Editor's Notebook: A weekly reminder of mortality

This past week hasn’t been a good one for me. From an existential point of view, it’s been filled with sadness, wistfulness and a feeling of betrayal.

There’s nothing like a celebrity death to remind you that not only is your youth long gone, but life is fragile and the end is nearer than you thought.

I have to admit, I wasn’t a big fan of David Cassidy. I always considered myself too up on “real music” to fall for that prepackaged, teen-idol, watered-down pop music. But when he died last week, I felt sad. I was 9 or 10 when “The Partridge Family” hit it big and was all over television in the early 1970s. My sister, a year younger, fell for David like millions of (mostly) young ladies across the country and around the world. Even Susan Dey, who played his sister on the show, had a mad crush on him in real life throughout the run of the series, or so it was according to Shirley Jones, who portrayed their mother.

Like many celebrities under the spell of hyperfame, David didn’t handle it well – especially when the world stopped paying attention to him. As has been widely reported, alcoholism cut his life short, and he died of organ failure at 67.

Unfortunately, I think I know more about David in death than I did when he was alive. I’m hearing repeated stories about a nice guy with a big heart. It’s always sad to lose people like that. And like him or not musically, he thoroughly entertained millions and made their lives happier for more than four decades.

Side note: In fourth grade, my friend Kathy Dreon and I conducted a very unscientific poll of our classmates to determine who was “better” – David Cassidy or Herb Alpert? I was a big Tijuana Brass fan, and Kathy, of course, loved David Cassidy. Well, wouldn’t you know, old Herb won – by one vote – only because the boys in our class outnumbered the girls. My male classmates didn’t really know or care about Herb, but hating David Cassidy was a requirement back then for any self-respecting boy.

To contrast that time – carefree youth, teen idols, posters on the wall – to today is sobering and funny at the same time. We really felt like we were going to stay young forever and that David Cassidy was never going to grow old.

I suspect that today’s kids are better informed and more worldly in the age of the internet, but there’s a part of them that thinks, “Old age? Won’t go there.” That’s how you feel when you’re young and strong. Until you’re not that way anymore.

Now, about that reference to betrayal I made at the beginning: Two celebrities I admired, actor Kevin Spacey and journalist Charlie Rose, were busted under a torrent of sexual harrassment allegations. It left me feeling not only betrayed, but also violated, certainly to a much lesser degree than the victims involved. It feels like we can’t trust anyone when people we admire let us down to such an awful degree.

These are the kinds of news items that can leave you reaching for the Xanax. But there’s a flip side: Remember Herb Alpert? He’s a healthy 82, not only faithful to, but still touring – touring! – with his wife, Lani Hall. He’s made millions and given away millions to just causes. He’s an artistic genius who continues to create – an acclaimed painter, sculptor and master musician. Best of all, he proves that nice guys can finish first.

He’s the kind of role model I can hold on to – both in the way he’s lived his life and how he’s living his life now in his old age. Sorry, David, but Herb’s one-upped you again.

Bruce Barton is editor-in-chief of the Town Crier.

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