KISStory And Bill Aucoin: The Hottest Band In The World
By Tim McPhate & Julian Gill
Remembering KISS manager, creative guru and friend, Bill Aucoin...
"I'm not interested in working with you unless you want to be the biggest band in the world." And so goes one of the initial tales of the legend that is KISS. The words? They were uttered by none other than Bill Aucoin during his first meeting with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in 1973, who as fate would have it were scheming a similar grand design for their new group KISS. In many ways, the pairing of KISS with Bill Aucoin -- the merging of two entities with big ideas -- was destiny.
Part manager, part businessman, part brother, and part parent, Bill Aucoin was also a visionary. He saw something special in a quartet of guys who played an aggressive brand of rock music and looked like a crude villain version of the New York Dolls, and formulated a plan to take them to the top. In a sense, Aucoin was also a high-stakes poker player, essentially gambling on his own dime in an attempt to take the rock that was KISS and polish it into a shiny diamond, along the way always projecting bluffs in the form of the "larger than life" KISS philosophy. The gamble would pay off as KISS and Bill Aucoin and his vision would ascend the greatest of heights and emerge on the other side as the "hottest band in the world."
William Martin Aucoin was born Dec. 29, 1943, and grew up in Ayer, Mass., where his father ran a restaurant. He always wanted to be involved in broadcasting or entertainment and even built a radio station in his parent's basement as a teenager -- until it wad forced by the FCC to go off the air. While he was still a high school student he managed a band who signed to Verve Records, though nothing ever came of the act. Attending Northeastern University, Aucoin majored in business administration but soon started paying dues for an entertainment career in interning at PBS' Boston affiliate, WGBH. While developing skills as a cameraman and directing, Aucoin also worked on production teams that conceptualized cooking ("Julia Childs' French Chef") and music ("Folk Music USA") shows.
Following graduation, Aucoin joined Teletape Productions in New York City to direct television commercials. His work for major New York advertising agencies earned him recognition through a CLIO Award (CLIO Awards honor advertising and design work in various mediums), and an Art Directors Award. During this time Aucoin also worked on a television special for Barbra Streisand and commercials for the presidential campaign of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Before long, Aucoin was branching out with his own concepts.
Little came of "Saturday At The Movement" -- a pop culture-type program which is theorized by some as the basis for the long-running "Saturday Night Live" -- but Aucoin's music TV show, "Flipside," was in a vein similar to the two of the era's better-known programs, "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert" and "The Midnight Special." Though short-lived, the show featured diverse musical acts from John Lennon to BJ Thomas and Stevie Wonder to Rick Derringer. (One episode would coincidentally feature a fiery young record label executive, Neil Bogart.)
Aucoin wanted the music side of the show to sound right to the artists, something which was often not the case with many music-based TV shows, resulting in the show being filmed in studios with the producers that the artists were familiar with.
"Flipside" lasted but 13 episodes. A key figure who entered Aucoin's life at this time was Sean Delaney, who had been working as a musical waiter in the East Village(8). The two would remain partners throughout much of the '70s. However, it would be those involved in "Flipside" who would become central to KISS' heyday as part of Rock Steady: Aucoin, associate producer Joyce Biawitz (who became KISS' co-manager, would marry Neil Bogart and later co-manage Donna Summer), and producer Howard Marks (later KISS' business manager). After dealing with the politics of TV executives who thought that rock and contemporary musicians had no place on television, Aucoin decided to try his hand in the music industry, drawing upon his ability to manage musical talent, his directorial background and a sharpening business acumen.
