“Oh, those blue overalls,” sighs Debbie Carr.
The longtime David Cassidy fan is on the phone from Belton, Missouri, talking about what she would buy today if she could. On the block at Julien’s Auctions, held in the Beverly Hilton Hotel, are the overalls and 38 other personal items from Cassidy’s iconic career.
“I have a picture of him in them that David signed in the early 1990s,” says Carr. You can almost hear her blushing. Would she wear them? “No. I don’t know what I would do with them,” she laughs. “I have a shelf in my house where I have my Partridge Family lunch box. They wouldn’t fit there so I guess my husband would have to build another shelf.”
I can see the overalls we’re talking about. As Cassidy himself told me at the press conference days earlier, he’d worn them at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1974, where his appearance still holds the attendance record of 74,000 people. He is auctioning the items now because, he told me, “I’ve carried all of this stuff with me from storage to closets, and I think it has more impact, means more to fans of mine than it actually does to me.” (The proceeds will benefit, in part, several charities.)
The blue overalls are flanked by two custom jump suits, a black one with a white Pegasus emblazoned on the chest and a white one with a multicolored floral theme. Both are polyester.
“He wore the black one in 1974 and the white one in 1972 and 1973,” says a voice behind me. It’s Doris Pintscher, a longtime fan from San Pedro,who in the past has traveled all the way to the U.K. to see Cassidy in concert. “The one I want — not that I’m bidding — is the black jump suit with the scorpion on the leg. That’s the costume David wore in May of 1974 in Munich, the concert I was supposed to be at but wasn’t. David had the same costume maker as Elvis.”
“It’s a well-known fact,” she says.
The bidding begins. If not fierce, it’s brisk, thanks to eBay and the fact that phone bidders outnumber those in the room. Out of the 30-some here who came from all over — Marilu van der Hoeven flew in from the Netherlands — only a handful are actually bidding. Word had spread that Cassidy wouldn’t attend.
That meant the press conference would be his only public appearance this time around. There, along with the reporters and photographers, a dozen fans were waiting. Some had flown in just to hear him talk, just for the chance to get a picture with him, a signature. I knew Cassidy had arrived before I actually saw him. There was that kind of rustling nervous-girl energy you can feel, hear. Yes, still. Though he admitted to having just flown in and having had only two and a half hours’ sleep, Cassidy was funny, professional and candid.
When I asked why he thinks people are so loyal to him, he said, “I don’t know, except I always looked at it not for the fame but for the work. And in my profession, if you do good work, no matter what it is, the rest comes.”
“But the Stones, Dylan are still going with fans their entire lives,” I noted. “You’re the same way, and you have a whole new generation coming.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said.
So there’s got to be something else in you. What do you think it is?
“People have asked me that for 35, 36, 37 years. I don’t know. I can’t tell you. You can tell me.”
At the auction, Cassidy’s hand-carved Gibson electric — which he said “has been played on everything from ‘I Think I Love You’ to most of the concerts I played all over the world in the ’70s” — fetches $11,000, from a man in black sitting near the front. By the end of the auction, he will have dropped $25,000.
Next up is Cassidy’s electric acoustic guitar, a Guild. He said he recorded with it for two decades and bought it from its original owner, John Stewart of the Kingston Trio. Sheri Deterling of Oregon pays $6,000. “David Cassidy was my first love,” she says, “and I just wanted to get a bit of David.” She plans to one day give it to her son, who is 2-and-a-half and a big fan of The Partridge Family.
Meanwhile, the white suit sells for $1,500, a bargain, and its new owner is jumping. “I can’t believe I got the white one! I’m speechless!” gushes Johnny Ray Miller of Salem, Ohio, who at 41 is too young to have fulfilled his fantasy of seeing David in “his ’70s glory.” He says the first thing he is going to do is call up the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which happens to be near his house, and see if they want to display it. (According to the Julien’s brochure, it’s already been shown there.)
About five years ago, Miller went up to the Hall of Fame in Cleveland for the first time, and one of David’s black jump suits with silver on it happened to be on display. “I can remember just standing there and staring at it,” he says, “. . . and thinking, ‘Wow, I wonder who is lucky enough to have that.’ And here I am all these years later with the white one. I can’t believe it! I thought about it for a long time because right now, financially it’s not the time to be doing stuff like this. But you only live once. I could be dead in six months. Fire up the credit card!”