HUMPHRIES: The Casey Kasem I knew and what I learned from him

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My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach, and the blood rushed out of my face. The video boxes were already at the printers.

“Uhhhh, Casey, what didn’t you like?” I asked.

“How many lighting crews did you get for Rush Limbaugh?! What did you spend on his makeup?!” he yelled.

“Casey, we used the same thing on Rush as we did you. To be honest, I’m just learning this video stuff,” I said.

He then calmed down and said something I still can’t believe to this day. “All right, here’s what we’ll do, I’ll pay to fly you and your cameraman back to Hollywood. I’ll get my makeup person and light crew, and we’ll do it again at my house. How does that sound?”

My jaw dropped and I tried to not take such an extravagant gift. After we talked for about 10 minutes, it sounded like he really wanted to do it, so I agreed.

That weekend, we traveled to his house. Waiting for me was a $5,000 check, a makeup artist, and a lighting crew. To be honest, we looked better but I thought the original interview was more interesting. His Bel-Air home featured a big swimming pool, a golf course and a tennis court, but he told me he didn’t swim, golf or play tennis. We talked politics a bit and didn’t agree on anything.

However, in the five hours I spent in his home, I came to understand why he wanted to re-shoot that interview. It wasn’t that he had a big ego, and it wasn’t that, as a liberal, he wanted to tell people what to do. Casey Kasem cared. Not in the way those “limousine liberals” do, where they just write checks and move on. Casey put his money where his mouth was. He wanted his portion of my video to be perfect. Those weekly long-distance dedications he recorded were perfect. He loved it when sick children came to his home, so he made everything perfect for them. Perfection was his life’s goal, and while no one can achieve perfection, Casey Kasem proved that a life that strives for it can be one of great joy, passion and prosperity.

I don’t know what happened at the end of his life, with the battles between his children and their stepmother over the quality of his care. All I know is that during the time I spent at Casey’s home, Jean Kasem made it a point not to be welcoming and Casey seemed to be walking on eggshells around her. I have met Casey’s daughter Kerri on a number of occasions in the radio business, and have found her to be fun, funny, incredibly beautiful, hard-working, and very concerned for everyone around her.

Casey Kasem’s message — “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars” — inspired two generations of music lovers. When I think of the man, what I understand him to be saying was: “Always do your best, and when you think you’ve done your best, try to find a way to do it a little better.”

Casey Kasem did make the world a little better with his voice and his positive messages. He leaves a great legacy and one I hope to follow.

To watch clips of my 1991 interview with Casey Kasem click on the video link above. “Casey Kasem talks about Life, Shaggy and THE TAPE.”

Until our next briefing, this is The Rusty Humphries Rebellion.

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