Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: "Makeup to Breakup" by Peter Criss

BOOK REVIEW
MAKEUP TO BREAKUP:
My Life In And Out Of Kiss
- Peter Criss -
(w/ Larry Sloman)
 ________________________

 Based on the sheer
shock value of his 
stories, KISS' co-
founding drummer 
delivers a winner for 
die-hard enthusiasts.
________________________

The latest in the ever-growing pile of insider KISS tell-alls, Makeup to Breakup offers a lively and candid account of founding drummer Peter Criss' wild sex, drugs & rock and roll life — before, during, after, during, after, before, during and then again after his involvement with rock's masked messiahs.

From his humble Italian / Catholic upbringing on the streets of Brooklyn to his meteoric ascent into rock's stratosphere and beyond, Peter Criss describes his outrageous life experiences — warts and all — in graphic detail. He pulls no punches as he seemingly drops a dime on everyone he's encountered over the years — including himself and the three other original KISS members. By his own admission, we learn that Criss deals with some serious anger issues. Founding lead guitarist Ace Frehley is portrayed as a Nazi-obsessed chronic masturbater. Co-founder and bassist Gene Simmons reportedly is such a sex-addicted maniac that during particularly severe flare-ups, herpes sores can cover most of his body. And Criss further claims that frontman Paul Stanley has wrestled with lifelong sexual orientation issues.

Despite his willingness to come clean regarding personal demons (i.e. infidelity, wife beating, drugs and alcohol), Criss' scale of judgment is often unbalanced. He openly questions Paul Stanley's sexuality early in the story, revealing the frontman's unique talent for creating detailed drawings of penises. Yet his own, more disturbing behavior, as well as that of Ace Frehley gets a pass: Ace and I became famous for taking out our dicks at the drop of a hat. Then we'd grab each other's dicks. It wasn't sexual, just stupid adolescent tomfoolery. What? Not sexual? Hang on there, fella. Where I come from that ain't called "tomfoolery," that's called "gay." Not judging — just saying. 

Kiss circa 1976
Criss recounts a particular KISS road story from the mid '70s in which he and Frehley got a young female after-show guest bombed beyond the point of consciousness. They covered the girl with bologna and sandwich condiments, then proceeded to put her seemingly lifeless naked body into the hotel elevator and hit the button for the lobby. It was disturbing tales such as this that made me feel like a dope for having gleefully guzzled so much KISS Kool-Aid for so many years.

I found Criss' conversational, no-nonsense style to be quite engaging. However, I was a bit disappointed that such a successful and talented (66-year-old) man still resorts to juvenile name-calling. I believe that referring to people as "fags" and "whores" and prefacing every reference to Simmons and Stanley with, "those pricks" or "those fuck faces," only compromises Criss' credibility. And his countless references to women as "pussy" was insulting and just plain creepy. That type of language was crass even back in the '70s.

I can only imagine that jamming a near 50-year career into 370 pages was no easy feat. Hence, Criss' story is fast-paced and he often quickly glosses over prime eras. And although Criss did successfully touch on most aspects of his life, many holes remained in his story. Jeanette Frehley receives "special thanks" in the Acknowledgments, but she is only briefly referenced one time in the rest of the book. I'd be interested in gaining further insight into their friendship. Clearly Criss enjoyed close personal relationships with KISS manager Bill Aucoin, Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart and songwriter / producer Sean Delaney — key players in the KISS story who all died way too young. However, Criss makes no mention of their passing. And if Paul McCartney had rescued me during any kind of accident, I certainly would have devoted more than a casual, one paragraph description of the experience. But I commend Criss for taking the time to give credit where it's due — shining light on the creative contributions of Aucoin and Delaney. 

Peter Criss with my son, Jesse.
(1994)
It seems that perhaps the greatest source of darkness in Criss' life was, and may continue to be, not  the sex, drugs or the rock and roll, but the emotional damage caused by religion. Guilt, condemnation and punishment, was beat into him practically from birth by priests, nuns and even well-intending family members.

