Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

He remembered everything about that night.

He remembered the song they slow danced to — “You Are My Lady.” He remembered the play of the lights in her hair as he held her. He remembered her eyes as she looked up at him. He remembered wanting to spend the rest of his life with her.

But it wasn’t to be. Before they made it to forever, she died of cancer. So would Casey please play “You Are My Lady” in memory of that angel who was lost too soon?

I may have rolled my eyes as I edited that listener’s letter to be read on the air by Casey Kasem, who died on Father’s Day at age 82 after suffering from dementia. We rolled our eyes a lot in the offices of Casey’s Top 40, the radio show he hosted after leaving American Top 40 — in a contract dispute.

We rolled our eyes at the schmaltz of R&Ds — Requests and Dedications — like the one recalled above. We rolled our eyes at the arcana and minutiae of pop-chart trivia we were required to master. We rolled our eyes as we leafed through rock magazines, searching for anecdotes on the lives of debauched young stars that we could spin into the tales of pluck and success Casey loved. (“Coming up, a rocker from Cleveland who slept on bus benches while chasing his musical dreams …”)

We rolled our eyes. Then we did it his way.

Invariably, when people find out I once worked for Casey, they ask about the infamous outtake — you can find it online — where he’s cursing and ranting about a script that requires an impossible transition from an up-tempo record to a letter from a guy whose dog has died. They want to know if that’s the way he really was.

In a word, no. I saw him every Thursday (production day) for over two years — late ’80s, early ’90s. The worst thing he ever gave me was a reproachful look — Casey was a hardcore vegan — when he saw me scarfing barbecue chicken pizza.

Otherwise, the Casey I knew was remarkably at one with the Casey we mourn this week. That Casey is probably best summed up in the words of the philosopher Huey Lewis who said, “It’s hip to be square.”

And human beings did not come at sharper right angles than Kemal Amin Kasem, a grocer’s son from Detroit turned DJ who, in 1970, launched American Top 40, a radio show counting down the top singles of the week. It was precisely the wrong time for that show. Radio was abandoning singles in favor of album-oriented playlists. And it was silly to think a nation still bloody from the 1960s would want to hear Horatio Alger tales and a corny signoff: “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars,” indeed.

People who knew about such things rolled their eyes.

But Casey had the last laugh. By the time he signed off for the last time in 2009, he was a radio icon — and also a television icon, the voice of Shaggy from the Scooby-Doo cartoons.

Like Dick Clark and Fred Rogers, Casey understood something we often forget about our national character. For all the cynicism of our people, all the Balkanization of our politics, all the studied disaffection of our celebrities, all our pose and pretense of being over it, Americans bend toward optimism. Toward hope and pluck. And toward a moving story, well told.

I sat in the studio the next day as Casey read the listener’s letter in that husky, avuncular, instantly familiar voice. He killed it, of course. To this day, in fact, I think of that poor guy slow dancing with his doomed girl whenever “You Are My Lady” is played. That song was recorded by Freddie Jackson — a former gospel singer from Harlem who used to sing backup for Melba Moore — and it peaked at No. 12 on the pop charts.

But the story was told by Casey Kasem, a grocer’s son from Detroit who was square enough to be hip while other people rolled their eyes. He went all the way to No. 1.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

Photo: Alan Light via Flickr

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.