Top 10 Things I’ll Remember About Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem!

I’m 95% certain I owned every single on this 1984 Top 10 list, even for the one song I hated.

Today’s celebrity passing news: at age 82, legendary radio DJ, animated voice actor, TV host, and professional list caretaker Casey Kasem passed away early this morning after extended illness and an unsightly captivity in unsavory media headlines that I didn’t want to read. Lord willing, it’d be awfully swell to see all that in-fighting between his relatives disappear from our front pages forever.

As previously cited on Midlife Crisis Crossover in an entry about the joys of writing lists: “Casey Kasem’s American Top 40…had a profound impact on my childhood.” Syndicated reruns of that long-running radio show are still airing each week on both commercial and satellite radio if you know where to tune. Here in Indianapolis, they’re on B105.7 Sunday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon, pleasant accompaniment for my early drives.

But that impact went beyond my list-making proclivities…

Like a Bubble in a Snowstorm

bubbles, snow

Photo by my wife, who was nice enough not to call me crazy to my face during our windblown photo shoot.

You can blow bubbles outside even while it’s snowing. Sure, the wind will whip most of them away at top speed before you can lay eyes on them. A few will be punctured in the cold, fuzzy onslaught. That’s assuming you can stay focused and aim your breath through the target despite Old Man Winter’s war on you and your foolish notion.

With the right combination of persistence and timing, your Sisyphean efforts will produce a few shimmering, fragile globes, floating in the narrow space between obstacles. For scant seconds, you can enjoy your tiny, beautiful creation and derive a little joy from it.

What brought this on…

My First Boss, 1950-2013

first bossAt age 16 the thought of a part-time after-school job never occurred to me until I received a letter one day from a man named David Sleppy, owner/operator of the McDonald’s down the street from my high school. His store had launched a new recruitment program that offered a higher starting wage to applicants who were on the school’s honor roll — $3.85/hour at a time when minimum wage was $3.35/hour. As an introverted, insular kid with no self-awareness and minimal exposure to social worlds beyond my own limited boundaries, it wasn’t tempting until I did the math and realized that $3.85/hour was greater than my $5/week allowance. I figured why not. And hey, the letter guaranteed the job. Back in those days, silver platters were my favorite way of receiving things.

Mom drove me down there the next day and I filled out an application, but left most of the blanks empty because I had no experience and no idea how to sell myself on qualities alone. I saw no blank that allowed me to describe myself as “smart” and “nice”. But it didn’t matter to me anyway. I had the letter.

When I handed it to the manager on duty, he said they’d keep it on file. He brusquely sent me on my way, despite the letter. I was crestfallen.

Later that same day, David called me personally and told me I was hired.

For me, that’s when life began.

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A Moment of Anti-Silence for MCA

Today the Internet reposts its favorite Beastie Boys videos as tribute to Adam Yauch, a.k.a. MCA, passed away too young at 47. The group notified fans on their official email list about his cancer a few years back, when it arose during the original Hot Sauce Committee recording sessions. I thought it had gone into remission months later. I was unaware of the unfortunate status change.

My vote for tribute is the first song that convinced me they had any intent of becoming Serious Artists instead of languishing as party-chasing musical pranksters. Licensed to Ill seemed at the time like novelty rock. I never “got” Paul’s Boutique, though I can understand why it has its fans. To me, Check Your Head seemed like a stronger leap forward, particularly the first single, “Pass the Mic”, though our local corporate alt-rock station prefers endless revisits to “Sabotage” and “So Whatcha Want”. It’s a rarity of sorts in that MCA leads off for once instead of batting cleanup.

One last pass of the mic, then. Note the dominoes at the end for unintended, retroactive gravitas.

To be honest, the first apropos tribute that sprang to mind was “Bodhisattva Vow”, the closest he ever came to a solo performance (as far as I’ve experienced, anyway). My beliefs aren’t Buddhist by any stretch, but I was intrigued by the passion that drove him to compose such a complex expression of what drove him. Sadly, the only linkable upload I could locate was a live version with muddled sound. My own copy of Ill Communication is a dub cassette that does it little justice.

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