Friday, January 19, 2018

Top TV Moments: Paul Lynde

Actors are expected to lose themselves in the roles they play, modifying their mannerisms and vocal delivery to match each character. But in the classic TV era some actors had the luxury of maintaining their own familiar and finely developed personas from role to role and show to show.

Paul Lynde certainly belongs in that category. He played parents and teachers, doctors and military men, and all of them looked and sounded and acted like Paul Lynde. And that was fine, because his infectious laugh and sardonic smirk could make straight lines funny and punch lines funnier. 

While he is certainly known and appreciated among fans of TV classics, I still believe he is underappreciated. Perhaps that is a result of the lack of variety in his work, or because he left us so long ago and far too soon. But he was indisputably a one-of-a-kind talent, as the following moments illustrate.

Stanley (1956)
This series only lasted seven episodes according to IMDB, but I’d love to see one of them one day. Buddy Hackett stars as the well-connected proprietor of a newsstand inside a fancy New York hotel, Carol Burnett played his girlfriend, and Paul Lynde, as the hotel’s owner Horace Fenton, was heard but never seen via announcements over the lobby’s public address system. With that cast how bad could it be?

The Munsters (1964)
I’ve never been a big fan of this series, but Lynde’s three first-season appearances as the family physician, nearsighted Dr. Dudley, always added a spark to the proceedings.  

Bewitched (1965)
Samantha’s practical joke-loving Uncle Arthur is certainly Paul Lynde’s most famous classic TV character. In my “Funniest Sitcom Episodes of the 1960s” piece I singled out Arthur’s first appearance, in 1965’s “The Joker Is a Card,” as one of the decade’s most hilarious achievements. But as true Bewitched fans already know, Lynde also made one previous appearance on the series as Samantha’s frazzled driving instructor in “Driving Is the Only Way To Fly.” 

Gidget (1966)
How does Gidget wind up in Pasadena in her pajamas? It’s a bizarre tale, but part of the trouble is Paul Lynde, playing a father of one of Gidget’s friends who carries a grudge against the San Fernando Valley. 

Lynde’s vituperous take on a harried parent in “Take a Lesson” is reminiscent of his performance in Broadway’s Bye Bye Birdie. I almost expected him to break into a chorus of “Kids.” 

Hollywood Squares (1966)
For 13 years and more than 800 episodes, Paul Lynde appeared in the center square on this iconic game show, unleashing jokes and double-entendres that he probably couldn’t get away with on TV now.
Peter Marshall: Paul, what is a good reason for pounding meat?
Paul Lynde: Loneliness!
Peter: It is the most abused and neglected part of your body, what is it?
Paul: Mine may be abused, but it certainly isn't neglected. 

Sadly, most of these episodes no longer exist, because network geniuses decided that no one would ever want to watch them after they were first broadcast.

I Dream of Jeannie (1966)
Lynde appeared three times in this series in three different roles. My favorite is Harry Huggins in “My Master, The Rich Tycoon.” Upon arrival at Major Nelson’s home he mocks the d├ęcor, prompting Jeannie to blink up all sorts of priceless art treasures. The way he reads the line “A real Renoir? In Cocoa Beach?” could not be surpassed. After taking the tour, he reveals himself as an IRS agent ready to send Tony to jail for unlisted income. 

The Dating Game (1968)
For the top slot on a list of places you’d least expect Paul Lynde to turn up, I nominate his appearance as bachelor #1 on The Dating Game. But in 1968 everyone was still straight on television, so there he was, competing for the affections of an attractive young blonde, clearly aware of the absurdity of the situation but eager to go along for the ride. The highlight comes when the girl asks Paul, “Bachelor #1, I’ve just given you Bachelor #2 – what are you going to do with him?” Lynde looked at the burly, bearded guy next to him and responded, “Go dancing!” Not surprisingly, he didn’t get the date. Or Bachelor #2.

The Perils of Penelope Pitstop (1969)
Lynde’s famous laugh elevated this lackluster spinoff of Wacky Races, in which sweet Penelope is stalked by the villainous Hooded Claw (Lynde), who in reality is her attorney, Sylvester Sneekly. It should have been more fun than it was, but I did like when Lynde’s characters would break the fourth wall and argue with the show’s narrator. 

The Dean Martin Show (1969)
Paul Lynde made several appearances on this long-running variety series, and he could work Dean Martin like Tim Conway worked Harvey Korman. 

