First KISS Tribute?

Mortimer Snerd
The South Amboy/Sayreville Times
Date: September 24, 2006
KISSonline received this South Amboy/Sayreville Times article from Ken Sharp. KOL Side note: Band member Bernie Hogya co-created the milk mustache campaign and worked with Paul, Gene, Ace, and Peter a few years ago on their photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz.

By Michael Parker

”Mortimer Snerd may have been one of the first, if not ’the‘ first KISS tribute band!“
—Ken Sharp, Author KISS: Behind the Mask: The Official Authorized Biography

One might ask why a famous author would make such a comment about an unknown Sayreville/South Amboy rock band. It’s because Ken Sharp is a good friend of Bernie Hogya, the former lead guitar player for the 1970’s band Mortimer Snerd, and they were talking about the now infamous Snerd/KISS show back on October 30, 1975. A few days after the release of KISS Alive, the members of Mortimer Snerd thought it would be a “cool” idea to do a Halloween show dressed like KISS.

Recently, I was able to locate the four members of Mortimer Snerd: Bernie, Mark Merriman, front man, keyboardist and bassist, Tom Zebro, bassist, guitarist and vocalist, and Larry Bogush, drummer, and speak with them about the famed KISS show and about the launch of their nostalgic website

Here’s their story:

MP SA Times: At the time, KISS was big, but still somewhat of a local attraction. So, the first question is why a KISS show?

Bernie: Mark was the big KISS fan in the group. One evening he came to practice with the first album. We immediately learned “Firehouse” and then “Strutter.” The second and third albums came out and we learned more of their songs.

Tom: But it was nothing more than songs intermingled within our sets. That was it. There was no thought of concept.

Mark: However, with the release of the live album, KISS became huge in a relatively short period of time. We in the band had seen KISS a number of times and felt this album captured the energy and power of their live performance. I immediately went to the next band practice and told the band we needed to re-learn the songs, arranging them like the live album.

Larry: Our next live show was the Saturday after the release of the KISS Alive album at St. Joe’s in Metuchen. There, we performed the new arrangements of the KISS songs. It just so happened that this particular performance, retrospectively was the high point of our career. There were 1,200 kids in attendance, more than three times our normal audience size, and they loved us! It was the first time we were asked to do an encore!

Tom: I remember Paul Stanley’s influence on Mark. That night when he was working the audience, he used all of Paul’s banter from the album like: “Give yourself a round of applause,” and “I know you can do better than that,” and “Catch your breath.”

Mark: Really? I don’t recall that!

Larry: No recollection? Shocking!

We had this job coming up on Halloween at Sayreville Junior High and I thought what would be more appropriate than to do a KISS show that night!

Bernie: Well, after that show we were on this big high. We felt we were going places. But Larry, always thinking, felt we needed to do something. bigger, something better

Larry: We had this job coming up on Halloween at Sayreville Junior High and I thought what would be more appropriate than to do a KISS show that night! I felt, if we could pull this off, this would be very cool!

MP SA Times: Just for the record, how old were you guys at the time.

Mark: Me, Tom and Bernie were about 16-17. Larry was the old man; I think he just turned 18.

Tom: I recall Larry proposing the idea, and as always, we thought it was out there. But so were a lot of his ideas and they usually always worked. So, we all said yeah, and began creating our costumes and working out the set.

Larry:Larry: Meanwhile, I went to the school board and proposed our idea of doing a KISS show, and they gave us permission to do it!

Mark: Almost immediately, word got out and people would come up to us and ask if it was true, and our answer would be come and see. Well, they did. That night there were 500 kids at that show.

Bernie: The agreement we made with the venue was, instead of the traditional three sets with 15-minute breaks in between, we would do two longer sets with an hour break in between. This would give us a chance to get made up.

Mark: I remember that night vividly. While we were getting into costumes one of our friends, Keith Kotun was working the crowd. And he was doing a great job. He had these kids in a frenzy! When we came out the kids had made a path from our dressing room to the stage, about 100 yards. As we walked through this sea of kids, they were screaming, and trying to grab us and touch the makeup. It was wild! I have to believe some of those kids thought KISS was really there!

Tom: And we played the rock star thing to the hilt! When we launched into “Deuce” and the flash pots went off, the kids went crazy, screaming, clapping, and rushing the stage. It was bizarre!