Fortunately, Jesus Christ served as THE ultimate, perfect and final sacrifice. He paid for ALL sins — past, present and future when the religious people of his day crucified him.

The ONLY way to the Father is through the Son (JOHN 3:16 / 1 JOHN 5:12). Rosaries do nothing. And I certainly mean no disrespect, but praying to Mary is as effective as praying to an Ace Frehley action figure. That's all a product of man-made religion. What I'm talking about is relationship — a unique and personal connection with God the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ. Salvation is the greatest gift ever offered to man. It's available to us ALL — and it's absolutely FREE!

And contrary to Criss' assertions, God does NOT place cancer or any sickness on people for any reason. To think otherwise is to buy into more religion — another lie sent straight from the pit of Hell. I'd be delighted to offer encouragement, inspiration and guidance based on the Word of God to anyone in need. I'm easily accessible: AuthorChristopherLong@yahoo.com

In sum, Peter Criss exceeded my expectations. Makeup to Breakup is a highly entertaining read throughout. And although many aspects of Criss' story are certainly disturbing, Makeup to Breakup stands out as perhaps the second-best of the KISS bios — right behind CK Lendt's Kiss and Sell.

-Christopher Long
(October 2012)
_________________________

MORE KISS-RELATED
FEATURES FROM
CHRISTOPHER LONG

_________________________


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Friday, October 26, 2012

BEDAZZLED!

BEDAZZLED!
 ________________________

 As outer bands of
barreled down
today on my
oceanside town
of Satellite Beach,
Florida, I found
myself facing a
man-size dilemma.
________________________

I've got two personal appearances scheduled for this weekend and in just a few days I will be traveling out of the country for a week-long missions trip to Nicaragua with a crew from East Coast Christian Center. But when I woke up this morning and looked in the mirror I was horrified to discover that I had inches of unsightly gray roots and my nails were a disaster. Clearly, I was in no condition to be seen anywhere in public  not even by the natives in Popoyo, Nicaragua. Yikes!

Time was limited and this situation required immediate attention. I just so happen to keep the number for the greatest salon, Studio Medusa, programmed into my trusty flip-phone and I made a distress call in short order. Fortunately, I've racked up so many "frequent flyer miles" at Studio Medusa that they always take my call. In fact, there is talk of them designating a personal VIP parking space for me. Within seconds, I was on the books for a 10AM  appointment cut, color, nails the works.  However, there was still an issue of the hurricane to factor into this equation. We were experiencing a torrential downpour with wind gusts of 40 mph. So what's a guy to do? Well, I grabbed my umbrella, threw on my Hannah Montana galoshes and set out to brave the elements like a man. After all, the gals at the salon were waiting for me!


My nail tech, Melody, was thrilled to see me as she had just received an exciting new line of nail products and I typically serve as an eager and willing guinea pig. As always, we were both bedazzled by the results. However, my stylist, Barbara, faced a challenge. Despite my ever-vanishing hairline, ten gallons of jet black goop is now required to combat my escalating gray factor and that takes time! But she's the best in the biz and in the end, I walked out of Barb's salon looking 15 years younger.  My mission was accomplished. Thanks, girls!

-Christopher Long
(October 2012)

STUDIO MEDUSA
1640 Highway A1A Suite B
Satellite Beach, FL 32937
(321)777-3351


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Thursday, October 25, 2012

ATTENTION ANN COULTER: Words Hurt!

ATTENTION
ANN COULTER:
Words Hurt!

I make no bones regarding my political positions. I'm a hardcore right winger. I believe that Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes were amazing presidents and strong leaders. I supported Michele Bachmann in the current presidential race, up until the moment that she wussed-out prematurely. And I will support her again when she makes another bid for the White House in 2016. And next week, I will hang my chad gleefully for Mitt Romney, as there simply will be no other legit candidate listed on the ballot. Yeah, I'm one of those self-righteous, phobic conservative-types who Maddows, Mahers and Behars warn the smart people about.

