Archive for the ‘Casey Kasem’ Category

The voice on the phone was Casey Kasem’s

June 16, 2014
Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem


NEW YORK, June 16, 2014 — Two things impressed me about Casey Kasem: His manners and his wealth.

He was an easy-going interview, aided in no small part by the quality of his famous voice, which was one of the most soothing in the history of broadcasting.  It was no less easy to listen to on the phone, as he answered my questions in an interview in January 1989.

He was generous with his time, giving me more than an hour for that interview, which was conducted to mark the upcoming premiere of his new  countdown show, “Casey’s Top 40.”

It was the new show he’d put together with Westwood One, the radio company that picked him up after his long-time (and by-then former) employer ABC decided to drop him from the radio show he made famous, “American Top 40,” rather than work through an impasse in contract negotiations.

ABC decided to replace Casey Kasem with Shadoe Stevens, rather than pay Kasem some amount of money that ABC must have deemed ungodly.  One of my stories from back then about the contract negotiations with Westwood indicated that Casey’s new contract with Westwood would be worth $3 million a year, but if memory serves, Casey became a lot wealthier than that.

In fact, he was, for a time — in the era before Oprah, Leno, Letterman and Judge Judy (to mention some of the personalities who became the industry’s biggest money earners) — one of the highest-paid personalities in all of broadcasting, on par with Johnny Carson and, yes, Paul Harvey — the other ABC Radio personality who was once one of the top earners in the entire industry.

When I interviewed Casey in 1989, he was 56 and living with his wife Jean in a 3,000-square-foot penthouse in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.  I asked him how many cars he owned and he answered good-naturedly, “Two black Mercedes — a large one and a small one.”

I asked him who his best friends were and he listed Dick Clark, Sammy Davis Jr. and Martin Sheen, with whom Casey had joined in anti-nuclear protests and was twice arrested.

Among other things, I learned that the Rev. Jesse Jackson presided over Casey and Jean Kasem’s wedding in 1980 — and Casey campaigned for Jackson when Jackson ran for president in 1988.

I also learned that Casey Kasem — the most famous disc jockey in America — didn’t have time to listen to the radio.  “If I had more time, I might listen to more classical music,” he said.

Obituaries for Casey Kasem, who died over the weekend, repeatedly cited the “long distance dedications” as the most memorable and iconic features of his “Top 40” countdown programs.  But Casey never mentioned the long-distance dedications in my interview with him (the first of two, possibly three interviews I conducted with him).

He seemed prouder of another feature he called the “teaser-bio,” the anecdotes and backstories about pop stars and their Top 40 hits that Casey used to recite on the show — always “teasing” an upcoming anecdote just before going to a commercial break.

“Turning right instead of left can change your whole life,” he told me in 1989 when he related the story of how he found a discarded copy of the 1962 edition of “Who’s Who in Pop Music” in a trash can at the Oakland radio station where he was then working in 1963.  He used what he read in the book to invent these “teaser-bios” — which, to him, were the feature that made “American Top 40,” and made his career.

“This is the famous I-found-my-future-in-a-trash-can story and it’s true, absolutely true,” he insisted.

One of the things about Casey that endeared him to me was his old-school habit of writing thank-you notes.  Very few celebrities, in my experience, do this — and the ones who do are the ones you remember.  I have two of them from Casey — typewritten on 7.25″ x 5″ notecards, bordered in dark blue and red, with the words “Casey Kasem” printed at the top.

“Dear Adam,” he wrote to me in February 1989 after my story ran in the broadcasting trade mag for which I was then working.  “I just wanted to send you my thanks for that great article about my work and other activities.  It’s an excellent summary of my career and concerns.  Keep up the fine work, and have a great year!

“Yours truly,


“Casey Kasem

“P.S.: They’re quoting me on the classical music stations!”

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Good riddance, 2013: My TV year in review

December 11, 2013
With highlights like this, who needs to remember 2013? Bill Maher compared Donald Trump to an orangutan and the feud Maher ignited lasted most of the year.

With highlights like this, who needs to remember 2013? Bill Maher compared Donald Trump to an orangutan and the feud Maher ignited lasted most of the year.


NEW YORK, Dec. 11, 2013 — It was one of the strangest years in my long personal history on the TV beat.

