Qubein reflects on death of DJ — and longtime friend — Casey Kasem
The last time Nido Qubein spoke with his longtime friend, Casey Kasem, he remembers the golden-throated disc jockey spoke, ironically, “with great difficulty.”
That was several months ago, in the midst of Kasem’s fight against Lewy body dementia, a progressive disease of the body’s neurological and muscle cells. Since then, Qubein has read the same national news stories as the rest of America, stories describing an ugly family legal battle between Kasem’s wife, Jean, and his three adult children from a previous marriage.
But when Qubein learned of Kasem’s death Sunday, he remembered his 82-year-old friend as a loyal friend, a meticulous professional who brought a sense of human decency to his job, and a generous giver.
“He was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet,” recalls Qubein, the president of High Point University and a longtime High Point resident. “I remember walking into restaurants with him in (Los Angeles), and people always knew him and treated him with great respect. And they always picked up the tab.”
Kasem graciously accepted his fans’ generosity, Qubein says, but he was generous in his own right, too, with both his money and his time. For years, he was a faithful donor to the Qubein Foundation Scholarship Fund, which Qubein established decades ago. And in the mid-1990s, when Qubein chaired the city’s annual United Way fund drive, Kasem graciously came to town to help promote the campaign.
“I had him do a countdown of the top 10 major donors to the United Way of High Point,” playing on Kasem’s widespread “American Top 40” radio success, Qubein recalls. “He was a big hit.”
Kasem and his wife also attended another fundraiser in High Point, which was held at the home of Jack and Marsha Slane, Qubein says. “People oohed and aahed over Casey Kasem being at the house,” he recalls.
Even when friends asked Qubein to hook them up with Kasem — a request the legendary DJ surely tired of in his career — he consistently obliged and agreed to talk to them, Qubein says.
Through the years, the two men worked on numerous projects together, some of them associated with the National Speakers Association, which Qubein once chaired. Their families visited one another. Qubein also served, at Kasem’s request, as a consultant for the Little Miss Liberty Round Crib Co., which was founded by Jean Kasem.
Qubein, who once watched Kasem tape a radio program, says his friend was the consummate professional in the studio.
“He was meticulous to a T,” Qubein says. “He would read every paragraph three times, then he’d listen back and pick the one he thought was his best work. He said to me once, ‘All I’ve really got is my voice and the delivery — it’s all about connecting with the listener.’ So he would make sure his voice and delivery would reach the soul of the listener, not just the ears of the listener.”
Kasem obviously enjoyed more widespread fame than does Qubein, but their friendship actually came about as a result of Kasem reaching out to Qubein. It happened in the 1980s, after Kasem heard one of Qubein’s tapes about how to become a better communicator.
“He didn’t know me at the time, but he said he took pages and pages of notes,” Qubein says.
According to Qubein, Kasem somehow brought up his name and his tape at a dinner party, and a woman there happened to be from North Carolina and knew of Qubein. At Kasem’s request, she helped bring the two men together.
“He took me out to dinner, and we just hit it off,” Qubein explains. “And since then, we’ve kept a very close relationship. He was just a very good man, and I was so sorry to hear he had died.”
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