Auckland-raised Harold Kissin was a man of many parts. During WWll he served in Italy and Egypt as a gunner. In the 1950s he launched what may have been Auckland's first coffee bar to serve authentic coffee — Ca' d'Oro in Customs Street — after importing an espresso machine with his friend Memé Churton. Later Kissin spent eight years running road and rail company Transport and Storage (aka Alltrans), before selling it on.
Kissin continued to work for Alltrans until 1973, when he turned a hobby into much more. In 1974, from a church hall in Symonds Street, he launched the New Independent Theatre (not to be confused with the New Independent Theatre of the early 1960s, which involved Frank Sargeson). Kissin was the theatre's driving force over eight years and 160+ productions. He and his colleagues mentored and gave opportunities to a variety of new talent, including local playwrights. It's estimated that around 150 of those who passed through the theatre went on to professional work elsewhere, whether for stage or screen.
In the 60s, Kissin acted in a number of stage roles. He also brought his distinctive gravelly voice to two of the only local movies to emerge: John O'Shea's 1964 road movie Runaway (as a cop) and 1972 drama To Love a Māori (as a lawyer).
in 1975 local television drama began to show undeniable signs of life, after the launch of a second channel. The next year Kissin appeared twice on the box in a single week. Alongside a small role in TV movie The God Boy, he was one of the travelling swaggers in Shining with the Shiner, the first episode of independently-made series Winners & Losers.
In the same period he won a measure of fame thanks to an ongoing part in new soap Close to Home. His role as a father and factory owner named Ted saw him getting recognised far more than desired.
In 1982 Kissin relocated to Sydney. He was 60. There he acted on stage and made roughly another dozen screen appearances, including on Aussie soap A Country Practice. In 1994 his daughter Lisa helped get him a bit part on Kiwi series Marlin Bay. With Lisa's son Kyle on set as a camera trainee, it's thought to be the first time that three generations of the same family worked on a New Zealand show.
His long run of commercials included a popular Yellow Pages advert, as a friendly pet store owner.
Harold Kissin passed away on 8 September 2004. He was 83.
Profile published on 10 May 2018