Breaking News Bar
updated: 6/9/2014 1:38 PM

When Woodfield, KISS and the '70s collided

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • An apparently intimate moment is witnessed by thousands during "The Great Kiss Off" kissing contest at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg in June 1974.

      An apparently intimate moment is witnessed by thousands during "The Great Kiss Off" kissing contest at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg in June 1974.
    Daily Herald File Photo/June, 1974

  • The 2012 lineup of KISS promoted their latest album "Monster" in New York in October of that year -- nearly 40 years after all its original members appeared at "The Great Kiss Off" at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg in June 1974.

      The 2012 lineup of KISS promoted their latest album "Monster" in New York in October of that year -- nearly 40 years after all its original members appeared at "The Great Kiss Off" at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg in June 1974.
    AP Photo/Starpix, Amanda Schwab

  • Shoppers at Woodfield gawk at the very public displays of affection.

      Shoppers at Woodfield gawk at the very public displays of affection.
    Daily Herald File Photo / June, 1974

  • Here, "The Great Kiss Off" was closing in on 100 hours.

      Here, "The Great Kiss Off" was closing in on 100 hours.
    Daily Herald File Photo / June, 1974

  • Eleven couples from across the nation won radio station promotions to represent their regions in "The Great Kiss Off" finale at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg in June 1974.

      Eleven couples from across the nation won radio station promotions to represent their regions in "The Great Kiss Off" finale at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg in June 1974.
    Daily Herald File Photo / June, 1974

  • The 11 competing couples were surrounded by thousands of onlookers. The contest lasted for nearly five days.

      The 11 competing couples were surrounded by thousands of onlookers. The contest lasted for nearly five days.
    Daily Herald File Photo / June, 1974

  • Vinnie Toro and Louise Heath of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. beat 10 other couples in "The Great Kiss Off" at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg with their record-breaking time of 114 hours and 1 minute.

      Vinnie Toro and Louise Heath of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. beat 10 other couples in "The Great Kiss Off" at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg with their record-breaking time of 114 hours and 1 minute.
    Daily Herald File Photo / June, 1974

 
 

Forty years ago this week, Schaumburg's Woodfield Mall became the national epicenter of 1970s pop culture with a combined celebration of KISS and PDA (public display of affection).

The "Great Kiss Off" was both a promotion for fans to come and meet the world's most theatrical rock 'n' roll band, as well as a kissing contest that took an epic 114 hours and 1 minute to settle.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

The couple that outlasted 10 others from across the nation were Louise Heath and Vinnie Toro of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where the coast-to-coast radio promotions leading up to the Schaumburg finale began.

The band KISS was there in full makeup, to meet with fans and sign autographs.

Jane Rozek, local history librarian at the Schaumburg Township District Library, has thoroughly researched the event but found no evidence the band actually performed.

Her longtime colleague at the library, Jane Davey of Hoffman Estates, was there with her 4-year-old son, Patrick, and a neighbor boy wearing a KISS belt buckle.

Davey is amused that two such young children were drawn to the event when her three teenagers were not. "I had no idea what the draw was -- I guess it was the costumes," Davey said.

Rozek's research found that the event began at noon on Saturday, June 8, with a big kickoff by WCFL radio and "Superjock" Larry Lujack.

Even at the start, some contestants fully anticipated the event would last more than 100 hours. The kissers got only a five-minute break every hour.

Over the course of days, couples began to drop out from a combination of exhaustion and feeling physically ill.

Even falling asleep wasn't necessarily a disqualifier, though, as long as couples could find a way to do so without their lips parting. Jeff and Sherry Moore of Charlotte, North Carolina, strapped their heads together with a pink plastic belt while they slept, according to the Daily Herald article of Monday, June 10.

The contest continued to draw an audience of thousands as the days went by, states a Daily Herald article dated Wednesday, June 12, 1974.

"I feel like I'm watching a bad film," said one woman with a mock look of guilt on her face.

"They ought to hold another contest, to see how long someone can watch it," said then 21-year-old Keith Steinleil of Schaumburg.

The runner-up couple of Duane and Doris Boudreaux of Houston, Texas, finally conceded to Heath and Toro at 6:01 a.m. on Thursday, June 13.

The winning couple had victory in their sights from the start, believing their yoga discipline, determination and a diet of shrimp, oranges and an occasional french fry or two would see them through.

"We'll be here as long as it takes," Heath told the Daily Herald on the second day.

The promised prize was a trip to Acapulco.

But Heath and Toro instead took the cash equivalent of $1,000.

When WCFL learned that Heath and Toro were donating their winnings to friends who'd just lost their New Jersey home in a fire, the radio station donated another Acapulco trip, Rozek said.

The nationwide contest began as a fundraiser for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

Rozek said that according to the book, "And Party Every Day: The Inside Story of Casablanca Records" by Larry Harris, record company officials encouraged the crowd to donate money for the kids and spectators began throwing paper money from the upper level overlooking the center court of the mall.

People on the ground floor picked up the money, crumpled it up and threw it toward the stage.

In the end, about $5,000 was raised for the hospital.

Whatever happened to the relationship between Louise Heath and Vinnie Toro? Alas, we do not know. Neither could be reached for this story.

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.