Love ’em or Leave ’em, the story of KISS is a fascinating journey full of dysfunction. Sex. Drug abuse. In fighting. Reconciliation. Masturbating with a vibrating egg. And more drama than a Kennedy family picnic. I love the story of KISS. I love reading about it. Prior to the mid-90’s that largely meant magazines. And not the kind of magazines that did any actual journalism mind you. These were publications geared towards the less sophisticated (pre-pubescent) reader. While finding out something of any substance was virtually impossible, if you wanted to know Ace’s birthday or what Paul’s favorite food was, you were in luck. Then right around the time the original four members reunited, there was a tsunami of tell-all tome’s covering the Hottest Band in the Land written by former managers, friends, wives, girlfriends, road crews and record label exec’s etc. Which, of course, meant eventually we’d need a book from the members of the band. All of the above offering a different side of the same story. As a reader, you find yourself decoding the truth between the
lies lines. And if you’re like me, other than another book sanctioned by Gene and Paul, it’s never enough.
So who’s left? That’s the great thing about KISS. They have been around so long. Had so many people work for the KISS machine that there is quite possibly no limit to the amount of
dirt info left to consume. But who’s story do we want next? What person or time is represented the least? What former protégé/band member/hanger on/jilted lover has the most to tell? As I made this list I figured, why not make a list of the books I’d most want to read instead of the ones we’re most likely to see. If I am narrowing it down to five I want to maximize the amount of dirt info delivered in a KISS tell-all. You’ll see in a couple of cases the suggested author is no longer with us. Making this truly a list I can only dream of. Why limit it to people who are still alive? And I think you’ll also find the ones that haven’t passed seem just as likely to sit down and pen a book as the ones who have. With obstacles like wanting to or being among the living aside. Here are the five people I most covet a tell-all book about KISS from.
Author: Dr. Jesse Hilsen
Relationship to KISS: Paul’s former therapist who somehow managed to convince the band to let him be their manager.
Suggested title: I Was KISS’ Manager Once. Tell Me How That Makes You Feel
As Paul Stanley’s psychiatrist for years just imagine if he recorded their sessions.
“Gene has a fat face and shouldn’t be in movies. Eric doesn’t realize how easy it would be for me to fire him. Vinnie’s Adam’s apple is too big.”
Considering his legal issues, I have to believe doctor/patient confidentiality has to be of little concern for Mr. Hilsen. Outwardly, no member of KISS has been more consistent. When Paul is working as Paul Stanley of KISS he is a consummate professional who always knows what to say and never loses his cool. But behind the scenes it’s a different story. No one has a dark side that’s largely been hidden more than Paul Stanley. In his own recent autobiography, Paul shared many things of his private life for the first time. But did so while projecting himself in a way that absconded him of any less than desirable behavior. Imagine the things we could learn from his private discussions with his former therapist. A man he trusted probably more than anyone. This charlatan used his knowledge of Paul’s insecurities to trick him into thinking he was being ripped off and that KISS should hire him, a therapist, to manage them. Gene didn’t get into how that came to be in his book. It doesn’t sound like Bruce was involved in the decision so how did Paul convince Gene that his therapist would make a sweet manager? What did the good doctor put in Paul‘s head? If he could pull that off I have to imagine the things he must know or the stories he could tell are quite KISStastic. Of course it’s unethical. And of course, those conversations shouldn’t be shared. But I can dream.
Author: Vinnie Vincent
Relationship to KISS: Former guitarist and frequent file-er of lawsuits against the band.
Suggested title: I’m Not Signing That. But I Will Eat That If You’re Done.
