*Kenneth R. Reynolds was one of Hollywood’s best and most trusted and loved entertainment publicists. Since 1993, when he opened his Los Angeles-based Public Relations +, Reynolds was steadfast in representing a multiplicity of projects, events and career moves involving Black Hollywood’s most famous entertainers, movers and shakers, as well as up-and-coming talent.
With his patented big smile, Reynolds was a maestro at organizing and facilitating epic parties and other festive events attended by the “Who’s Who of Black Hollywood.” On Wednesday, April 18, in Los Angeles, Reynolds passed from complications attributed to a chronic kidney ailment. Yet, he leaves a legacy that will live on forever in Hollywood and beyond.
A small sampling of the entertainers who trusted Reynolds with their projects and career moves includes, Gladys Knight, Anna Maria Horsford, Jackee Harry, LaBelle, Whitney Houston, Stephanie Mills, Roy Ayers, Cheryl Lynn, “Kool and The Gang,” Herbie Hancock, “The Jacksons,” Taj Mahal, “Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band,” E’lam Jay and more.
“He became a self-taught, self-made publicist that was known throughout the world,” his youngest sister, Sean Reynolds, recently told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “Kenneth knew how to work a twist. He knew public relations, and had a lot of energy, drive and ambition. He was steadfast on his course. I wrote a book called, ‘Dying for a Change’ and hired Ken as my publicist. Every day I was in the news. I couldn’t have done that without Kenneth.”
In addition to representing individual clients, Reynolds was noted for creating and overseeing media strategies for such organizations or events as the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, the Black Entertainment & Sports Lawyers Association, the 28th Annual Image Awards, and the United Negro College Fund, among others.
“Kenneth knew everybody,” said Sean. “And everyone who knew Kenneth knew that he always brought a lot to the table, including a great sense of humor.”
A native of Chicago, Kenneth Reynolds grew up with younger sister Sean and older sister Karen. According to Sean, her brother moved to New York when he was 17. In the Big Apple, he worked as a page for The Merv Griffin Show. On one occasion, Reynolds was asked to take a limo and pick up actress Lucille Ball from the airport. Ball was to appear on The Merv Griffin Show. While star struck, Reynolds, upon meeting Ball at the airport, had a great conversation with the actress on the long drive to the studio. Reynolds would go on to meet many other movie and television stars through The Merv Griffin Show.
Reynolds ultimately left the show and moved to Spain for a couple of years. Yet, he never forgot his interactions with some of the biggest stars in the entertainment industry back in America. After returning to the United States, Reynolds became the global road manager for the female singing group “LaBelle,” which consisted of Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sara Dash.
From his time with “LaBelle,” Reynolds gained a strong reputation of trust and dependability throughout the music industry. Reynolds’ reputation led to media and marketing management jobs at such record companies as Arista, CBS and PolyGram.
It was at Arista Records, in the mid-1980s, where Reynolds met Whitney Houston. He created a marketing plan that launched her career that ultimately made her a global pop diva and icon. Reynolds and Houston maintained a lifelong friendship.
“My first meeting with Whitney was to help her put together her personal thank you credits for her debut album,” Reynolds always told media outlets. “She said, ‘Oh yeah, Ken Reynolds, I’ve heard about you. I’m looking forward to working with you.’ ”
There were other entertainers who looked forward to working with Reynolds.
“The success of my whole professional and entertainment life as a Hollywood socialite is because of Ken Reynolds,” said Norwood Young, singer, recording artist, author, and who was once crowned “The King of Hancock Park.” “He was a gracious host. He was an amazing event producer. He had the ability to bring together amazing people from amazing walks of life to have a good time.”
“For me, it’s an end of an era and chapter; it’s hurtful” said Young of Reynolds’ passing. “From Merv Griffin to Whitney Houston, and so many others in between, Ken touched the lives of so many people. I would venture to say that 98% of Black Hollywood would have the same thing to say about this man. His level of authenticity never changed regardless of where he was. We were like brothers. Ken was not about drama; he was about life and love.”
“Ken was a guy who wanted people to have a good time,” added Sean Reynolds. “He could work a party. I’m going to miss talking with Ken three or four times a week. I’ll miss Ken calling me on Sundays, asking me how to cook something that I told him how to cook hundreds of times. I will miss everything about him.”
In a written statement distributed to media outlets, R&B singer Cheryl Lynn wrote.
“Kenneth always told me I could do anything,” said Lynn, who met Reynolds when she was signed to CBS Records, and he was the label’s publicist. “He believed in me. I will miss him, but I will carry many memories that will make me smile.”