After more than 114 hours Woodfield Mall finally had a couple of winners. Vinnie Torro and Louise Heath, the kissing couple, successfully locked lips as part of the Great Kiss Off of 1974—and the rock band, KISS, for whom the event was named, was happy to play a part.
It all started as part of a nationwide promotion for the first album by KISS that was given the same name. Local radio station, WCFL and Warner Bros./Casablanca Records were in on the promotion. According to the website Metalglory.com, radio station WHSE in Ft. Lauderdale, FL started the contests on May 10 and they began to spread. Woodfield picked up on the gimmick but also developed it as “a fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.” (The Herald, June 10, 1974)
The contest began June 8 at noon with 11 couples from across the country competing. These couples had already participated in a preliminary round for radio stations near their homes and were ready to win the big prize. At stake was an eight-day cruise to Acapulco and a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Each couple was given a five-minute break every hour. They were also given some incentive with a big kickoff for the event led by WCFL’s superjock, Larry Lujack. According to the book, And Party Every Day: The Inside Story of Casablanca Records written by Larry Harris, “KISS came too, and they walked around the mall in full regalia.” The photo below is from their visit.
The Casablanca leadership of Neil Scott, the founder, and his partners, Buck Reingold and Larry Harris were on hand. Joyce Biawitz, one of KISS’ manager was also there. According to Mr. Harris, “a stage had been erected in a large open area in the middle of the mall.” Mr. Scott began asking the crowd for donations to St. Jude’s. With little response from the crowd, “he had Buck go up to the next level of the mall, stand at the railing where he could see the stage below, and wait for a cue. Again Neil, addressed the respectably large crowd that had gathered on both levels, but this time he made it about the children: ‘C’mon folks, the children really need your money.’ At that moment, Buck released a big stack of one-dollar bills into the air, and suddenly it was raining money.” People soon got the hint and began throwing down their own money from the upper level. “People on the lower level were picking up the bills, crumpling them, and throwing them toward the stage.” According to The Herald they wound up raising around $5000 for the hospital. Quite a stunt!
According to the book, Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of Kiss, 1972-1975 by Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Ken Sharp, one of the furniture stores in the mall loaned love seats for the couples to use while they were kissing. By the end of the first day of the kiss-off however, three couples were already out. On Wednesday at 4 p.m., after 100 plus hours, two couples from the original eleven were left. One couple had dropped out because of cramps, another because of an upset stomach, and others because they fell asleep. Not a surprise.
Finally, Thursday morning at 6:01 a.m. after 114 hours and one minute, the second-place couple agreed to bow out. They didn’t just walk away. Their take home prize was $500. Vinnie and Louise, the first-place couple from Florida, accepted the $1000 cash equivalent of their trip and donated it to friends who had recently lost their home in a New Jersey fire. Because of this generous response, WCFL donated another Acapulco trip. Winners all around!
If you were there for the Great Kiss-Off, send us a comment. Or, if you were lucky enough to see KISS as they walked Woodfield Mall, that’s even better. We’d love to hear what your first impression was of the band members fully outfitted in makeup and black costumes!
Album cover photo is from Wikipedia.
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library