A baby boomer thanks a heartthrob

As we boomers have gotten older, so have our teen idols … those who lived long enough, anyway. Freelance writer Barbara Solomon Josselsohn of Scarsdale, New York, has been thinking of one idol in particular, as she has watched his life take turns no one imagined. The author of The Last Dreamer, Barbara lives up to the name of her book, with a nostalgic look back.

There’s a place in my heart that aches over the news that one-time teen star David Cassidy has dementia.

Mostly I’m sorry for his sobering diagnosis. Partly I’m nostalgic for the passion I felt when I saw him on The Partridge Family years ago. To some extent I’m disheartened at this reminder that life is cruel and time marches on.

David Cassidy

But also I’m feeling remorseful.

Yes, he was the superstar whose fame knew no bounds, and I was just one of the nameless millions who adored him. Still, I’m convinced that in our celebrity-fan relationship, I was the lucky one, and he drew the short straw.

I was lucky, because I knew the sweet agony of waiting each week for Friday night, and then the thrill of basking in his charisma with each new TV episode. I got to hear his pleasing voice on my cassette recorder, and to close my eyes and imagine his love songs were for me.

David Cassidy in his early days of stardom.

I knew the magic of a twine-bound stack of Tiger Beat magazines newly delivered to my neighborhood “candy store,” filled with images of his dreamy smile and lists of his favorite ice cream flavors, movies, and places to take a date. I could escape the countless miseries of middle school by retreating to my bedroom and making up scenarios in which he and I would meet and fall in love.

And what did he get?

A fleeting stretch of white-hot stardom followed by wholesale repudiation, as fickle teenyboppers like me grew up and moved on to actual boyfriends.

Barbara Josselsohn

Alas, life hasn’t been easy for the teen idols we grew up with. Sure, some emerged from the spotlight unscathed. Bobby Sherman – who played Jeremy Bolt on the TV series Here Come the Brides – became an officer with the LAPD. And some continued with entertainment. Donny Osmond, Mickey Dolenz, and David Cassidy all appeared on Broadway. Osmond later became a game show host and a winner on Dancing with the Stars. Dolenz is planning a return engagement at the popular New York City supper club Below 54.

But stories abound of broken marriages, financial troubles, substance abuse, and run-ins with the law. Cassidy’s life includes them all.

Not too long ago, I saw David Cassidy at an “oldies” concert. It was great fun to listen old songs like “I Think I Love You” and to remember how it felt to hear them long ago. But I left feeling like a kid who had overindulged on candy. Dabbling in the past is pleasurable, but staying too long can make you queasy.

In the recent People Magazine story in which Cassidy revealed his diagnosis, he said he intends to stop touring, so he can focus on himself and enjoy his life. I hope he does just that.

Even though he never knew me, he gave me a lot. He got me through middle school.

Even though I never knew him, I’ll always be grateful.


  1. My teen idols were a decade or more earlier and I too scanned the teen magazines to find out what Frankie Avalon looked for in a girl or how Paul Anka would treat a special date. You’re right we were the lucky ones. We had the sweet pain of love without any of the encumbrance of an actual relationship.

    1. And for me, it was Elvis! Oh, the fantasies. I definitely got the better end of that stick and I still listen, with a pleasurable twinge in my heart, to all his albums hoping he rests in peace knowing how many women loved him.

  2. I loved watching The Partridge Family every week and had many of their albums. Wish I still did. I always identified with Danny Bonaduce, because we were about the same age and we both liked red licorice. My sister had the David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman posters. I liked Shirley (Jones) Cassidy, the original classy cougar.

  3. I recall going to see David Cassidy at John Burns Park in Massapequa NY about 5 years ago- It was a total madhouse, I had never seen the park so crowded for a show ( about 15,000 were there!!)- He still put on a great performance, so sorry to read about his diagnosis.- As an aside i think most young men of the era were watching to see Susan Dey- who knew she would grow up to become a great lawyer?!!

  4. Great piece! And your novel, Last Dreamer, is a wonderful fantasy down that rabbit hole of teenage crushes you carry throughout your life. Thank you!

  5. Barbara, well done! I like your line, “I left feeling like a kid who had overindulged on candy. Dabbling in the past is pleasurable, but staying too long can make you queasy.” So true.

  6. I had David Cassidy in mind when I read “The Last Dreamer.”
    A stroll with a twist down memory lane of teen idols.

  7. This is all so bittersweet…Our youth is passing us by and so are our teen idols. Will always love David Cassidy/Partridge Family and the music. The heart and soul of my youth!

  8. Your line that “some emerged from the spotlight unscathed” runs so true. You help us have empathy for those people who have lived in the limelight. What an expert you are in stars, family, and life in in your book The Last Dreamer, this article, and in so many of the wonderful pieces you’ve written! Congratulations, Barbara! Can’t wait to read more of your work!

    1. Thanks so much for this comment, Judy! Your generous spirit comes through in all your writing — from your essays and stories to the feedback you give others like me! Your comment made my day!

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