However, much of the thrill I derive from the "sport" of politics is based on its entertainment factor. And make NO mistake  I put people BEFORE politics! I've maintained with fervor (and consistency) in various columns and web posts over the past year that I believe Americans have grown to make far too much of their political views  to the point of becoming consumed by mean-spirited name-calling, bickering and mud-slinging. Hence, I've implored Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike to put aside partisan foolishness and to come together, to connect as Americans in the spirit of love, kindness and compassion. Sadly, few are picking up what I'm putting down.

Much of this turmoil is being fueled by our beloved nationally-known talking heads who reside on both sides of the political fence  gurus with wildly popular television and radio programs and powerful author / speaker platforms. In a November 2011 post, I referenced the distasteful and disparaging comments currently flooding radio airwaves by conservative talk show hosts who portray anyone with opposing views as "morons" and "idiots." In a column this past March, I also conveyed my disappointment in Rush Limbaugh for choosing to refer to a particular woman as a "slut" during an on-air rant. But as I've said numerous times before, you libs are just as guilty.

Believe me, I appreciate "shock" and "entertainment" value. And this type of content certainly boosts ratings and effectively stirs up the fringe element within the audience. But in the long run, it does  nothing in terms of rescuing lost sheep. In fact, ultimately, it only causes further divisiveness within our nation. And if I'm turned off by such nasty, lowbrow banter, I can only imagine how the opposing team views it.

My ex-fiance Ann Coulter
As many of my readers are well aware, I've been in an admitted and committed long-term (delusional) relationship with conservative eye-candy commentator, speaker and author Ann Coulter for quite some time. In fact, I fantasized that we're engaged. I had even booked an awesome Loverboy tribute band to perform at our imaginary wedding reception that was set to take place at my local yacht club early next year. However, given her well-publicized recent Tweet, the flame now has fizzled officially.

During last Monday's presidential debate, Ann posted this comment on her Twitter page:

This type of commentary is hurtful
and only compromises one's credibility.

National news outlets such as The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and CNN immediately jumped on the story, and in no time, public outrage (rightfully) ensued. But Ann was quick to defend her comment by saying, “The only people who will be offended are too retarded to understand it.” Really? Wow, I don't know which is more offensive, Ann's original statement, or her follow-up defense.

I have several family members and close friends who struggle with disabilities. Yet despite the obstacles they're forced to overcome throughout their lives  day-to-day stuff  that us "normal" folks tackle successfully and effortlessly, they kick ass consistently — WITH dignity! In fact, the only times I've seen them knocked down, hurt or defeated are when a bully on the playground or a redneck at the mall calls them a "retard." It was a hurtful and ignorant word when we were kids, it was hurtful and ignorant in The Hangover and it was hurtful and ignorant when Ann Coulter blurted it on Twitter the other night. I don't care how she spins it.

When my friends criticize my imaginary relationship with Ann Coulter (and they do it a lot), I say, "Aw, you just don't know her like I do." And when they say that she's cold-hearted, hateful and nasty (and they say that a lot), I say, "You just don't know my Ann." Well, maybe they do know her, pretty good.

As a current Bible College student, I know and abide by the Word of God. Hence, I forgive Ann for making these comments and for hurting people who I love. But as for our personal relationship, we're finished the wedding is off! Now, does anybody have Erin Burnett's phone number? I need a rebound — quick!

-Christopher Long
(October 2012)

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

CONCERT REVIEW FLASHBACK: Natalie Merchant (03.10.02)

______________________________

As I've recounted through several posts this past week, I discovered an old, dusty file in my office the other day. The manila folder contained Xerox copies of several articles that I had written more than a decade ago and appeared in old school print publications. Most of these long lost features were interviews that I had conducted with various arena rock stars. However, a few of them were reviews of books that I recently had read and concert events that I had attended. I'm now delighted finally to share these stories with my blog readers. This latest installment of my "Concert Review Flashback" series comes from that old, dusty file and it chronicles my experience seeing Natalie Merchant live in Melbourne, Florida back in 2002.
_____________________________

CONCERT REVIEW
FLASHBACK
Natalie Merchant
King Center
Melbourne, FL 
(03.10.02)
_________________________

Okay art school
grads, before you
plot my demise, set
me on fire, or force
me at gunpoint to
endure your entire
REM vinyl collection
in one sitting, be sure
that attended this
show as a true fan.
_________________________

I've been enamored with prolific singer / songwriter Natalie Merchant since I first was turned on to her former band, 10,000 Maniacs, via their In My Tribe record while doing after-hours shots with the staff at a bar in which I was performing back in 1987.

