Interview with Vincent DiGerlando

The Man who created the Kiss Army logo

As I wrote in the intro for the the Dennis Woloch interview I have always been fascinated by all the design done for Kiss in the 70′s and 80′s. A time that everything Kiss related seemed to be real quality stuff when It came to design. I have always thought everything was done by Dennis Woloch. But I was wrong. So I must admit I have been wrong all the times I have been asked who made the Kiss Army logo. It wasn’t Dennis Woloch, It was Vincent DiGerlando.

It’s really cool to be able to present a new person in Kisstory. At least for me. The first time I heard about him was when Dennis Woloch mentioned him in the interview I did with him earlier this year. So It’s a pleasure to present Vincent DeGarlando who worked for Howard Marks Advertising as an Art Director.

Q. Please tell us a little about your background before you started working at Howard Marks Advertising.

Donʼt know how far back youʼd like me to go, but in retrospect, art and music have always been a part of my life. I was inspired by an artistic uncle, had an Italian mother that would sing to me, and my brother, and sister, also had an aunt that became a well known opera singer.

I grew up in a neighbourhood where doo wop groups such as the Plurals, and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were discovered. Did a lot of drawing, and painting during my early childhood while being encouraged by my grade school art teacher, who suggested that I attend Arts High School of Music and Art. After high school/college I had jobs in small studios, creating ads, working on magazine designs, creating some logos/letterheads, and doing a few illustrations.

Q. Did you know Dennis Woloch before you started at Howard Marks?

I first met and befriended Dennis Woloch in grade school. We both were fairly good artist, accomplished enough to pass the tests to be accepted in to Arts High School in Newark NJ, as well as have exceptional portfolios to get into Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn NY.

We went our separate ways, after college, me getting a job in a graphics studio in NYC. and Dennis working at Howard Marks agency. After the studio I worked for folded, Dennis hired me to work with him as a freelance designer, and I was soon after hired for a position as art director. When Howard was offering me the job, he explained his point of view to me, as having a dream team with “two star quarterbacks”. Although Dennis was a little hesitant about me working on staff for fear it would have a negative affect on our friendship, I did not feel that way myself, and think it turned out well, considering we worked together for over 14 years.

Q. How was a day at the office for you at Howard Marks Advertising? From what I heard It was a pretty special place to work?

I found working at HM very pleasant, in that I could pretty much express my creative ideas with very little interference or direction being necessary. There were times when input was very helpful, and in general we all worked together well. The only pressure might have come when we had deadlines to meet, other then that it was fun working with a good friend like Dennis.

An interesting side observation noted when I first started working there, was that the fridge was always well stocked with beer for the clients of rock and roll, and the staff could indulge too if they wanted. I did have one or two on occasion, when the day for me, needed a different perspective.

Q. What was your first impression/thoughts about Kiss?

I was not into heavy metal, more liking the Beatles, Stones, Bob Dylan, some blues and doo wop sound. So I honestly felt Kiss was not my choice of music and did not think they were going to be as popular as they turned out to be. Gene did mention to me at one time that he thought Kiss was going to be “as big or bigger than the Beatles”. I think in general, “rock and roll” became very diversified, in that so many sounds were listed under that category, taking it away from itʼs original roots and expanding the definition of that genre.

Q. Could you tell us a little about what Kiss related projects you worked on during the time you and Dennis Woloch worked together at Howard Marks Advertising.

Dennis worked with Kiss much more than I did, being he was creative director.
The projects I did work on were, the Kiss Army logo, Double Platinum and Unmasked albums, the alternate back cover of Creatures of the Night, the solo albums, and the Asylum tour book.

My name does not appear in the credits for work mentioned, because, at one point, (sadly for my artist/creative ego, and much to my surprise) . . . when I had asked for my name to be listed as a credit for my design/concepts, Dennis and Howard decided rather than do that, or to credit me and Dennis together, Howard Marks Advertising would receive sole recognition instead, and this can be noticed on later works done for Kiss, during the time that they were still with the agency.

I designed one of two back covers used for Creatures, which featured a close-up photo of woman’s ass, in tight, black leather pants. The casting turned out to be very funny, in that I had these beautiful models show up for the shot, and then had to ask them to turnaround and bend over so the photographer and I could observe, and determine if she had the nice backside that I had in mind for the shot. I did find a beauty, and that is the one we used for the final image on the album.

