Kiss vs Kiss II: The Unknown Story of Kiss II

The Unknown Story of Kiss II

“We just wanted to play somewhere.” – Tim Reynolds

In 1978, how would you have known that the rock band Kiss was on stage before you? Sure, the bombastic stage show was in place, with flashpots, explosions, flames, loud music and four guys in over the top costumes with make-up on. But would you have known it was really Kiss under all of that make-up and leather? More to the point, would anyone have cared? At the time, people were handing their money over to the band like it was on fire. Could anyone have gone on stage and pretended to be Kiss and gotten away with it?

That is the scenario that two budding promoters, Kenneth Cundiff and David Hagnseiker wanted to find out.  They approached the Mt Vernon State Fair with the idea of a Kiss concert at the fair in May 1978. For the organisers of the State Fair it was an easy yes. Kiss playing the State Fair would ensure a large turn out, so they agreed, bring the band in. Put them on. More money for all. There were a few problems though, the main one being that neither Cundiff or Hagnseiker had any connection with the band. Even better (or worse, depending on your viewpoint) was that Cundiff and Hagnseiker didn’t even have a band. That wasn’t an insurmountable problem, after all, who knew what Kiss really looked like without their make-up in 1978? Any old band would suffice. What they had was a name, and even that wasn’t quite right: Kiss II. Not that anyone connected with the Mt Vernon State Fair noticed that little problem.

Kiss, 1977-1978: From left to right: Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons

To fix the first problem Cundiff and Hagnseiker went searching for a local, preferably unknown, band to fit the bill, and found one.

Majik Dust was a St Louis band consisting of vocalist Robert Reynolds, his brother Tim and school friends Chuck Pudiwitr and Marc Pelletier. The foursome had been playing around the St Louis area and by 1978, they had established themselves in Georgia, headlining the American Lounge and had released one single on the Burlap Label. They were veterans on the local music scene, known for their high energy power pop originals.

Majik Dust, March 1978. From left to right: Chuck Pudiwitr, Robert Reynolds, Tim Reynolds. Marc Pelletier front. This was the band that would have been Kiss II

In March 1978, the band were playing the Cahokia High School, just another gig when, between sets, they were approached by a man who didn’t give his name. The man handed them a business card that had two names on it, K. Davids and D. Allen, and a St Louis phone number. He had an offer for the band to play the Mt Vernon State Fair. The pitch was simple, there’d be four bands on the bill, Majik Dust would be one of them. The only condition was that all four bands would be wearing Kiss make-up and playing a set of Kiss songs. All of the costumes and make-up would be provided. All they would have to do is turn up, tune up, pretend to be Kiss and play Kiss songs. Payment would be made on the day of the gig.

“I don’t think our music was anything like Kiss,” says Tim Reynolds. “But we were young and put on a really good show and had lots of energy, and we did rock. I’m not sure why they approached us.”

The band thought about it and agreed. Why not? As Tim Reynolds says today, “It (the idea of pretending to be Kiss) didn’t bother us, I was really young, and we just wanted to play somewhere.”

The band went back to playing. Cundiff and Hagnseiker had their band in place so they duly formed a company, called Kiss II Productions, and began to advertise the concert. All was going well. Majik Dust, who had no idea if any other band had actually been approached, would have a month to rehearse a set of Kiss songs, not that they did.

Cundiff and Hagnseiker began their advertising blitz. Tickets were capped at $6.00 each and began to sell out. Posters went up, and ads began to appear on St Louis radio stations, and at least one Mt Vernon station. Excitement was in the air; Kiss were coming to the State Fair! Most people who heard the ads only heard the name Kiss. What Cundiff and Hagnseiker were selling was a band called Kiss II. They believed that there was a distinction. Muddying the waters was the poster, which clearly said Kiss II but showed the now famous make-up designs of Kiss.

Kiss II flyer

But not everyone was easily fooled. Alarm bells began to ring. Stephen April, the sales manager at Texas radio station KXOK, flatly refused to accept a Kiss II ad, thinking that people would be fooled into thinking that the Real Kiss was playing Mt Vernon, which, of course, was exactly what Cundiff and Hagnseiker wanted people to think. 

At St Louis own KADI, General Manager Richard Miller didn’t just turn the ad down. After being introduced to a person calling himself ‘David Allen’. He took one look at the tickets and poster and became concerned on a number of points. The first was the obvious fraud. “These people were using the logo on the tickets and the posters,” Miller said at the time. “With the logo being misused and the name Kiss, a lot of kids could've been misled.” Miller’s second concern was that, with the sheer amount of people expected to turn up, violence wouldn’t be far behind if people realised that the band on stage was not Kiss. “Anything could happen. There often are riots even when nothing is amiss.[i]” He was also worried that children, thinking this was really Kiss, would be ripped off.

Miller had contacts. He phoned an employee that he knew who was connected to Casablanca Records, who, in turn contacted Aucoin Management, who were looking after Kiss in 1978. Aucoin took one look at the poster and unleashed their lawyer. Meanwhile, the search for ‘David Allen’ took an interesting turn.

