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This story first appeared in the Feb. Department 29 in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse of the Los Angeles Superior Court is a byfoot box of dirty-blond wood and fluorescent light and a disheartening place of hard-luck stories and forlorn conclusions. On a Friday morning before Christmas, a long succession of civil cases involving special-needs trusts, disputed inheritances, stricken families and various other probate calamities passed in a dull parade before Judge Lesley Green, who announced her decisions, one after another, with a swift dispatch.
But the courtroom stirred and the spectators sat forward when Case No. BP was called, and no fewer than six attorneys lined up before the judge in the matter of Julie Kasem et.
Jean Kasem, respondent, in respect to a "conservatorship of person" -- that absent person being year-old Casey Kasem, the radio legend. For decades, Kasem counted down the weekly hit singles on American Top 40 and its spinoffs, exhorting his listeners to "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars. He had taped his last broadcast in , then quietly retired. Casey Kasem Throughout the Years The courtroom spectators were primed to witness the latest legal skirmish in a tabloid melodrama that had erupted three months earlier and just kept getting more lurid and sad.
Casey met Jean in when he was 47 and she was 24; today, she is perhaps better remembered for her eye-popping outfits -- often involving headbands, turbans and tiaras -- she liked to wear to galas and awards shows. Jamil Aboulhosn, a cardiologist at UCLA Medical Center, filed a conservatorship petition in Superior Court, charging that though her father had signed a medical directive in placing the couple in charge of his care if he were incapacitated, Jean Kasem had blocked them from finding out about his condition since the previous spring.
As one leering headline put it: At a hearing Oct. Although she never appeared in court, her attorney, Marshall B. Grossman, declared that a document signed by Casey Kasem in had given his wife power of attorney, superseding the conservatorship. For Jean Kasem, he said, the protest and legal action had been "a sham. We knew that we better go make our own money. Even as the "wicked" stepmother storyline stuck, she steadfastly declined to speak to journalists.
Kerri Kasem announced that in honor of her father, she was creating a foundation, Kasem Cares, to lobby on behalf of visitation rights for adult children. But it quickly emerged that there would be no further fireworks. The attorneys confirmed 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. After the hearing, Mike Kasem told reporters that his father now was in a hospital he reportedly remains there today and that all three children -- including Kerri -- finally had seen their father again, briefly, in separate visits. 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.
To me, the most important thing is to see my dad. According to American Top For nearly two decades, he was one of the co-hosts of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Through it all, Kasem radiated the pride of the second-generation immigrant who has made it and the gratitude of a man who becomes enormously successful relatively late. He also came to embrace his Arab ethnic roots with intense enthusiasm. They ran a grocery store on the corner of Cass and Alexandrine and refused to let their sons learn Arabic, insisting they assimilate.
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While attending college at Wayne State University, he got his first taste of stardom and fat paychecks, landing a series of plum juvenile roles on immensely popular Detroit-based radio shows such as The Lone Ranger and Challenge of the Yukon. His dream of becoming a successful actor eventually died after appearances in low-budget biker flicks and horror movies and a few guest roles on TV.
Tom Rounds, a veteran DJ turned festival promoter, and Ron Jacobs, a pioneering packager of radio specials on rock history, had partnered in a company called Charlatan Productions; meanwhile, Kasem and his buddy from the old neighborhood, Don Bustany, now an L.
Nearly a year later, Charlatan had been rechristened Watermark Inc.
As Durkee relates in his history of the show, AT40 was not an instant hit. Only seven radio stations carried the premiere episode. The partners came close to quitting in , and the show lost money until But growth was steady --and then meteoric: Amazingly, for 20 years the show was taped and then pressed on multiple inch vinyl records for express shipment to local stations throughout the world.
The show took some time to evolve into its classic format. Along with the current hits -- the show used the Billboard Hot as the source of the rankings during its first two decades -- AT40 churned out chart statistics, where-are-they-now tidbits and other inside-baseball ephemera from the annals of pop music history.
The crowning element of the mix was the "Long Distance Dedications," introduced in , that cued up sentimental tunes "The Wind Beneath My Wings" and "The Greatest Love of All" were repeat favorites with heart-tugging epistles from sweethearts, military husbands and wives, parents and kids.
