly making Cassidy a rock ‘n’ roll sensation.
The group made 10 albums, and Cassidy released five solo albums over the next 10 years. He enjoyed tremendous success around the world. While his popularity began to wane in the U.S. in the 1980s, he remained popular in Great Britain, throughout Europe and in Australia. He also had occasional stage roles in musical theater, with varying degrees of success, and continued to tour as a solo performer through 2016.
Ron Ireland, general manager at the Saratoga Golf and Polo Club for the past five years, didn’t get to know Cassidy well but never heard anything but nice comments about him.
“He was always a nice guy when he was here — very low-key,” Ireland said. “To me, it seemed as though everybody liked him.”
Brahler, one of the top tennis players in the Capital Region for years, certainly got along well with him.
“There were a few summers where I got to hit with David quite a bit,” he said. “I also got to hit with his son, Beau, who really seemed like a great kid. But David and I had quite a few laughs down on the tennis court.
“He was a fun guy, and It also didn’t matter who you were. You could have been the tennis pro, the dishwasher or some other celebrity. He was always very kind to everyone.”