A THIRTY YEAR KISS

kisswilton

When I was in high school in Wilton Connecticut back in the mid-late 70’s, the rock group KISS was a big deal. Although the quality of their music was middling at best, their wild stage makeup and costumes and live concerts complete with levitating stages and explosive pyrotechnics were a sight to behold, and a source of adulation for us teens. Bass player Gene Simmons even spit fire and blood, how cool to a young hormone bursting boy.

One autumn back then, four of us high schoolers decided we would go to Fergie’s big annual Halloween bash as KISS. I would be Ace, lead guitarist and “The Spaceman” (no jokes please); John Winans (later named ‘Best Looking Guy’ in our class, a title still under protest) would be Gene, “The Demon”; Andy Klotz would be Peter, the drummer and “The Catman”, and John Chapman would be Paul, lead singer and “The Starchild.”  My Dad was an architect and an extremely artistic person in general (our Halloween pumpkins back then were amazing, before any of those current templated kits you can buy), and he offered to do our makeup, in line with the original band look. Andy, who was a very talented artist in his own right and has since become a well-respected designer of iron-based modern art, did his own makeup, and Chapman did his own as well. The night of the party, Winans and I took turns sitting in our kitchen, as Dad carefully applied the makeup, using one of my KISS albums as a guide. It was one of a million labors of love that my father showed me in my life. As you can see by the picture above, we looked pretty darn good when we were all dressed and ready to go: John in his fake chest piece and me in my silver painted shoulder pads (Dad made those too) and wig and actual guitar (I didn’t play but it made the outfit complete). Yes, that is me, upper right, with John, left. We were ready to rock Fergie’s hard. Or…pretend to at least.

Long story short: we won the party’s costume contest hands down after actually putting on an air-guitar performance of Rock and Roll All Night, KISS’ ultimate party anthem, in Fergie’s basement, complete with John/Gene using hair spray and a lighter to simulate Gene’s fire-spewing talents. Amazing we didn’t burn the house down. The prize for winning: a bottle of cheap champagne, which we promptly chugged in 30 seconds. I remember hitting the bathroom shortly after we won to remove the thick makeup, and after realizing it would take alot more effort than I was willing to give, I donned my varsity jacket and jeans and spent the rest of the night as “Ace Meets HS Jock.” All in all it was one of the most memorable times ever.

My buddy Jay Hungerford and I would make a pilgrimage around that time to see KISS at Madison Square Garden, and it was well worth the trip. KISS would remain a big part of our youth. Sure, we loved other bands more that were musically better and not as goofy, and those other bands would ultimately resonate and grow with us as life went on. I haven’t really listened to a KISS record since then. But KISS was a wonderful guilty pleasure back in the day, a rock and roll novelty, but a fun, unforgettable one.

Me and "The Starchild", lead singer Paul Stanley of KISS, Washington DC, 2008

Fast forward to 2008, almost exactly thirty years later. It began like a normal workday and I was walking into our lobby from the parking garage to get my paper, when I noticed a man signing in at the front desk. Is that…? Naw. Couldn’t be. I went upstairs to my office, still wondering. It did LOOK like him, but naw, can’t be. So I went to a website, and yep, it said he would be appearing in DC this day on a publicity tour for his artwork, and one of the stops? Here at W*USA TV. It actually WAS him: Paul Stanley, lead singer of KISS, the “Starchild”, a rock icon, part of my rock and roll youth and priceless high school memories, and he was in the building. Never one to miss a major rock and roll moment, I watched his appearance on our news from my office, then printed out one of his latest paintings, and raced down to grab a quick autograph; damn how I wish I’d known he was coming in, I woulda brought in my weathered copy of KISS’ “Destroyer” album to add to our album wall at home, and a camera for a picture! Oh well. Anyway, I waited in the lobby for a few minutes, and then who came walking out but one of rock’s most famous lead singers, albeit without the “star-eyed” makeup that is his signature. “Hey I’m the goofy staffer who accosts the rock star”, I said impulsively. “No problem, how ya doin?” Paul said, and he scrawled his John Hancock onto the printout. Pretty cool, I thought, but damn, wish I had that camera. Almost miraculously, his assistant (an attractive curvy woman, but who else would a guy in KISS have as an assistant?) said, “Hey can I get a picture of you guys for the website?” Yes! Jackpot! So we turned to her and smiled and wham: there we are, me and “The Starchild” for posterity.

As he walked out to his waiting Escalade, thought waves of our big win at Fergie’s party, my Dad’s caring hands making up my face, Hungy and I watching the fire explode and the blood spill at MSG, air guitaring alone in my bedroom on Millstone Road to KISS ALIVE II; it all came streaming back. Wow. How cool.

You know, this one KISS, it lasted thirty years. Thanks Paul, Starchild, lead singer of KISS, for helping a 47 year old “kid’s” rock memories come full circle. Shout it out loud.

acehouse

Footnote:  Ace Frehley, “The Spaceman” and lead guitarist of KISS who I dressed up as at that legendary Halloween party, actually ended up building a huge house back in the late 70’s in Wilton about a mile away from my house, complete with it’s own recording studio. An ad for the sale of the house is seen above. One drunken evening, he evidently drove his car right into the front of the house, to which a local paper’s headline mused: “ROCK STAR KISSES HOUSE.”

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2 Responses to “A THIRTY YEAR KISS”

  1. Model citizen Says:

    I remenber when someone drove a suburban
    through Aces livingroom during a party.
    As I remember,the party didnt stop until the cops showed up

    • midliferocker Says:

      Yes, that was referenced in the piece I wrote. Paper headline said “Rock Star Kisses House.” I believe it was a very drunk Ace who was behind the wheel. Thanks for reading!

      Steve

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