I fondly recall seeing 10,000 Maniacs in 1989 during the band's Blind Man's Zoo tour. In contrast to the popular sex, drugs & rock and roll bombast presented by the day's glut of hair metal poster boys, the 10,000 Maniacs performance offered a refreshing change of pace this band was all about the music. I witnessed an indescribable, magical synergy live onstage that night and it remains one of my all-time greatest concert experiences. However, when seeing Merchant perform tonight as a solo artist, 13 years later, the music took a noticeable (distant) backseat to projecting her unabashed "stipey-ness."

I wasn't terribly disappointed by the fact that musically the show moved at a snail's pace. I also thought it was cute that no matter what she did or said, Merchant's faithful flock cheered with approval. I wasn't even put off by her constant rambling about pelicans, pigeons and beach property ownership in Hawaii. After all, this was Natalie Merchant and I was just psyched that she was playing in my hometown!

The moment of my discontent came when Merchant spotted a woman near the front of the stage who was taking pictures. Clearly agitated, Merchant literally stopped the show.

"You're pushing it with me, girl," Merchant warned the woman over the microphone. "Every time you take my picture, I lose my place in the song." Merchant then asked the woman to give her the camera. "I won't hurt it," she promised.

Merchant then began taking close-up shots of her band members. I thought to myself how cool that was. She was obviously annoyed, but she was going to turn this around into a fun bit. I was wrong.

After announcing to a cheering crowd that she'd now used up all of the woman's film, Merchant exclaimed, "Aw, I exposed all of your film," as she ripped the camera open and tore out the contents. Merchant then handed the now empty camera back to the woman in the audience as the band kicked back into the song and Merchant began to dance about, gleefully swinging the long stream of film around onstage like a high school majorette.

Hmm. I played to enthusiastic large crowds from coast-to-coast while in my own band during the '80s and early '90s. I experienced getting popped in the teeth with the mic due to rowdy fans moshing up front and I was even attacked a couple of times right onstage, yet I never once "lost my place in the song." Okay, there was that one time in Orlando, but my "forgetfulness" was the result of excessive quantities of pre-show Goldschläger.

It seems to me that in the fast-paced, topsy turvy world of rock and roll, getting bent for having your picture taken is like being in politics and bitchin' about having to kiss babies it comes with the gig! Yeah, I know, the ticket clearly read "NO PHOTOGRAPHY." But the ticket also indicated a specific seat assignment, and many turned a blind eye to that one too. Simply put, it's a rock concert, Nat lighten up!

Given the current rap and pop domination of today's music scene, a little ol' singin' / songwritin' gal from New England should be filled with joy even to still be attracting a (paying) audience  especially one as large and devoted as Ms. Merchant's.

But in the grand scheme of life, I guess that this really isn't that big of a deal and I'm certainly not going to pawn my Natalie Merchant cassettes. I simply thought that she momentarily displayed bad form.

As a side note, I just heard that McDonald's is hiring for the nightshift and those folks rarely endure having their picture taken while serving up fries!

