Rosene, 56, is known
for business acumen
and kindness

He dies of a gunshot wound
to the head, an apparent suicide

More obituaries

By Leila Fujimori

Ken Rosene, veteran concert promoter from the 1970s through the 1990s, died Tuesday night.

"He brought such wonderful entertainment to the islands," said longtime friend and colleague Nella Courtney. "He was one of the three top promoters in the 1970s and 1980s -- John Leonard, Tom Moffatt and Ken Rosene -- the three major players here."

Rosene, 56, died at his home in Kaimuki of a gunshot wound to the head, an apparent suicide, police said. Rosene left behind some notes, they added.

Kenneth Michael Rosene was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Newport Beach and Garden Grove, Calif., and moved to Hawaii in the late 1960s.

He divided his time between Hawaii, Southern California and Mexico.

Rosene got interested in concerts after he began reviewing them. He freelanced for the Honolulu Advertiser in the 1960s, contributing to a weekly youth-oriented page, in which he covered the music scene, said Advertiser staff writer Wayne Harada.

Over the years, he also freelanced for other local and national periodicals, including Rolling Stone, according to friend and former partner Bob Peyton.

"He was instrumental in bringing over breaking acts like Journey and the Police into this market," Peyton said. "Until a couple of years ago, KMR Productions (Rosene's company) held the record for the largest gross of any concert."

That record, set by the Police concert, which grossed $500,000 and had 30,000 in attendance in 1983, was only topped by Michael Jackson a decade later, Peyton said.

His companies -- KMR Productions in the 1970s, Ken Rosene Presents in the 1980s and SRO in the 1990s -- brought in hundreds of shows to the Blaisdell Center arena, Waikiki Shell and Aloha Stadium.

Rosene brought a half-dozen music festivals with groups like Fleetwood Mac, Carlos Santana, Journey and Styx to Diamond Head Crater in the 1970s, with attendance in excess of 50,000 a show, Peyton said. And he was the first to bring in Aerosmith, Courtney said.

His girlfriend, Kathleen Gray, said Rosene tried to keep ticket prices down. He thought it was unfair some people could not afford to go to concerts, and believed "entertainment should be for everyone."

Gray described Rosene as an upbeat, fun-loving, energetic, happy person who was kind, thoughtful and caring.

"He was such a happy and positive person, and this was a huge shock," Gray said.

"He lived his life on his own terms, and that's what people liked about him," Gray said. "They were jealous of him and attracted to him because he had the guts to do things his way."

Cathy Bell, a former employee, said Rosene created a job for her when she was pregnant and destitute.

"I've never forgotten that," she said. "He did a lot of little things like that for a lot of people.

"He was a promoter and an entrepreneur, but there was this really, really soft underbelly," she said. "He gave but didn't want people to realize he was giving. And that's what made him special."

Rosene is survived by mother Della Rosene and brothers Dennis and Gary.

Services are pending.

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