Shaun Cassidy: Things About The Former Teen Idol Only Superfans Know

Long before "Law & Order" made people want to get into law enforcement, long before "Chicago Hope" made people want to work in medicine, and way before "House" made an entirely different sort of person want to get involved in an entirely different sort of medicine, there were teen idols teaching kids that they, too, could solve crimes and untangle mysteries right in their own backyard.

"The Hardy Boys" featured Parker Stevenson and pop star Shaun Cassidy as the crime-solving duo — who frequently crossed over with fellow book series detective Nancy Drew — and it was the sort of show that defined preteen crushes for countless people.

Since then, Cassidy has had a wildly eclectic career: In addition to the platinum records and a shocking number of times being featured on the cover of innumerable teen magazines, he's a writer, director, and one of the creative minds behind some of the most unlikely projects — including the cult classic "American Gothic."

But at the end of the day, it's not really any of those things that Cassidy is most proud of. In an interview with Yahoo Music, he explained, "When I look back — and I don't look back often — I think I'm most proud of this kid who could have been sidelined by so many things. There are so many cases of people who've had a similar experience who didn't survive it. I'm grateful that I did. ... I'm really the luckiest man."

He and David Cassidy grew up living completely different lives

Shaun and David Cassidy are often mentioned in the same breath. As noted by People, they were both teen icons of the 1970s, both sold millions of albums, and both had their own television shows. But behind the scenes, they weren't just incredibly different, they lived vastly different lives reflected pretty accurately in their stage play "Blood Brothers."

The half-brothers share a father, Jack Cassidy, and David — eight years older — was raised largely in a New Jersey community of tightly packed row houses. Jack was gone by the time he was 3, leaving his mother — actor Evelyn Ward — to care for him. After their divorce, Jack remarried Shirley Jones and waded into a well-to-do world and lifestyle afforded to the more successful of Hollywood's upper-crust. Son Shaun was raised in elite areas of California, and although the two boys remembered each other as the fun half-sibling they saw at holidays, they had an undeniable impact on each other. (And yes, David starred in "The Partridge Family" as the son of Shirley Jones, his stepmother and Shaun's biological mother.)

In 1993, it was Shaun who explained, "We don't have traditional sibling rivalry. We shared a mutual experience that is kind of unique. We compared notes. But I had an advantage: I saw him go through it." While Shaun would admit he was envious of what he considered the best job ever, he also saw the price he paid as the family's wild child.

He was very close to his mother

Way back in 1977, People ran an article that admonished, "Mothers, Guard Your Girls; the New Cassidy on the Loose Is David's Kid Brother Shaun." But read the article, and it quickly becomes clear that Shaun Cassidy seems like the sort of kid that anyone would be happy to take home and meet the parents, particularly because he was incredibly close to his own.

Shaun — then 18 years old — had been living with mom Shirley Jones until just before he gave the interview, which came just after he'd bought his first house. "I'm very close to my mother. She's so family-oriented, it's hard to understand why she went into show business in the first place," he explained. In another interview, he explained the grounding influence she'd had on him: "I know my mother would be disappointed in me if I got to thinking I am more important than anyone else, just because of the business I'm in."

It's perhaps no wonder, then, that those who worked with him lauded his down-to-earth sensibilities, his decency, and talked about how it wasn't entirely surprising that instead of X-rated photos, more fans sent report cards to him, hoping for a kudos.

He lost his father in a tragic way

Shaun Cassidy's father, Jack, had been a wildly popular theater, television, and movie performer, and on Dec. 13, 1976, The New York Times ran a heartbreaking story about his death. Cassidy's remains — identified via dental records — were recovered from what was left of his apartment after it was destroyed by a fire. Authorities determined the blaze was started by a lit cigarette dropped and left on a sofa in his penthouse, leading to the untimely death of the 49-year-old thespian.

According to People, Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones had divorced a year before the accident, when Shaun was on the verge of breaking into his own celebrity. The loss was devastating, and Shaun explained, "There are so many things I'd like to ask him. He could really blow away people who didn't know him very well. But I never doubted his love. He was a real father. My regret is that he died before he saw me on TV, or heard my album."

When People went back and interviewed him a year later, he cited Jack Cassidy's death as leading not only to the regret that came with knowing that his father would never get to see him perform, but that he would never know how he'd impacted his son when it came to the other part of fame. "I think he would have been proud of what I've accomplished, but he would think the way I try to handle things is even more important."

1980 was his transitional year

In 1980, Shaun Cassidy was at an age when most people are still trying to decide how to get started in their careers, and Cassidy had already hit the very top of his. In an interview with Yahoo Music, he talked about how he saw that year — when he was just 21 years old — as "a transitional year for me, in so many ways."

