BY MAUREEN O’DONNELL
Chicago Herald News
Eddie Balandas, whose growling South Side sneer can be heard booming out the intro for the album “KISS Alive II,” died in a fitting way for a former security chief and roadie for the grease-painted rockers.
Mr. Balandas loved to mingle with KISS fans and answer their questions about a band that took Kabuki makeup to a level exceeded only by the group’s longevity — which rivals that of a Galapagos tortoise.
After appearing at the Oct. 9 KISS Expo in Hillside — where the audience greeted him like a favorite uncle — Mr. Balandas rode his motorized scooter back to his suite at the Best Western Hotel.
He was found dead in his room the following day. Mr. Balandas, 59, who had congestive heart failure, had been in declining health.
His death prompted expressions of sympathy from Ace Frehley, former lead guitarist of KISS, who called him a “dear friend”; from Lydia Criss, the ex-wife of KISS’ original drummer, Peter Criss, and from guitarist extraordinaire Elliott Randall, whose solos on Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years” reduced other famed guitarists to fanboys.
After touring the globe with KISS and other bands and working security jobs in the music industry, Mr. Balandas returned to his Brighton Park Lithuanian roots several years ago. He lived off Archer Avenue and was still friends with his buddies from Kelly High School.
In at least one way, it was as if he’d never been gone, said his brother, Bob. No matter where Mr. Balandas lived, his family still sent him Lithuanian pumpernickel bread and pastries, and White Castle hamburgers.
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