In an A&E documentary released shortly after his death, David Cassidy: The Last Session, Cassidy admitted he had lied about having Alzheimer’s disease. He did so after he collapsed onstage in 2017. Cassidy was actually suffering from alcoholism at the time, according to AARP Magazine.
“I did it to myself, to cover up the sadness and the emptiness,” Cassidy said in the documentary. “There is no sign of me having dementia at this stage of my life. It was complete alcohol poisoning. And the fact is, I lied about my drinking.”
David Cassidy Suffered from a Common Problem
Cassidy had an illness that is relatively widespread. But it’s also under-recognized in his demographic. According to a 2000 paper in American Family Physician, one-third of alcoholics develop a drinking problem later in life. And the effects of alcohol may be amplified in senior citizens due to age-related changes in body chemistry.
Fully 17 percent of Americans over 60 have substance abuse problems, including alcoholism, according to the book “Being Sober.” That’s higher than the 10 percent of Americans of any age who grapple with substance abuse.
Cassidy likely was also dealing with untreated emotional wounds. His alcoholic father, an actor and singer named Jack Cassidy, had neglected him as a boy. Jack once turned down the role of Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He was reportedly bipolar. And he died after a night of drinking during which his cigarette lit his Naugahyde couch on fire.
Cassidy Went Broke After Being Typecast as a Teen Idol
David Cassidy took home a cool $8 million from his work on The Partridge Family. The sitcom ran from 1970 to 1974. But by 1986, he had blown through almost all of that money. Like other overnight sensations, Cassidy faced typecasting. He later said it was impossible to get substantive acting roles or singing jobs.
So Cassidy gravitated toward hard-drinking compatriots, among them Alice Cooper and John Lennon. Some of Cassidy’s more sober friends said in the documentary that Cassidy’s alcoholism was likely due to his thwarted search for love, first from his father and then from others.
“His fan club was bigger than the Beatles’ and Elvis’s put together,” Cassidy’s Partridge Family costar Danny Bonaduce said in the A&E documentary. But the love of his fans didn’t seem to register with Cassidy. Or at least, it didn’t stop his descent into alcoholism.
Cassidy died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, three days after he was admitted to a local hospital with liver and kidney failure, per Us Weekly. He left behind a son, Beau Cassidy.