For a man whose catchphrase was the simple and sweet—“Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars”—and who was famed for his loud and silly sweaters, the last chapter of America’s Top 40 presenter Casey Kasem’s life is being played out with the grotesque meter turned up to “max.”
Yesterday, in the latest episode of a bitter family feud mired in recriminations, cops, and court appearances, Jean Kasem, his wife (best known for playing a character called Loretta Tortelli in Cheers), reportedly threw hamburger meat at his daughter Kerri when she came to have her very ill father taken to the hospital from a house where Jean and Casey had been staying in Washington state.
A group of bikers, seemingly supporting Jean, added to the melee alongside the police, and Mrs. Kasem invoked King David as the gristle flew.
Kasem, 82, has Lewy body dementia, which in symptoms is similar to advanced Parkinson’s disease, which is what the family initially told the media Kasem was suffering from. He is unable to speak.
It’s a tragically ironic end for the man who was not only kiddishly excitable as he announced the chart positions of the week’s pop records, but was also the voice of Shaggy in Scooby Doo. Beginning his career as an Army DJ in Korea in 1952, Kasem became famous for fronting his various chart shows from 1970 until retiring in 2009.
But how did things get so rancorous, and so sad? Here is the grisly, thoroughly depressing countdown. See it as a very un-top 40.
40. The Kasems seem to like a major street scene, when things really kick off. Last October saw the first, as captured by TMZ, in Hollywood.
39. That first street scene unfolded when his three children from his first marriage to Linda Myers—Kerri, Julie and Mike—went to visit their father, having been unable to contact him for three months.
38. Bikers were involved in the weekend’s brouhaha. Last October, at Kasem’s home in the Holmby Hills area near Beverly Hills, his children were joined by a group of friends, family and former co-workers, giving both occasions the vibe of curious, random flashmobs.
37. Just as at the weekend, a panoply of emergency personnel descended on the scene in October. Jean Kasem called police to get the group ejected from the property.
36. Last October, Casey’s brother, Mouner Kasem, told TMZ Jean has had a strained relationship with Casey’s children for years.
35. The brother says he hasn’t spoken with Jean since Casey married her in 1980. The couple had one child, Liberty Jean, now 22.
34. Kerri, Casey’s oldest daughter, told TMZ Jean had “aggressively blocked the kids from the house.”
33. Kerri told TMZ last October it was not about money: Kasem’s fortune has been estimated at $80 million. “The kids have all been excluded from Casey’s will and they’ve known that for a long time. She says they just want to see their dad, and they can’t.”
32. The signs the family members hold read: “JEAN, WHY WON’T YOU LET ME SEE MY DAD!?” and “I MISS MY BROTHER.”
31. On October 7, 2013, Julie Kasem—Kasem’s middle child—and her husband filed a conservatorship petition in Superior Court to place Casey Kasem under their care.
30. On October 15, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Jean Kasem’s attorney, Marshall B. Grossman, declared that a document signed by Casey Kasem in 2011 had given his wife power of attorney, superseding the 2007 conservatorship.
29. The protest and legal action had been a sham, Mrs. Kasem said. “It is my sincere hope that Casey’s physical surroundings coupled with the attentiveness of the medical providers and the love of his own home and wife and child are comforting to him.”
28. In mid-November, Jean Kasem filed a written statement: her stepchildren had “single-handedly and irreparably shattered the lives of their father, his wife and youngest daughter. … They are doing so with a professionally orchestrated media and legal campaign that has disgraced their father and vilified their stepmother. … These children falsely claim that their stepmother is wicked and is keeping her husband prisoner in his home behind closed doors and that they no longer have access to him through no fault of their own. … For reasons they know all too well, their presence at this stage would be toxic and extremely distressing for Casey, Jean and their daughter, Liberty, who have had enough of their cruelty.”
27. On November 19, the court denied Julie Kasem’s petition. Jean Kasem was ruled to be Casey’s conservator; the two sides were ordered to figure out a visitation agreement.
26. After the ruling, Kerri Kasem announced that in honor of her father, she intended to set up a foundation, Kasem Cares, to lobby on behalf of visitation rights for adult children.
25. Hilda Loza, Casey Kasem’s former maid and caretaker, won a $10,000 judgment against Jean. On December 13, TMZ reported that Ms. Loza had been awarded the sum after accusing Jean of subjecting her to emotional cruelty; Jean also accused the maid of stealing items like food, silverware and toilet paper.
24. On December 18, Kerri and her brother, Mike, told Piers Morgan on CNN about their grievances with their stepmother. Mike told Morgan, according to the Hollywood Reporter, that he recently had been allowed to see his dad for five minutes and had rushed to say everything he needed to, “just in case that was the last time I’d ever see him.”
23. Kerri said: “We tried everything to get her to let us see him when she stopped bringing him over to the house…She [Jean] had an assistant bring him over to the house so we could see him every weekend. She stopped. My sister went there, knocked on the door, and she was escorted off the property.”
