Thursday, October 3, 2013

10.3.13 Hero of the Day: Casey Kasem

Bee-otch of the Day honors are awarded Monday through Thursday, Bee-otch of the Week is awarded Friday on



Name: Kemal Amin Kasem
Age: 81
Occupation: retired radio personality
Last Seen: Holmby Hills, CA
Awarded For: being one of the greatest voices in radio history


If you were a kid who grew up in the 70's, 80's and 90's, you owed a lot of your weekends to Casey Kasem. You woke up Saturday mornings to watch whatever incarnation of Scooby-Doo that was running that year and you heard him do the voice of Scooby's best friend and dispenser of Scooby Snacks, Shaggy. Then, you woke up a day later to hear him again do the top 40 countdown, wondering if Madonna had the #1 record in the nation this week.

Now, there's a new countdown, and it's not the one many of his fans - me included - want to do. It's the one called "Casey's End of Life".

The beloved star of radio and TV is in the advanced stages of Parkinson's Disease, which was revealed Tuesday afternoon. The 81-year-old legend officially retired from his long-time countdown shows in 2009 and hasn't done much since. When he retired, he gave no interviews, although his wife, Jean said that the radio business is changing, which was a major factor in Casey's retirement from the medium after a nearly-six-decade career.

Now, Kasem is residing at his Holmby Hills estate and his wife is barring anybody - including his own four children - from seeing him. Mrs. Kasem claims that part of it is due to the fact that his three children from his first marriage to Linda Myers - Mike, Julie and Kerri - were yanked out of Casey's will. Casey does have a daughter with Jean, Liberty, who apparently is in the will.

It was on Tuesday afternoon that Casey's three elder children protested in front of their dad's estate, alongside his brother and personal friends who have known him for more than half a century, demanding answers. However, Jean called the cops and the protestors were all thrown off the property. According to Jean, she does not want her children to see their father in his current state.

Kasem's career is one that's lasted nearly six decades. Starting from humble beginnings near Flint, MI working at his Lebanese family's grocery store, little Kemal Amin Kasem dreamed of being either a baseball player or radio jock. Of course, he ended up being the latter and started working at WAMM in his hometown of Flint. He worked in Detroit, San Francisco, Buffalo and Cleveland before heading out to Los Angeles in the early 1960's.

In the late 60's, Kasem began a long career as a voiceover artist, starting as the voice of Robin on Filmation's Batman/Superman Hour (ironically, Filmation founder Lou Scheimer was also the son of immigrant parents who owned a grocery store and he is also battling Parkinson's). But it was crosstown rival Hanna-Barbera where Kasem had the most success, playing the hipster Norbert Rogers, aka "Shaggy", who was the best friend to the ghost-hunting Great Dane known as Scooby-Doo. Kasem played Shaggy throughout most of the show's history, save for a few years after Shaggy appeared in a Burger King commercial, and the vegan Kasem would not do it. Kasem rejected many roles, including those on the Transformers cartoon show because he felt it was too offensive towards Arabs like himself. He also turned down the role of the narrator of the series Soap because he felt it was too racy (the role went to future The Price is Right announcer Rod Roddy in his first major TV role).

But Kasem's crowning achievement came in 1970 when he created American Top 40. Although it debuted with only a small number of affiliates, the show quickly gained momentum and was on several hundred affiliates in just a few short years. The show was originally three hours, but grew to four in 1979 due to the growing amount of longer songs being placed as singles. He quit the show due to a contract dispute in 1988 and joined rival Westwood One to do Casey's Top 40 while AT40 was placed in the hands of Shadoe Stevens. However, Shadoe's version was canceled by ABC in 1995 due to poor ratings and dwindling affiliates. Casey bought the show back from ABC and moved it to AMFM (now Clear Channel) in 1998, revitalizing the brand.

However, Casey retired from AT40 in 2003, giving the show over to Ryan Seacrest. He continued doing his two other adult-based countdowns until 2009 when he officially retired. After retirement, Kasem did work sporadically, appearing in an ad for Sprint in 2010 and as the uncle of Shaggy on new Scooby-Doo cartoons.

The fact that Casey Kasem is ill and in apparently in horrible condition is heartbreaking. As somebody who grew up listening to his countdowns and hearing his stories about the artists he played on his show made him a great listen on Sunday mornings. True, I outgrew the Top 40 format in my teens, but I found myself listening to his 70's countdowns on Sirius on Sunday mornings up until I dumped the satcaster a few weeks ago (ironically, we all learned about Robin's cancer not long after I dropped it, making for a double whammy). I know that he won't get better, but all I can say is that before he dies, I hope he knows that all of us who are in or flat-out love radio owe him a deep, great debt and it will be an extremely sad day when he passes on. I hope that he's comfortable, and I pray also that his family can see some closure from their feud.

For years, Casey has told us, "keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars". Now, it's time for him to go beyond the stars.

Got a Bee-otch to nominate? E-mail us @ All suggestions (except for me) are welcome!

Bee-otch of the Day Archives can be seen on!

Bee-otch of the Day is a production of, Grand Rapids' site for Stern, politics and more!


No comments:

Post a Comment