Like the trivia-heavy patter, this was a trademark bit Kasem had been honing for years; his KRLA show included listener dedications he called "Letters From the Sweetheart Tree. While kids heard Kasem in various animated shows, their parents could hear him touting the primetime TV lineup on NBC and hawking products in radio and TV ads. By the time his star was added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in April , Kasem was the most famous radio personality in the world.
His first marriage, to actress Linda Myers, the mother of Kerri, Mike and Julie, had lasted only seven years. The divorce was final in Meanwhile, Kasem bumped into Jean Thompson when she was delivering documents to a Hollywood office. Recently divorced herself, she was studying acting and supporting herself with clerical jobs when she met Casey.
After a whirlwind courtship, they were married Dec. Jean started landing a few TV guest parts, and in , she appeared in the recurring role of Loretta, trophy wife of sleazeball Nick Tortelli Dan Hedaya , on the sitcom Cheers. The comic incongruity of statuesque, blond Loretta next to short, dark Nick had its odd real-life counterpart as Casey and his much taller wife Jean became red-carpet fixtures at Hollywood awards shows and benefits.
Strikingly beautiful in a Marilyn-meets-Anna Nicole mode, Jean subverted her classic looks by adopting a highly eccentric fashion sense that exaggerated her 5-foot height and earned her repeat mentions on various worst-dressed lists. With Casey beaming beside her, she wore her hair in towering top knots, mountainous ziggurats of curls and dreadlocks and donned alarming white wigs and assorted headdresses.
She once sported a top hat adorned with a Barbie doll. In and , he and Jean hosted fundraisers and campaign events for the quixotic presidential campaigns of Jackson. But the two issues that consumed him more than any others were continuing violence in the Middle East and discrimination against Arab-Americans. In speeches and articles, he took Hollywood to task for "the vilification and defaming of Arabs in motion pictures and television.
He could afford to spend the majority of his time on activism. Casey and Jean began throwing lavish holiday parties to benefit homeless support groups, a Druze cultural center and other causes. In , they invited friends, including Martin Sheen, Harold Robbins, Valerie Harper and Danny Thomas, to a gala baby shower for Jean, who gave birth to Liberty they planned to name the infant Justice if it had been a boy in May.
More than million vinyl singles had been sold in A decade later, that market had been vaporized, and CDs, such as they had been, were all about albums.
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By the time digital singles became dominant in the early 21st century, the music business had become an unrecognizable landscape strewn with rubble. Radio was becoming a balkanized, fragmented market of incompatible and even mutually hostile formats. But there no longer was one universal Casey Kasem. So two other shows were spawned: Nor had he ever possessed the drive to build a business or create a music-business empire; unlike Seacrest, his footprint is absent from the hitmaking machinery of reality TV competitions like American Idol.
He had wanted to change the world, but his vision now seemed to encounter disappointment. He had continued hosting the American Top 20 and American Top 10 spinoffs as his health declined, but his speaking voice was weakening.
Casey, Jean and their daughter, Liberty, in She did not respond to repeated requests for an interview for this article. Her attorney, Amy McEvoy, a tax and estate-planning specialist who conveyed the interview requests to Jean Kasem, said in early January that her client is "a very private person.
In September, just before the feud became a media sensation, the unsold house was taken off the market. The rest is an avalanche of speculation, gossip and bad publicity, along with a scattered chorus of sympathy for her plight. His parents divorced when he was young and still living at home; his father died in after a car crash on the way to see Casey act in a play.
His dignity and rectitude -- apart from a pair of infamous and profane AT40 outtakes, involving a dog named Snuggles and the band U2 see YouTube -- were celebrated throughout his years of fame and political advocacy, but his painfully ethical character may have failed him in private, allowing the predictable collision of two medical directives and the festering estrangement between his wife and his older kids to escalate into open and messy conflict.
I think it destroyed him, trying to make everybody happy, trying to make peace. To Jean, anybody who truly loved my father was an enemy, a sworn enemy. My dad signed when he was completely coherent and knew exactly what he was doing -- a conservatorship over health, not estate, no finances, and a durable power of attorney over health. We were pushed out.
Many people came to us, alarmed. The authorities found no evidence of abuse or neglect. During the court proceedings, Jean, through her then-attorney Grossman, bitterly denounced the inspection as a demeaning intrusion.
State Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Democrat, has agreed to introduce the bill. But if we prevail, at least it would allow a judge to rule on visitation. Not finances, not money, not the will, not the estate.