By now we’ve all heard the story. When broadcasting legend Casey Kasem’s health began to decline in 2013, his daughter Kerri and her siblings were denied access to their father by Kasem’s current wife, Jean. It was a tragic turn of events and one where the court system offered little relief in the family’s plight to see their beloved father before his passing in June of 2014. A struggle which still has ramifications today.
Radio and television host Kerri Kasem has since become an outspoken advocate for visitation rights as well as given a voice to the many people who have until now suffered in silence. Her passion, along with the help of California Assemblyman Mike Gatto, has led to proposed legislation AB 1085, which provides legal recourse when children from previous marriages are denied access to a parent by their parent’s current spouse or by another family member. The bill has since taken on a life of it's own, having been introduced in more than a half-dozen other States with more on the way.
AXS had the pleasure of speaking with this inspirational woman about her cause, journey and much more!
How did you become involved in creating this Visitation Bill?
When this whole story first broke, I started talking about it on my syndicated radio show with Nikki Sixx [Mötley Crüe] as well as a few other places. I knew that something had to change. We were going through the courts and they weren't helping us. All we wanted was to do was be with our dad, but the courts could not rule on visitation. It was around that same time that I started receiving letters from people who were going through the same exact thing.
That's when I decided we had to fix this issue by creating a bill. I wasn’t sure how to go about it but I knew it had to be done. That was when Assemblyman Mike Gatto heard of my plight and got in touch with me to help create one. Since then, I’ve also been in touch with other State Senators, Representatives and Assemblymen to get them on board. Right now, there are six States that have the bill and two more which may jump on board.
What prompted you to start the Kasem Cares Foundation?
In order to raise money to make awareness for elder abuse I had to start a non-profit. The foundation was created in order to support the legislation with things like promotional material, pamphlets and speaking engagements. We need the help and support from other people in order to keep the bill going in the States that we get it in. With the foundation, I'd eventually like to build a team of lawyers so that when people don't have the money or resources to go through the courts and ask for visitation, we can provide a case secured lawyer to help them.
How can people become involved?
Go to our website and leave us your email address and we can send you a monthly newsletter about what we're doing, how to donate and get involved. You can also use social media to promote it or come to some of the events we're having.
What are some of the best memories you have of your dad?
There are so many, but I mostly remember the life lessons he taught us. He would always say that if we wanted self-esteem and to feel good about ourselves, the best way to do that was to be honest, have integrity and work hard. That’s why my siblings and I all have a strong work ethic and are successful. That’s thanks to our dad. He was incredible.
You've recently left "Sixx Sense" in order to focus more on your cause and foundation. What was it like working with Nikki Sixx?
I remember when I was a kid; all I wanted to do was be with the metal bands. I was such a metal head. So here this dream of mine was happening way later than I ever thought. I got to travel on the road with bands like Mötley Crüe, Poison and Kix. All of the bands I was in love with. It was incredible. The show was fantastic and Nikki and I had a lot of chemistry. But after four and a half years and given the choice of whether to stay and fight for my dad or going back on the road with Mötley Crüe, it was an easy decision for me. I knew I'd never see my dad again if I didn't fight now.
Are there any other projects you’ve involved in right now?
I have my local show, “New American Funding Radio” that’s syndicated on 21 stations across the U.S. I also have two local shows on 790 KABC in Los Angeles: “Barouti’s Law” and “Protecting Your Family with Naz Barouti.” I'm also involved in a syndicated show with Cumulus Media called “Red Carpet Radio” where we cover the biggest award shows from the red carpet!
How did you and Naz team up?
Naz was on the air talking about my case and was against what my stepmother was doing. She invited me on her show and I went on to talk about it and later , she asked me to be her co-host. She's an incredible woman. We’re having an incredible time focusing on every way you can protect your family. We go into everything from health to estate planning.
Have you ever given thought to writing a book about your life and mission?
I have, but don’t think it's the right time right now. For me, there first needs to be some kind of closure with my dad. Whether the bill gets passed or charges get filed, whatever it may be. I feel like I've still got a ways to go. It's been an interesting journey but all of my focus right now is on my foundation and my radio shows. We'll see.
Did you ever think that being an advocate for change is where you’re life would lead you?
It's something I never thought I would do but I'm very passionate about. I like to think that I have a little bit of my dad's spirit in me and I'm doing what he would have done.
What gives you the most satisfaction about the work that you’re doing?
Helping people. The fact that I can do something about this and stop a lot of these evil people from insanely tearing people's families apart and keeping sick loved ones away from their families and friends is so rewarding. Every day I receive letters that say, "Thank you for doing this. I thought I was the only person out there who was going through this.”
I talk to someone almost every day and when I get on the phone, they can't believe I'm talking to them. Most of the time they just burst into tears. And then by the end of the phone call they feel like there's hope. And that's the biggest thing you can give someone.