Published on February 2nd, 2015 | by Alan Cross0
The Purgatory of Casey Kasem
On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem finally died after a long and horrible illness. But his death was the beginning of one of the longest and strangest posthumous journeys a body has taken since Weekend at Bernie’s. GQ offers this tale.
When Casey Kasem’s wife got angry, it didn’t matter that the old man couldn’t walk and could barely talk. When Jean Kasem felt possessive, it just didn’t matter that her ailing husband—the legendary deejay whose warm, husky voice had once reached a reported 8 million listeners in seventeen countries—couldn’t swallow and was at risk for aspiration. Jean was upset that Casey’s two daughters from his first marriage had dared to visit their father without her permission. Her will would be done.
It was after midnight on May 7, 2014, when Jean arrived at the Santa Monica convalescent hospital where her 82-year-old husband was suffering from Lewy body dementia, a disease similar to Parkinson’s. She told the nurse on duty that it was unacceptable that Kasem’s eldest daughters had come by the day before to talk with him and hold his hand. Jean said the facility offered “no privacy for Mr. Kasem,” according to the nurse’s sworn declaration, and therefore she was removing him immediately. The nurse told Jean that such a move could kill him. Kasem’s feeding tube, which was surgically implanted in his stomach, would require immediate medical intervention if it became dislodged, and Kasem’s doctor had refused to issue discharge orders.
Jean didn’t relent. At 2:30 A.M., the sometime actress—a zaftig blonde who once played Loretta, the wife of Nick Tortelli, on six episodes of Cheers—put her bedridden husband in a wheelchair and rolled him out into the night. It had been just five years since Kasem signed off on his final countdown, but to look at him, you’d think it might have been much longer. Frail and bewildered, he was loaded into a white SUV that was driven by a private caregiver. Jean and Liberty, her 23-year-old daughter with Kasem, piled into a different SUV, this one black, and sped away. Just over a month later, Kasem would be dead—and about to embark on a posthumous journey that would take him halfway around the world.
“This broad is right out of a Raymond Chandler novel,” Logan Clarke told me, referring to Jean and sounding like a man who’s read a few Chandler novels himself. Clarke, a private investigator whom Kasem’s eldest daughter retained to track Jean down, is one of several characters in this story who come across like some fun-house distortion of an L.A. stereotype. “The six-foot blonde wannabe actress ‘kidnaps’ the seriously ill star from the hospital,” he says, “and hides him from the world, with a private eye in hot pursuit.”