Gene Simmons had noted Aucoin's name from the NBC broadcasts of "Flipside" and was contacting him with "weekly bulletins." "My only thought about it, from looking at the pictures, was that they'd be a terrific performing band," joked Aucoin.(1) It would be another record executive who invited Aucoin to go to a KISS showcase at the Hotel Diplomat. Following that show, Aucoin famously offered the band 30 days to get them a contract or he would walk away. To his credit, Aucoin saw a potential right away, a potential for big things. "When I met Gene and Paul, I said, 'If we're going to do it, if you're interesting in working hard and making this a major, major group, then I'd be willing to put as much as I can behind it,'" he said. (2)
The band, in turn, was also impressed with both Aucoin's spirit and his professional profile. "Back then, I knew that the manager of KISS would have to be a multimedia person," said Simmons. "[KISS] was going to be a multimedia group... So Bill's television and film background were crucial."(2) "I remember the first thing I asked him was, 'Why do you want to do this? What's in it for you?'" recalled Stanley. "He said, 'I've never done this before and I want to put together the kind of band that's gonna be the biggest band in the world.'" Peter Criss was also convinced: "I liked him right away. When I met him, I was impressed. I felt he was honest."(2)
Aucoin made good on his promise and got the band signed to the Neil Bogart's fledgling Casablanca Records, and then started the work of honing the rough edges around the band. He immediately took to building on the basic KISS idea and made them wear full unified white-face makeup designs, where previously each band member had been doing their own thing visually. This separated the band from the New York Dolls' visual style of glam, and the direction was an obvious spin-off from Aucoin's background as a TV producer/director. He also drew upon his background skills to videotape the band rehearsing and then playback the results so that the band could see how they looked when performing. This was an important element of refining the KISS show, and allowed them to be better directed and choreographed.
Aucoin was also responsible for the several of the band's key gimmicks, notably the fire-breathing. "To put it bluntly, the four of us created the makeup, the logo, the tunes, and the look and feel of KISS," said Simmons. "But it was Bill who took it all the way."(2) But, again visually, Aucoin was already ahead of the game in presenting the band with their first lighted stage logo, to replace their tattered spider-web backdrop, at their first professional show, opening for Iggy Pop and Blue Oyster Cult on Dec. 31, 1973. This set the stage for Aucoin's full investment and commitment to the band.
As another example of his management skill-set, Aucoin saw the importance of financial equality among the band members. "I approached the guys and said, 'We all agree that we're going to be a major act, and that means a lot of money. In the long run, the difference between one person making a few thousand or even a few hundred thousand dollars is not going to mean anything. I don't want you to break up over money.... Let's make our arrangements so unified that nothing can destroy."(2) Early tours were designed to expose the band to as wide a rock audience as possible. But KISS, with its one-of-a-kind stage show and theatrics, began encountering problems from the get-go. "We used to have fights with Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath," said Aucoin. "They just couldn't believe it, 'What is this act that's opening up for us? This makeup rock and roll band!'"(4)
In another testament to his gambling proclivities, it has been suggested that Aucoin put a quarter of a million dollars of his own money into KISS during these crucial formative years. "Bill Aucoin had used his American Express credit card to push the band for the first like 18 months to two years of their career," said producer/engineer Eddie Kramer.(4)
"I had never put more than about $100 on my American Express card," remembered Aucoin. "And I'll never forget getting a call from American Express and they said, "Mr. Aucoin, you've spent $25,000 this month. Do you expect to pay it?' (laughs) And of course I said, 'Absolutely, no question about it. I'm gonna pay it.' Knowing there wasn't a chance!"(4) With Aucoin putting up his own money, and sales of KISS' first trio of albums failing to light up the charts, financial situations had turned dire for not only him, but the band and Casablanca Records. For 1975's "Dressed To Kill" album cover photo shoot, there wasn't even enough of a budget for wardrobe rental, as KISS had to borrow four of Aucoin's suits for the shoot.
"We didn't have any money. In fact, I couldn't afford rent," said Aucoin. "Fortunately, I lived in a house where the landlady was a creative person and so she understood. So she just let it slide for a while. My friends said I was nuts because I managed a group wearing makeup."(2) It was during this time that Aucoin would assume the role of sole manager of the group, as he had been sharing managing duties with Joyce Biawitz, who was becoming involved with future husband Neil Bogart. "Joyce met Neil on 'Flipside' and she fell in love with him," recalled Aucoin. "Neil said, 'You come and live with me and I'll marry you.' Neil told me, 'Joyce is leaving the company. I want you to buy her out.' And I came up with a figure."(1)
All the while, there had been an idea brewing for a KISS live album, which would be a souvenir of the explosive KISS concert experience. On paper, it seemed like a good idea, but it was also a cost-cutting one. "We really knew that if we could capture the live performance somehow, it could be a good album," said Aucoin. "Plus it was a lot cheaper than being in the studio for a couple of months."(4) As both the label and KISS seemed to be teetering on the brink of abject financial ruin, "Alive!" was released Sept. 10, 1975, and became the key cog in consummating Aucoin's vision. Produced by Kramer, the album exploded past platinum status and reached a high point of No. 9 on the Billboard 200 album chart, backed by the strength of a hit radio single in the live version of "Rock And Roll All Nite." Perhaps most importantly, "Alive!" was more than just music. It resonated the idea behind KISS with millions of fans: the show, the makeup, the characters, the mystique, the fun -- all housed within a double-vinyl set and gatefold cover, and containing a color booklet and hand-penned letters from the band.