Bernie: And we did the whole thing: The smoke, flash pots, Tom's guitar burst into flames (intentionally), and the choreography. Mark even did the flame thing and the blood spitting.

MP SA Times: You did the flame throwing?

Mark: Yeah, it was kind of cool. Larry and I found this magic store in Red Bank. Doug Heller’s. He had this stuff called “Dragon’s breath.” It was a real fine power, almost liquid and it was in this squeeze container that could fit in your mouth. The deal was when you applied pressure to the container; the powder would spray out, hit the open flame, and project outwards from there. It gave the impression you were blowing flames from your mouth, but it was incredibly safe!

Larry started the song early and, in a rush, I swallowed the blood. After the set, I read the label and in big letters it read “DO NOT SWALLOW.” I immediately got sick and drove myself to the hospital.

MP SA Times: I understand there was an incident with the blood.

Mark: Yeah, the plan was I would do the blood spitting routine, run backstage and rinse and be ready for the next song. Well, Larry started the song early and, in a rush, I swallowed the blood. After the set, I read the label and in big letters it read “DO NOT SWALLOW.” I immediately got sick and drove myself to the hospital. Now imagine, I run into the emergency room, a little freaked, still in costume with blood all over my face. I give the nurse the bottle and say, “Hey, I swallowed this stuff, what's going to happen?” She slowly examined the label then looked at me, and in a deadpan tone replied, “You know, you can’t get high from this.” Bottom line was she told me to get some food, so I went for a burger and milkshake and lived to tell about it.

MP SA Times: How do you think you sounded that night?

Tom: I remember the entire night sounding good!

Mark: I remember it sounding great!

Larry: The next day, I received calls from a number of venues, attempting to verify that we did a KISS show and asking if we would agree to do one for them. I said sure and made up this ridiculous price and they agreed! It was great. We hit upon something!

Bernie: Thinking back, it was pretty “cutting edge” for that time. And the thing is, we always seemed to do something that made us stand out from the other groups like our Dark Side of the Moon show, the singing telephone, the props and ругоtechnic effects, so we just thought the KISS thing was normal.

Since Mortimer Snerd donned KISS costumes and makeup, there have been thousands of bands—local, national, and international that have performed similar KISS tribute shows. But if you were one of the many Snerd fans crowded into Sayreville Junior High that eventful night in 1975, you now know that you can say you saw it first.

I have to point out that while this interview centers around the KISS show, each member of the band brought their own musical tastes to the table. They performed the music of: Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, David Bowie, Deep Purple, Genesis (long before anyone knew who Genesis was), The Who, Jethro Tull, Mott the Hoople, Sparks and the list goes on.

To read more about the adventures of Mortimer Snerd go to Find out more about their history, the theatrics, the schemes, and gimmicks. You’ll find the site pretty amusing.

Sayreville band ‘kissed’ by fame, 30 years later

The South Amboy/Sayreville Times
Date: October 12, 2006
Publication: The Suburban
Mortimer Snerd officially recognized as first tribute to Kiss

By Jessica Smith

Four costumed guys in black and white makeup made their way to the stage, ready to “rock and roll all night,” or at least for the next couple of hours. It was Halloween night, 1975, just 40 days after the release of KISS Alive!—an album that helped to propel the band to stardom.

The four guys on stage, however, were not KISS, but a local teen band called Mortimer Snerd—to the 500 cheering kids in the auditorium at Sayreville Junior High School, however, it didn’t seem to matter.

“We were just a bunch of goofy kids paying tribute to this band,” said drummer Larry Bogush, now of Cliffwood Beach.

Their band had attracted a crowd of 1,200 at St. Joseph’s in Metuchen the Saturday after KISS Alive! was released, when they played songs from the album. Bogush, who was the marketing and promo person in the band, proposed the Halloween show to his band mates, and what is now recognized as the first of countless KISS tribute bands was born.

“We thought it would be perfect for junior high because junior high school kids would be into that kind of stuff,” Bogush said.

In the 30 years since, Mortimer Snerd had become only a memory to the band members. Aside from Bogush putting together a CD that he sent to his band mates, and a reunion party one year, the band was all but forgotten. Until just recently.

In August, Bogush used photographs and recordings he had kept over the years to put together a web site with former lead guitarist Bernie Hogya, who still resides in Sayreville. Hogya had become acquainted with Ken Sharp, author of KISS: Behind the Mask, the Official Authorized Biography, in working with him at a KISS photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz for the milk mustache campaign. Hogya co-created the campaign. The story of the band and the first of countless Kiss tribute shows by bands all over the world is featured on the official Kiss Web site.

