“That was the first time he had said, ‘I’m sorry for subjecting you to all of this,’ ” Caroline says. “I was a little taken aback when he said it.”
Kraddick knew his daughter had decided to go to school in Oklahoma City in part because he wasn’t on the radio there, and no one would know she was Kidd Kraddick’s daughter. She now feels a little silly complaining about her life. There were so many perks: the private-school education, the backstage passes.
They hugged, and then he drove away. It was the last time she would see her father.
That same week, Kraddick met Wilson in Arlington for a Rangers game. He brought along his fiancée. Wilson was disturbed by his friend’s appearance. He looked sick again, pale and thin.
“You look like crap,” Wilson told him. “You’re not taking your medicine, are you?”
Kraddick admitted he had stopped taking the pills that helped keep the cancer in remission. They made him feel bad.
“Okay, what’s the plan?” Wilson asked.
Kraddick looked at him. “I don’t know,” he said.
Wilson wondered if Kraddick thought he was getting sick again and perhaps didn’t want to know what was wrong.
At the end of that week in July, on a Friday afternoon, Kraddick and his staff flew to New Orleans for a Kidd’s Kids charity golf tournament. That night, part of the group ate at the Acme Oyster House and stepped out into the street at about 10 pm. That was when Kraddick saw the man selling DVDs. After waiting for Kraddick, the group moved into the crowds of Bourbon Street. People began to recognize Chavez.
“J-Si! J-Si!” they shouted across the street.
It amused Chavez that he was the first to be recognized, because he knew it would irritate Kraddick.
Chavez felt Kraddick had been responsible for many good things in his life. Chavez had only recently stopped living in his pickup truck, a Mazda single cab with flames on the side, when Kraddick hired him at 23 years old. Not only had Kraddick taught him the ropes of morning radio, but he’d also become a friend and a father figure. When Chavez bought an engagement ring, he rushed to get Kraddick’s approval.
“Dang it, J-Si!” Kraddick said. “Where did you buy this piece of crap?”
Chavez explained he had bought it on eBay. Kraddick took him to see his personal jeweler, where Chavez was shown a sparkling diamond. He figured it was more than he could afford, but the jeweler said he would cut him a deal. Chavez believes Kraddick quietly paid the difference.
On that night in New Orleans, fans began to recognize Kraddick, too, something he loved, and he always stopped to talk and take photographs. He noticed two women walking by in bikinis and asked about their attire. They had decided to get into shape for their 42nd birthdays, and they were celebrating. Kraddick bought them a couple of giant margaritas.
As the clock swept past 2 am, the group headed back to the W New Orleans hotel. Sitting in the backseat of a taxi, Kraddick and Chavez rapped Eminem songs the whole way, making the others laugh as they flubbed the lyrics. While Chavez and most of the others went up to their rooms, Kraddick went to the casino at Harrah’s New Orleans, where he was staying. He loved to play craps. Several times, his friends say, after winning big, he had gone out into Bourbon Street in the early morning hours, passing out hundred-dollar bills.
"RIP Kidd Kraddick. You were an amazing man and a friend. You are already missed."
"RIP Kidd Kraddick. You were an amazing man and a friend. You are already missed."- Mark Cuban, announcing Kraddick's death via Twitter
They headed to the Timberlane Country Club in a bus. There, they greeted dozens of families, and Kraddick went off to hit a few balls on the range. But before long, he stepped away, saying he didn’t feel well. It was a muggy, sweltering afternoon. Everyone assumed he was dehydrated.
Kraddick stepped onto the bus with his good friend and company CEO, George Laughlin. He took a sip of water, then dropped the bottle. Kraddick collapsed on the floor as Laughlin rushed toward him. He began performing CPR. The bus driver raced to a hospital several miles away, thinking it would be quicker than waiting for an ambulance.
His co-hosts arrived at the hospital, and were led into a small room. A doctor told them they had tried everything, but they had not been able to revive Kraddick. He asked if they had any questions.
Rasberry had one. “Did he suffer?”
“No,” the doctor said. “It happened so quickly, he likely didn’t even have time to be afraid.”
The doctor asked if the crew wanted to say goodbye to Kraddick. They looked at each other, nodded, and filed into the room. Kraddick lay on a hospital bed, his eyes closed.
Chavez leaned down and touched Kraddick’s forehead. “Thank you,” he told Kraddick. “I love you.”
