Thursday, August 14, 2008

David Cassidy : True Confessions

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- His face has graced everything from magazines and lunch boxes to the covers of millions of record albums sold around the world.

At the Hall of Springs on Monday night, David Cassidy made what may have been the most courageous on-stage appearance of his life.

"Tonight, I am publicly stating that I am an alcoholic," Cassidy told a crowd of approximately 250 at a fundraising gala for The Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Council of Saratoga County.

The 58-year-old singer's revelation left some in the audience stunned.

The event drew local and state enforcement officials, members of local government and drug and alcohol prevention advocates, as well as fans of the popular performer, who sipped from goblets of 'mock'tails during the night.

Cassidy first gained fame on the 1970s TV show, "The Partridge Family."

He was booked as the event's guest speaker a few months ago.

Organizers said he was expected to discuss the difficulties of growing up as a child in an alcoholic household.

However, Cassidy said, over the course of the past few months, he came to realize that he himself had a problem and began the process of seeking help.

"I was in denial about it, and the problem was getting worse," said Cassidy, as his wife and son stood at his side.

"My father was bipolar, manic-depressive, alcoholic and a genius," Cassidy said, speaking of the late actor Jack Cassidy. "My father was an enormous influence on myself in spite of the fact that he left my mother and I when I was 3-1/2. I am genetically linked to my father."

Judy Ekman, executive director of the prevention council, said "the dream" of the organization is to be able to support every family that needs help.

The organization, founded in 1979, teaches prevention skills to students as young as elementary school age and coordinates programs for youth. Its focus is on alcohol, tobacco, and drug and violence prevention, as well as problem gambling.

New York Racing Association CEO Charles Hayward, an honorary chairman of the event, credited the prevention council for its integrity, the vast scope of its outreach efforts and its problem gambling prevention program in particular, which Hayward said is especially important to NYRA.

Cassidy is a horse breeder whose thoroughbreds have raced at Saratoga.

"Three weeks ago, I came out of the Betty Ford Center," said Cassidy, who has been sober for two months. "My closest friends in the world, except for those in my family, had no knowledge of this."

The location of the hall, adjacent to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, created an irony of sorts, the singer said.

"This is my favorite place in the world. ... I played here in '72, '73, '74," said Cassidy. "And what was ironic when I drove up was that I realized this journey has been going on for so many years. And the journey is now, every day, 24 hours, to stay sober."

After Cassidy spoke, his wife, Sue, said she was proud of her husband for having the courage to publicly share such a personal experience.

The Cassidys' son, Beau, also addressed the audience.

"Before this (event) happened, I went to my dad and said, 'This could be a big thing for you,' " the 17-year-old said. "To see him up here and telling you all this is one of the greatest things that I could ever hope to be able to be a part of."

Monday's gala raised approximately $50,000 for the prevention council.

published in The Post-Star, Aug. 13, 2008.