Reprinted from “Super Rock Awards” Magazine (The Kiss Diary Issue). Spring 1979
“The Kiss Caper”: Written by Michael Gross
Gotham City, hear midnight, December*31,1973, The Academy Of Music.
- Cold. No date on New Year’s…. Two tix for The Blue Oyster Cuit/Iggy Pop show at The Academy. Outside the theatre, the Jewish Defense League was picketing the Cult. Inside, Kiss (at least that’s what the logo over their heads said) was onstage – added to the already metallically stacked bill at the last moment. Can’t remember much. Simmons breathed fire, I think. That may have been the night he set his hair on fire which was noticed only from the
stench after the flames had been put out by a roadie. Iggy musta been high on ‘ludes or something. He fell in the photo pit a good five times. A photographer claimed Pop was not high, that Pop was in a murderous frame of mind. ROCK SINGER MAIMS NIKON. Wotta headline. Cult was ponderous. Max’s Kansas City was crowded, even on its last legs as Manhattan Rock’s flagship boite. The entire evening held the feeling of death. The bathrooms and backrooms reeked of indulgence. But it wasn’t death. It was the birth of Kiss.
Gotham City, near midnight, Summer, 1975, The Beacon Theatre.
Hot. No date for Kiss. Who in their right mind would want to go? But my agent friend’s agency had booked the date, someone from Casablanca Records had called and begged me to go. There was a party afterwards. Calling up memories of Kiss at the Academy, I could find nothing to recommend the trip uptown. Two hours later I was standing on my seat, going berserk with a crowd of urban
lemmings determined to prove that this was Liverpool, not Gotham; 1962, not 1975; The Beatles, not Kiss. From the first song, hysteria reigned. Next to me in the aisle, a dark, scrawny street urchin in army drag and battered Frye Boots was sticking PCP up his nose with a ramrod pinky. Every part of his body moved to the basic beat of the four devilish kids from Queens onstage. In the press section, a few of the more staid members of the as yet un-official- ized Rock-Crit-Estab stayed sitting. They could just catch the glow of the flashpots. They were never meant to understand. Least not so long as they wouldn’t stand. A joint got passed down the long orchestra aisle. I watched its progress. Some kids hit deeply and smiled. Others sipped, spat and passed it on. Angel Dust. The Kiss Army didn’t need no C-rations. They wore stripes on their brains
where the cells used to be. I passed the joint on and looked back at the stage just in time to get triple vision from a ceiling scorching flash of white light. All the kids standing on all the seats thatfilled the Beacon orchestra lifted off the ground with the fire. Several encores later, vision still blurred, I walked a half-block to the Kiss party, snookered two groupies past the officious and protective pub- licists at the door, and spent the rest of the night fending off the
advances of two homosexual waiters (Fags were as big that year as ‘ludes. Came dressed in white more often than not, too), trying to see that Thai in a cloud of more Angel Dust, wondering why Kiss came to the party still made up. I ttied to get laid, but the only seemingly willing woman wanted ‘ludes, Dust, or Paul Stanley. I had none of those things.
Gotham City, near noon, Summer, 1976, Park Avenue.
I was sitting in my office minding my own sweet time. It’s been a busy summer, but in this week of July Four nonsense, things had ground close to a halt. The Dead were scheduled to play a stadium date in New Jersey, but it had been cancelled by the city when, a week before, a twerp with a weapon decided to make somebody dead at a Yes show. Kiss were scheduled for a week after that. I was hoping for an excuse to go see them. Put ‘em on a magazine cover. Prove my fleeting teen credentials. Now Kiss seemed more than a kiss away, with only the bloody Jersey date scheduled in the New York area. Three writers were sitting by their phones, waiting to be given the go-ahead to get on the Kiss Case. I picked up my phone to call the first and cancel.
A female voice crackled through the receiver. She’d been connected
without so much as ringing my bell. Did I want to come to a Kiss dress rehearsal in the same airplane hanger The Stones had used before their last tour? Sure as shit.
Gotham City, 6pm, July 2,1976, Madison Avenue.
