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Fatal Crush

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He was the boy toy of TV’s Partridge Family, and teenyboppers everywhere swooned at the sight of his sweet, pixieish looks. David Cassidy, all of 5 foot 8, nevertheless towered over every other teen idol of the early ’70s, starting with his first hit, ”I Think I Love You,” which sold nearly 6 million copies in 1970. Shrieking girls mobbed him wherever he went, overturning limousines and tearing at his clothes-or theirs.

But on May 26, 1974, Davidmania took a horrifying turn when a British schoolgirl, 14-year-old Bernadette Whelan, was crushed by a throng of hysterical fans in London’s White City Stadium and suffered a heart attack. That night 800 others were treated for injuries, and four days later, Whelan died. Cassidy, now 43, remembers watching young kids rush toward the stage: ”My guys would go down and have to pull them out.”

London was the next-to-last stop on Cassidy’s farewell tour; having reached age 24 and what he saw as the top of his career as a heartthrob, he retired. In 1978 he resurfaced in the cop series David Cassidy-Man Undercover and later made it to Broadway, replacing Andy Gibb in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1983. He continues to record and even hit the top 40 again with his 1990 single, ”Lyin’ to Myself,” but he can’t seem to shake his image as a musical lightweight. He has kept his sense of humor, though: His 1992 pop album was titled Didn’t You Used to Be….

Cassidy, now married to third wife Sue Shifrin, hasn’t let the London tragedy color his nostalgia for his salad days, which he is planning to relive in a book he’s penning with Chris Kreski, coauthor of Barry Williams’ Growing Up Brady. In August, Cassidy hits the road with a campy ’70s revival tour. ”I’m going to put on my old jumpsuits,” he says, ”though I need to add a little spandex to them now. You can imagine what a thrill it’s going to be to slip into some maroon crushed velvet again.”

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