"The band had fashioned an image that would bond them with their fans' desires and dreams. Shrewdly crafting this image was the domain of Bill Aucoin and Howard Marks Advertising," recalled Chris Lendt, an employee with Glickman/Marks Management.(3) Just a month later, KISS would take part in a big event that would go down as one of the most memorable in the band's history. The coach of a struggling high school football team in Cadillac, Mich., wrote a letter to KISS, telling a tale of how his players became inspired by KISS' music. Aucoin saw the possibilities right away and seized the opportunity in arranging a special visit to Cadillac. "Bill and Carol Ross-Durborow, KISS' publicist, staged a media event in Cadillac... It was a huge PR coupe that made the national press," said Lendt.(3)
As KISS began to ascend the heights to stardom, the band members and Aucoin forged a closer bond. "Bill became very close with the KISS members. They took him in as an equal, like a fifth member of the group. KISS adored Bill." recalled Lendt.(3) "At his best, Bill was the greatest manager we could have hoped for. He shared our vision and was a calming force and also a teacher," said Stanley.(2) "Bill was the Brian Epstein of KISS.... He was a father, an uncle, a mother, a brother, and a sister," said Criss.(2) "Bill was terrific. He was a showman, a guy who believed in doing it all.... Bill was very, very important to the band," said Simmons.(2) Aucoin would later reflect on his "sons" in KISS. "Paul and Gene are like brothers. They're practically tied at the hip," said Aucoin of Stanley and Simmons.(1) "Ace was great. He was probably the most lovable guy in the band in a sense because he was so genuine. Ace would give you the shirt off his back, and he meant it," Aucoin described Ace Frehley. Regarding Criss, Aucoin said, "Peter is a very emotional guy, very sensitive -- and that created problems at times. He was very sweet."(1)
1976's "Destroyer" was an important album coming off the success of "Alive!" KISS was paired with wunderkind producer Bob Ezrin, who was fresh off shaping the sonic blueprint for a series of albums with fellow theatrical rocker Alice Cooper. With this partnership, Aucoin saw even more potential for his prized commodity. "[Bob] was bright and together and he really wanted to make a very successful record" said Aucoin. "And he was good for them I thought. It brought them to another level plus the fact that it was still a real rock and roll record. I wanted to cut across a wider range and show people that [KISS] could really do something more significant."(2) Released in March 1976, by summer "Destroyer" had all but stalled with sales of approximately 850,000 units. "Detroit Rock City" was released as the album's third single, and failed to chart at all. But out of this failure, emerged a glimmer of hope when B-side and oddity "Beth" started getting more airplay in certain rock markets.(6) The song skyrocketed to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming KISS' highest-charting single and first gold-selling single.