Not only were there big things — like his first marriage — going on in his personal life, but things were changing for him professionally, too. He played what would be his last concert for a long time (in Houston), and he starred in a television show that would fail to be renewed, but would confirm a love for acting and storytelling.

He went on to say that what was going on in the world wasn't just transitional as well, but had an influence on his direction. Tastes in — and sounds of — music were changing, and most importantly, the AM radio he had relied on to play his records was becoming less popular, in favor of FM. Disco was coming onto the scene. It was so big, in fact, that he was being pressured to jump on into this new genre — and since he didn't want to hop on the bandwagon, he refused and took his talents elsewhere.

He's still friends with his Hardy Boys costar

As strange as it might seem, "The Hardy Boys" have been around since the 1920s. Once lauded for their quality writing and storylines, they've been adapted for television multiple times. In not the first or the last, Shaun Cassidy played Joe Hardy to Parker Stevenson's Frank Hardy, and according to what Stevenson said in a 2019 interview with WGN News, they were friends on-set and stayed friends long after the show disappeared after three seasons.

Stevenson and Cassidy had gotten together just a week before the interview: Cassidy was going on tour, and Stevenson had gotten a sneak peek at a pre-show. They stayed in touch with Pamela Sue Martin, too, who had played Nancy Drew. "It's actually been really nice; they're a couple of people that just kind of stay in your life. ... We had long periods where we don't stay in touch, and then suddenly life brings it back, and I'm seeing them like it was yesterday."

He's also said (via Best Life) that of all his old costars, it was Cassidy that he shared a particularly close bond with. They would often spend downtime between takes doing completely random acts of kindness, shock, and awe — including hopping on the trams giving people tours around the studio. "That is what our relationship is — it's loose and warm and fun."

Carrie Fisher was a good friend, but girlfriends? Not so much

Life as a teen idol seems like it would come with some serious benefits, and for Shaun's half-brother, David, it did. He described it to People: "I was definitely Jack the Lad. I got to live the ultimate male fantasy, with women flinging themselves at me. I'm not bragging, just telling you."

Was it the same for Shaun Cassidy? Not exactly.

When People spoke with him in 1978, the women throwing themselves at him was definitely happening, but he had seen enough of the downside to keep his own feet on the ground — and that included an incident at a 1974 David Cassidy concert, where a 14-year-old girl was killed in the crush of a crowd.

The then-18-year-old explained: "I had a girlfriend once, but I had no time for the relationship. When I find the right person, I'll make time for her."

And he made sure he wasn't leading anyone on. At the same time he hung around with friend — and just a friend — Carrie Fisher, he also made it a point to have other female friends around. Going out in a group meant that he tended to keep someone's sister on his arm, only to keep fans — and their inevitably jealous boyfriends — away. He did, however, have one faithful companion living with him for a long time — a yellow Labrador named Son.

Yes, he forgot about his last album, too

Ever have those moments when entire parts of life just seem to vanish from memory? It happens to everyone, and apparently, Shaun Cassidy had forgotten most of what went into making his last album until a 2021 interview with Yahoo Music encouraged him to go back and listen to it again to prep for the interview.

"I hadn't listened to the whole thing in maybe 40 years," he said, adding that hearing it again had brought back a whole flood of memories of what was an incredibly busy time in his life. At the time, he didn't know it would be the end of an era in his life, and even though it was poorly received by pretty much everyone, he said that he absolutely had no regrets about making it — even though his representatives at Warner Bros. pulled him aside afterward, and suggested it was time for him to step away from music for a bit.

"So, I went away for 40 years," he said. "I realized really quickly that I didn't want to come back. I wanted to go forward. Because I knew I had a different story to tell."

His relationship with fame is a shockingly grounded one

It's no secret that many, many child stars end up facing some serious struggles in adulthood, but most of those problems have given Shaun Cassidy a miss. Yahoo Music asked him if he knew how he had avoided the pitfalls of teenage fame, and he replied, "I'd seen what happened with the Beatles, and with David [Cassidy], and so then when it happened to me, I was like, 'Oh, I'm in the middle of this hurricane. This isn't about me. I can ride this out. And then I'll see what I do for a living afterwards.'"

Even more surprisingly, it's not an attitude that Cassidy developed later in life, when the wisdom of decades overtook the impetuousness of youth. Even before he made it big, his mother described him as "an old soul," and back in 1977, he himself explained his view of fame to People: "The idea of being any kind of an idol is kind of embarrassing. My self-worth was never rooted in that."