The Asylum oversize tour book, is a layout design I put together while Dennis was on sabbatical. It is the third book, (following Lick It Up, and Animalize), that shows Kiss without makeup, and the second with Bruce in the band,

For this book, I wanted to create the sensation of Kiss being larger than life, by using an oversize tour book format. On the cover, to show the band as large as possible, I used the portrait art that is on the album, and arranged Gene and Paul on the front, being they were the original members, with Eric and Bruce fitting easily on the back. On the inside, the idea of enlarging the studio portraits of the guys, full page, and adding the copy that accompanied each, was all meant to develop a more personal, intimate relationship with/for the fans. On the other inside pages, I used vibrating, patterns behind the images of Kiss performing, to help convey the excitement of their stage energy.

Dennis probably mentioned that I designed and sketched out the cover layout for Unmasked, which the illustrator basically followed for his finished drawings.

On a humorous note, there is the story about a photo (think it was used for a promotion piece) where Gene had asked that his tongue be given a little more length. The retoucher I was working with, created this photo with Gene’s tongue so exaggeratedly elongated, that it extended down to his waist, and wrapped under, and around his belt. Upon seeing this, Gene was startled for a second, before realizing the joke. We then showed him the photo that was more like what he asked for, which he approved, and he did keep the gag image for himself, now that would be a great image to have!

Q. The Kiss Army logo is almost as iconic as the Kiss logo. Did you ever think that It would still be used 35 years later?

No I did not think that . . . popularity and longevity was not something on my mind at the time. The logo was created “in the moment” to solve a design problem. Bill Aucoin wanted a symbol/logo for the idea of describing Kiss fans more as an “army” rather than a “fan club”. I was presented with the challenge, and having been familiar with military ranks, and patches, and recognizing the power of simplicity in some of their designs, it seemed an obvious solution, to incorporate Aceʼs Kiss logo within the design of an army sergeant’s chevron, which is what I did in the sketch to show for approval. As I mentioned earlier, creativity was pretty much given free reign and in this case, Bill loved the idea, and the band approved of it too. I then hired an illustrator to prepare the design, in a mechanical form for printers, to be used for all the Kiss Army promotional merchandise,and so it was that the Kiss Army came to be.

The Double Platinum cover is a pretty original cover. How did you come up with the idea for the cover? It could not be the easiest artwork to envision before you had a finished product?

The Double Platinum album cover was different, and somewhat daring, because it was the first cover that did not have images of the band on it. I felt by then, Kiss was well known/popular, and just showing the Kiss logo, as large as possible gave a more powerful, overall effect. It also gave the band a sense of unity, in that they were “all one” represented by the name/word/logo Kiss.

The album being about their achievement of selling so many records, represented by platinum, which is metal, shiny, was the lead in to the look. And then I wanted the viewer to have a somewhat of a physical relationship with the logo , in that it wasnʼt just a word, Kiss. So I gave it an illusion of it being three dimensional, with shadows, embossing it, making it tactile, so someone would want to touch it, and “feel” the sensational, Kiss. Then there was the red type which can easily be associated with the “blood” that spewed from Geneʼs mouth, and there you have it.

Q. How involved were you in choosing Eraldo Carugati for the solo album covers? And were you involved after the artist had been chosen?

I found Eraldo in illustrators annual showing various artists during the time Dennis and I were searching for someone to paint the solo album covers. Dennis also had an artist in mind, so we asked that they provide comp sketches for us, Bill, Kiss and Howard to view to help us in making a decision as to who would do the final art. I felt Eraldoʼs work was quite magical within itʼs own reality which he created using a very realistic almost photographic technique, yet still being a painted work of art.

It was decided that Eraldo would be the one to do the covers, so Dennis and I flew out to his work place in Chicago to oversee the project, and he delivered excellent results. My favourite scenario involving Eraldo, was when he came to New York with the finished paintings. He was asked if he would like a cup of coffee, followed by how would he like it prepared, the answer he came back with was “black-ah like-ah my soul”.

Q. Could you tell us a little about your work on the cover for Unmasked?

I really got into doing the layout for Unmasked wanting it resemble the look of a comic strip, by using the word balloons, and various shaped windows/frames often seen in comic books. I did some photo research, to find reference for likeness and for the various positions of the band, used for many different sketches in composing the final layout for the finishing artist Victor Stabin. Some of the shapes created, and having the figures of the band come out of the frames, made the overall feeling of the cover more dynamic, like that of super hero comics.