During the "Destroyer" studio sessions, strangely enough "Beth" was not a consensus pick among the band members. But it was Aucoin who helped fight for its inclusion. "Paul and Gene wanted to take 'Beth' off the album," said Aucoin. "I said, 'Look, I think it's a hit. I know it's not necessarily a KISS song but it does have a rock and roll lyric to it. It's gonna stay on the album.' And they didn't fight me after that. I always thought 'Beth' was a major hit because no one else did."(2) Criss later recalled a moment he shared with Aucoin in his New York apartment: "One snowy night around the holidays, Bill Aucoin dropped by my brownstone apartment and we had a fire going. We all sat around the couch and Bill said, 'Listen to this.' And he put 'Beth' on and it was real quiet. It was an incredible moment. Then when it was done playing, Bill said, 'Guess, what? The album's got a bullet again and is doing great. This is going to be the hit off the album.' We just all dropped dead. I remember it was such a beautiful moment."(2)
KISS did not look back throughout the end of 1976 and into 1977, playing to thousands of people at home and abroad, and literally scaling comic book heights. Aucoin was the master of ceremonies, uncovering innovative ideas such as promotional campaign for KISS' first tour of Japan in spring 1977, which included wining and dining a group of pressers, who would write concert reviews, take photos, and help feed the KISS PR monster. A mission statement to the Aucoin management mantra had slowly emerged. "My basic philosophy concerning management stems from an admiration of the early film industry," said Aucoin. "I believe that an artist needs a total organization -- a complete environment -- around him. With that in his favor, the artist can create and grow without any fears, and it's the manager's responsibility to provide that atmosphere for the artist."(3)
Aucoin was finally starting to see a return on his investment, too. Deservedly so, he had a lucrative management contract with KISS, receiving a 20 percent commission on income from records, concerts and merchandising. Speaking of merchandising, once again proving his foresight, Aucoin had purchased Boutwell Enterprises (and renamed it Boutwell/Niocua), and gained ownership of both the merchandising rights to KISS and a split of the deal points derived from exploiting those rights. In other words, Aucoin was essentially paid twice over on merchandising income from KISS belt buckles, sleeping bags, makeup kits, tour books, T-shirts, color forms, dolls, notebooks, posters, board games, puzzles, and more. Just about how much money did all this amount to? Between 1977 and 1979, KISS' worldwide retail sales for merchandise sold in stores and on tour grossed an estimated $100 million. With the rise in income, Aucoin's business expanded accordingly. His enterprise took over the entire 14th floor at 645 Madison Avenue in New York, and he subsequently opened an office in Los Angeles, with approximately 40 staffers working for him by the end of 1978. Aucoin began taking on new acts as well, adding artists such as Starz, Piper, and Spider, among others, to his roster.
It was Delaney who signed Starz, and Rock Steady managed to get them signed to Capitol Records. Without a major hit the band never broke, nor had the full support of the label, unlike the situation Aucoin had with KISS at Casablanca. Another misstep was Aucoin not signing an energetic young band from Pasadena, Calif., discovered by Simmons, Van Halen. Aucoin didn't feel they had "hit song" potential, nor had they performed very well at a showcase in New York City. Back on the KISS front, with the band reaching platinum- and headlining-level status, Aucoin began to map out his next set of moves for the band. "I think for KISS, what we're trying to do is we'll move into other areas, into feature films..." said Aucoin.
In many ways, it was this type of thinking that showed Aucoin to be a manager ahead of his time. Long before the advent of the MTV phenomenon, Aucoin was marketing KISS as a visual entity, even going so far as shooting promotional videos. "You have to think of your acts visually as well as audibly," said Aucoin. "TV or movie cameras are brutal. And if you're going to be able to bring your acts through to that medium, you really had better start thinking about it now." The two major linchpins to KISS' 1978 plan lied in solo albums from each respective member and a made-for-TV movie, "KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park." The solo albums were Aucoin's grand design, on par with his grand vision, but it is important to note they were also conceptualized out of necessity. "The solo albums were centered around giving the guys a break from each other. It gave them independence," said Aucoin.
As production got underway for "KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park" in spring 1978, band member tensions required the band to seek that independence. "A lot of trauma started to come out of the woodwork," said Aucoin of the tenuous atmosphere on set. Aucoin would serve as executive producer on "KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park," a movie described later by Stanley as a bad version of "'A Hard Day's Night' meets 'Star Wars'" and produced in partnership with Hanna-Barbera Productions. With the band retreating to record their solo efforts, the project was materializing into something unprecedented. Firstly, no other band had ever undertaken a cohesive solo album project. Second, the solo album project was big business, evidenced by a lofty $2.5 million budget for TV, radio, print and in-store promotions, and single releases from each member.
For his part, Neil Bogart shipped 4 million of the KISS solo albums into stores in September 1978. While sales were strong considering, nearly half of the pile was left unmoved. "Part of the tragedy of the initial release of the solo albums was the fact that we all expected it to be huge and we got caught in our own trap," said Aucoin.(4) Bogart's overzealousness with regard to the solo albums payed a huge toll on Casablanca. "The four KISS solo albums, from day one, I knew were going to f*** up the company," said Larry Harris, Casablanca Records' senior vice president and managing director. "We really didn't want to put out those albums. But we had no choice. It was Howard Marks and Bill Aucoin coming in and saying, "Look the band is going to break up and the only way we think we can keep them together for now is to have each of them do a solo album."(6) While cracks on the surface further materialized as the calendar turned to 1979, Aucoin hatched the plan for "The Return Of KISS." Themed around the new studio album "Dynasty," KISS would return to the road for their first U.S. tour in two years.
