Remembering former KISS guitarist Mark St. John on the day that he would have turned 65 years old
Former KISS guitarist Mark St. John would have turned 65 years old today if he was still alive. St. John was born as Mark Leslie Norton on February 7, 1956 and died at the age of 51 on April 5, 2007 with the official cause of death being brain hemorrhage. The guitarist played on one KISS studio album — Animalize (1984) — and was eventually replaced by Bruce Kulick on the tour supporting that record given that the former suffered from a form of arthritis called Reiter’s Syndrome, which caused his hands and arms to swell, and prevented him from playing guitar.
St. John would fall into hard times in the years leading to his death. Wikipedia reports the following about his declining health and eventual death (with slight edits):
Beginning on September 14, 2006, St. John was incarcerated for several days at Theo Lacy Jail in Orange County, California, after being charged with possession of unspecified drug paraphernalia, attempted destruction of evidence, and resisting arrest. He was initially housed at the facility’s D Barracks, a medium-security dormitory for nonviolent offenders. He was later moved to F-West Barracks after telling guards he had stolen crackers from another inmate’s property box and was in fear for his safety. A guard allegedly conspired with a group of inmates to have St. John assaulted for the transgression, and subsequently St. John was brutally beaten and stabbed with pencils by a group of up to 20 inmates. The guard was later placed on paid leave pending an investigation into this and other violent incidents inside the jail. In an interview with the OC Weekly, a fellow inmate described St. John‘s encounter:
“He got caught stealing something. I guess he did that somewhere else in the jail, but we found out about it somehow. . . . The Kiss guy got beat up pretty bad.”
His girlfriend, who said he was unrecognizable after the vicious beating, believed the incident was directly responsible for his untimely death several months later. A couple of days before the beating, St. John told her that he had “snitched” on a drug dealer several years earlier, and he believed he was certain to be attacked if this became known by the other inmates.
For the next several months after leaving Theo Lacy Jail, St. John suffered severe headaches and body aches and many times told his girlfriend that the chronic ailments were absolutely the result of the beating at Theo Lacy. While it’s not known what medical attention he received inside the jail, after his release he refused to see a doctor due to having no medical insurance, and thus his health deteriorated. St. John died on April 5, 2007, due to what the coroner described as a brain hemorrhage brought on by an accidental overdose of methamphetamine.
Friends claimed that St. John was never the same after the beating and would not discuss his brief time at Theo Lacy Jail. Another friend stated that St. John fell deep into depression and drug addiction after being released, selling all his outfits, and mowing lawns and doing roofing to afford a drug habit that spiraled out of control.”
KISS‘ “Heaven’s On Fire” video: