Bill Aucoin, a music industry legend best known for discovering Kiss, passed away Monday, June 28, at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center. A family spokesperson told the Associated Press his death was due to complications from prostate cancer. He was 66 years old.
Though Aucoin didn't give Kiss the idea for the makeup and theatrics, he was the first industry professional to really recognize its particular thrill — and commercial potential. He initially saw the band perform at a showcase at the Diplomat Hotel in New York City in 1973 and immediately introduced the quartet to Neil Bogart, who was then launching his label, Casablanca Records.
Kiss was the first act signed to the imprint, and it was Aucoin who largely persuaded the band to then think of itself as a brand. These days, it's impossible to imagine Kiss only as a group of musicians, without all the attendant lunchboxes, toys, and assorted paraphernalia. That was Aucoin's genius.
After he parted ways with Kiss in the early '80s, he went on to manage that decade's great pair of Billies: Idol and Squier. The split from Kiss was amicable, though, and upon Aucoin's death, the band released an official statement through its website. "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," the statement read. "Bill loved life and lived it to the fullest. Words can never convey his impact on us or those close to him."
In recent years, as a South Florida transplant, he signed Miami band Dreaming in Stereo to his roster. Band leader Fernando Perdomo first met Aucoin about a decade ago on the local scene, but it was last year when the creative sparks really flew. Perdomo worked with Aucoin's partner, a radio promoter, on a successful college radio campaign.
"Based on the success of that, [Aucoin] told me he wanted to manage Dreaming in Stereo," Perdomo recalls. "He managed us pretty much all through the winter and the spring, and then he got sick. But even then, he still got us meetings and all sorts of stuff."
Perdomo says the band has yet to implement all of Aucoin's wise suggestions. "We were very lucky to have a legend like him guiding us for a while."
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