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Patrick Cassidy returns to Pittsburgh. He's footloose and fancy and chatty

Shirley and Jack, as they once were
Shirley and Jack, as they once were
Author's collection

Jack Cassidy's demise was a sad, sizzling affair.
In the early morning hours of December 12, he lit a cigarette and fell asleep on his Naugahyde couch. He then dropped the cigarette, the couch quickly ignited and the flames quickly spread throughout the apartment and the building. One hundred residents had to be evacuated from the West Hollywood building. Jack owned the building and occupied the entire third floor. A charred body, burned beyond recognition, was found in the doorway of Cassidy's apartment. The coroner tagged him John Doe 257.
His former wife, Shirley Jones, hoped that since Cassidy's car was missing (it was been borrowed by a friend) and that he had gone to Palm Springs. The next day, his body was positively identified by dental records and by a religious bracelet and a signet ring he wore bearing the Cassidy family crest.
Talking about his father's death is easy for Patrick Cassidy. That's because he wants to do a one-man show (with music) about his dad's career before the man's fame is forgotten. Jack was angry at that time because his turned down the role of Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Cassidy, 52, isn't hesitant to talk about his mother, Shirley Jones. He admits he was "disappointed" with her recent biography, in which Jones' revealed perhaps a bit too much . . . including the size of Cassidy's oversized penis (which made orgasms easy for her), a one-time three-way and the gay affairs her husband had with Cole Porter, told in lewd detail. Shirley even offers the perfect way to masturbate at 80: “I just use Vaseline and a finger,” she writes.
Says Patrick: "My father was a very sexual man, but I think mom could have done this in a more sophisticated classy style." Patrick, who blames the book's co-author: "She evoked things uncomfortably to sell books." (I tell him I agree since I know the co-writer, who I tell Patrick is a mud-slinger.)
Cassidy is co-starring with Dee Hoty in the Pittsburgh CLO production of Footloose, opening at the Benedum on Tuesday, June 24, and running through June 29. Visit pittsburghclo.org for more information.
Patrick and I chatted and giggled. he felt like a long-lost friend. And I love the fact that he and his wife Melissa named their two sons Jack and Cole.

If I raise enough money and find right procedure, can I clone myself to look like you?
[laughs] I don't know the procedure! You better talk to Anderson Cooper. I got silver hair very early and began coloring it to look younger. I stopped coloring my hair when I turned 40, figuring my age finally caught up with hair color.

You are spending too much time in Pittsburgh!
Pittsburgh is second to New York for the city i have done the most work. Footloose will be my sixth show. I think that in the beginning of my career, I spent something like 26 years doing stage work, especially in New York. My father was such an entity there. Generations who knew him a thing of the past and I made the right choice at the right time. I followed my father's path from New York City to regional theatre and toured in some shows. Here I did several including Camelot and Aida.

And Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, in which Donny Osmond told me he loved wearing a diaper!
Ah, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Loincloth!

You made your Broadway debut in the early '80s, replacing Robby Benson who had replaced Rex Smith in The Pirates of Penzance. I think it was the day after your 20th birthday.
I did it for a year and it was amazing. It was the greatest learning experience any actor could ask for. I was studying acting during the day and I was learning the craft at night with some really gifted performer such as like Treat Williams, Maureen McGovern, Kaye Ballard and George Rose.

Then you were blessed by Stephen Sondheim.
I played The Balladeer, and during previews of Assassins, I was singing it in previews in sort of like a low register in my voice. Then it seemed was too low. It was a difficult role because no one was sure who The Balladeer is. Is he the narrator? Then why isn’t he there the whole time? What’s his point of view? Is it the same or the opposite of the assassins? Is he a member of the audience? Two weeks into previews, Steve had come back from vacation and had written a vamp for the song. 'I want people to know what character you are,' he told me. So Steve, Paul Gemignani [the conductor] and Paul Ford [the director] ended up raising the note a third from the originally composed key. [Patrick sings, in both old and new keys: Johnny Booth was a handsome devil, Got up in his rings and fancy silks. Had him a temper but kept it level. Everybody called him Wilkes.] I really wasn't a trained singer and I didn't know what my voice was capable of doing. I think of myself as a baritone, but I’m really a lyric baritone. My father always wanted to be a higher baritone, but three packs a day for 20 years can make you drop your register. I was amazed the Steve tailored the song for me.

Do you think producers or directors looked at you in a different light because of your pedigree?
Oh yes. Agents would shy away from me, some people would put me under a microscope thinking I only got a role because of my mom and dad. I was a hard worker. I worked ferociously so I could show I had my talent, not theirs.

What did your mom and father say when you told then about your career choice?
They formally said, 'Don't go into show biz.' That was the mantra in our house for me and my brothers. And of course I passed on the same mantra to my two children. But the reality is simple: It comes down to the point when a child has to make the decision for him or herself. If he or she wants to go into the business because they feel they have the talent, then the decision needs to me made.It's their life.

And Jack and Cole?
Jack, my younger one, just graduated from high school and studying to be a mechanical engineer. If he succeeds, it will be the greatest achievement by a Cassidy ever. It's going to happen---he got the brain. Cole is 15 years old, six-feet three-inches tall and 190 pounds. He has the most gorgeous singing voice in my family. My mom said that Cole is the best singer, better than her, better than dad. And he's a gifted musician.

The story of your father demands to be told. What's up?
I have been kicking this idea around for years. His life is an interesting story. I asked my brother Shaun to write it but he is afraid of it. So I need to find the right writer. I want it to be a one-man show with music and I want to play him before it's too late and I am too old. It will open in the charred apartment. Dad loved Christmas, and he had had a small party the night before. There was a piano in the corner and he was hoping mom would come. He later went out to dinner, went home and was drunk. He fell asleep smoking. It will all be there. I can imitate my father spot-on. [Note: I ask Patrick to it for me. I want Jack, smoking, I ask him. Within seconds, I swear I am speaking with a Cassidy named Jack, a slightly effete silver-haired and moustached sophisticate. That's how right-on Patrick is.]

Your most important film was Longtime Companion (1989), the first gay-related film that still resonates decades later.
It was the first film that had to do with AIDS. Bruce Davidson, Dermot Mulroney, Campbell Scott and I were the second or third actors asked---bigger names turned it down because they were afraid of the subject. We knew we were doing something but didn't realize we were breaking ground. We didn't realize it would cause a domino effect. Philadelphia was next. I couldn't agree more that even today, with all the knowledge we now know about AIDS, the film still affects people with profound awareness.
Two years after audition for Prelude to a Kiss, I got a call from my agent. He told me, 'You've been offered a movie.' I paused and asked, 'Excuse me? I didn't hear what you said. I've been offered a what? You said the word offered?' And he said, 'Yes. You've been offered a movie.'
He sent me the script and I read the it and I went, 'Oh my gosh! This is unbelievable!' Everybody donated. worked on scale. Pan-ovision donated their camera equipment so it could be made. It was made on a shoestring budget for less than a million dollars. So everything was done as a labor of love. Us as actors thought we were just doing great acting. And it wasn't till the first premiere I attended and saw it that I said to myself, 'Oh my gosh. This is the first of its kind. This is the first time that anybody's ever seen this, talked about it on this kind of scale. I am still proud, and I think my father would have loved it.