The St Louis Post Despatch, when handed the story by Miller, contacted Majik Dust. By this point an injunction was in place. Luckily for Majik Dust, they were kept out of the resulting lawsuit. “Next thing I know we’re getting stuff from attorneys and the whole thing was shut down,” says Tim Reynolds. There was a small silver lining though, “We didn’t get sued, but I saw a lot of paperwork and that was the first time I found out Gene Simmons‘s real name was Klein.” After posing for a photo, in which they held up a Kiss programme (and Robert Reynolds poked his tongue out, Gene Simmons style), Majik Dust cut themselves loose from Kiss II once and for all and went back to their regular gigs. They hadn’t rehearsed any Kiss songs, so they weren’t out of pocket, which was good because they never got paid.

Majik Dust gave the business card that the unknown man had given them, so the reporter from the St Louis Dispatch called the number and asked to speak to ‘David Allen’.  The man they reached was David Hagnseiker. Hagnseiker wouldn’t confirm, or deny, that he was David Allen, claiming that he did not want to speak about people’s names, due to legalities. When asked why he believed that Kiss II should go ahead, Hagnseiker was insistent. They hadn’t tried to fool anyone. “All I can say is, if you're going to imitate Elvis Presley, if you don't use his name, no one comes,” he said. “Everybody's imitating everybody else. If this is against the law, then maybe they ought to stop the Elvis Presley impersonators and the Beatles impersonators.” In Hagnseiker eyes the true villains were Kiss and their management. Big business trying to crush free enterprise. “It takes money to make money,” he said, before hanging up. Kiss’s legal representatives confirmed that ‘Kenneth Davids’ was really Kenneth Cundiff.

Majik Dust ad for April 1978

The paperwork that Kiss filed claimed that approximately 10,000 tickets had been sold. Hagnseiker denied this claim, stating that only a few hundred tickets had been sold via 28 outlets. Kiss stuck to the claim, “I’d sure hate to see 10,000 Kiss fans descend on Mt Vernon,” attorney Raymond Scott told the media. “Kiss fans are not often the kind of people who go to classical music concerts, and they’re not likely to take a rip-off like this lightly.”

For all the glibness that was being passed about, behind the scenes the Kiss camp were working furiously to close Kiss II down, once and for all.  The initial injunction, filed on April Fool’s Day 1978[ii], asked that Cundiff and Hagnseiker be permanently restrained from using the likeness of Kiss, the names Kiss and Kiss II and from damaging the band’s goodwill and reputation. Cundiff and Hagnseiker were also ordered to hand over all the material relating to the Kiss II show and to refund every ticket sold, as well as advertising (at their own expense) that such a refund was available and the reasons why. It was a simple injunction, which was duly granted on April 7. Cundiff and Hagnseiker signed off on the injunction, along with the president of the Mt Vernon State Fair Association. Adding to the insult were the legal fees that Kiss demanded from the pair. Cundiff was ordered to be $2,500 to Kiss, Hagnseiker got off a bit lighter, he was stung for $1,500. The judge allowed them nine months in total for them to pay up. In return for the $4,000 in total, and the injunction, Kiss agreed not to pursue the pair for copyright and trademark infringments.

Cundiff and Hagnseiker offered no defence to the permanent injunction.  Indeed, they weren’t able to. Despite their claims about Elvis and Beatles impersonators being no different to Kiss, the fact was that the make-up, at that point, was trademarked to the band. Indeed it still is. The fact that there are Kiss cover bands who wear the make-up now is down to the band not going after them, legally, which they could easily do. But then these bands don’t call themselves Kiss (or Kiss II) and make it quite clear that they are tribute/cover bands. Still, each and every one of these bands is potentially infringing upon a trademark owned by Kiss the minute they slap the make-up on and start belting out an out of tune version of Love Gun.
The Mt Vernon Show was scheduled for May 20. On May 19 the real Kiss played the Magic Mountain Showcase Theatre as part of their Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park film. This would be the last show they would play in America until June 1979. In the meantime, the band released four solo albums, an utterly awful movie, the album Dynasty and their fanbase were rapidly moving on. The band were now fractured beyond repair, by the end of the tour drummer Peter Criss would finally leave the band (having been absent for the bulk of Dynasty) and nothing would be the same again.

Majik Dust quietly slipped back into the St Louis scene. They changed their name to The Jetts for a brief time before finally morphing into Boyfriend. They became a known band on the St Louis circuit, recording an album which they sold locally and at gigs. “We are a straight-ahead, Midwestern rock band and we have never tried to present ourselves as anything else,” Tim Reynolds said in 1987. They stayed together until 1989, although Marc Pelletier left the band in 1983, and supported a number of big-name bands playing in the St Louis area. Over the years, they opened for John Mellencamp, Shooting Star, Eddie Money, Michael Stanley, Quiet Riot, Pat Travers, BadFinger, Grand Funk, Stray Cats, Humble Pie, Autograph, Alice Cooper, Greg Kihn, Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick and Billy Idol, but there was one band they never opened for.

“We never got an offer to open for Kiss,” says Tim Reynolds.

Boyfriend today. Tim Reynolds on drums

Boyfriend reformed a few years ago and still gig to a dedicated fanbase. Check them out on Facebook and go to their gigs!

The author wishes to thank Tim Reynolds for being accessible and answering questions about an event that happened over forty years ago.

[i] St Louis Dispatch, April 5, 1978
[ii] The same day Kiss played the Budokan in Japan.


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