Cassidy also has a sweetly sentimental view of his fans, decades after they first hung up posters of him, or made his concert their first. He told Oprah, "You have this special connection with someone ... And I see the look. A 42-year-old woman will walk up to me and I see this beautiful little 9-year-old girl emerge in her eyes. I do. And it's so touching."

He has a strange connection to the world's top public security expert

When Jeff Bezos found sensitive photos leaked by the National Enquirer at the same time news of his divorce went public, he hired one guy to find out what happened and where the leak was: Gavin de Becker (pictured). De Becker, says The Guardian, counts the richest and the most famous among his clients, and has worked closely with the National Institute of Justice to help determine the number — and severity — of threats against some of the most powerful people in the U.S. He's considered not just an industry leader in the world of private security, but he's credited with revolutionizing the field.

What on earth does he have to do with Shaun Cassidy?

De Becker had an incredibly difficult childhood, punctuated with events like seeing his mother shoot her third husband. A heroin addict, she committed suicide not long after, when de Becker was 16. Fortunately for him, his grandfather rented him an apartment in an area that allowed him to attend Beverly Hills High, where he befriended not only Rosemary Clooney and her family, but Shaun Cassidy.

After going on the road with stars like Clooney and Elizabeth Taylor, he discovered he had a knack for picking up on the kind of danger signs many people would miss — so, when Cassidy realized he needed actual security, he hired the then-23-year-old de Becker. Within three years, he was working with the Secret Service and on presidential details (via the Los Angeles Times).

He wasn't a fan of his mother's second husband

Shaun Cassidy's mother, Shirley Jones, married again after divorcing Jack Cassidy. Her new husband was Marty Ingels, a comedian perhaps best summed up by an anecdote told by The Washington Post to head up his 2015 obituary. Jones and Ingels were separated and had agreed to see a therapist, and when Ingels showed up, he was wearing a massive hat and playing a trombone.

The pair remained married until his death at the age of 79, but there are reports that suggest Cassidy wasn't a fan.

In 1999, the Los Angeles Times ran a relatively small piece that reported on a lawsuit that Ingels issued denying claims he had ever been involved in or accused of sexual assault. That was the information claimed to have been passed on by anonymous parties to Cassidy, and while there's no follow-up to that, Ingels did reference his relationship with his stepson in a TV Guide interview about his reconciliation with Jones.

In it, he suggested that part of the conditions for getting back together was that he would stay away from her children. He noted: "In a perfect world, Shirley should say to them, 'I happen to love my husband, that's my life, and you can't have me without having him.' But she just can't do that, and I don't ever want to be the one to separate her from seeing those kids and nine grandchildren."

It took him years to embrace his dark side

It's impossible to get much more inoffensive than the pop music of a young Shaun Cassidy, and as for his stint as Joe Hardy? That's not exactly the stuff of R-rated television. And that, he told Entertainment Weekly, was by design — and, it was also why people were shocked when he headed up the creepy cult classic "American Gothic."

"I've always had a dark side," he explained. "But the image that everybody was pushing was the lighter one. And early on, I was conscious of keeping the darker stuff in check, because I felt like Santa Claus to a lot of kids. I was an 18-year-old young man who had this audience that was 10 years younger. Children."

Cassidy said that he had always wanted to write, and admits that he was a bit of a pest when it came to changing dialogue on "The Hardy Boys." And according to what he told the Los Angeles Times, he was able to explore something very personal in "American Gothic": "the duality of nature. The duality of people."

What was it that attracted Cassidy to writing? Acting, he told the LA Times, was all about bringing someone else's vision to life, and while each individual actor — on the screen or in the theater — could definitely bring their own take to the job, he wanted to be the one seeing his vision come to life.

He was candid about his relationship with his brother

David Cassidy (pictured) passed away in November of 2017, and in the years leading up to his death, he had spoken candidly about his addiction to alcohol. However, after those interviews in which he claimed he had been sober for a long time, The Washington Post said that he had gone public with news that he — like his grandfather and mother — had been diagnosed with dementia. When he died at age 67, the official cause was liver failure, and news broke that the cause of the dementia was alcoholism, not Alzheimer's.

In 2021, Shaun Cassidy addressed his brother's addiction and death in an interview with PageSix, saying, "I've seen it in every family. It's so painful, and nobody really has the right rulebook on how to manage it."

It echoed what Shaun had written on social media after David's death, recalling how every time they got together as kids, the first thing was a massive pillow fight. He tweeted: "I tried to catch him of course. I always tried to catch him. But I never could. Now, I will carry him, along with all of the funny/sad/extraordinary days we shared, none more filled with love than these last few at his side."