C’mon. You know damn well how glorious a Vinnie Vincent tell all would be. Odds are the self-grandeur would make it impossible to get any actual dirt or substantive info from his time with the band but even Vinnie being Vinnie is pretty entertaining. If somehow he managed to settle down and just tell his side of the story that would instantly become a must read for all KISS fans. By all accounts, Gene and Paul were never really into him being a member of the band. Imagine hearing about that time from Vinnie’s perspective. How about Vinnie talking about how much co-writing Gene and Paul actually did on some of those songs. What was his main beef with that contract? What were the Revenge writing sessions like? Does he have any more lawsuits left in him? Where is he? He’s a polarizing figure in KISS’ history and even a book written the way only Vinnie could write would be fascinating.
Author: Mark St. John
Relationship to KISS: Former guitarist who also ended up with Peter Criss for a bit.
Suggested title: My Hand Blew Up Before My Career Could
Mark St. John joined KISS after Hurricane Vinnie had passed. He had to have seen some shit. Paul and Gene were barely on talking terms during the recording of the Animalize. Paul’s despise for all things Gene may have been at their peak during this time as the two of them worked in different studios. In Peter Criss’ book, he claimed KISS making him work in two different studios is how Mark developed the condition in his hand that forced his exit. Without wasting time explaining how stupid that is I will say that Mark had to have a unique perspective being the ball in a game of ego ping pong that Gene and Paul were playing. And what did Eric say to him during this time? And imagine the look in the mirror Mark must have had when he tried working with Peter. What a reality check that had to be being a musician of Mark’s ilk waking up as a guy kicked out of KISS and now playing with a drummer who hasn’t practiced in 10 years and doesn’t know the difference between a verse and a chorus. Sadly with his passing in 2007 we will never get that book or that unique perspective.
Author: Eric Carr
Relationship to KISS: Former drummer and Paul Stanley punching bag.
Suggested title: Fuck You Paul Stanley
Eric Carr may have been the only person outside of Gene and Paul to be part of the most tumultuous era of the band. He replaced Peter as they were about to tour Unmasked. Then KISS recorded a concept album. Which Ace largely recorded from his house while the band worked in Canada. He had a front row seat to the Vinnie Vincent/Mark St. John/Bruce Kulick transition. And for some reason was often on Paul’s bad side. He wasn’t allowed to contribute ideas for songs but Vinnie Vincent comes along and writes an entire record? The best I can tell, his issues with Paul revolve largely around Paul’s insistence he do nothing but play drums in KISS and never have an opinion that Paul disagrees with. I think Dr. Hilsen might suggest that Paul took his frustrations with Gene out on Eric. His relationship with Paul got so bad they weren’t talking to each other by the end of the Hot In The Shade tour. I’ve heard the garbage reason Paul gave in his book. I’d love to hear Eric’s side. He could also share some insight to the last days of Ace Frehley and whether or not he played on Creatures Of The Night. Sadly with his passing in 1991 his story is also one we will never hear.
Authors: The Producers
Relationship to KISS: They produced the records
Suggested Title: KISS In Time
My idea for this book is each chapter is a KISS record and the author would be whoever produced that record. And not a book rattling off facts like:
Tuesday, August 24th 1976. Recorded Bass tracks for Mr. Speed.
For the life of me I never understood how so many fans enjoy reading lists and dates. No this book would tell the stories of how these records were made. Take a guy like Eddie Kramer. He worked with them before they were signed. Right before they got big. Right after they got big. Right as they were starting to hate each other. He would’ve seen the changes in the band from a much less gradual perspective than someone who worked with them every day. Bob Ezrin is the only producer to work with all three drummers and is responsible for showing Gene and Paul how to record a guitar solo without Ace. Vini Poncia produced Peter’s solo album and then used a session drummer on the next two KISS records. He was brought in to appease Peter and his first order of business is to replace him? What was that conversation like? And after Vinnie is there a person harder to find than Michael James Jackson? He worked on the two records Vinnie played on. He did their last album in makeup and first one without. What was that time like for the band?
There it is. My dream list of KISS related biographies. A fairly sizeable task even if Sean Delaney and Neil Bogart were still alive to contribute. But I can dream. Feel free to let me know if you think of some I should’ve included. And Merry KISSMas In July. Until next year.