He’s sitting in his galley kitchen, by the window with the faded shamrock decal, as the day goes grey.
Here, by the snow-white stove and refrigerator, Kevin rehearses and records his CDs.
He does most of his writing in the room across the hall, whose only significant furnishing is a sofa, or in his bedroom, where he spent the last two years penning Dirty Days, a non-fiction narrative detailing his escapades as a Bleecker Street bouncer and musician in Greenwich Village during the 1980s and 1990s.
Kevin, who was born in Jersey City and raised in Old Bridge, can’t remember a time when he wasn’t writing something, anything, everything.
“I still have stuff I wrote when I was 13,” he says, flipping through a file. “I sometimes use lines or lyrics I wrote at that time.”
Kevin, a gregarious, gentle bull, comes from a six-pack family – he has four sisters and a brother – that revels in its Irish roots.
“My mother is from Longford,” he says. “I grew up listening to Irish music. We made trips there in the summers, and I worked on my grandfather’s farm. She always reminded me that I was Irish.”
Kevin, a church choirboy, didn’t take to the guitar right away; in fact, he tossed his plectrum after only a few chords.
“I was more into writing poetry,” he says, adding that although he was the frontman in a high school garage band, it wasn’t until he was 40 that he taught himself to play bass.
“I forced myself to sit in this kitchen for two years until I got it,” he says.
Shortly after graduating from William Paterson University with a degree in communications, Kevin became a fixture in the East Village arts scene, where he was a bouncer at The Red Lion for 15 years.
It’s a funny story how he got that job. He was a wing forward in a rugby club at Seton Hall University, an institution he never attended but his then-girlfriend did.
“I played there three years and was one of the top team scorers,” he says. “One game I scored three times and was on the front page of the school’s newspaper. Nobody ever figured out I wasn’t a student. The bar owner saw my Seton rugby jacket and told me that if I wanted the job, I had to play. I was about 25 and hadn’t worked out for years, but I went to the gym and more than proved myself on the field. I think I would have said I was a player, a coach and a tenured rugby professor to get the job. I was so broke.”
Through the years, Kevin worked for other bars, as a bouncer and a bartender who loved to tell stories.
One night, a performer he was acquainted with invited him onto the stage to sing.
“It came natural to me,” he says. “I got a standing ovation, maybe because people liked the idea that I was a bartender not a band member.”
He subsequently joined that band, The 4th Floor, which played happy punk so well that it got a major record deal that led to national tours and opening for the likes of KISS, Alice Cooper and the Scorpions.
When that band broke up, in 1997, Kevin joined others, including Astoria-centric Begorrah, and began making his living as a freelance sound engineer for major TV networks and news outlets.
“It’s anything but a 9-to-5 job, and I’m on the road a lot,” he says, adding that that’s what he loves about it. “I have a lot of stories to tell about it.”
An assignment once took him and his guitar to Hardy, Arkansas, where during a break, he put on an impromptu show in the hotel parking lot while standing on a picnic table.
“Everybody was dancing,” he says, grinning.
That reminds him of the story he covered in 1999 for Good Morning America about a Kosovo war refugee who gave birth to a son only hours after her U.S. flight to freedom.
“They were having trouble getting the rolling hospital crib over the wires in the studio, and the nurse asked me to take the baby,” Kevin says. “It was the first child born to a Kosovo refugee on our soil, and the father wanted to name him America. He was so small and brittle that I was afraid I was going to crush him.”
Later that day, he found himself at SUNY-Purchase covering a Knicks game.
“I was standing by the bathroom, and Patrick Ewing cursed at me and told me to get out of his way,” Kevin says.
Still emotionally charged by his interaction with the Kosovo baby, Kevin sprang into action.
“I was just getting ready to punch Ewing in the face when my friend rushed up and stopped me,” he says.
When letters laced with lethal levels of anthrax began arriving in the mailboxes of VIPs and news personalities shortly after 9/11, Kevin found himself the center of attention.
“I just happened to have been on the scene where three of them were delivered,” he says. “All the people in the media were being screened, and I was called in and interrogated. When it dawned on me that I was the No. 1 suspect, I said, ‘You guys think I’m the guy? I’d stab the anthrax bomber.’”
Apparently his words, and those of his corroborating colleagues, were convincing, because Kevin was released after about two hours.
Faced with death and destruction headlines on a daily basis, Kevin decided to take a break from the news cycle and returned to work in Bleecker Street bars.
In 2006, he made TV work his full-time freelance gig.
“I only want to make money to make another record,” he says, adding that he’s self-produced five.
Since he finished Dirty Days, he’s been struggling to get an agent and a publisher.
He admits he’s discouraged but says that “I’m never gonna stop – I’m always making shit.”
Even so, he’s taken to writing songs so sad that they bring tears to the eyes.
He starts strumming It’s 3AM, a new tune that was inspired by a friend’s telling him about kids as young as 12 and 13 overdosing on heroin.
“It’s 3 am when the roar of the phone
Hits the air my heart races
If I don’t pick up, you will still be here with me …”
By the time Kevin reaches the end, his voice, husky and ragged from sorrow, catches.
“I don’t like singing it,” he says.
Copyright 2020 by Nancy A. Ruhling