Perched in my bean bag chair on our olive green rug, I listened to “Cherish,” a hallmark David Cassidy love song. I imagined it was written for me, but knew I had competition. He was every adolescent girl’s crush. It was 1974 and I was 9, sandwiched between 12, 10 and 8-year-old siblings. At the time, The Partridge Family show rocked and bell bottoms ruled.
Though a short-lived series, The Partridge Family was a staple in our home; it was Friday night appointment television. Saturdays were spent in our basement recreating the prior evening’s episode, belting out those signature tunes for a captive audience of two, our affirming parents. Our band consisted of my older sister, Joyce, three years my senior, my brother Billy, one year older, and Lois, a year younger — our very own Tracy Partridge. We even recruited my mom, on occasion, for a few memorable numbers. She was our Shirley and she was game.
I lived for David Cassidy and modeled my look after his pretend sister, Laurie Partridge, deftly played by Susan Dey. Parting my hair down the middle with laser precision, I’d don a pirate-worthy, ruffled blouse and rust corduroy vest. Steadied by my brown, curved Earth Shoes, I’d sing an audition-ready version of “I Think I Love You” into the mirror, complete with heartfelt gestures. And love Keith Partridge I did. Those dimples, that trend-setting shag, the puka beads, the Tiger Beat magazine covers. The whole package. It was the epitome of awesome for tweens and teenagers alike.
As a child, I anxiously awaited my birthday or Christmas so I could accumulate more Partridge stuff. Talk about a merchandising bonanza, the memorabilia for all things Partridge seemed unmatched. I had it all — the metal lunch boxes and thermoses, the Colorforms and posters, even the sought after View-Master set. Not to mention every Partridge Family vinyl record, which now double as eBay hopefuls. One album cover even shared each member’s favorite food and color.
I would be remiss not to comment on the Partridge Family’s sugar-coated, irresistible music — their ultimate legacy. Those can’t-get-’em-out-of-your-head songs — which, to my husband’s horror, take up ample space on my iPod. They are still keepers. There’s just no competing with the spot on lyrics and irresistible choreography of “Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque.” In fact, an entire episode was written around the song’s indelible words, “lonely little runaway with teardrops in her eyes.” The YouTube video barely does it justice, but is worth a gander nonetheless. It’s my treadmill anthem, and rightly so. Attention Partridge wannabes: the online rendition of “I Can Hear Your Heartbeat” is no slouch either. It was a simpler time in music — Partridge songs showcased vintage Keith and his T.V. family, singing and swaying in color-coordinated polyester. And for me, that was enough.
I know now The Partridge Family was a pre-fabricated group marketed through television and that lip-synching was even involved, but the Partridge way was fine by me, and left a lasting impression. I dreamt in techno-color and woke up with “ba, ba, Ba, ba, ba-ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, Ba, Ba, Bahhhhh” on the brain. I often wondered why we, too, couldn’t own a checkered school bus during that gas-starved decade. Years later, when Saturday Night Live aired a skit pitting the Bradys against my Partridges in a dramatic Battle of the Bands, I fiercely rooted for Keith and his crew. I cheered because David Cassidy, clad in crushed velvet, represented the innocence of a generation. I cheered because he, alone, captured the bubblegum culture of the times. I cheered for all the young girls of the seventies.
A benign facade, The Partridge Family was not only integral primetime television, but a vital thread in the fabric of my childhood. Growing up, my dream of Fantasy Island proportions, was to be a Partridge kid. And every Friday night for four memorable years, I was — hairbrush microphone and all.
I still relish our family jam sessions and have even seen a modern-day David in concert. Four times. That’s right, I spent good money on tickets to hear him croon Partridge Family classics and attempt to relive the magic. And so did droves of other crazed, forty and fiftysomethings who, like me, still pine away for Keith/David. He was THE teen idol of the 1970s — the dual-personality, male Hannah Montana of our youth. It made no difference which persona appeared on stage.
My sisters and I went to a recent concert, especially nearby. Some fans brought albums, others carried scrapbooks, I went bearing roses. Yes, roses. I drove to the local market, pre-concert, and shelled out $7.99 for a dozen red roses (complete with rubber-banded flower food) for the heart-throb of yesteryear. To my sisters’ mortification, I stormed the stage during the encore and extended my arm to David. Roses in hand, he sang with that mesmerizing voice, making mid-lifers swoon still. We made eye contact and for a moment, I was his girl.