22. On December 20, it emerged that Jean and two of the Kasem children, Julie and Mike, had reached a confidential agreement granting them visitation. Kerri, however, had refused to sign the new agreement.
21. After the hearing, Mike Kasem said his father was in a hospital (and that all three children--including Kerri--had seen him, briefly, in separate visits).
20. A few weeks later, Mouner Kasem traveled from his home in Michigan and was permitted to see his brother for the first time in more than a year.
19. Kerri remained unhappy. “I’m not afraid of her; they are,” she said of Jean and her siblings. “This visitation agreement not only treats us like criminals, it treats my dad like an inmate. It’s about money for her. It’s about love for us.”
18. NBC News reported that on May 6, at 2:30 a.m., against medical advice, Jean Kasem removed her husband from the Berkeley East Convalescent Facility in Santa Monica—in his hospital gown, with his stomach feeding tube and IV still in place.
17. They flew on a private jet with their daughter, Liberty, to Washington, where a private ambulance picked them up and took them to a friend’s house. This wasn’t known until later.
16. On May 12, an investigation into Casey Kasem’s whereabouts was ordered by a judge, after the star “had been removed from Los Angeles without his children’s knowledge,” the Associated Press reported.
15. His children had apparently complained that they had been unable to see their father in accordance with the earlier agreement with their stepmother.
14. On the same day, Kerri was granted conservatorship, over Jean Kasem’s objection. A judge appointed her father’s temporary caretaker.
13. Then the story ramped up to a new level of uh-oh. Kerri’s attorney, Troy Martin, said the family believed the entertainer had been taken to an Indian reservation in Washington state.
12. The judge ordered adult protective services to locate Kasem.
11. Craig Marcus, a lawyer representing Jean, said she had the right to move her husband wherever she wished. Marcus added Kasem “was no longer in the United States,” and “I have no idea where he is.”
10. On May 15, Casey Kasem was found in the Washington state home he and Jean had gone to, where he was the subject of a welfare check at a residence in Kitsap County, which sheriff's deputies descended on after information was provided by California Adult Protective Services.
9. The home was owned by longtime friends of Jean and Casey Kasem, and the couple was staying there on holiday, a sheriff's spokesman told CNN. “After staying 40 minutes and determining that Kasem was alert, not in distress and was receiving appropriate care, the deputies left," CNN reported. Kerri said, “We are grateful to local authorities for finding my Dad. We are one step closer to bringing him home." The family still had “grave concerns about his medical care."
8. On May 23, Jean told a press conference: “I am not going to allow anybody to shred my family on unfounded facts and malicious accusations. People in Hollywood come to us and ask us for marriage advice. We consider ourselves a Hollywood love story. We’re good people. We’re charitable people. We’re clean people and this has got to stop.”
7. Kerri Kasem said in court Friday that her father was suffering from bedsores and lung and bladder infections. Kitsap County Superior Court judge Jennifer Forbes ruled she could have a doctor of her choosing examine her father.
6. On Friday, NBC News reported that Jean had released a cellphone audio recording of the 82-year-old icon with the legendary voice moaning. “He’s crying. He’s a man of very few tears,” she said, adding that Casey was upset over the judge’s decision.
5. On Sunday police, responding to a 911 call at the house, found Jean and Kerri Kasem arguing. Kerri’s spokesman said Jean threw a package of ground meat at her stepdaughter, referring to King David of the Bible, saying she was throwing the meat at “the dogs.” An ambulance took Casey Kasem away to receive care. Kerri was with him. His condition is unknown. “If you need to know why I did it—when a person is about to pass away, there are always rabid dogs,” Jean Kasem said on Monday.
4. On Monday, another twist: Judge Forbes said Casey Kasem could return to the Kitsap County home of the couple’s friends if doctors approve.
3. Jean Kasem’s attorney, Joel Paget, told NBC News on Monday that his client will finally tell her story in court documents he will file tomorrow, Wednesday, in Kitsap County Superior Court.
2. Mary Kasem, Casey’s brother's wife, said of Jean to NBC News: “She’s the one that poisoned everybody. She keeps talking about all these toxic relationships but she’s the one that made it that way. She’s very, very possessive. It’s not just the kids he can’t see—it’s his brother, his cousins, his friends of 40 years.” NBC News reported that on June 30, Jean Kasem is scheduled to face off in a trial with the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, which sued her for skipping out on $40,000 of the $1.7 million bill. Jean has counter-sued the hotel.
1. As the situation gets even messier, and before more meat is thrown, a switcheroo—just as in the best pop charts. A sudden new entry. A sudden storming up the charts. A new No. 1 to make everyone happy. After that litany of dysfunction, let’s close with a memory of Casey Kasem as he was: healthy, twinkly-eyed, that light, brogue voice, passionate about pop, the steward of America’s Top 40 for all those years when listening to his show was a prelude to going out and dancing to—and enjoying—the songs he himself loved. So, Casey, here you are, back in one of those strange sweaters of yours, rightly and positively, at No. 1. Enjoy the music.