A long line of sleek limosines stood in front of the ofices of Aucoin Management. Upstairs, two writers and a photographer were already waiting. The lobby was torn to shreds, ready for re-decoration, but the office functioned as if the sleek Mad. Ave. decor was already installed. Only problem was, hushed conversations and quiet footfalls sounds like Screaming Lord Sutch and M-80s when the carpet and wallpaper aren’t doing their sound swallowing job. From around a glass and wood wall, I heard the female voice again. From around the corner came a familiar face, a favorite freelance PR gun for hire. Behind her: The Blonde.
The Blonde walked towards me and introduced herself. National Tour Coordinator for Casablanca Records.
I was boggled.
Suntanned. Sleek. With a smile that could turn a pimp’s head at 50 paces, a smile that could make a gay boy reconsider, make a jaded old rock writer forget Laurel Canyon and rediscover the thrills of electricity. If she’d asked me to write a rave review of The Carpenters, I’d have done it. A writer showed up and saved me from having to attempt speech.
On The Road To Newburgh, N.Y., later that night, Dav-El Livery’s Bullet.
As luck would have it, The Blonde was assigned to another car. I got the bullet, a long silver Lincoln, ace-photographer Waring Abbott, several writers and Alan Miller of Aucoin. They weren’t letting up. First they teased me. Then they gave me a taste. Then, boggled by the Casablanca California girl, my indoctrination began. Miller outlined the new Kiss show, dealed out a few anecdotes, charmed my careening psyche. Later that night, I’d dream him saying, “So, you don’t like PCP and Angel Dust, heh? Well we have ways of making you join the Kiss Army. We’ll start with a blonde. . . .” She sat next to me at the surt and turf dinner arranged for dress rehearsal rag guests. She sat next to me during the rehearsal. I lost my note pad. The batteries in my tape recorder died (not unusual, but who could say, under the circumstances?) She told me about the other bands she’d toured with, Parliament and Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Somewhere along the way, ten points slid onto the scoreboard next to her name; Under the Bacall exterior was a Bacall interior. Riding back to Gotham, I said a silent prayer that she was in the other car. Didn’t feel much like Bogart that night.
Gotham City, July 6-9,1976.
The tall ships, Jerry Ford, Bicentennial magazine covers, Todd Rundgren, fireworks and July 4th had passed. I watched it all with a bit of awe, surprised at my own innocence. Tuesday, in the office, I locked up the idea of a Kiss Special Issue, a’bit in awe, surprised at my own innocence. The Blonde called several times that week, and I saw her once or twice as I went up to Aucoin to pick pictures, learn about Kiss from Alan Miller, meet 1976′s answer to Shep Gordon (you remember Alice Cooper, don’t you?), Bill Aucoin, and arrange for Wes to speak to Gene and Paul and for me to go to the uncancelled Jersey stadium show. Everyone likes a magazine editor about to throw forty some-odd pages to one group. But of course, everyone at Aucoin knew I would do it. Was I paranoid? No. But I knew that they knew that I knew that they knew the power of The Blonde. Two PCP-esque lightning streaks were appearing on my prefrontal lobe. They looked suspiciously like the last half of the Kiss logo. Each day, they were burning deeper.
On The Road To Jersey, July 10, 1976
A Caravan For Kiss. Jimmy and I took over the last few rows of the bus. His friend Marilyn came on and sat with us, explaining, she and one other lady were to be our press bus Mothers. The other lady was The Blonde. She slid into the seat next to me, relentless. I rolled a joint and smoked it fast and hard. Marilyn, who belongs as much to Raymond Chandler as she does to Bill Aucoin, cracked wise, all the way to Jersey. When she and The Blonde began losing their grip on things, Jimmy and I took over as Bus Mamas, giving out the sangria, getting the press drunk before we hit the Jersey swamps. I didn’t need a drink. I was swooning on the smile. We got off the bus and Gene Simmons walked by. A girl fainted. Cute. Aucoin had arranged an Italian Feast and video screens backstage. A crew-member arranged some more interesting head food. You couldn’t see Kiss from the press bleachers, so I stuck with Blonde . So stuck I conspired to not see the show. But I had to see the show.
Baltimore, Md., July .13,1976,On The Road With Kiss.
