Three excerpts from CNN.com this morning:
- Candace Corkum at the Gaffney Funeral Home in Tacoma, Washington, confirmed that the facility had been in possession of Casey Kasem’s body, but said that it was no longer in their care.
- “We are not surprised,” Kerri Kasem[daughter] told to CNN. “We expected something like this to happen.”
- Meanwhile, Jean Kasem [stepmother, the former Loretta Tortelli] denies that her late husband’s body is missing. “It’s not,” she told CNN.
Yesterday, I was sitting in my living room with a couple of friends drinking cheap pink champagne –like one does –and listening to a Dutch 12” of Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days.” Greg and Jill were appropriately horrified by all the rap breakdowns that had been added. “This is from that time when everybody can rap,” remarked Greg, saying the last three words like one says “everybody gets a trophy!” There were also snack chips. As we were going to see the Municipal Fireworks For No Apparent Reason down at Coney later on, Jill brought up the rooftop party on the Fourth where we watched the NYC fireworks. There was NO MUSIC at this party. We all agreed that that was horrifying beyond anything Wang Chung could do to pad a song.
But there are people that don’t need music. Across the BQE from the party was this completely, no discussion, kick-ass, albeit misspelled, piece of graffiti:
“We think it has something to do with WMD’s,” said another guest, approximately my age, as she dug into her couscous salad. “There it is!” I hip-hopped with horribly-appropriated arm movements. Nothing. No recognition whatsoever. I wanted to scream, “It was the #2 song of 1993!”
“I’m not a music person.”
I just don’t understand how people cannot enjoy music on the same level as I do. This is not like how I don’t get how some people don’t enjoy Diet Coke or my cat; this is like someone saying they’re not a “weather person.” I would hazard I spend much more time with music than I do with weather. If there’s not music on, I gotta listen to my thoughts, and no one wants those rap breakdowns. Greg took a sip of his champagne and said, “We’re just music geeks.” I thought for a second. “Y’know, I wouldn’t say I’m a music ‘geek;’ I would say I’m more of a ‘chart nerd.’”
It was Casey Kasem who made me a chart nerd. I would listen to American Top 40 every Sunday until my Dad would start laying on the horn to roust me for the drive to the twelve o’clock Folk Mass. [Siri, why does a just God allow Folk Masses to happen to good people?] If I was lucky, and the band wasn’t overcome with Charismatic Catholicism and started jamming, I would be back into the car in enough time to hear the tail end of #2 and all of #1. After the chaos of Folk Mass –Pushing a shopping cart down the aisle during the Offering! Non-wafer Eucharist! Shaking hands outside of designated Moments of Peace! Madness! –I craved the order the Top 40 provided God’s great universe. Yes, numbers seventeen through three would remain a mystery, but you gotta have Faith. Ah-faith. Ah-faith. Ahhhh.
Casey made me love music. There were no bad songs on American Top 40. One song might be more popular that week than another. You may not like #1, but it must have something because a lot of people do. He never forced his opinion on me like every college DJ I’ve ever heard. His just-the-facts approach left me free to form my own opinion, to have a reason why “Endless Love” sucked. For nine straight weeks.
With Casey, it wasn’t about the songs, it was about music. What did you hear when you drove around in America that week? How do these songs all fit together in an unbroken tapestry back to the “beginning of the rock era,” as he would always say? What amazing new record or odd coincidence would happen this week? Those always cheered him the most. The joy he radiated when The Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter 23” hit #23. And he knew his listeners were giddy about coincidence with that way he teased and held off saying “At #23, it’s ‘Strawberry Letter 23.’ Heh” until the back-announce.
I’m not ashamed to say that my weekend morning ritual involves a total of seven hours of vintage AT40’s re-broadcasts. Four hours of the 80’s on Saturdays; three hours of the 70’s on Sundays. As I write this I’m listening to the show from July 19, 1980. The second Long Distance Dedication is Ringo Starr’s “The No No Song,” which I am surprised isn’t requested more often. I’m assuming that the most requested song is “Thank You For Being a Friend.”
And now Jean Kasem’s stolen his body and is thought to have left the country. I sobbed when I found out last month that he had died, but I was also relieved that he would no longer have to be a pawn in the cruel custody battle between the children from his first marriage and Jean Kasem, his second wife for the past 30 years. I don’t pretend to know the whole story and who’s in the right. However, Jean Kasem has a record of whisking away the live Casey, and when the authorities came to retrieve him from her the last time, she did throw ground beef. On “biblical” grounds.
Now all I can think about when I listen to “this week’s” chart, besides how “Little Jeannie” really wasn’t Elton John’s best effort [weak beat, no Taupin], is what is happening with Casey’s body? If this were the 18th century, I would assume medical dissection on the down-low. Will the Puget Sound area have a Doctor’s Riot on the hands? I’m really worried she’s going to display his mummified corpse in one of those round cribs she makes. Yes, Jean Kasem has been selling Little Miss Liberty Round Cribs for well over a decade. I picture something like the scene in Gone with the Wind where Scarlett returns to Tara to find her father mad and her mother artistically lit and on display in the parlor. But, sadly, I know deep down it’s just a case of battling autopsies.
I wonder why the universe conspires to make it as hard to say goodbye to people as it possibly can. I remember after my mom’s funereal week and the plane door closed to take us back to Columbus from Milwaukee, my sister Kallen said, “After all this is over, why do they have to make it such a slog?” She was right. Wisconsin has some sort of tradition where the viewing of the body lasts eight hours. At one point, the funeral director handed me a baggie containing my mom’s gold crown. Out of her mouth. I want to move on, but first there must be a series of indignities for the one I miss.
I thought I was allowed to move on when they changed the closing credits for the American Top 40 re-broadcasts to reflect Casey’s passing. “And, of course, the legend where the Countdown began, Casey Kasem.” I guess I should check in with TMZ.