Paul Stanley, lead singer of KISS, who is usually reluctant to put other bands on the official Web site,, made an exception for Mortimer Snerd.

When Bogush sent Hogya the photos for the site, Hogya forwarded them to Sharp. Recognizing that Mortimer Snerd was probably the first KISS cover band. Sharp sent the information to Paul Stanley, lead singer of KISS. Stanley, who is usually reluctant to put other bands on the official Web site,, made an exception for Mortimer Snerd, Bogush said.

“He thought it was a great story based on its historic value. Once it was validated by Paul Stanley, the other fan sites picked it up,” Bogush said.

Since the article about the band showed up on the KISS site, it has made its way onto web sites as far away as Italy and Russia. Mortimer Snerd’s status as the first tribute band will also be acknowledged in future publications of Sharp’s book.

While the members of Mortimer Snerd no longer play together as a band, Bogush said he and Hogya sat down and played together last year. He said it is ironic that, because he owns an audio-visual company, he now has a warehouse full of the musical equipment they dreamed of having as kids, but they are not using it. He still plays at home by himself, although now it is guitar instead of drums.

“Although we have the desire to play, reality gets in the way, and it happens once a year instead of once a month,” Bogush said.

Former lead singer and bass player Mark Merriman is the only one who continues to play music regularly, as far as Bogush knows. He is in a band and also serves as the conductor for a church group. He lives in the Leonardo section of Middletown. Former rhythm guitarist Tom Zebro lives in Nazareth, Pa. Bogush, whose South Amboy-based business is called LBI, lives near the beach in Cliffwood Beach with his wife, Robin, and daughter Sara, 18. His other daughter, Teresa, 22, lives in Texas.

Though Bogush said he ranked fourth as far as talent when they were in the band, he said he thought they were good musically considering their ages at the time, even beyond their gimmicks and stage effects. While they have all moved on from Mortimer Snerd, fans might still see a tiny glimmer of hope for a reunion show.

“That wouldn’t be up to me,” Bogush said. “If I felt it meant something to those guys, I would go along with it.”

KISSonline Profiles Mortimer Snerd

The South Amboy/Sayreville Times
Date: October 21, 2006
The South Amboy/Sayreville Times

By Bernie Hogya

When Ken Sharp (Official KISStorian) told me that my high school rock band might have been the first KISS tribute band, it was certainly something I had never considered before. But it looks like he may have been correct.

A story about Mortimer Snerd’s 1975 KISS tribute show at Sayreville Junior High School appeared in last month’s issue of The South Amboy/Sayreville Times. Ken sent the story to KISSonline. They forwarded it to KISS band member Paul Stanley. Amazingly, Paul Stanley dug the story! I’m guessing he got a kick out of our homemade costumes and grass roots sincerity. We even built our own smoke machine for the gig.

The KISS tribute band circuit is so serious right now, that bands spend a fortune buying costumes, sets and instruments to sound and look like KISS. We were a group of teenagers who happened to add a bunch of KISS songs to our set list before anyone thought the classic rock band was cool. Who would have guessed that some 30 odd years later we’d get the very attention of the band themselves, as well as their legion of fans?

So, what happened as a result of all of this attention? Incredible as it sounds, the story of Mortimer Snerd's first KISS tribute show was featured on the home page of the official KISS website,, with a link to the full story! As a result, our band’s web site, received thousands of hits from KISS fans looking to read more about the local South Amboy/Sayreville band that donned KISS makeup and costumes for the first time!

But there’s even more! KISS websites around the world picked up the story and within days, KISS fans from Italy, the Netherlands and even Russia were reading about Mortimer Snerd and our show. One Russian KISS fan who runs a website in that country asked each of the band members to write a personal message to KISS fans in his country (along with our hopes for world peace). Thanks to my longtime friend and former band mate Larry Bogush for coming up with the crazy idea that our high school band deserved a web site, and former roadie (now professional photographer) Brian Stratton for getting the story in The South Amboy/Sayreville Times, and former band member Tom Zebro for looking so much like Paul Stanley and Mark Merriman for accidentally ingesting that fake blood!

I guess the only thing left for us to do is a reunion.