Looking back in search of the year’s highlights, I find mostly lowlights.

With a few notable exceptions, the TV stories I covered that drew our attention in 2013 were either contentious and crude or irrelevant and trivial.

Falling into the former category: Alec Baldwin becoming embroiled in at least three controversies over slurs (two homophobic and one racial) he probably uttered (and then denied) in confrontations with reporters and photographers who doorstepped him outside his New York apartment house.

Plus, at least two incidents in which TV personalities flipped each other the bird on TV: David Letterman flourishing his middle digit at guest Rob Lowe in October, and Savannah Guthrie doing the same to Matt Lauer when he made some stupid comment about her unfamiliarity with a vacuum cleaner on “The Today Show.”

Here’s a request: Hey, you television people, how about dialing down the crass behavior in 2014?  Yeah, like that’ll ever happen.

Monkey see, monkey do: Justin Bieber and capuchin monkey (inset).

Monkey see, monkey do: Justin Bieber and capuchin monkey (inset).

On the trivial side: The late-night hosts joked for the better part of a week about Justin Bieber having his monkey confiscated in Germany; they spent a month (or more) doing jokes about twerking and Miley Cyrus; and the entire year joking about Chris Christie’s weight.

Sharon Osbourne revealed she had a fling long ago with Jay Leno; rotund comic Louie Anderson was somehow persuaded to participate in the ABC diving-competition show called “Splash”; Hollywood heavyweight Jeff Garlin went after some guy’s Mercedes in an L.A. parking dispute; and the year’s most talked-about TV movie was “Sharknado.”

Everyone lied about Steve Carell returning for the series finale of “The Office” (they said he wouldn’t, and then he did).  Barbara Walters lied (seemingly) about her retirement (she said she wouldn’t, but then she announced she would) and about Elisabeth Hasselbeck leaving “The View” (Walters said Elisabeth wouldn’t be leaving and then Elisabeth left).

My favorite story of the year? Probably the feud Bill Maher ignited with Donald Trump when Maher comedically likened Trump’s orange hair to the fur of an orangutan.   The “feud” continued through at least three-quarters of the year, and I got five stories out of it stretching from January to September — here, here, here, here and here.

It was a year of sad news: Cory Monteith of “Glee” fatally overdosing at age 31, and James Gandolfini suddenly dying too, at age 51 — not that I ever met or knew either of them.

Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem

I am, or was, acquainted with Casey Kasem, and the stories emanating from his household this year about his relatives fighting over access to him while he suffers from what seems like a grave illness were also sad.  Though it’s been years since I last talked to him, I have always thought of him as one of the finest people I have ever come across in the broadcasting business.

The biggest ongoing story of 2013 was one that will be continued this coming February: The changes in late-night TV.  The ball got rolling last January when Jimmy Kimmel moved to 11:35 p.m. on ABC, followed by the announcement later in the year that Jay Leno would relinquish “The Tonight Show” to Jimmy Fallon.

Prediction: Fallon will do about as well as Conan O’Brien (if he’s lucky), although it’s not as likely that Jay Leno will come back this time.

A&E cancelled “Hoarders.”  And “Breaking Bad” had a series finale that everyone knew deep down was wholly implausible, and yet the “critics” gushed about it anyway.

I wrote slightly more than 600 stories in 2013, appeared on TV three times, and did six radio interviews — all on WOR in New York and five of them on “The Joan Hamburg Show,” which next year will be banished to weekends.  Alas.

I made two appearances in public, moderating seminars put on by the Center for Communication in New York.  Our panel of reality-TV execs from four cable channels last March was enlivened when a female questioner from our audience stepped up to the microphone we set up near the seats and, without hesitation, removed her shirt.  It was another first for me …

I met few celebrities and interviewed even fewer in 2013.  One exception was Lena Dunham, who was focused, intelligent and shrewd — a very good interview subject — when I met her at HBO last January.  I still don’t think I’ve ever watched an entire episode of “Girls,” however.

In July, I came to the realization that I have spent 30 years on the TV beat when I came across my first bylined TV story, a Q&A by phone with Joan Rivers, published on July 25, 1983, in the now-defunct trade newspaper called Broadcast Week.

I still cannot decide if this was a milestone worth celebrating.

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