Casey Kasem April 27, 1932-June 15, 2014

Casey Kasem created the music radio program “American Top 40.” He was the voice of Shaggy on my favorite cartoon show, Scooby-Doo.

Jean and Casey Kasem. Chad Buchanan/Getty ImagesKasem never really cared for one type of music over another. But he knew his subject and he knew his audience and kept up with it like a top selling salesman. Hit singles in various genres came and went, but it was Kasem’s delivery and regular-guy appeal that brought listeners back to their radios time and time again.

“What really matters,” he said, “it what I say between the songs,” he said. Many likened his comfortable, on-air ways to that of soft slippers; his relentless upbeat outlook to life, the close of every show: “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars,” a little bit corny.

In 1988 his relationship with American Top 40 ended due to a contract dispute. The next year, he started Casey’s Top 40 on another network and brought a good portion of his old audience with him. Ten years later he had secured the rights to the name and again hosted American Top 40.

In 2004 he handed hosting duties over to Ryan Seacrest, but remained in the background, writing and producing. In 2009, Kasem quietly retired on the 39th anniversary of his first Top 40 program.

Kasem had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia in 2007. Lewy body dementia is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system similar to Parkinson’s disease. In 2013, when his health had deteriorated to the point he was unable to care for himself, a bizarre feud erupted between his second wife (Jean) and the children of his first marriage. It began when Jean refused visitation to his children, to see their father.

Casey & KidsIn May of 2014, a court granted Casey’s daughter Kerri (42) conservatorship over her father, which included the right to make all medical decisions on his behalf. The  problem with that was that nobody knew where he was. Jean had moved him from a nursing home several days earlier and was hiding him. “He was no longer in the United States,” she told the court.

Several days later, however, he was found in Washington state, unresponsive. Kasem died two week later. Jean had the rights to Kasem’s body, and she collected his remains from a hospital in Tacoma, Wash. But a month after his death, he still remained unburied in a nearby funeral home. A few days after that, his body went missing from the funeral home.

A representative for the family became involved and stated that Jean “is hiding him from authorities and is hiding the body away from family and friends.” His daughter Kerri lobbied through the Kasem Cares Foundation for legislation in the California state senate that would grant visitation rights to adult children with an ailing parent.

The rep stated, “they just want their dad to be buried where he wanted to be buried – Forest Lawn [in Glendale, Calif.]. They’d like to be able to visit him.”

Jean had Kasem buried in an unmarked grave at Oslo Western Civil Cemetery in Norway, a country where Kasem had no relatives, ties, heritage and had never visited. He lies there alone, and where he will most likely spend eternity.

 

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Frank Lloyd Wright (June 8, 1867-April 9, 1959)

Wright and Wife

Wright and Olgivanna

Married three times, divorced twice, no stranger to tragedy; Frank Lloyd Wright, without question, was the greatest American architect of all time. In his lifetime he designed more than one thousand structures and completed over 500 of them.

Living in Milwaukee, there are three duplexes not far from me that are Wright designed homes. They have those organic lines, low-pitched roof lines and deep overhangs. You can’t drive by them without doing a double-take.

Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin on June 8, 1867 and after a few years of apprenticeship he started his own Chicago firm and immediately preached his philosophy of “organic architecture.” Its central principle demanded that a structure be developed out of its natural surrounding.

He was a bold revolutionary in industrial designs and introduced innovations such as steel-reinforced concrete, all-glass revolving doors, indirect lighting, air conditioning and metal furniture. New York City’s Guggenheim Museum is an example of a Frank Lloyd Wright work that mimics a design found in nature.

Taliesin SG

Taliesin in Spring Green today

Wright converted his Taliesin home in Wisconsin into a school and workshop, but in 1914 tragedy struck one night when Wright was away on business. An employee of the school set fire to Taliesin, burning it to the ground. Before setting the fire he nailed the exterior doors shut except for the lower half of a Dutch door. By the time the fire was put out, seven people lost their lives, including five who had been bludgeoned with an ax by the employee as they tried to escape through the bottom of the Dutch door. Wright’s wife and two stepchildren were among those who were dead.

Wright rebuilt Taliesin in Wisconsin and later remarried. In 1938 he built Taliesin West atop a central Arizona mesa, as a winter home and school. This 37,000-square-foot estate includes living quarters, offices and farm buildings that are subtly distinguished from the environment.

