In Memoriam Kenny Kassel 1955 – 2008.
Tina and I greatly mourn the loss of our dear friend and GMV team member since 2003 in Kenny Kassel. Kenny passed away at the age of 53 a few days before Christmas, due to CHF (Congestive Heart Failure). He was one of my closest friends and he will be greatly missed, not only by us, but also by his own family and his greater family – the whole bodybuilding community of USA.
Kenny died at his home in New Jersey as he was preparing to return to his home in Palm Desert, CA ready for the Iron Man Pro next month where he would be again doing what he loved best – being a mainstay, working backstage to see that everything worked smoothly. He was a veritable rock at every bodybuilding contest he attended. Always jovial and helpful, both with the competitors and his fellow officials and typically conferring with the MC discussing the correct pronunciations of everyone’s names. Not always an easy task.
Kenny loved working backstage, doing what ever he could do to help make the show super professional from expediting to backstage announcing, to sometimes on-stage emceeing. Always smiling and helpful, he will be sorely missed. We will miss his clear, booming voice announcing at the Olympia stage, or introducing the MC at various GP or NPC events. Kenny could always be relied on to do his job well and beyond the call of duty. His kind heart and great passion for the sport made him a favourite with everyone, especially the female competitors who truly loved and respected Kenny.
I first became aware of Kenny Kassel when working backstage as a video cameraman at the inaugural Las Vegas Mr. Olympia in 1999. Kenny was friendly and helpful when I was under pressure and we soon became firm friends. Then in 2003 Kenny did his first on-camera interviews for GMV when he interviewed many of the top women on the Expo floor for my video. Since 2004 Kenny has been a regular member of our GMV team doing all the interviews at the various pro shows I cover – from the Olympia to the Arnold Classic and the Iron Man Pro and formerly at the San Francisco GPs as well. His huge knowledge concerning every bodybuilder, male or female both IFBB professional and NPC – will be sorely missed. He knew who had won what contest and when, and always had the knack of making people feel at ease during all of his interviews.
You could always tell that Kenny really cared about the athletes and was always available to them to give help or advice when requested.
During these last 5 years Kenny has introduced me to many wonderful people who were friends of his in the sport. People such as Bob Bonham and the late Steve Stone. I was Kenny’s guest in NJ for 2 weeks in 2006 when I was treated as a member of the family. His mother Mimi and sister Carol are very special people and my heart-felt condolences go to them at this time.
Rest in peace, my friend. I will greatly miss the fun times we had together at every contest over the years. You will never be forgotten. From your 100 odd interviews, your voice, your charming manner and larger than life personality will live on for ever in my videos and DVDs.
In conclusion, a little background information on the life of Kenny Kassel.
Kenny Kassel was the owner of Kenneth I Kassel, Inc., a company that acts as a consultant to both the fitness and entertainment industries. Beauti-Fit Talent was part of KIK, Inc. He was also the business manager of Don “The Dragon” Wilson, who is the greatest kick boxer of all time, and the star of around 30 action films.
Kenny Kassel spent his whole life in New Jersey. He was involved in the fitness industry for over 25 years and in the entertainment industry for more than 15 years. Kenny had been training with weights since he was 14 years old. He was lucky enough to have learned how to properly work out from legendary bodybuilders like Tom Platz, Danny Padilla, Leon Brown, and Pete Grymkowski, while visiting California in the 70s for golf coaching. Kenny was quite a star golfer in his time. His other great passion was Jazz.
After starting a gym in NJ, he began training many bodybuilders, and specialized with the women, starting around 1981. Kenny also trained some of the professional athletes in his native NY area, such as members of the NY Yankees. He also worked with several members of the 1986 Super Bowl Champion NY Giants.
His foray into the entertainment industry began when he started Beauti-Fit Talent Agency, in order to start and nurture the career of bodybuilding model Raye Hollitt, who became a star of the popular television show “American Gladiators.” Kenny also worked with a number of other women who were bodybuilders and were marketable, and helped them find work doing guest performances, and receiving major media coverage.
Kenny was busy in the media and was a voiceover artist on the Fox Sports West Network for over 15 years and was a mainstay of the program MuscleSport USA.
Kenny managed 1989 National bodybuilding Champion Sharon Marvel, and later on managed 2000 Ms. Olympia Valentina Chepiga. In the early 1990s a friend who was a trainer and had moved out to California to train film stars, introduced Kenny to 11-time World Kickboxing Champion Don “The Dragon” Wilson. Don had already starred in over 20 action films.
Don had needed some fitness people for an upcoming film, and Kenny was able to provide what he needed. Their friendship turned into an opportunity, when Don asked Kenny to be his business manager. Kenny has done some casting work for Don’s last 7 films, and has done casting for film and television projects for other producers, as well. Kenny has been a mentor now for many women who compete in fitness/figure/bodybuilding, and he does seminars dispensing information about how to market yourself, and how to break into the entertainment industry. (GMV has recorded such a seminar and its release will be dedicated to Kenny.)
What many do not know is that Kenny Kassel was one of the driving forces responsible for the 1999 Ms. Olympia contest taking place. After the late cancellation of the original Ms. Olympia contest for 1999, Kenny and his co-promoter Bob Bonham offered to hold the event in NJ. It was brought to Secaucus New Jersey on 2nd October and staged in conjunction with the Women’s Pro Extravaganza contest. Kim Chizevsky was again the Ms. Olympia winner for the 4th time in a row. From that time on the Ms. Olympia has been staged in Las Vegas along with the Mr. Olympia.
Kenny Kassel has touched many lives during his long career and will be sorely missed by the entire bodybuilding community.
written by Wayne Gallasch
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