David Cassidy achieved early fame as Keith Partridge in the 1970s musical sitcom The Partridge Family, and by his early twenties he was a singer and guitarist, had the top selling single record of the year, multiple Grammy nominations, a Golden Apple Award and a fan club of teenagers that was larger than those of Elvis Presley and The Beatles combined. He worked seven days a week, gave concerts night after night all over the world, and had to retire temporarily at age 24 just to keep his sanity. In spite of his talent, worldwide fame and wealth, he died at age 67 of liver failure after a life of alcoholism, multiple divorces, bankruptcy and dementia.
Early Life and Career
He was born in 1950 to actor Jack Cassidy and actress Evelyn Ward. As his parents spent most of their time touring on the road, he was raised mostly by his maternal grandparents. His parents divorced when he was four, but he did not find out about the divorce until two years later when neighborhood children told him because his father’s remarriage to actress and singer Shirley Jones was featured in all the newspapers.
When he finished high school, he moved in with his father and stepmother and their three children, and stayed there until he was able to support himself as an actor and singer. At age twenty, he played Keith Partridge, the son of Shirley Partridge, who was played by his real-life stepmother, Shirley Jones. His singing parts were so loved by his teenage audience that he began a brutal schedule of cutting his own records and then going on tours to sell them in addition to the rehearsals and production demands for the TV show. At that time he was reported to be smoking and drinking heavily. His Partridge Family albums sold more than five millions records. He was now an established media star and spent the rest of his life, off and on, touring, acting, recording and writing new songs. However, as he grew older, he was frustrated in his career goals because his fans only wanted to see the Keith Partridge persona and his other efforts were never taken very seriously.
Unhappy Marriages and Health Problems
His three marriages all ended in divorce. At age 27, he married actress Kay Lenz and they separated six years later. He was married to a horse breeder, Meryl Tanz, for two years. He had a daughter, Katie Cassidy, with his girlfriend Sherry Williams. At age 41, he married song writer Sue Shifrin and they had a son, Beau. They divorced 23 years later.
There were many reports of his substance abuse. He was arrested three times for drunken driving and at age 65 he was charged with a hit-and-run-traffic accident. Also at age 65 and after a life of earning a lot of money, he filed for bankruptcy.
At age 61, he recorded a public service announcement for Alzheimer’s disease research stating that his mother and grandmother suffered from that condition. He later revealed that he also suffered from dementia and in 2017 he announced that he was retiring forever. On November 18, 2017, he was hospitalized for liver and kidney failure and was put into a coma while waiting for a liver transplant. He died of liver failure three days later, at age 67. His last words were, “So much wasted time.”
Causes of Liver Failure
Your liver is very important to you since it carries out more than 500 known functions in your body. However, this workhorse organ can be damaged and destroyed by poor lifestyle choices: alcohol, excess fat, diabetes and infections such as the hepatitis viruses and many other diseases. When your liver is severely damaged, the only way doctors can help you stay alive is to do a liver transplant which gives you someone else’s healthy liver. The most common causes of liver damage are:
Alcohol: Alcohol is a poison and almost all of the alcohol you drink goes to your liver because it the only organ that can break it down. In your liver, alcohol is first converted to a much more damaging chemical called acetaldehyde, so every time you drink, you damage liver cells. Your liver can take a lot of abuse as it is the only organ that can regenerate itself, but repeated exposure to alcohol can convert liver cells to scar tissue (cirrhosis) and fill your liver with fat, and you can die from loss of the many functions of the liver that are necessary for life. Excess alcohol also can damage brain cells to increase risk for dementia.
Obesity: You can store fat in most cells in your body including your liver. However, excess fat in your liver can damage liver cells and covert them to scar tissue (cirrhosis). Excess fat in your liver can also cause diabetes. It prevents the liver from lowering high blood sugar levels, and a high rise in blood sugar can damage every type of cell in your body. Blood sugar levels always rise after a person eats. Your pancreas releases insulin which lowers blood sugar by driving sugar from the bloodstream into your liver, but if your liver is full of fat, the liver cannot accept the sugar and blood sugar levels rise very high. People who are genetically susceptible to storing fat in the liver often have a large belly and small buttocks. See Genes and Belly Fat
Excess Sugar: The highest rises in blood sugar come after taking sugared drinks and sugar-added foods. To help keep your blood sugar from rising too high, your body converts the sugar almost immediately into a type of fat called triglycerides. High triglycerides can cause clots, so your good HDL cholesterol carries the triglycerides from your bloodstream to your liver where the triglycerides are stored. If you collect significant amounts of fat in your liver (“fatty liver”), you can develop diabetes with all of its horrible side effects, including liver failure.
Infections: Certain viruses such as hepatitis A, B and C and many other infectious agents can invade the liver, destroy liver cells and convert them to scar tissue. These viruses are often spread through sexual contact.
Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com