I was an ecstatic 12 year old when I picked up a Tiger Beat magazine in 1973 and read David Cassidy’s concert schedule. He was set to perform in Nashville.
I ran screaming out of my bedroom, down the stairs to the kitchen where my mother was throwing Swanson’s frozen dinners in the oven and demanded to go to his concert.
For weeks, I was reading every teen and pop magazine, scouring them for private details about David’s life…for any evidence that he was queer like me. I ripped every David Cassidy centerfold out of those magazines and meticulously arranged them on the wall behind my bed, a pyramid gallery of David worship in preparation for the big event.
I couldn’t talk about anything but David, David, David. My close-’n-play had by now memorized every Partridge Family and David Cassidy album I owned (which was all of them).
My sister, at whom I was angry for not being as excited as I was, was sick to death of me. She had an opposing shrine in her room to Bobby Sherman. I hated Bobby Sherman.
My step-father was surprisingly patient, considering I was replacing his regular stereo blasting of Patsy Cline, Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff with prepubescent Partridge Family gush.
Mom was getting her first hints that her son was a tad nelly as I continued my ranting obsession with David right up until concert time.
On October 23, 1973 (I’ll never forget the date) Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium was packed with thousands of impatient teeny-boppers — mostly girls, wiggling and screaming and talking about their David fantasy.
As my sister, Mom and me wound our way through the crowd, I caught a boy’s eyes and we both stared knowingly at one another, both looking back at one another as we passed. It was the first time I knew I was not alone. To my surprise there were dozens of boys there who were just as excited, and just as nelly.
We found our seats finally and there I was, packed right in the middle of 30,000 screaming girls, screaming right along with them, while my mom cowered in embarrassment and my jaded sister kept reminding me she liked Bobby Sherman more.
Then the lights went down, and the nelliness really took me over. I was screaming some high-pitched shrill that I didn’t know I was capable of when stage lights and music filled the auditorium.
My moment had arrived.
When David walked onstage, the noise from the audience was deafening. He was was wearing a white jumpsuit and kept doing jumping jacks, singing love song after love song.
I screamed louder with every jumping jack, while my mother and sister grew more deeply humiliated. I think they were seeking solace from some of the other parents who had noticed. And there was at least one other mom nearby with a son who was almost as wild.
But as I sang and screamed to “Cherish,” “I Think I Love You,” “Echo Valley 2-6809,” “Come On Get Happy,” “Looking Through the Eyes of Love” and, of course, “One-Night Stand,” I didn’t really care what I was revealing about myself.
Then came the car trip home: I ranted about David, David, David, his jumping jacks, his white jumpsuit (I begged mom to make me one), my Partridge Family merchandise.
Finally, my mother had had it.
“Troy,” she said, “you’re supposed to like girls.” My sister chimed in with deliriously gleeful agreement.
I felt exposed and stupid. But in a burst of indignant righteousness I exclaimed, “But I don’t!”
Yipes! Change of subject.
“Mom, you missed the exit,” my sister exclaimed. Mom blasted out, “Now I have to drive all the way back, Troy!”
It was my fault. :(
Things have changed a lot since then.
There’s not a living soul on earth who cares that I am gay. Gay is not even a topic with mom or my sister. They both supported same-sex marriage before it was the law of the land and while we don’t always agree on politics, we do recognized cavemen when we see them (as least on this issue).
But still, in many ways I can credit David Cassidy with the earliest tinge of courage I had to be my expressive self. David Cassidy outed me.
Today, as reports about his death stream in, I am very wistful. I’m actually crying right now as I type.
I can’t help but think of all those invested emotions of early love, even if somewhat unrequited and obsessive. I sang every song, watched his videos and became that little 12 year old boy in Nashville again. Well, part of him.
I couldn’t resist being a child again, this time living in Los Angeles. So, I picked up the phone after listening to “Echo Valley 2-6809” and decided to see who answered.
“We’re sorry. You’ve reached a number that is disconnected and no longer in service” followed by that hideous rapid busy signal. It jolted me out of whatever fantasy I was having.
David brought me out of the closet and his death is a reminder that time is moving at a rapid clip. I’ve progressed and grown and something of David is reflected in who I am today. A little bit of me has died.
Thank you for all that you did, David.
I don’t know what I’m up against
I don’t know what it’s all about
I got so much to think about
Hey, I think I love you so what am I so afraid of
I’m afraid that I’m not sure of a love there is no cure for
I think I love you isn’t that what life is made of
Though it worries me to say I never felt this way
Believe me you really don’t have to worry
I only wanna make you happy and if you say “hey go away” I will
But I think better still I’d better stay around and love you
Do you think I have a case let me ask you to your face
Do you think you love me?
“I Think I Love You,” is the perfect legacy for you.
— A version of this article appeared in New York City’s OutWeek Magazine, November 1990.