YouTube offers a chance to view many of their best sketches, during which Dino always loses it about halfway through.

The Paul Lynde Show (1972)
In the opening credits sequence of this short-lived sitcom, Lynde loses all his paperwork when his briefcase flies open, slips on wet pavement, trips over a hose and falls into a pool. None of this is funny, or the kind of shtick audiences expected from an actor whose comic gifts were verbal, not physical. He plays Paul Simms, an attorney who doesn’t spend much time in court, and a family man who doesn’t seem to care much for his family. You can make a protagonist this misanthropic work with good material, but there wasn't much of that here. Still, there are a few laughs in the episodes I’ve seen, because it’s almost impossible to make Paul Lynde not funny. There just aren’t enough of them to qualify the series as anything other than an interesting failure. 

The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976)
Near the beginning of this holiday celebration, Donny and Marie Osmond dump Paul into a trashcan. It was the perfect introduction for 60 minutes of deeply bizarre moments, which included Paul romancing Mrs. Brady and Pinky Tuscadero, and The Wizard of Oz’s legendary Margaret Hamilton hanging out with the band KISS. You’ll want to see it once, but once will be enough.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Comfort TV Visits Charm School (Better Late Than Never)

I hadn’t planned to post about the New Year. But then I considered how every New Year takes us further away from the time when shows from the Comfort TV era were made – shows that reflected what life in America was like at that time.

We’re 50 years beyond most of their debuts now. Do they still mirror how we live? I don’t mean the cosmetic stuff – the fashions and the cars and the slang; will we reach a point where these TV characters exist in an America we no longer recognize? Are there already elements in these shows that were once acceptable and are now inappropriate or to some even offensive?

Let’s consider one example.

I was raised in Skokie, Illinois, and in that Chicago suburb was a shopping center called Old Orchard, and in that shopping center was a Montgomery Ward department store. And in that store was a place called the Wendy Ward Charm School that taught young girls poise, proper manners and etiquette, among other lessons. 

Attendees received a handbook with tips such as “To be a girl assuredly means more than just being not a boy”, and “A lilting voice – warm, gentle and animated – is a ‘beauty order’ any girl can fill.” Many girls received complimentary sessions at the school through their Brownie and Girl Scout troops. Each class would end with a fashion show. 

This was the 1970s, in case any of you are now wondering whether I grew up during the Eisenhower administration.

Would Millennials even know what a charm school is? Do they even exist anymore?

Such places were familiar in the Comfort TV era, so not surprisingly they were featured in our favorite shows as well.

As is often the case with TV comedy, Lucy got their first. In “The Charm School,” a 1954 episode of I Love Lucy, Lucy and Ethel become jealous at the attention their husbands pay to a refined woman at a party. To up their game they enroll in the Phoebe Emerson Charm School, where they take lessons in how to walk, speak and dress.

The scenes that follow, featuring a pre-Lovey Natalie Schaefer as Miss Emerson, are classic Lucy.

I don’t think the writers really grasped the charm school concept, as the facility created for the show looks more like a health club. Of course, suspension of disbelief was already required, as Lucy and Ethel had already surpassed the charm school demographic.

That was not the case on The Patty Duke Show; in “The Perfect Teenager” (1964) Patty fails a magazine quiz on how teenagers should act. That sends her into a depression until she sees an ad for Miss Selby’s school promoting the ABCs – Attitude, Brightness and Charm.

The most bizarre aspect of this episode was the casting of Kaye Ballard as Miss Selby. Based on her body of work she seems an odd choice for a role model of demure grace. 

But the lessons taught in class are straight out of Wendy Ward. Patty’s attempted self-makeover lands her a modeling job in which she is sprayed with a seltzer bottle and takes a pie in the face. Just what a teenager seeking self-confidence needs.

Even the lovely Cissy Davis on Family Affair was not immune to insecurity. In “The New Cissy” (1968) she is convinced boys don’t notice her: “I can’t go on being me!”

Uncle Bill being rich, he doesn’t send her to charm school, he has the charm school come to her. Top industry consultants are hired to coach her in how to dress, how to carry on a conversation, and how to intrigue her male classmates: “99% of the time your face should reveal nothing; it should remain calm, placid, enigmatic…men will be intrigued. They’ll imagine you’re thinking much deeper thoughts then you really are.”

The episode also features the one scene without which no charm school episode is complete – learning to walk with a book on your head for balance and poise. 