Standing there, they all had the same thought, the desperate hope, that Kraddick would jump up and reveal it was all a joke. Just the week before, he’d done a “deathbed confessions” bit on the show. With sound effects of a ventilator and a heart monitor in the background, he had told J-Si that he liked his hot wife. Then he confessed that he was his real father. He told Rasberry he was glad they had never hooked up because the reality would not have measured up to the fantasy he had in his head. Now, in New Orleans, it seemed surreal, for the man who had been so noisy, so full of jokes and manic energy, to be lying there, motionless. It became unbearable to be in the room, but no one was ready to leave.
After they stepped out of the room, Kraddick’s friends made a promise not to tell anyone until they could reach Caroline. But a woman from the golf tournament had been taken to the hospital to be treated for heat exhaustion. She learned what had happened, and word slowly began to spread, across New Orleans, west to Dallas, and across the country.
By the time the crew’s plane landed in Dallas, Mark Cuban had announced it to the world on Twitter at 9:32 pm.
RIP Kidd Kraddick. You were an amazing man and a friend. You are already missed.
Evening anchors delivered the news on national broadcasts, and newspapers announced Kraddick’s death on their front pages across the country. “The coverage of his death was shocking to me,” says Rusty Humphries, a Phoenix radio host and former Kraddick co-host. “ How do I say this without sounding horrible? In a way, it was his crowning achievement. Mark Cuban was the guy who announced it. Harry Styles tweeted about it. People were crying in the streets. I mean, when was the last time you heard about a DJ dying? Never.”
It turned out that the cancer had not been the primary cause of Kraddick’s death. An autopsy revealed that he had severe blockages in his heart. It’s not clear whether his cancer treatments had any impact on his heart condition. A toxicology test showed that his blood contained traces of amphetamine, which is present in some attention-deficit medications. Kraddick frequently referred to his having ADD. Also in his system were marijuana, ibuprofen, and nicotine, but no alcohol or other drugs. None of those substances was considered a contributing factor in his death.
Three weeks after Kraddick’s death, Caroline sat on a gold fabric chair, on the eighth floor of the Ritz-Carlton, in a two-bedroom suite with views of the Dallas skyline. A few blocks away, at the American Airlines Center, hundreds of friends and fans had already gathered. Caroline had hosted a private Catholic funeral at a sanctuary in Arlington, and Wilson had gathered their best friends at Dallas National Golf Club, where they played a round and told their favorite stories about him. But there needed to be a public memorial as well. Thousands of listeners felt like they had lost a friend.
In the hotel suite, Caroline wore a pink t-shirt and gray sweatpants, her shoulder-length brown hair still damp from a shower, as she sat with her eyes closed, drinking whiskey. Several of her childhood best friends were there, talking and telling stories about her father. A woman from the hotel spa circled her with a blow dryer and makeup brushes, preparing Caroline for an appearance on the stage. A flowing gown hung on the bedroom door, purchased earlier that week with the help of a personal shopper at Neiman Marcus.
All the planning had helped Caroline to keep moving forward, to stop her from thinking about all the words left unsaid, all the moments they would not share: her dad walking her down the aisle, or getting to meet his grandchildren.
Caroline was now, at 23 years old, the sole heiress of her father’s multimillion-dollar estate. She was also in charge of his radio empire, with its 19 employees, and his charity. Although Kraddick had been planning for his eventual death, he had run out of time. How would Kidd Kraddick in the Morning continue without Kidd Kraddick?
Because Caroline was so young, her mother, Carol, stepped in to help manage the business affairs of her ex-husband’s company. The move didn’t please everyone. Some felt Kraddick wouldn’t want her having a hand in his business. But the couple had been married for 21 years, and Kraddick had credited Carol with pushing him early on in his career.
Then there was the matter of the fiancée, Mullen, living in Kraddick’s 31st-floor condo at the W. What would become of her? She was devastated by Kraddick’s death. (She declined to be interviewed for this story, saying she was not yet ready to talk about Kraddick.) The condominium now belonged to Caroline. Mullen was given several weeks to move out.
Tensions rose. Lawyers got involved. An attorney working for Kraddick’s estate used a subpoena to try to get video footage from cameras outside of Kraddick’s condo and storage unit, wanting to know exactly what had been taken out of the penthouse since his death. The women were trying to resolve their disputes quietly, but most people around the company knew what was happening, and some began taking sides with either his fiancée or his daughter.
But on this summer night, all that was still to come. In her Ritz suite, Caroline began to hum, warming her voice to sing, as she clicked across the marble foyer in her heels, her teary eyes covered by large Dior sunglasses. She glided into the elevator and headed down, down, down, out into the sunlight, out into a crowd growing larger by the minute.
It was time to say goodbye to Kidd.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that Tom Hicks and Mike Modano are members of Dallas National Golf Club.