Harold Kissin, actor, businessman. Died aged 83.

Harold Kissin, who appeared in a television advertisement featuring a little girl, a grey budgie and a kindly pet shop owner, has died in Sydney.

Kissin's acting career began in amateur theatre, and parts in Auckland University's first outdoor Shakespeare productions. In 1974 he started Auckland's New Independent Theatre in St Andrew's Hall in Symonds St, providing a venue where hopeful directors and actors denied access to the then mainstream theatres would have a chance to develop their talent.

For 12 years it operated as a professional theatre, presenting on average 10 main-house and 18 lunchtime productions every year. At a time when none of the other professional companies in Auckland tackled anything but classic or proven British or American box office successes, at least one-third of New Independent Theatre's repertoire was either home-grown or off-beat offshore drama.


The heady mix of repertoire as well as proven and experimental talent gave New Independent Theatre an uncomfortable balance between blazing successes and overnight artistic disasters. Regardless, Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, Auckland's mayor and Kissin's uncle, was always there on opening night; and when a disagreement with the new minister of St Andrew's Church in 1978 forced New Independent out of its hall (after having improved its facilities at the cost of some $30,000) Mayor Robbie was one of the most vocal public protesters.

In addition to his work in the theatre, Kissin appeared in a number of television productions, including the role of Ted in the long-running series Close to Home. He also had parts in Ian Mune's Winners and Losers and Mortimer's Patch.

Kissin's business career was totally unrelated to the theatre. In the mid-1950s he and his friend Meme Churton imported a primitive but very expensive espresso machine and opened what was probably Auckland's first authentic coffee bar, Ca d'Oro in Customs St, followed by another, Trieste, also in the inner city.

One of New Zealand's first road-to-rail transport companies, Transport and Storage, was started by Kissin in the late 1950s, and sold eight years later, under the name Alltrans, to Australia-based TNT. Kissin continued to work for the company until 1973, when he retired to pursue his acting career fulltime.

He moved to Australia in 1982 and is survived by a daughter, Lisa, and son, Joel.