Aside from more colorful costumes, the centerpiece of "Dynasty" was its first single, "I Was Made For Lovin' You," a song co-written by Desmond Child and featuring a driving disco beat set to electric guitars and a sing-along chorus. The song proved to be the proverbial double-edged sword in reaching No. 11 on the U.S. singles chart (and charting high in many other countries worldwide) and becoming the band's second gold single. Despite its success, however, the song alienated longtime fans, and KISS concerts were now virtual playgrounds featuring hordes of young kids who tapped into the band via the "Star Wars"-like merchandising craze. While "Dynasty" reached double-platinum status and the accompanying concert trek spanned 79 shows and an average attendance of more than 10,000, the band came limping home in December. The rest of the industry was limping too, in experiencing its first recession in 30 years. In the United States alone, album sales declined 10.4 percent from 1978 to 1979, which amounted to a value-based sales drop of 11 percent.
Of course, KISS still knew how to have fun, evidenced by the band's now-legendary appearance on the "Tomorrow With Tom Snyder" show on Halloween night 1979. Aucoin recalled the appearance fondly. "My favorite TV appearance was the 'Tomorrow' show," he said. "What happened was when Ace was interviewed for the show he was drunk so he didn't do the initial interview before the show. So they tell Snyder that 'Gene and Paul are your main people'; Peter is pretty good; and Ace isn't gonna do anything. He'll probably sit there like a bump on a log.' I shared a bottle of champagne with Ace in the dressing room and he was ready! And Snyder couldn't believe it, he thought his people had set him up. Every time Ace said something Snyder went to pieces. He was laughing and screaming. It was a turn of events that worked brilliantly. Gene was upset because Ace took over the show."(2)
As it came time to get back to work amid a new decade, there was second guessing in the KISS camp. "They didn't want to be a kiddie band so they wanted me to cut the merchandising," said Aucoin. "And the only way this is all gonna happen is if we took off the makeup. I was against all of those things and this was the beginning of a flap between the band and I."(2) It was natural for Aucoin to be perturbed at the idea of losing the makeup, as it had been a major component of KISS' success. Aucoin even went so far to register the individual members' makeup designs with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, another foreshadowing stroke of brilliance. The band held water with 1980's "Unmasked," which received a lukewarm reception in being the first KISS album not to go platinum in five years. But there was another problem. The other boot dropped officially on the eve of the album's release in May when it was announced Peter Criss would be leaving the group.
A shock at the time, but with the added benefit of hindsight Criss leaving the band made sense given his relationship became strained with his fellow bandmates and his erratic behavior on the 1979 tour. Eric Carr was announced as Criss' replacement, complete with a new Fox makeup persona, and the band headed off for a tour of Europe and down under. KISS' tour of Australia and New Zealand perhaps marked the final highlight of the Aucoin/KISS era. "Super KISS" was reprised for a run of 11 dates, fueled by lavish boat parties, even more merchandising (KISS ice cream, anyone?), local hysteria, and unprecedented media coverage. "It was big in all the ways KISS was known for," recalled Lendt. "The big show, the big production, the big promotion, the big spectacle, the big crowds, the big hype, the big media circus -- and, as it turned out, the big watershed event for KISS."(3) "We took probably the biggest show ever to Australia," said Aucoin. "They'd never seen anything like us.... The whole country stopped for us."(2)
In 1981 KISS was due to turn in another studio album. Aucoin, in a last-ditch effort to resuscitate KISS in the United States, summoned back Bob Ezrin. "We needed another album for the record label and they weren't really writing. The only person that I knew that would understand them -- the personalities and what really needed to be done -- was Bob Ezrin. So I asked Bob to come back."(4) The resulting project, "Music From The Elder," while steeped in much creative intrigue, was a commercial failure, and the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. "'The Elder' is probably more a Bob Ezrin album, than it is a KISS album," said Aucoin.(4) Frehley was disgusted with the album's direction, and it would be a key factor in his decision to follow Criss' footsteps out the door. "That album was the icing on the cake," noted Frehley.(4)
