Fenton — Arab American entertainment icon Casey Kasem was honored in Fenton on April 26, where residents celebrated “Casey Kasem Day.”
Kasem, born Kemal Amin Kasem in Detroit in 1932, is a popular radio personality and accomplished voice-over actor.
On the radio, Kasem is most famous for having presented “American Top 40” from 1970 to 1988. Many in the industry credit Kasem with having popularized the “countdown” format of song presentation.
Kasem has a reputation for being an extremely hard worker and also for being something of a perfectionist in the studio. When asked if he felt that he was a perfectionist, he said simply: “No more so than anyone trying to be number one.”
Younger generations will know Kasem’s work from his role as the voice of “Shaggy” on the beloved children’s show, “Scooby Doo.”
Although of Lebanese descent, Kasem has only visited Lebanon once. He remains, however, an active member of the Arab American community, and has written a brochure for the Arab American Institute. Kasem said that being an Arab American has had a positive impact on his career.
A native Michigander, Kasem has family ties in Fenton and throughout Genesee County. It was for this reason he was invited to be honored in aid of the Fenton Community Center’s new project to build a cultural center. The center will be an attachment to the current Fenton Community Center, and will house a 350-seat auditorium, two classrooms, and a galleria to display art work.
“Casey Kasem Day” was an honorary holiday celebrated the day before Kasem’s 76th birthday.
The day’s festivities included an afternoon screening of “Scooby Doo and the Monster of Mexico” followed by a session of autograph signing and impressions by Kasem. A local radio station also sponsored a “Shaggy” impersonation contest.
In the evening, a concert was held in the Fenton High School auditorium with a musical performance by British-born rocker, John Waite, the lead singer of bands Bad English and The Babys.
A star of the 70s and 80s, it was artists like Waite who benefited tremendously from Kasem’s promotion of their work.
The small town of Fenton is an unlikely venue for a rock concert featuring a swaggering Brit-rocker and concert-goers were unquestionably loving the change of pace. Waite charmed the audience with his soft, Lancashire accent, his commentary on American air travel, and his frequent, self-deprecating references to his white socks. (For British men, wearing white socks is as offensive an idea as cursing in public).
After the music, Waite was presented with a key to the city and led the audience in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to Casey.”
Bob Burek, who co-chaired the event, said he was thrilled with the evening.
When asked how much money the community center hoped to make, Burek shrugged off the question.
“We don’t have a clue. The publicity from an event like this is worth a million dollars to us.”
It was clear throughout the performance that the audience was delighted to have Kasem and Waite as guests in their town, and the crowd was still beaming as they left.
Kasem himself weighed in, “I can’t remember a time in my 76 years on this earth when I’ve ever enjoyed a show so much.”
From a man who has followed the careers of some of pop music’s most prolific and well-loved artists, that is quite a bold statement. And yet, it was clear he meant every word.