-Christopher Long
(March 2002)

_______________________

Additional
Concert Review
Flashback
installments:
________________________


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Monday, October 22, 2012

LOST INTERVIEWS (Pt 3): The Kinleys’ Jennifer Kinley

_________________________________

As I mentioned in PT. 1 and PT. 2 of this series, I recently discovered an old, dusty file in my office. The manila folder contained Xerox copies of several rock star interviews that I had conducted more than a decade ago and appeared in old school print publications. And I'm delighted to now be able to share them with my blog readers. Although the chart-busting sister duo, The Kinley's, were stylistically a far cry from the typical arena rockers who I used to interview, they produced some of the best pop-flavored country records made during their run from '97-'05. Hence, I hope you enjoy my interview with Jennifer Kinley from back in '04.
______________________________

LOST INTERVIEWS 
(Pt 3)
The Kinleys’
Jennifer Kinley

Possessing more chutzpah than most of their male contemporaries, 19-year-old twin sisters Heather and Jennifer Kinley moved from the comfort of their childhood hometown in Pennsylvania to the cutthroat streets of Nashville in pursuit of their musical dreams in 1990. They worked Music City for several years, struggling to survive while learning the ins and outs of the biz. But their diligence finally paid off and the singer / songwriters signed a record deal with Sony Music. In 1997, The Kinleys' debut album Just Between You and Me went gold (500,000 copies) and spawned the Top  20 country singles, "Just Between You and Me" and "Please." Featuring the Top 40 country hits, "She Ain't the Girl for You" and "I'm In," their sophomore album II hit the country Top 20 charts in 2000.  After taking  a couple of years off to start families, The Kinley's are back in 2004 with their latest album, appropriately entitled, All in the Family. And while on their current national "Pajama Party" tour, Jennifer Kinley took the time recently to call me and discuss their newly released, independent record.


"It's definitely the wave of the future," Jennifer enthusiastically told me about her and Heather's current state of independence."It fit what we wanted to do. We wanted to kinda make this album our own way and have complete creative control. We didn't even look for a major label this time. We wanted my husband, Adam Hughes, to produce it, which he did and he did an incredible job. It all felt right this time because we didn't have a hundred billion opinions to deal with. You know, you kinda compromise sometimes on albums and have to pacify everybody. Label, management, just everybody has thoughts (regarding an album), so this time it really was all in the family  that's why we titled the album that. Heather and I, along with Adam, worked hard to get this album together."

Although The Kinleys now enjoy complete artistic control with their own label  Identical Records, I asked Jennifer about their creative input while signed to Sony.

Me and Jennifer Kinley in 2000.

"You think you do (have artistic control) until an album comes out and then go, 'Well shoot, I really kinda got railroaded into that. I wish I had stuck to my guns a little more.' It's hard because you really  do want to make everybody happy and sometimes you second guess yourself. Making it (All in the Family) this way and creating our own label, we didn't do that. We just went with what we felt like we wanted to do and that's how it came out."

Without that all-important creative control, The Kinleys often were at the mercy of major label "suits," and over the years, they believed that many of their best songs were left on the cutting room floor. Fortunately for their fans, All in the Family  features many of Jennifer and Heather's (almost) forgotten gems, such as, "Love Train" and "Crazy Love." These, combined with "Little Shoulders," "I Will" and the remake of The Everly Brothers' "Price of Love" add up to what is quite possibly the best Kinleys record to date.

-Christopher Long
(September 2004)

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

LOST INTERVIEWS (Pt 2): Cinderella’s Tom Keifer

____________________________

As I mentioned in Pt. 1 of this series, I recently discovered an old, dusty file in my office. The manila folder contained Xerox copies of several arena rock star interviews that I had conducted a decade ago and appeared in old school print publications. I look forward to finally sharing them all with blog readers in the upcoming days, but I was excited to post these particular excerpts from my 2002 interview with Cinderella's Tom Keifer ASAP.
_____________________________

LOST INTERVIEWS 
(Pt 2)
Cinderella’s 
Tom Keifer

Drawing immediate comparisons to such iconic heavyweights as AC/DC, Nazareth and Aerosmith, the blues-based rock band Cinderella became an overnight sensation on the international music scene with the release of its 1986 platinum-selling debut album, Night Songs. Defying the dreaded sophomore jinx, the Pennsylvania band's 1988 album Long Cold Winter also reached platinum status. