Paprika Southern: Keith Needs A Kidney

by Anthony Garzilli

Keith Kozel and his daughter Zelia, photo by Siobhan Egan
Keith Kozel and his daughter Zelia, photo by Siobhan Egan

Keith Kozel needs a kidney. Two nurses from Florida didn’t know that last weekend when they saw a sign in a window advertising that “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” was playing at the Lucas Theatre.

They liked the 1985 Tim Burton film. They figured they’d spend a night at the movies. Two couples. Husbands and wives. A double date.

Then they noticed the movie was also a benefit. They did not know Keith Kozel, but they know about people in need. The couples made their donations and grabbed orchestra seats. They sat among Kozel’s friends, adults, children, musicians, artists, movie lovers.

They said they’d eaten pizza at Vinnie Van Go Go’s and is that right, Kozel was the kitchen manager there for 23 years and Vinnie’s was matching the first $3,000 donated? Glad we can help.

They joked about making out when the lights went low. They sipped drinks and asked about Kozel. They listened.

Kozel has been a fixture in the Savannah music scene since the 1990s. He’s been the frontman for GAM, Superhorse, Hall Monitor, and the Foxedos. Kozel’s toured in upstate New York and Chicago and New Orleans and throughout the Southeast.

He’s also an artist, a husband and father of a 1-year-old daughter, Zelia. Kozel’s 46 years old. Five years ago he was diagnosed with Type 2 MPGN, a degenerative kidney disease. His kidneys are in end-stage renal failure. Soon he’ll be required to be on dialysis. Eventually his kidneys will no longer work.

Keith Kozel needs a kidney.

Last weekend’s movie showing – spearheaded by Kozel’s longtime friend and bandmate Jim Reed – was the first benefit for Kozel. On Saturday at 6 p.m., The Jinx on West Congress Street will host an event for Kozel. There will be a silent art auction, DJ Basik Lee will play some music and there will be performances from Forced Entry, Hot Plate and Niche. The money raised will help pay Kozel’s medical costs.

The cost for a kidney transplant and treatment and medications is almost $400,000. Kozel’s health insurance will only cover a small portion. Donations can also be made at http://www.giveforward.com. So far through that site $28,000 has been raised.

Keith Kozel needs a kidney.

The music has always enriched Kozel’s life. It’s been freaky, psychedelic punk rock (GAM) and garage rock (Superhorse) and stoner metal (Hall Monitor) and its always been played with a passion. Kozel’s influences have been the Ramones, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Sonic Youth, the Misfits and Black Flag.

The first GAM show was in 1993 at the old Congress Street Station. The last time Kozel played a big gig with GAM was this year’s Savannah Rocks! event. It was a 45-minute set. He plays once or twice a week at a friend’s house, just jamming on the guitar and singing, but sometime soon he’d love to be back on a big stage, with the boys, performing for a crowd. Kozel thinks he can go for about two hours. He knows GAM can still pack a venue. He wants that rich, electric, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants feeling. That feeling of connecting with the crowd. That feeling that he and the band are on the cusp of making art happen.

Keith Kozel needs a kidney.

Kozel loves his daughter. She hammers away on her drums and xylophone. They play with their dog. They take walks to Foxy Loxy. If you’re good, she’ll sing softly for you. She has the bluest eyes.

Kozel loves his friends. Benefits have been organized and money has been raised and it’s really indescribable. All those people offering to help. Wanting to help. People he knows, people he’s barely met. His wife’s friends. His wife’s friend’s friends. Two couples from Florida.

Kozel is living with a chronic illness, but he has the support of his wife and daughter and a giving community. He’s grateful for the generosity.

You should know how good it makes him feel to know how people feel about him.

Help Keith Kozel get a kidney.

Carrie, Keith and their daughter Zelia, photo by Keith Kozel and his daughter Zelia, photo by Siobhan Egan
Carrie, Keith and their daughter Zelia, photo by Keith Kozel and his daughter Zelia, photo by Siobhan Egan
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