Do your sketches for Unmasked still exist?

Not that I know of but I wish they did. I brought them to an art class that my brother taught, when I gave a talk on how the designing of an album cover from idea to finished product worked . I brought the Creatures of the Night album proofs with me to show, he only recently told me he found the proofs, but he didnʼt have the Unmasked sketches . . . but then . . . of course, Victor Stabin had a copy of the sketch from which he worked from, sooooooo who the hell knows where they might be. And wouldnʼt it be great to come upon them some day.

When Howard Marks Agency was closing, you would not believe how much stuff (Kiss stuff too) was being dumped . . . I took at least 10 or more tour books, which I sold on eBay like the 10th anniversary book, I did not like the Frazetta/Ken Kelly look alike art on the cover, but it was a big seller and I sold all of them. Only tour book I still have left, is the one I designed, the oversize Asylum, which happens to be autographed.

Q. Do you have any special memories from any Kiss concerts?

I would have to say it was an impacting experience being at one of the early Kiss concerts with the original group on stage, and now the spot light is about to be on Peter for his drum solo.

He is sounding out a heavy, mesmerizing, continual, drum beat, and all the fans sitting join the others standing, with arms raised and clenched fists, shouting Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Now, I’m up in the side seats watching as Peter and his drum set begin to slowly rise up from the stage floor. It was like, I could feel the energy building up, slowly filling the concert hall, and then, there it was, unexpectedly, steadily unfurling behind Peter, this huge Kiss Army logo banner, the logo I created, fueling it all . . .whew, it was one of those “you had to be there to know what I mean” experiences.

Q. Did you meet the guys in Kiss many times? What were your impressions of the different guys in the band.

Gene was very business like, came around the art department often, and did not like to be told that “it could not be done”. That was a challenge that he loved to take on, and he was most always right in my recollection, we would manage to solve a design problem to his liking.

Paul, was business like too, but would engage you in a softer manner, and having an artistic back- ground, (I read that he had been showing some of his paintings at a gallery in Jersey a few years ago) he would sometimes want to be more involved with the creative process in the later years, as Kiss became more popular.

Ace did not come around often, but I do remember him coming by the art department with a girl- friend to view some of the work we were doing for a current project. He was somewhat distant, non- engaging, and did not give the impression to me that he was very much into the business aspect of Kiss as much as Gene and Paul were.

Peter did not come around the art department at all to my remembrance, nor was he involved as much in the creative aspect as much as Gene and Paul. In only meeting him a few times, I did feel he was very real, and down to earth, and that his music was his agenda. Heard that he taught drum lessons in a studio in Jersey near his home.

Q. Did you ever socialize with any of the members in the band?

I remember a party that took place at an Italian restaurant in Little Italy, that Dennis and I went to at times, and it was suggested to Howard as the place for the event. The restaurant was closed to the public, and Kiss, friends, and people from the agency were the only ones allowed to attend. Much to Howardʼs amusement, I came wearing a tuxedo with sneakers. It was the time when Gene was dating Cher and I remember my wife telling how she had helped her with a stuck zipper in the women’s room. Everyone seemed very real, not on stage, no egos. I very much remember Paul jamming away with others in a very relaxed manner. The homemade wine flowed easily and It was pure entertainment, and very enjoyable to be part of.

There was a very elegant party in upstate New York being given by Kiss and/or Bill Aucoin. It was a beautiful evening and very nice house, with tables set outside in a garden area. We all ate well, I shared some champagne with Ace and a group of his friends, and it all came about in a very pleas- ant way, but donʼt remember if it was a celebration of a particular event or just a party for party’s sake.

I along with a guest, and those in the agency that worked on the Kiss account, were all invited to the wedding reception for Peter and his beautiful wife who also was a Playboy bunny at one time. It was a very formal event with tuxedos and a sit down dinner, at a banquet hall in NYC. I do remember my date asking me to get Paulʼs autograph, and me telling her that she was much more beautiful than I was, and he would enjoy her asking for it much more than me. Well she finally got up the nerve to ask, and Paul in turn, got her phone number and promised to call. When he did phone her for the date, her sisters excitedly gathered around the phone in anticipation of hearing what was to be said. It so happened that he was having car trouble that day, and had to cancel his trip to Jersey, it was the date that never came to be.

