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In 2002, David Cassidy returned to Australia for the first time in nearly 30 years. Despite the years since his teen idol moment he was armed (with models), confident (oh so confident) and “sooo bad”. Watch out ladies, he’s here.


He walked into the room like he was walking onto a yacht.

The denim shirt was undone one button more than you might expect, revealing a tanned chest on a body that was kerchief sized: narrow shoulders, narrow waist, no hips and legs like a young girl.

His hair was so Brian Henderson you wanted to lean across and tug it; his skin so unlined, so taut, it was all you could do not to pinch it. You were not the only one humming Carly Simon.

With a big-haired, cleavage-enhanced woman on each arm and a smile that hovered between Frankie Howerd licentiousness and Bob Downe cheesiness he preened for the cameras.

"You can draw your own conclusions," David Cassidy smirked, before all but leering, "I'm soooo bad."

Oh dear.

Absent from Australia for nearly 30 years (albeit still here in The Partridge Family re-runs), Cassidy has been frozen in pop-culture aspic as young and innocent, his long hair gently blown back by the breath of thousands of panting adolescent girls.

Not for nothing is his coming tour sponsored by a pay TV channel and the news conference hosted by the oldies radio station 2GB.

So this tiny, 52-year-old man mugging shamelessly was not what we expected.

And then he began speaking. Or, more accurately, delivering an opening monologue as a glib night-show host would.

"I have such great memories of my tour here," he said (a line he would repeat again and again during the next 45 minutes, and his week in Australia). "I never had as much fun as I had being here."

You would like to believe him, but, really, it was one tour in 1974 during five years of the kind of fame that fries your brain, no matter how level-headed you are because you were born into a New York theatrical family.

The kind of fame that briefly made him the highest paid entertainer in the world when he was 21, with a fan club allegedly bigger than those of Elvis and the Beatles combined.

(Of course, the Beatles had broken up and Elvis was fat and in Vegas. But let's not quibble.)

Back in leer mode to tell us that, as a teen idol, he "experimented with drugs, drank, slept with women a lot: I'm a red-blooded American heterosexual", he admitted the mayhem of those years had left him "pretty lonely, pretty empty".

He spent 10 years in analysis coming to grips with fame and, presumably, its loss.

Photographer Henry Diltz, who travelled the world with him during that time, recently said Cassidy's 1974 tour of Australia was, like those everywhere else: a collection of mad rushes from cars to hotels, hotels to venues, venues back to hotels. All serenaded by screaming pubescents who kept vigil outside his hotels 24 hours a day.

But still, he loves us, you know.

"America has a real romance with your country, your sense of loving life," Cassidy said. He quoted a newspaper headline from the time: "Cassidy: World War Three". He reminded us about underwear being thrown at him and explained that while the snootier media disapproved, they couldn't ignore him.

Quite reasonably then, he was asked about the delay in returning. (Admittedly, raising the question as to whether there had been any demand for his return during the '80s and '90s. But let's not quibble).

"As time evolved and my life in America flourished, I've been a very busy guy," he said.

And, to be fair, while Australians have been watching Cassidy as Keith Partridge battling manager Reuben Kincaid, being outwitted by sister Laurie, and chased by girls, he's been otherwise engaged. He acted in several TV programs and on stage, starred on Broadway in Joseph And the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (also the stage vehicle of choice for our own teen star-to-serious artist Jason Donovan) and created several Las Vegas shows.

He's made his money several times over and these days is on the road in short bursts that add up to five months a year - a far cry from his 24/7 flagellation of the teen-idol years.

As he repeats - whenever he can - he's had several careers and they all seem to have worked very well, thank you. So he's not the man we once knew; and we should move on.

Except that the new album is simply a collection of his old hits - reworked in the same studio with the same musicians and, it has to be said, not improved.

His concert tour of Australia is being sold on nostalgia rather than new work. And every question at the news conference, on TV chat shows and radio programs, is about the distant past.

A few days after the news conference, on his last full day in the country, I asked Cassidy if he wasn't frustrated by the focus on the past rather than the present. And did he think that would bring in 10,000 people to the Sydney Entertainment Centre?

For a brief moment we almost got an answer that hadn't been processed and honed in repetition ... but the tantalising glimpse remained just that.

"It's actually not frustrating; it's pretty interesting," he said. "I don't fear anything; this will be a fascinating journey. I don't know that I can [fill the venues]. That will be the first thing people will look at and if I don't [fill them] then people will say I failed. [But] after 27 years you come back and play to 8000 people - is that failure? I don't know.

"Most people view success by the results and I don't. People say to me, 'How do you feel now that you're playing to 2000 or 3000 instead of 70,000?' I prefer playing to 2000.

“You can't be 24 again; you can't be new when you're 40 years old. I don't view success like that: it's about the performance, the experience of making the music, creating the show and playing the music to people who come and experience it."

Perhaps it's more illuminating to see the company Cassidy keeps, or at least the company in which he places himself. Looking back on his career he said he was proud to be "one of the four or five artists" who have had a significant post-teen-idol career.

"Sinatra did it; Elvis did it; the Beatles did it; Bobby Darrin almost did it," he said - with no trace of irony. "There were times when I was a joke, but talent survives."

So F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong when he said there are no second acts in American lives?

"I guess I just prove it," Cassidy said.

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