Patty Lane tried it as well, and you’ll find similar scenes throughout the Comfort TV landscape, from The Beverly Hillbillies to The Brady Bunch to the opening credits of Charlie’s Angels’ final season.

The lessons work for Cissy, but she realizes (as Lucy and Patty did before her) that the person she’s become wasn’t really her. It’s a conclusion that is almost unavoidable given that the alternative is having the characters continue to act in a more refined way (though in Cissy’s case she was already as well-mannered a teenager as TV produced).

That’s not a message that likely did much for charm school recruitment, however, which is unfortunate. These institutions, archaic as they may now seem, once strived to make the world a more gracious place.

Friday, December 29, 2017

What's In a Name? Or, Does Anyone Care About Episode Titles?

Is there a way to make a blog about TV episode titles interesting? I’m not sure. Let’s find out.

I’m intrigued by titles because just about every episode of every scripted television show has one, yet even the most ardent TV fans rarely use them. Even today, when the titles are readily accessible in reference books and on DVD cases and at, most TV fan conversations are filled with references like “the one where Maude finds out she’s pregnant” or “the one where Fonzie gets glasses.” 

The creators of Friends, who grew up with these shows from an earlier era, picked up on this predisposition, which is why they start every episode title with “The One…”

The practice of showing the title on screen is more conspicuous with dramas than comedies, though exceptions in both genres abound.  

The Quinn Martin shows (Cannon, Barnaby Jones, The Fugitive among others) made the biggest fuss about them. Each series had a narrator who, after listing the guest stars, would solemnly intone, “Tonight’s episode…Night Flight to Murder.” 

Did that add anything to the viewing experience? Maybe a dash of additional substance, but ultimately it didn’t matter – when two Barnaby Jones fans get together they won’t talk about “Trap Play” or “Venus in a Flytrap”; they’ll say, “Remember the one where that punk kid called Barnaby “Pops”?

Full disclosure: The “Pops” line is actually an old Jay Leno joke, since that was something that happened in almost every episode.

If the title didn’t appear on screen during life pre-Internet, you might find it in TV Guide. But even in the Comfort TV era when that publication covered the medium with care, intelligence and insight, its policy toward titles was hit-and-miss. 

Titles were restored to prominence for awhile at Nick at Nite, when each episode would be introduced not just by title but also with the episode number and the original airdate. I enjoyed that. After years of watching the Lucy Show episode where Lucy gets a date with Dean Martin, it was nice to finally be able to put a title to that story. Turns out, the title was “Lucy Dates Dean Martin.” Maybe that’s why more viewers don’t know or care about titles – most shows rarely put much effort into them. 

A list of shows that were laziest about titles could start with Twin Peaks, which opted for numbers instead of names, and the British series Sapphire and Steel, which had seven episodes titled “Assignment 1” through “Assignment 7.”

Daytime dramas also don’t have episode titles. I guess the fear was they’d run out after awhile, or start recycling them just as certain stories are reused (General Hospital episode #10,624: “Sonny Gets Arrested (again).”

But lest you think titles are completely superfluous, there have also been instances when a show’s title came first, before it had a story or even a writer. ABC Television executive Fred Silverman was so excited about Charlie’s Angels that he made a list of titles for stories he’d like to see. One of them was “Angels in Chains,” which was later written by Robert Earll and became one of the series’ most popular episodes.

There is also one subset of classic TV where titles are more acknowledged, and that is science fiction shows like Star Trek and Doctor Who, which command a more obsessional fan base. You’ll never hear Vulcan-garbed fans at a convention talking about “the one where Kirk goes back in time and meets Joan Collins.” They all know that episode is “City on the Edge of Forever.” 

Think you know your TV episode titles? Here’s a list of titles from classic shows, all of which were attached to episodes that rank among the more prominent from their respective series. Can you identify them by name?

“Job Switching”
“The Town of No Return”
“The Case of the Deadly Verdict”
“Mr. Big”
“Put On a Happy Face”
“Balance of Terror”
“That’s My Boy”
“The Bellero Shield”
“The Subject Was Noses”
“Time Enough At Last”
“A is For Apple”
“Lamb To the Slaughter”
“TV or Not TV”
“The Judgment”

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Celebrating Two Christmas “Charlie”s

December is the month classic TV fans devote to their favorite Christmas episodes. This year, my list surpassed the 50-show mark.

Admittedly there are a few I watch more out of tradition than any genuine desire to see them again. But most of these Yuletide stories remain sources of great comfort and joy, and some resonate more deeply with each passing year.

