Tuesday, May 26, 2015

David Cassidy: A Man of His Word

Dimpled and Principled   
On this day 41 years ago, a stage rush at a David Cassidy concert led to 650 injuries and 30 hospitalizations. One of those hospitalized fans, Bernadette Whelan, succumbed to her injuries, dying of heart failure six days later. She was 14 years old. 

David Cassidy was stricken by this death. He did everything a 24-year-old would know to do to bring any level of healing to the situation. He spoke with the girl’s parents, promising to avoid the funeral (and thus the media circus) so the focus would be on the deceased and her grieving parents. During rounds of press conferences, he offered frank discussion of the occasional senseless behavior of concert crowds. In one interview, he stated simply that Bernadette Whelan’s death will haunt him for the rest of his life.

I was 9 years old when this happened. At the time, I had photos of David Cassidy scotch-taped to my closet door because I loved him. I loved how he shook his hair when he sang and when he walked. I loved his Adam’s apple, his burgundy crushed velvet vest, his uneven adolescent teeth, his dimples and even his puka beads. Clearly, David Cassidy understood how to hold a woman’s interest, and something in my nine-year-old self knew this was a secret I would do well to learn.

What I could not have understand at 9 years old was that durable relationships are built on character, not careful dedication to trendy clothes. I bought the media line that David Cassidy was captivating because he was hip, and had access to a level of cool that we mortals could only dream of.


I had no way of knowing that what would set David Cassidy apart was the depth of his grief and the permanent changes he made in his life as a result of Bernadette Whelan’s death. His hit song receiving a lot of airplay that spring was called I Can Feel Your Heartbeat. The lyrics are a young man’s repeated vow to prove both the depth of his own character and his esteem for his beloved. “Lord, I’ll prove it. Baby, I’m a man of my word.”

Whether intentional or not, that “vow” in his hit song has been fulfilled. He continues to this day being vocal about the pathological cult of celebrity that still flourishes around him. He resists allowing fans to adore him (and yes, they still want to); his speaking tour is a frank discussion of the connection between addiction and celebrity. He has proven himself--David Cassidy has become a man of his word.

I take that as my horizon. I want to offer to the world and to the woman whom I esteem, some bubble gum lyrics forty years old:

I’ll treat you like a woman
Love you like a woman
Lord, I’ll prove it
Baby, I’m a man of my word



(Reminder: I do not know Chely Wright personally or know anyone who knows her personally. The musings in this blog are mine only and represent no one else. I promise.)