Kenneth Anderson, 75

Kenneth Anderson, stage production manager for band Kiss in its ’70s heyday, dies at 75

Before Kiss, no rock group had ever put quite as much emphasis on the outrageous while onstage.

It was up to Kenneth Anderson to make those wild antics happen.

Anderson, who died of cancer at 75 on Dec. 15 at his Hallandale Beach home, was vice president of production at Aucoin Management in New York and helped design Kiss’ stage productions from 1976 to 1982.

This was the era when the hard rock foursome’s theatrical shows were evolving at a crazy, scary pace. A fire-breathing bassist. A levitating drum set. Flashing lightning bolts. Confetti rockets.

“Don’t try to describe a Kiss concert if you’ve never seen it,” South Florida troubadour Jimmy Buffett once quipped in his 1978 tune, Mañana. He was clearly referencing Anderson’s stage designs. These came from ideas that were coming fast and furious from band leaders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

“I remember coming home one night and Gene [Simmons] told dad he has this new idea and dad would have to figure it out,” said daughter Julie Pisano of Palm Beach Gardens. “Gene wants to fly over the audience. {Anderson’s] job was to make the show a reality.”

The rock group dreamed up over-the-top stage designs, pyrotechnics and elevated ramps, used on its tours for the Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over, Love Gun and Dynasty albums.

Anderson had to make it all happen.

Pisano, 50, then an impressionable teenager, laughs when she remembers her father’s adventures on stage with Kiss that stretched from South Florida’s defunct Hollywood Sportatorium to Japan’s Budokan Hall in 1977.

The New York rockers wore towering platform boots so getting them to walk on the stage, let alone fly above it, was quite the task.

Anderson had two phones, a white and a black one, in the family home he shared with wife Joyce Doehler and their two children, son John Jackson and daughter Julie.

This was before Call Waiting so the family knew not to touch the black phone off the kitchen because calls were constantly coming in for Anderson.

“My father said, ‘I can’t, absolutely, miss a call ever,’” Pisano said.

“Ken Anderson was dedicated to our cause and his skill was in evidence to anyone who saw our stages during those years,” Simmons and Stanley posted on the Kiss website.

Anderson was born in Melrose, MA. One of his first gigs was as a lighting director at Boston’s WGBH for its signature series, The French Chef starring Julia Child. He met Bill Aucoin there, Kiss’ former manager who helped catapult the band after its formation in 1972. Anderson also worked on Sesame Street, its spin-off, The Electric Company, and stage production work with Jesus Christ Superstar and Oh, Calcutta!

After Kiss, he designed HBO’s flashier telecasts of boxing, including the infamous match in 1997 between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in which Tyson bit off part of Holyfield’s ear.

“He never cared too much about getting the credit but he’d silently stand back when everything worked and he was happy,” Pisano said. Anderson’s dream was to live on a sailboat so he did that, too, off the Fort Lauderdale coast after leaving Kiss.

“Bill Aucoin, my late partner, was deeply fond of Kenny since they worked on Julia Child together,” said friend Roman Fernandez, owner of Hallandale Beach’s Leftfield Promotion. “When they re-connected just a few years ago … Bill said I’d love Kenny. He was right. Kenny was down to earth and a sweetheart of a man. Humble and always had something positive to say. Kiss didn’t break out of radio or press. It was their live shows that built a steady legion of fans. And the live component was Kenny’s domain.”

Anderson is survived by his widow Evie Anderson and his children.

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.

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