Two of my favorites share a unique common denominator – both introduce new characters named Charlie, played by Academy Award-winning actors.

“A Very Merry Christmas,” from the first season of The Donna Reed Show, aired on Christmas Eve of 1958. 

It opens with Donna wondering what happened to Christmas, after watching daughter Mary fret over whether she should buy a gift for one of her friends, and hearing son Jeff complain that he’s probably going to lose money on Christmas because he spent more on presents than he’s received.

“Was Christmas always like this?” she asks Alex. “Christmas should be warm, and friendly, and peaceful.”

Later, she becomes concerned that nothing seems to be planned for the children’s ward of the hospital where Alex works. There’s a party every year, but no one knows who puts it together. Eventually she discovers that the hospital’s janitor, Charlie (played by legendary silent film comedian Buster Keaton) makes sure the kids always have a happy Christmas. He buys a tree, supplies the gifts, and finds someone to play Santa Claus. 

Donna is so moved by his selflessness that she joins in the preparations, and even convinces Charlie to play Santa this year, since he’s really been doing it for decades. 

At a time when so many people think everything they say and do is worthy of being preserved for posterity with a selfie, this episode features a man content to toil in obscurity, helping others without any recognition or fanfare.

The final scene in the children’s ward is one of those perfect warm and moving classic TV Christmas moments. And hearing Donna lament that Christmas isn’t what it used to be (in 1958!) is reassuring in a way, as it tells us that such complaints did not originate in our more cynical and secular times. She had to go searching for a sign of true Christmas, and she found it – we can too.

Our other Christmas Charlie appears in “Don’t Bring Your Guns to Town, Santa,” a season two episode of The Partridge Family from 1971. 

Returning from a holiday concert in Vegas, the family bus breaks down in a ghost town, where they are greeted by its only resident. This Charlie (played by Dean Jagger) welcomes them into his sparse lodgings. 

 When the kids worry about missing Christmas, he tells them a story about the town back in its heyday, which triggers a delightful western fantasy sequence with everyone in the cast playing different roles. 

There are many things to love about this show, but it’s the framing scenes with Charlie that stick with you after it’s over.

Jagger creates such an evocative character in a few moments of screen time that it’s easy to imagine the lonely life he’s lived, and wonder about how fate brought him to such a desolate place. 

When the Partridges return to serenade Charlie with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” his wordless, tear-filled reaction packs an emotional wallop, especially after such a whimsical story. 

On that note, I wish all of you the very happiest of holidays. Whether this is your first visit to Comfort TV or you are a regular reader, thank you for stopping by. If you'd like, please share your favorite Christmas episodes in the comments.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Ten Forgotten TV Shows I’d Like to Watch

I’ve always wondered why critically-panned movies that bomb at the box office are still easy to find, while many television shows that suffer a similar fate disappear, never to be seen again. Surely, if there is an audience for Halle Berry’s take on Catwoman, there are also people who would be curious to check out David Soul’s take on Rick Blaine in his 1983 prequel to Casablanca

Here are ten shows long out of circulation that I’d love to watch. Perhaps they would prove disappointing, but as a connoisseur of the Comfort TV era I’m sure I could find redeeming features in all of them.

For the record – I have seen individual episodes of some of these, courtesy of YouTube and other sources. The fact that they’re still on the list means I enjoyed them enough to want to see more.

Window on Main Street (1961)
Thanks to Shout Factory’s Father Knows Best DVD sets, I’ve been able to watch several episodes of this series. It was the second collaboration for Robert Young and Roswell Rogers, who wrote many of Father Knows Best’s most memorable episodes. 

Here, Young plays Cameron Garrett Brooks, a moderately successful author who returns to his hometown of Millsberg to write a book about folks who live there. Each episode of this warm and wise series introduced new characters dealing with the kind of everyday issues that television no longer cares to explore.  

O.K. Crackerby (1965)
This time of year we all get our Burl Ives fix through the annual broadcast of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. But if you’ve also seen The Bold Ones: The Lawyers you know what a compelling presence Ives can be when he’s not a stop-motion snowman. In O.K. Crackerby he played a rustic but filthy-rich Oklahoma widower trying to gain acceptance into a more refined social set. I have no doubt his charisma could carry even a sub-standard show. 

