THEY THINK THEY LOVE YOUSO, DAVID CASSIDY, WHAT ARE YOU SO AFRAID OF? C'MON GET HAPPY

THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY TEMPLE PREPARES FOR THE COMING OF THE LORD: DAVID CASSIDY.

Reverend Dan "Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque" Partridge, co-founder of the Partridge Family Temple, is seated on a platform overlooking an indoor waterfall at Casa Bonita, the Mexican restaurant/theme park that's been Lakewood's proudest claim to fame since 1973. Before him, enchiladas share a tabletop with several vintage lunchboxes and an array of spiritually powerful bric-a-brac adorned with two-decade-old photos of the personages who symbolize his faith--David Cassidy, Shirley Jones, Susan Dey. He bows his head, squeezes his eyes tight and raises his hands over his head in a gesture of supplication.

"All right, Keith, Laurie, Shirley, Danny, Chris and Tracy," he shouts in a voice loud enough to startle a group of puzzled tourists being seated nearby. "Thank you for this beautiful meal. Thank you, Shirley, who's the earth, in whom all this food grew." He dips his head in the direction of a pair of chicken breasts steaming on his plate. "And thank you, Danny, for slaughtering this chicken for me--it smells really tasty. Twenty-four hours a day we'll think about you, especially when we're eating at Casa Bonita, our holy temple."

The blessing completed, Reverend Dan opens his eyes and offers a spacey smirk. His companions--Shaun "Partridge in a Pear Tree" Partridge, Shaun's sister Giddle "C'mon, Get Happy" Partridge and Boyd Partridge--return it with grins of their own, silently acknowledging the creed that they share. As members of the Temple, which Reverend Dan modestly calls "the hippest new religion in town," they believe that we were all put on this earth to have fun, fun, fun each moment we're alive. And what could be more fun than slipping into your grooviest clothes and spending a Thursday afternoon in January at Casa Bonita?

Nothing, friends. As Shaun puts it, "This right now is an episode of The Partridge Family. It just continues all the time. And it's a really good show."

Doubters regard The Partridge Family, an ABC-TV situation comedy about a musical family that aired from 1970 to 1974 and spawned pop songs such as the big-selling "I Think I Love You," as nothing more than a disposable piece of boob-tube flotsam. But that's just one of the delusions under which they suffer. These poor unfortunates also fail to realize that the series' characters--principally, mother Shirley Partridge (Shirley Jones) and children Keith (Cassidy, Jones's stepson), Laurie (Dey), Danny (Danny Bonaduce), Chris (alternately portrayed by two actors, Jeremy Gelbwaks and Brian Forster) and Tracy (Suzanne Crough)--are actually temporal representations of gods who rule every aspect of our lives. If only the unenlightened would open their eyes, they'd be able to experience the pure bliss that bathes Temple devotees from birth until death. And beyond: According to Templers, all of us will eventually ascend to Albuquerque (a destination foretold in the Partridge Family song "Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque"), which they describe as a heavenly place that looks a whole lot like a giant Casa Bonita.

But today is an even better day than usual to revel in all things Partridge. You see, the hundred or so Temple adherents worldwide are experiencing what for them is an unprecedented avalanche of attention--most notably a December guest shot by Reverend Dan on the nationally syndicated Jon Stewart Show and the Temple's inclusion in Cult Rapture, a book-length examination of odd sects that author Adam Parfrey says will arrive in stores this March. But these public-relations triumphs pale in importance before the news that David Cassidy--their Muhammad, their Christ, their savior--is coming to Denver for an extended stay; he stars with English songbird Petula Clark in Blood Brothers, a musical about twins separated at birth that runs at the Buell Theatre January 17 through 29. It's a momentous occasion, and a framework of action must be developed to properly celebrate the visit and alert the populace that an event of tremendous canonical significance is taking place.

"Right now we're planning to have a display," Shaun reveals. "We'll do it in front of the theater or the hotel he's staying at. Or maybe both."

"We're going to sing. We're going to have signs letting people know that their Lord is here," Giddle elaborates. "And I'm going to offer myself to him."

"He might make you bark like a dog," Boyd warns. "In his book [C'mon, Get Happy: Fear and Loathing on the Partridge Family Bus, published last year], he said that he'd have the security let groupies come backstage at shows, but before he'd have sex with them, he'd sometimes make them get down on all fours and bark and make train sounds."

"I'll do it," Giddle vows. "I'll do anything for my Lord Keith."

In the beginning, neither Reverend Dan, presently living in San Francisco, nor Denver-based Shaun, the other Temple co-founder, possessed the keys to the Partridge Family bus. But during a 1988 stay at the home of Denver resident Adam Sleek, Shaun and Reverend Dan came on board.

"Adam just kept playing Partridge Family music constantly--I'd wake up to it," Shaun says. "It was starting to piss me off, the way he would stare at us and sing the songs over and over again. But then I started listening to it and I realized--hey, this is good music. And then, a little bit later, I had the revelation that the people in The Partridge Family were the gods and goddesses you read about in school. They've been around since the beginning of time, but they had different names in different ages. And in 1970 they decided, `Hey, let's get a hit TV show.'"

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