BOOTLEG FILES 536: “A Shaun Cassidy Special” (1981 TV special starring the one-time Hardy Boy).
LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.
REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Something that fell deep into the cracks.
CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Utterly unlikely.
If you were reading Tiger Beat Magazine back in the late 1970s, you probably remember someone named Shaun Cassidy. Thanks to family connections – he was the son of Oscar-winner Shirley Jones and Tony-winner Jack Cassidy and half-brother to David Cassidy – the photogenic young actor/singer was fast-tracked for stardom via a number of bouncy pop recordings and a starring role on “The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries.”
By the early 1980s, however, Cassidy’s career began to show signs of tanking. His attempt to broaden and diversify his musical output failed to sell records, and he had the bad fortune to star on a poorly received TV series based on the hit film “Breaking Away.” However, Cassidy still had enough cred to warrant a primetime 1981 television special. Unfortunately, that endeavor wound up being something of a career killer.
“A Shaun Cassidy Special” tries to follow in the footsteps of The Monkees’ 1968 film “Head” by poking fun at the silliness that goes behind the manufacturing of pop star imagery. But whereas “Head” was a loud, splattery, often-brilliant and often-painful swirl of angry energy, “A Shaun Cassidy Special” was a bland and benign effort that never had the courage to take its ideas into bold territory. Even worse, the production offer a cruel magnification of Cassidy’s considerable limitations as a performer.
“A Shaun Cassidy Special” begins with the star and his entourage arriving via airplane for a concert gig at a rather large sized arena. Cassidy sings a tune of his own creation, “Right Before Your Skies,” on the soundtrack while workmen assemble the stage for his show. From there, Cassidy turns up in the bathroom of his hotel suite, wearing only a towel while attempting to shave. He turns and addresses the camera with mock annoyance while an off-screen voice insists that a near-naked Shaun Cassidy is what America wants to see. Cassidy then walks across his suite to take a phone call from an obstreperous sounding individual who is identified as his agent Sammy. Cassidy ultimately gets impatient with these shenanigans and smears shaving cream on the camera lens.
We then get to see Cassidy in concert, performing one of his hit tunes, a cover of Eric Carmen’s “That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll.” This is truly astonishing to watch – Cassidy’s voice was not powerful in a studio setting and it was considerably weaker in a concert venue. And despite his effort to come across as a tough dude, complete with tight clothing and a guitar strapped to his torso, he seems more like a poseur than a rocker. Still, the screaming masses of the arena aren’t all that picky, and their cheers encourage him on.
From here, we get to meet the real Cassidy – or at least that is what the creators of this special want. Cassidy is seen working on a song at his piano, with his trusty dog by his side. Cassidy confides to the camera that his canine pal stays with him while he is writing music. Oddly, there is no mention of Mrs. Cassidy, Playboy model Ann Pennington – perhaps her presence would not sit well with the pre-teen girls that made up Cassidy’s corre fan base?
Next up is an extended comedy sequence that takes place in Philadelphia, where Cassidy and his entourage are struggling with a set-up involving Jack Albertson as a hotel doorman. As part of a scene to be filmed, Cassidy is supposed to be flippant with Albertson’s doorman. But when he arrives at the hotel, a black man in a doorman’s uniform greets the star. The scene dribbles on with no real wind-up, eventually stopping for a return to Cassidy in concert performance.
From here, the comedy returns with Loni Anderson sitting by a pool in a tight bathing suit. She is on the phone with that awful agent Sammy, who is trying to get her to appear in Cassidy’s special. “I don’t want to wind up in some dumb skit wearing a bathing suit,” she tells Sammy – which, of course, she is doing.
We then get more footage of Cassidy in concert, where he shakes his tushy and points a shirtless arm skyward in an attempt to come across like a rock ‘n’ roll idol. Jack Albertson finally shows up, looking terribly frail in oversized eyeglasses and a conspicuous toupee. He joins Cassidy to talk about his adventures starting in show business during the 1930s. (Albertson died two months after the special aired.)
Cassidy is seen in more concert footage, doing an egregious cover of “You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” Loni Anderson returns for a pointless skit that is supposedly filmed in her kitchen – she is making cold slaw and detailing the idea for a cockamamie puppet show while Cassidy looks on aghast.
The special wraps up back at the concert venue, where Cassidy introduces The Crystals, whose hit “Da Doo Ron Ron” was covered by Cassidy for his first chart-topping tune. The Crystals offer professionalism and style in their singing, while Cassidy looks like a photogenic interloper wiggling around the classy ladies.
“A Shaun Cassidy Special” was broadcast on NBC on September 26, 1981. The special made no impact with audiences and, to a great extent, it signaled Cassidy’s retreat from the spotlight. As the 1980s progressed, Cassidy’s star diminished – he had no further records after the flop of his 1980 album “Wasp” and his high-profile TV acting was mostly limited to a brief stint on “General Hospital” along with guest appearances on “Murder She Wrote” and “Matlock.” He later gained respectable reviews for work in theater productions, including a Broadway gig with his half-brother David in the musical “Blood Brothers.” By the 1990s, Cassidy was mostly working behind the camera as a writer/producer/director; although he gave a few interviews over the years about his teen idol period, he wisely avoided trying to make a comeback.
“A Shaun Cassidy Special” dropped from sight as quickly as its star. It has never been made available for commercial home entertainment release, and a number of bootleg DVDs plus an unauthorized YouTube posting incorrectly identify it as a 1979 release.
Incredibly, there is no IMDb listing for this show, nor is there any Wikipedia article about it. In a way, that’s a good thing – the less that people know about this mess, the better it is for everyone.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either for crass commercial purposes or profit-free s***s and giggles, is not something that the entertainment industry appreciates. On occasion, law enforcement personnel boost their arrest quotas by collaring cheery cinephiles engaged in such activities. So if you are going to copy and distribute bootleg material, a word to the wise: don’t get caught. Oddly, the purchase and ownership of bootleg DVDs is perfectly legal. Go figure!