The Baltimore audience was cute. Lotsa Lolitas. Lotsa heavy-metal derelicts. I can live without Baltimore, but so can most of the people stuck there with the Washington, D.C. detritus, Spiro Agnew and accused felon, Governor Marvin Mandel. The Metroliner arrived a half- hour before showtime, Lydia Criss (Peter’s wife), photographer Barry Levine and I jumped a cab, dumped our bags in our rooms, and ran across the street to the Civic Center. Lydia found Peter. Barry found the photo pit. I found The Blonde. Seven dates into The Kiss Tour
1976, she looked tired and boggled. Her tan was fading. Her magic wasn’t.
As the band prepared to walk onstage, we headed for the sound and light board, where, to the immense displeasure of the people sitting behind us, we watched the show. It would have been nice, sitting, but no one was sitting in the entire hall, all efforts to the contrary by the security gorillas going unheeded. Shit, motherfuckers, Kiss is onstage and they are rock and rolling all night! I remember “Shout It Out Loud,” far better onstage than on the record. “Flaming Youth,” the song that had driven the Beacon crowd crazy was out of the set for just that reason. “Rock And Roll All Night” was superb. Forced, for the first time to think about Kiss, I decided I really liked them. I liked them for being so unutterably and purposefully stupid. I liked them for having improved immeasurably in the year since I’d seen them. I liked them for getting off on
what they were doing, for bringing comic books and rock and roll to life. I liked them for never appearing without their makeup. I loved them for making me move my feet and stomp and cheer, three days before the birthday that told me I wqs really and trulyno longer in my teens. I n f act, Kiss made me f orget I was f ive years past my teens. They made me forget how bored I get with groups like Aerosmith and Bad Company and Kansas and sometimes even the rock and Rolling Stones. The only thing they didn’t make me forget was The Blonde, still burning those lightning streaks into my frontal lobes. I went into the photo pit for the encores. Got drenched with kerosene when Gene spit fire, had my shoulder bruised when Paul smashed his guitar and threw it at me, my ears permanently damaged when some asshole chucked an M-80 onstage led. note: Will you guys please cut it out with the firecrackers, already. That got tired when Edgar Winter stopped playing “Frankenstein”) and the lightning streaks burned in even more.
After the show, Levine, his assistant, The Blonde and I forced down some dogfood in The Holiday Inn Coffee Shop, while plainclothes Baltimore cops cleared kids away from the lobby, making it impossible for late breaking roadies to score some flesh. Gene and Paul were hidden in their rooms, apparently fucking their brains out. The doubleteam combination of a Devil, A True Star, has probably given more than one groupie-girl a thrill and a half in the hay. Ace and Peter joined The Blonde, Levine and I in Peter’s room, where, contrary to popular rumor, we all got very high. Ace had scored from a local: Mean Green-$25 an ounce and it comes already cleaned. Someone else in the room had Columbian. But Ace liked his better. The Columbian had helped erase the fact that the lightning streaks were now a permanent part of my grey-matter geography. The Mean Green burned them in even more. Peter played some tapes of new Kiss songs. They were superb. Gene stopped in before leaving for Knoxville on the crew bus. (He won’t fly.) Paul cruised the room in a short robe, listened to some of the tapes, and went back to whatever it was he was doing before. Ace cracked wise, time and a half. By 3:00 A.M. I’d had enough. The Blonde stayed. She had the next day off. She’d done her job on me. I had to be at my desk at 9 the next morning, back on Park Avenue in Gotham.
As I drifted to sleep, I remembered something she’d said to me at
Rooseveit that made a deep impression. Her commitment to the band was so real. Her smile so compelling. I’d listened to every word and eaten them up like peanuts at a Jimmy Carter party. I wallowed in them l1keaPCPdream. Drifted inthem. Believed them. “You know what I really like about this band?” she’d asked as we stood together in the massive infield of the Jersey stadium. -I looked at her quizzically. What, I wondered, could this professional brainwasher, this Mata Hari of rock and roll, find about Kiss to hold onto through an assignment on the road that began in June and wouldn’t end till December? What could she have to hold on to’ and keep her believing.
“The thing about Kiss,” The Blonde said, “is that they are sooooo ludicrous.”* RA