Reaching an all-time low point in their career, Stanley and Simmons turned inward and agreed that some changes would be needed, including management. Aucoin and KISS officially parted ways in May 1982. While the vision had long ago been realized, the desire and passion seemed to have faded for Aucoin and the band. He was now often spending more time looking for other acts with which to repeat the success while being paid by KISS, notably Billy Idol. His involvement with other acts proved to be a bone of contention with Simmons. "He got involved with lots of other bands," said Simmons. "I personally went up to him and said, 'This is not going to fly. KISS is more than a band and we need you here."(4) KISS too was looking to cut costs and perhaps felt that as part of the rejuvenation process that they needed to do a certain amount of house cleaning. "Gene and Paul came into my office and said, 'Look, [we] think that basically it's time to leave.' And that was pretty much it." said Aucoin.(4) The farewell was emotional for both sides. "Paul and Gene met with Bill at his office and told him their decision," said Lendt.(3) "One day they walked into the office and we discussed it and we wound up crying," said Aucoin. "I remember we were all crying our eyes out. Tears, and crying and hugging each other. It was very unusual for them. And that was it."(2)
Stanley later recalled the decision. "By the early '80s, we realized that if KISS was going to be saved, we were the ones who were going to do it," he said. "And that meant cutting out all of the coddling, all of the excess and all of the babying that was going on around us, and get back to basics -- and one of the first steps in doing that was for us to split from Bill Aucoin."(1) Aucoin pressed on, working with the aforementioned Billy Idol while he was still a member of Generation X. Aucoin was responsible for bringing in guitarist Steve Stevens to Idol's band, even though Idol didn't like him initially and thought that he overplayed. Idol would go on to platinum status in the United States on the strength of albums such as "Rebel Yell" and "Whiplash Smile."
By 1986 KISS and Aucoin had officially severed ties, as Aucoin agreed to have his interest bought out for a one-time payment, and released the band from any further obligations.
After working with a handful of acts throughout the '80s and into the '90s, Aucoin left the business. He re-emerged with Aucoin Globe Entertainment in 2007, which saw him return to music management and resulted in his involvement with Finnish band Lordi, who just happened to be without a manager following the band's win in the Eurovision song contest in 2006.
Meanwhile, after unmasking in 1983 KISS continued into the non-makeup era with varying degrees of success, but longtime fans always wondered about a potential KISS reunion. From the sidelines, Aucoin held out hope for a full-scale reunion and felt the 1995 KISS Convention tour were a crucial step.
"Eventually I think they realized that it would be at least worth a try to get back together and it happened because of the KISS Konventions," said Aucoin. "There came a point in time when they realized that there are lot of fans going to these conventions and they should do the Konventions themselves. And when they started doing them they realized how important the fans thought the original KISS was. Then they decided to invite Ace back to one of the Konventions. Then they invited Peter back and they realized the fans loved them too.... And that finally made them to see maybe it would be worthwhile to do it. When they did 'MTV Unplugged' they realized that it was very strong and the fans really wanted it to happen." (5)
Aucoin even entertained the thought of coming back to work in the KISS camp. "During that time when Gene, Paul and I got together about potentially doing it, I felt it wouldn't be right for me to go back again. I always felt good about starting with new artists and helping new ideas grow and that was something I had been doing and that is basically why I didn't. But as you know it became very popular and successful again and it was great to see them back in form again."(5)
Like any other fan, Aucoin smiled from the sidelines in watching the monumental success of the KISS Reunion trek in 1996 and 1997. He had come to visit the band during their four-night homecoming in Madison Square Garden in July 1996. While things seemed to be going smooth on the surface, Aucoin noted some friction. "I was a little concerned when I went to see the Reunion tour in New York and I noticed that Gene and Paul had dressing rooms on one side of the [Madison Square] Garden and Peter and Ace had dressing rooms on the other side," said Aucoin. "I always demanded that they had to get ready together. I was really concerned then that they were really separated. They were together and yet separate. It showed it was not quite all back together again. It was together as far as doing it musically and doing it for the fans and for the reunion but they really weren't together as far as a real solid band being together every second. It was two and two. So I was not surprised when it didn't work out."(5)