The Man Who Never Was (1966)
Here’s a series that brings together two actors that deserved more substantive careers. Robert Lansing, a natural leading man best known to TV fans for 12 O’Clock High, and the elegant Dana Wynter, a familiar face from 40 years of guest-starring roles on shows from Wagon Train to The Rockford Files

In The Man Who Never Was Lansing played Peter Murphy, an American secret agent who looks exactly like millionaire playboy Mark Wainwright. When foreign agents aiming for Murphy kill Wainwright instead, Murphy assumes his identity – which includes marriage to the millionaire’s wife, Eva (Wynter). Romance and espionage with likable leads, plus the show was filmed in Europe, instead of on those European backlots at Universal that never fooled anyone. 

The Smith Family (1971)
It was a series produced by Don Fedderson Productions (Family Affair, My Three Sons) starring Henry Fonda as a police detective and Ron Howard (between The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days) as his son.  

The Smith Family lasted 39 episodes, and you’d think that many shows coupled with such an impressive pedigree would have earned it a DVD release by now. It could still happen. 

Diana (1973)
I’ve seen one episode of this situation comedy, and based on that experience I’m not surprised it didn’t last. But the ‘Diana’ of the title is Diana Rigg, so I’d gladly watch the rest of it anyway. 

Ozzie’s Girls (1973)
I’ve spent countless happy hours watching Ozzie Nelson do next to nothing on the groundbreaking sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. It remains one of my most treasured Comfort TV shows. So of course I’d be an eager viewer of this syndicated show that debuted seven years after that series ended its 14-season run. 

The set-up had Ozzie and Harriet Nelson taking in two college girls as boarders. I love the idea of having one of television’s original idealized sitcom couples negotiate how times have changed since the 1950s, this time while dispensing sage advice to girls instead of their two famous sons. 

Hizzoner (1979)
I always enjoy watching David Huddleston, whether it’s as Santa Claus in a movie that should have been better, or as recurring characters on Petrocelli and The Wonder Years, or in my favorite episodes of The Waltons (“The Literary Man”) and Charlie’s Angels (“Angels in Chains”). So I’d probably like this sitcom in which he starred as the mayor of a small Midwestern town. Plus, each episode featured a musical number, and I’m always a sucker for musical numbers. 

Time Express (1979)
At a time when The Love Boat and Fantasy Island were taking guest stars on memorable journeys, the miniseries Time Express offered a different kind of wish fulfillment. Vincent Price starred as the conductor of a train that transported people to pivotal moments in their pasts, where they could change decisions they would later regret. That’s a very good premise, though apparently not enough viewers thought so at the time. 

Star of the Family (1982)
A talented teenage singer (Kathy Maisnick) starts getting show business offers, much to the consternation of her overprotective firefighter dad (Brian Dennehy). 

I saw a clip from one of the episodes on an installment of Battle of the Network Stars, when Maisnick competed for the ABC team. It was enough to pique my interest. 

Chicago Story (1982)
Ninety-minute dramas were a rarity on TV, especially after the heyday of the anthology shows of the 1950s. Chicago Story was an ambitious attempt to tell bigger stories, while bringing together three stalwart TV genres – cop shows, medical shows and lawyer shows. I’m intrigued by how this series would take stories from one setting to another, and have the characters from the different genres interact. 

Model and Bond Girl Maud Adams was top billed as Dr. Judith Bergstrom, and the large cast featured several actors with better shows in their future: Dennis Franz (playing a policeman – what else?), Molly Cheek, Craig T. Nelson and John Mahoney. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Book That Wraps Up Bewitched The Right Way

“Does how a television show ends have any impact on its legacy?”

That was the first line of the first Comfort TV blog entry, dated May 22, 2012. Ah, memories.

I still think it’s an interesting question. A few shows from the Comfort TV era were able to depart on a proper grace note – The Fugitive, MASH, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Others, like Hogan’s Heroes, disappeared with unfinished business. 

Bewitched didn’t so much end as it just fizzled out. Its eighth and final season was awash in barely rewritten scripts from earlier (and better) episodes. The last show, #254(!) in the run, was “The Truth, Nothing But the Truth, So Help Me Sam,” a tired remake of “Speak the Truth” from season two. 

It’s debatable as to whether Bewitched had anything left to say, since there was never much forward motion to the show outside of the two additions to the Stephens family. Darrin still had the same job, Endora still didn’t like him, and Samantha’s powers were still a secret from the mortals of Morning Glory Circle.

But one fan wasn’t satisfied.

