In a documentary shot weeks before his death from liver and kidney failure in November at age 67, singer David Cassidy admits that the dementia he suffered last year was temporary and not progressive, and had been triggered by the alcoholism he had publicly denied.
“I just met with the doctor, and . . . I have a liver disease,” Cassidy says in an audio recording with Saralena Weinfield, supervising producer of the A&E special “David Cassidy: The Final Session,” airing Monday. “My life has changed dramatically. The first few days I was unconscious and near death,” he continues in the undated excerpt released Wednesday. “The last week or so my memory’s come back. That’s such a blessing,” he goes on. “That means I’m cognizant of my surroundings. That I’m alive and it’s daytime and I know what day of the week it is!”
He adds, “There is no sign of me having dementia at this stage of my life. It was complete alcohol poisoning. And the fact is, I lied about my drinking.”
Despite a record of DUI charges and a stint in rehab over the years, Cassidy insisted he was not impaired when he fell onstage, slurred words and had trouble remembering lyrics during a Feb. 18, 2017, concert in California. “I certainly wasn’t intoxicated,” he told TV psychologist-host Dr. Phil McGraw shortly afterward, saying that “dementia has contributed to the reason why I don’t want to go out and I don’t want to hear, ‘Well, he looked like he was drunk’ . . . I wasn’t.”
The issue was more complicated, he concedes in Wednesday’s audio excerpt. “The head doctor at the hospital, she said, ‘I believe that your dementia was directly related to your alcoholism,’ ” tying the two together, he said, adding, “I did it to myself, man. I did it to myself to cover up the sadness. And the emptiness.”
Cassidy — who gained fame in the 1970s musical sitcom “The Partridge Family” and with subsequent hit singles including “I Think I Love You” — had been charged with drunken driving in Florida in November 2010. He pleaded no contest in February 2011 and was sentenced to 1 year probation, an alcohol-education course and other provisions, and had his driver’s license suspended for six months. In August 2013, he was similarly charged in Rensselaer County, New York. He spent 90 days in rehab in California following a January 2014 DUI arrest there. After pleading no contest in March 2016 to charges from a September 2015 hit-and-run accident, also in Florida, Cassidy agreed to give up his license for five years.
“Part of alcoholism is lying,” his series co-star Danny Bonaduce, 58, told People magazine Wednesday. “When you’re an addict, you know you can’t be honest with people. You say what you want them to hear. I can’t be mad at David for that, but it’s still a tragedy.”