As KISS continued with the Psycho Circus and Farewell tours, both Criss and Frehley would exit KISS once again by 2003. The band has since continued with Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer donning the Catman and Spaceman personas, respectively. It likely was no surprise to Aucoin that KISS had lasted into three decades. As early as 1979, he envisioned the band's potential staying power. "KISS can last forever. They are like superheroes, like Superman or Spider-Man, and they will continue as long as they can physically and emotionally withstand the type of pressure that is required to keep up the image that they have created. It's really up to them. "My whole life has changed as a result of my love for the four of them. When I'm around the kind of love and energy that they generate, I know that I've made the right decisions. I am not only their manager, but I am one of their biggest fans, and I share the hopes with their millions of fans around the world that they will go on forever."(2)
In recent years, Aucoin kept ties with each of the band members in KISS, including a visit with Stanley at one of his art gallery showings in 2008. He was also in attendance at KISS' most recent Madison Square Garden concert on Oct. 10, 2009. It would be the last time he saw KISS live. More than eight months later, Bill Aucoin passed away Monday, June 28 at 9:11 a.m. (EST) at the Aventura Hospital and Medical Center in Aventura, Fla., from complications related to ongoing prostate cancer. He was 66 years old. Aucoin leaves behind his partner of fifteen years, Roman Fernandez, and two sisters, Betty Britton and Janet Bankowski. The KISS fan community was shocked and saddened by the news. All four original KISS members posted messages the same day:
"Bill was a very gifted guy with a great eye for talent! Through all the ups and downs, he never lost his big smile and sense of humor...We remained friends until the end. I'm gonna miss him." -- Ace Frehley
"Bill loved life and lived it to the fullest. Words can never convey his impact on us or those close to him. He was instrumental in guiding us from the beginning and without his vision, leadership and unending dedication, we could never have scaled the heights we have reached. We have lost a part of us." -- Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons
"If not for Bill Aucoin there would not be a rock group called KISS today. He was the fifth KISS, and always will be. I loved the man and will miss him deeply. See you in heaven Gui." -- Peter Criss
Days later, Fernandez posted the following on Aucoin's website: "The outpouring of love and support from all who knew Bill Aucoin or knew of him has been nothing short of overwhelming. Thank you all. Bill was the love of my life. We never skipped a day without letting it be known what we meant to each other. Every day we thanked our lucky stars that we were simply two of the luckiest people alive. If there is a legacy for Bill to leave behind besides his great success, let it be his zest for life, his jolly persona, his little boy smile, his infectious laugh, his never ending generosity, and his playful mischievous nature. My heart is shattered without him. But I will do everything in my power to keep his name and legacy alive." -- Roman Fernandez
As the legend of KISS continues into 2010, fans can only speculate as to how many more chapters are left to be written. But no matter what the future holds, everything KISS is and always will be will forever be traced back to Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss, and the grand vision of Bill Aucoin. Rest in peace, Bill Aucoin. Every KISS fan worldwide owes you a debt of gratitude. "Without Bill, KISS would never have happened." -- Gene Simmons
Bill Aucoin Career Management Stats
KISS manager 1973-1982 Piper manager, 1975-1977 Starz manager, 1977-1979 Manowar manager, circa. 1981 Spider manager,197?–197? (featured Anton Fig on drums) Billy Idol manager, 1982-1984 Rising Star mentor, 1989-1990 Flipp manager, 1998?–2003 Crossbreed manager, 2003–2010 Lordi manager, 2006-2010 Evan Saffer manager, 2007-2010 Nothing Rhymes With Orange manager, 2007-2010 Dreaming In Stereo manager, 2010 The Early Strike manager, 2010
References (1) KISStory (KISS Ltd.) (2) KISS: Behind The Mask (David Leaf, Ken Sharp) (3) KISS And Sell (C.K. Lendt) (4) "KISS: Beyond The Makeup" (VH1) (5) MetalRules.com Interview (6) KissFAQ (7) KISS And Make-Up (Gene Simmons) (8) Kissaholics $16 (9) Messageboard member Live2WinForever
Originally Published: July 4, 2010