Taliesin West

Taliesin West today

Wright died at 91 in Arizona at Taliesin West from complications after surgery for an intestinal blockage. Per his wishes, he was buried at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisc. alongside the confessed love of his life, his mistress Mameh. She had been killed that night in 1914.

Wright’s second wife, Olgivanna, had her own idea about where he would spend eternity. Upon her death in 1985, her will stipulated that he be exhumed and cremated. His cremains mixed with her own and the combined remains kept in an urn at Taliesin West.

Her wishes were fulfilled and the urn holding the ashes is kept in Scottsdale. It is NOT available for public viewing and is currently tucked away “in storage.”

 

Elizabeth Taylor

Liz Taylor graveBorn in London, England on February 27, 1932, Elizabeth Taylor was the epitome of a movie star. She had beauty, glamour, a celebrity lifestyle and an enormous talent.

She was a child actress, performing in National Velvet at the age of 12 before moving on to adult roles such as A Place in the Sun at age 20 and winning an Oscar for BUtterfield 8 at age 28. Considering she was never professionally trained in acting, her skills were exceptional. Though many critics wondered if anyone as beautiful as Elizabeth Taylor could also be talented, she could play a vixen, a wounded victim or a melodramatic heroine. It seemed she had to prove her abilities all her life.

Her next film, Cleopatra, would change her life. She received $1 million for that film (the first actress to do so), and she met Richard Burton, who played Mark Anthony. They began a tempestuous relationship, causing them to marry and divorce twice and their lives would be forever bound together, some would say.

Of her seven husbands, Burton was “the love of her life.” She even said that had he not died, she probably would have married him a third time.

Taylor was dogged by the paparazzi, but she existed for her fans. Her private life played out in the magazines and scandal pages. But behind all that press was a star with a sense of morality, even though she habitually married her lovers. People remarked that she became “Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky.”

cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof_babed93bShe said once, “I’ve been lucky all my life. Everything was handed to me. Looks, fame, wealth, honors, love. I rarely had to fight for anything.”

But she did have her share of misfortune. Richard Burton died before his time and Michael Todd (her third husband), died in a plane crash at 48.

She struggled with alcohol and an overeating problem. Juggling five doctors, she managed hundreds of antidepressant and painkiller prescriptions which sent her to Betty Ford. Plus she suffered at least 70 incidents requiring hospitalization.

But she didn’t need to make movies to make money and influence the public. She marketed her own perfume and made millions. She raised nearly $300 million for AIDS and was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1993. In 2000, Queen Elizabeth II honored her with a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (an honor on the level of knighthood).

Taylor was also known for her love of jewels and her remarkable collection was the most valuable jewelry collection ever. When it was sold at Christie’s it brought in $156,756,576 and every single item sold. It generated intense interest from bidders throughout the world.

On March 23, 2011 she died of congestive heart failure. At her request, the funeral began 15 fashionable minutes late because she stated she wanted to be late for her own funeral. She’s buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif. In the Hall of Memory you’ll see a 12-foot-high, Michelangelo-like carved statue of an angel with arms outstretched, beneath which is the crypt of Elizabeth Taylor.

 

 

Susan Hayward

Hayward graveSusan Hayward died March 14, 1975 at age 57. She was born Edythe Marrenner on June 30, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York.

She attended public school and a commercial high school and had plans on becoming a secretary. Edythe started doing some modeling work for photographers in the New York area and by 1937 her beauty was in full bloom. She went to Hollywood when the nationwide search was on for someone to play the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind.

Although she lost out to Vivien Leigh, she went on to carve out her future in Hollywood. She landed some bit parts, but in 1939 she landed the part of Isobel Rivers in Beau Geste. She went on to play Millie Perkins in Among the Living in 1941. She continued to receive movie roles and in 1947 she received the first of five Academy Award nominations for her portrayal of Angelica Evans in Smash Up: The Story of a Woman. Unfortunately, she did not win the Oscar.

She continued to come close to winning an Oscar until 1959 when she did win for Best Actress in a Leading Role for I Want to Live! She also won a Golden Globe for the same movie, and she earned her star on the Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960 at 6251 Hollywood Blvd.

stolen-hoursIn 1973, Susan discovered she had a brain tumor. The same affliction that her character had in a movie she appeared in entitled The Stolen Hours.

Hayward eventually died of brain cancer. She’s buried at the Cemetery of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Carrolton, Georgia. You can’t miss her grave in the Chalkey plot with the elaborate curved stone headwall.