Don Bustany Passes, Broadcast Media Pioneer and Arab American Activist
If there ever was a definition of a proud Arab American who was a passionate activist, Donald Bustany would fit the definition.
Bustany passed away on Monday in Santa Barbara, California at the age of 89. He was co-founder and producer of American Top 40 and American Country Countdown, along with the legendary Casey Kasem who was a disc jockey, music historian, radio personality, and voice actor.
Born to Lebanese Maronite immigrants Saed and Selma Bustany in Detroit, Michigan, Bustany grew up on the east side of the city where many of the early Arab Americans settled at the turn of the last century. It was in that east side Syrian-Lebanese community where he met his childhood friend, Casey Kasem.
Bustany graduated from Pershing High School and like many Arab Americans who grew up in Detroit, attended Wayne State University and then went on to Syracuse University where he received a Masters in Communications.
In the 50’s and 60’s Bustany produced local talk shows on several Los Angeles stations.
Bustany once told Arab America President, Warren David how he reconnected with Kasem in 1968 in Los Angeles when they both started producing commercials and voice-overs in a make-shift studio which was located in their apartment’s closet.
A 2013 video, recounts Bustany’s tribute to Casey Kasem at the (AAI) Arab American Institute Foundation’s Kahlil Gibran “Spirit of Humanity” Awards Gala in Washington, DC. Bustany recalled how Casey “kept nudging him to do a national countdown” and recounted how they got together with a distribution firm and formed a partnership to produce American Top 40 which launched in 1970.
In the 1970s, Bustany was camera coordinator of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and other MTM productions.
As an Arab American activist, Bustany was an active member and past president of the Los Angeles chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).
In 1996, Bustany launched the “Middle East in Focus” radio program on KPFK, Los Angeles’ Pacifica Radio Network. The program offered an alternative filling to the many gaps left by the mainstream media in their coverage of the Middle East and the Palestinian diaspora. He hosted that program until 2014.
Arab America President Warren David said, “I will always remember Don who I first met in the mid-80’s in Detroit. He was a mentor to me just as I was beginning my media career.”
Warren David added: “Don will always be remembered as a broadcast pioneer and for his passion to see peace and justice in Palestine.”
Bustany’s wife of 42 years Judith, pre-deceased him in 2015.
Compiled by Arab America