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The Sad Case of Casey Kasem – Mark L. Groves
If you’re not familiar with the name Casey Kasem, you’re probably at least familiar with the name “Scooby Doo.” Casey was the original voice of Shaggy. Plus his voice makes a cameo appearance in the original “Ghostbusters” movie, among other movies and tv shows from back when dinosaurs roamed the mall.
Casey was also very famous as the host of the American Top 40 Countdown, which he created in 1970. See kids, we had this thing called radio, and it’s where you could listen to music for free- without the internet or a monitor screen. Weird, I know. There were shows that would count down the most popular songs playing in that genre- “top 40” country, r&b, and more, based on sales, or requests, or some magical mystical b.s. backed by label money. Who knows. But weekly, geeks like me would listen to see if our favorite songs moved up or down the charts, hear new songs, get interesting tidbits about the artists, and have halfway-decent background noise on a weekend.
I used to play Casey’s show when I first started as a disco jockey in radio back in the mid 1980’s, along with Rick Dee’s Weekly Top 40. Sidenote- they arrived on vinyl. Yup- 33&1/3 lp’s. When you got to the space between the tracks, you played local commercials and imaging, while you cued up the next track- usually on a Technics SL1200 mkII turntable.
Oh yeah, we’re talking about Casey Kasem. Back to the countdown.
Casey had a great career, and a most memorable studio meltdown which lives on in youtube glory. Plus, those old countdown shows are showing up on classic hits/oldies stations now. I heard one while driving across Illinois and Missouri a few years ago, and dude- that was jarring. I thought for a hot minute they’d got a Casey Kasem impersonator and were re-creating the feel, until I heard him talk about his brand new song climbing the charts- here’s “Little Red Corvette” by Prince. Yeah, ok, they’re replaying the old countdowns. Cool. I time-traveled across two states with that.
Casey passed away June 15th, 2014, at the age of 82. The end of one huge suckage, and the start of another. But first- the background.
He was married to a woman from 1970 to 1979 and had three kids. He got divorced, and in 1980 Married Jean Thompson. Imagine this- a lonely guy, five foot four inches tall, who marries this huge blonde who looks like Anna Nicole Smith in drag.
Casey was married to her until his death. In 1989, they bought a home in L.A., and in 2013, they put it up for sale for 43 Million Dollars. Why do I add this Wikipedia tidbit? Oh, that’s coming.
Kerri Kasem- Casey’s daughter from his first marriage- announced he had Parkinson’s Disease. Later, she changed it to Lewy Body Dementia,which was still pretty much Parkinson’s. This disease left him unable to speak during his last months. Sucks for a radio guy to not be able to speak.
After his condition deteriorated more, Jean- his wife- stopped his kids from his first marriage from being able to see him. She says it was too hard on him…you know…seeing his children whom he loved.
October 1st of 2013, all three first-marriage kids protested in front of his home. 20-plus people showed up for this, standing outside silently, holding placards basically saying “why won’t you let us see him?” Jean calls the cops, and multiple squad cars- plus helicopter show up. And then the press, because of course.
The older kids go to court to try and get custody, but are denied. Jean says she’ll let them see their dad- for one hour a month, with a security guard present, which they’ll have to pay ½ of the costs. Oh, and no phones, cameras, anything.
Casey gets hospitalized in December. The kids see him briefly, and the next thing you know- Jean has moved him. The doctors refused to approve it, so Jean- and this is like hours after the kids had been there, rolls him out. No one knows where, and her craziness won’t say.
Kerri gets a PI involved. A few days later, one of Jean’s attorneys says Casey is out of the country. It’s a lie. Jean’s taken him to that healing oasis, America’s rejuvenation HQ. Las Vegas, of course.
Now, this guy has a feeding tube surgically implanted, he can’t speak, he’s disoriented, and his wifey mcwifeface has hired a couple of people to be “carefigvers” at the Vdar Hotel & Spa. Her excuse? A family vacation to, I quote, “escape the theatrical antics of Kerri Kasem.”
Casey doesn’t see a doc for a week. Jean chartes a jet to Seattle on May 13th. Casey arrives malnourished, because Jean was pouring Ensure into his feeding tube. Before they left Santa Monica, he had no wounds. Now he had a massive bedsore on his coccyx, and a UTI.
Do they go to a hospital? Nopeski. Jean has them ambulanced to a private residence. HOWEVER, one of the drivers alerted adult protective services, because bedsores can be a sign of neglect. Kerri’s PI saw that pop up on a database, and they’re off to the legal races.
May 12th, an LA court grants Kerri temporary conservatorship over her father’s medical care. It takes another 10 or so days, but the Washington judge upholds it too.
Kerri arrives at the house, but Jean has it surrounded by leather-wearing bikers who are ordered to not let her in. Eventually Kerri does go in. Jean got the judge to allow that no pictures were to be taken. But a few hours after the visit, she herself holds a press conference and plays a tape of Casey morning. She said he was upset about the judge’s ruling.
Maybe it was the saucer-sized bedsore, the UTI with no painkillers, or the fact he was starving. Yeah, that could be it. Not that a judge let his beloved kids in. But who knows, right?
June 1 Kerri arrives at the house with an ambulance and medical personnel. Casey is taken to a hospital. Jean comes out with a video camera, and throws a pound of chuck steak at Kerri while saying something about “King David,” and repeating “To the dogs! To the dogs!” Seriously, that is some next-level Jim Morrison on a bad trip kind of shit
By the time Casey reaches the hospital, he’s at least alert. For two weeks extended family gather around his bed. There are conflicting reports about his last wishes. Jean said that Casey would have wanted to be kept alive via artificial means.
The second week, attempts to hydrate Casey are causing his lungs to fill with fluid- basically, drowning him. Soon, he’s removed from artificial feeding and hydrating, and is given morphine to make him comfortable. On June 15th, surrounded by his 3 oldest kids and his brother, he passes away.
Whew. End of story.
To make a long, horrible story short, Jean is Casey’s wife and gets control of the body. She has it removed from the mortuary in Washington state, and sent to…we don’t know at the time. Nobody does.
Six months later, Kerri finds out where her dad is interred. She read it in an online article. He’s buried. In Oslo, Norway. Yup, the Widow Ms. Crazypants had him shipped up to Montreal, Canada, and two months later to Norway.
She said he loved how beautiful Norway was. He’d never been there. She said she was thinking of moving their to be closer to her Norwegian relatives. Her actual relatives said there’s not a drop of Norwegian blood in any of them.
Kerri tried to get his body returned, but her legal attempts failed. See, Casey didn’t get a formal autopsy. How do you hide abuse? Hide the body.
The older kids sued Jean, and she counter-sued them, and in 2019 they dropped their lawsuits.
Oh- and the house sold. Jean got the money.
Casey believed in reincarnation. I hope he comes back as Jean’s nearsighted, narcoleptic heart surgeon. If she even has one to operate on.