This is the seventh and final installment of my week-long series in which I've shared various behind-the-scenes short stories from my dubious rock and roll past. Some of these tales have been excerpts from my books or my previous magazine articles, while others were never-before-published accounts. Many of my experiences have been either crazy, thrilling or even funny – yet rarely expected. And I hope that they were all compelling. Today's story chronicles one of my many personal encounters with the legendary rock band, KISS.
To say that I was a bona fide teenage "KISS Freak" during the 1970s would be an understatement. Truth be told, I worshipped my kabuki-faced superheroes with such zeal in those days that I earned such dubious nicknames as "Kiss Long" and "Kiss Baby" from the Skynyrd-loving, jock contingent at my Florida high school. I discuss my past Kiss obsession in great detail in the pages of my 2012 book, C'MON! - My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation.
With their iconic warrior-like face paint, leather-studded outfits, platform boots and legendary stage show, KISS fired off high octane power anthems at a ferocious pace – dominating the '70s hard rock scene. Even the emasculated, half-scab, hair band version of KISS maintained a respectable '80s rock presence – scoring several million-selling records. However, by the early '90s, their "Check Engine" light was flashing red. Although their 1992 Revenge record briefly grazed Billboard magazine's Top Ten and achieved "gold" status, it disappeared from the charts quickly and the subsequent tour was tanking. In fact, an estimated crowd of less than 3,000 attended KISS' October 1992 performance at the 10,000-seat Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida. As a longtime fan, I hadn't seen that much available real estate at a KISS concert in nearly a decade.
Throughout my adult years, I've enjoyed numerous personal and professional experiences with nearly every past or present KISS member. But it was my 1992 one-on-one encounter with co-founder and frontman Paul Stanley that was truly memorable.
Clearly living in denial, my compadres and I remained convinced that our former masked messiahs were in fact, still the "hottest band in the land" – despite that evening's less than stellar turnout. And we fully intended to rock the aftershow with considerable fervor. We made our way across the street to where we were staying at the Marriott Hotel immediately following the concert and (as expected) we discovered that the band was staying there as well. But unlike previous KISS concert experiences, we were taken aback to discover that tonight, several members actually were hanging out in the lobby/bar area. And once hotel security cleared the throngs of non-guests from the premises, we easily could fellowship with the band, up close and personal.
Co-founder and bassist Gene Simmons reportedly was in his room engaging in an after-hours rendezvous with my friend Melanie, so for tonight, "The Demon" would not be joining us. Replacement members, drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Bruce Kulick, both were approachable and cordial. For his part, Singer flirted with a bevy of babes at the bar, while Kulick gleefully chatted up fans, discussing various aspects of the evening's performance.
|Me and my ex, Trish, with Paul Stanley in 1992.|
Then, just as the party was winding down and the room was clearing out, a bare-chested, six-foot-tall guy sporting a ponytail and wearing tight-fitting Levi's and a faded, tattered denim jacket strutted into the room.
Since first seeing a picture of KISS gracing the cover of Creem magazine in 1976, Paul Stanley has maintained top-dog status in my rock book. So, when my then-wife (and fellow "KISS Freak") Trish and I suddenly found ourselves in a private face to face dialogue with "The Starchild," it was, surreal.
At the time, my band Dead Serios was a top-drawing act on Florida's club and concert scene. And being the ever-tenacious, self-promoting frontman, I wasted little time in giving Paul a demo tape. But before I could break into my typical hard-sell spiel, I was interrupted by a commotion from the other side of the lobby.
"IT'S HIM!" I heard two enthusiastic male metal head-types exclaim as they made a beeline in our direction. This was the last thing I needed. There I was, poised and positioned to hock my band to a respected producer and single greatest figure in the history of rock and roll and these two characters seemingly were about to blow my pitch. "IT'S HIM! IT'S HIM!" they repeated as they literally sprinted from the hotel's front entrance to our locale near the bar. The disruptive duo quickly reached our spot and immediately, one of the fellows offered a game-changing revelation. "It's really you – you're the DEAD SERIOS guy!" he announced, somewhat winded. "We come to all of your Orlando shows," he added. "Can we have your autograph?"
|Dead Serios receiving "Entertainer of the|
Year" from Jam magazine in the early '90s.
(Photo: Christopher Lee Helton)
They're timing and honest, passionate delivery couldn't have been better executed if I'd staged it all myself. We were in the presence of THE Paul Stanley, but these guys couldn't have cared less. They were Dead Serios fans – they were MY people! I instantly lost my desire to punch them for intruding and now felt compelled to hug them for being so darn cool. Heck, after that, I didn't need to sell my band – these guys were far more convincing than I ever could have been. And yes, it was kinda ironic that I had to borrow a pen from The Starchild to sign autographs for my fans.
Although Dead Serios never did receive a call from Paul Stanley to produce our next record, he did prove to be gracious and a good sport throughout our encounter – despite covering his face in the photo he took with us. I guess old habits die hard.