And then there was the time when a birthday party was given for Ace at a bowling alley on Broadway. I remember bowling along with Peter and Dennis and a few others on one of the lanes. Peter seem a little apprehensive but of what I could not say, only to realize soon after

At some point during the event, a large cake was wheel out, candles burning, we gathered around, and all sang happy birthday to Ace. He then proceeded to lean over to blow out the candles when someone shoved him, and his face landed in the cake coming up covered with icing. A food fight soon followed, with cake being thrown all around. I joined Peter, and some others back at the lane where we continued to try finish our game, in an attempt to avoid the craziness that followed. Soon there were bodies replacing bowling balls being tossed down the nearby lanes, and bowling balls slamming against the pin setting devices.

Needless to say, all hell broke loose in the area as Dennis, myself, and others decided to vacate the premises before things got worse. Later I heard the clean up, and repair bill was quite expensive, but did not hear of any police interference taking place.

Could you give some short comments about.

Bill Aucoin—Very likeable, open minded, personable guy, with good ideas and who I enjoyed working with when I did.

Sean Delaney—Very determined, and creative, personality, having input into the creation of the bandʼs image and wanting recognition for his ideas.. Also being involved with concepts for game shows, starting up other bands, and being very much wanting to be involved in the world of entertainment in general.

Neil Bogart—Only was introduced to him once, and saw him around the office, very few times, being he was based in California, where his Casablanca record label originated. I did love the romantic story of Neil, meeting a woman that worked for Howard, them falling in love, getting married, and having a wonderful lifestyle on the west coast. It sadly ended when he passed away at a young age.

Howard Marks—I found Howard to be a likeable guy, with a sense of humor, and a willingness to let you explore, with him accepting new ideas, but at the same time having very strong ideas of his own. I felt he was someone I could talk to in a real person to person manner, without him being the head of the agency preventing that possibility. I did ask during one of our meetings if he believed in God, and life on earth is what he believe to be all that is.

Carl Glickman—My take on Carl was that he was a quiet mannered man, but very powerful, and rich, in the business world. A serious person, that was somewhat strict in his business ways, remem- bering a sticker/label he wanted me to design that said something like: DONʼT EVEN THINK OF NOT PAYING THIS BILL.

Chris Lendt—I would see Chris around the office, or in passing at a party or a show. Being he did not have much to do with the creative aspects of the agency, our relationship was very limited, and maybe we spoke now and again, but nothing that I could remember mentioning.

Q. Tell us a little about what you do today.

I am semi-retired, and do freelance, computer, graphic design, at a publish house in NYC, as well as for private clients. It is a very different creative world now compared to the more “hands on” design done when designing for Kiss and others, before computers came into existence.

I very much enjoy promoting my surreal, dream inspired, photographs, publishing books such as Mind Visions and Conceptual Realities. I am also involved with the galleries, and their websites that display my work for prospective buyers/collectors. I recently began promoting my photographs on the internet, by integrating them into some of the videos I publish on YouTube

Q. Anything else you want to share with us?

The graphics that Dennis and I created for Kiss, helped to enhance their popularity and fame. Because of this Howard Marks Inc. became attractive to others in the music business such as the Rolling Stones (receptionists were awaiting Mick Jaggerʼs arrival, which never came to be), Billy Idol, Billy Squier, and some new bands. Because of Howard Markʼs new found notoriety, he acquired new clients, making it possible for me to work on projects for Diana Ross and Paul McCartneyʼs group Wings. This gave me the opportunity to be a part of what was “happening” in the entertainment business at that time. In retrospect it was an enjoyable experience to be creating with an old friend and an encounter/adventure that I would never describe as “work”.

Vinny DiGerlando who worked with Dennis Woloch on many Kiss related projects for Howard Marks Advertising in the 70′s and 80′s, has put up an really exciting auction for “The only existing set of 6 proofs each SIGNED by Dennis Woloch the art director, and designer of many early KISS albums, and promotional items, as well as designer of the album ‘Creatures of the Night’”.

The set includes a set of 6 of these very proofs from 1982, (this set of 6 includes a bonus yellow with magenta proof sheet) indicating each color, and the final album cover, all signed by Dennis Woloch.

Check out the auction here…(the auction is over)

Vincent will also be offering signed prints of the picture on the  top of the page. So keep checking out the site if you’re interested.

One Response to Interview with Vincent DiGerlando

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