Adam-Michael James had already demonstrated his encyclopedic knowledge of the series in The Bewitched Continuum, a 600+ page episode guide, and now he’s published a second book that serves not only as a more fitting final bow, but also a greatest hits medley of everything that viewers loved about the series.

Now available on amazon, “I, Samantha, Take This Mortal, Darrin” is a two-part series finale told over 200 pages. 

Fan fiction? No, that’s an inappropriate designation. I never cared much for that stuff. Most fanfic deals in scenarios that would never actually happen on a series (“What if the TARDIS materialized on the Starship Enterprise?”) or it explores in explicit detail relationships between characters that put a very different spin on wholesome entertainment.

James’ book is elevated into a higher class of writing by successfully capturing what made the show successful, and by portraying its characters consistently with how they acted on the series. You can hear his dialogue in their voices.

And, like the series itself, the book explores larger societal issues, and even mixes in a few dramatic moments that add depth and nuance to its world – such as Tabitha’s reaction to Darrin’s worries over what she’d be like when she was born. 

Fans will know which episode inspired that conversation. Indeed, one of the book’s greatest delights is how almost every page contains a reference to an episode that viewers will recall. An index at the end of the book cites every episode reference, for those who want to revisit particular shows.

So if you’ve ever wondered how young Michael’s life was altered by Samantha taking him to meet Santa Claus, or why Endora put so many embarrassing spells on Darrin, or whatever happened to Danger O’Reilly, “I Samantha, Take This Mortal, Darrin” offers answers that are sure to satisfy any series fan.  

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Dilemma of David Cassidy

Every year around this time, my CD of The Partridge Family Christmas Album makes its way from a bedroom bookshelf into my car, where it will be played dozens of times between now and December 25. That will happen again this year, and while the music will remain joyous and uplifting, the experience will be bittersweet. 

The David Cassidy who sang those songs, with his long wavy hair and puka shell necklace, will forever live in the memories of a generation of fans, particularly the young girls that idolized him. He was to the 1970s what Ricky Nelson was to the 1950s and Davy Jones to the 1960s – the preeminent TV teen idol of his day. And like his predecessors, he left us far too soon.  

The remnants of that intense adulation are still being felt by women now married with children – and perhaps even grandchildren. None of us ever forget the first celebrity that rocked our childhood world, with a combination of traffic-stopping physical beauty and appealing songs that went straight into our consciousness – a potent cocktail for those too young to drink. It’s why I still adore Olivia Newton-John.

Anyone who read Cassidy’s autobiography, which is not particularly flattering to its subject, would learn that he greatly enjoyed the benefits that came with his fame. And that he never made peace with his bubblegum star reputation.

The shelf life for teen idols is brief. By the time The Partridge Family ended its four-season run both its ratings and record sales had plummeted. Cassidy continued to have solo hits in England for another few years, but in the U.S. he had ceded the cover of Tiger Beat to Willie Aames and John Travolta. 

He never stopped trying to come up with a second act, and there were successes along the way in Vegas and on Broadway, but he could never outrun the shadow of Keith Partridge. 

And to the rest of us mere mortals who look at people who seem to have everything and wonder why it doesn’t make them happy, we can’t imagine why he would want to distance himself from something so good. The Partridge Family was and is a delightful family situation comedy, and the songs created for its run were superb examples of pop music at the highest level of craftsmanship. And Cassidy’s lead vocals were their strongest component. 

But we didn’t live inside his head, with the addiction demons he inherited from his father and the mental fragility he inherited from his mother. Neither of these challenges mix well with fame, and they become even more toxic when that fame dissipates.

He had a Jekyll and Hyde persona through much of his later years. There were shows where he angrily turned on his audience, and venues that banned him from future appearances. There was an infamous Hollywood autograph show where he refused to sign any Partridge Family memorabilia, and stormed out after less than an hour, leaving fans who flew in from as far away as Australia without the moment with their idol they were promised.

But there are also countless stories of fans who met him after concerts or at fan club gatherings or just on the street, who were delighted to find him so kind and approachable and appreciative of their support. His highs were higher and his lows were lower than most of us will experience, and too many years on that kind of rollercoaster is bound to take its toll. 

And now it has.

Perhaps the saddest thing of all about David Cassidy’s untimely passing is that he was often unwilling or incapable of sharing in the joy that his talent brought to millions of fans. I hope he’s experiencing it now from a perspective uncomplicated by the anxieties of this world.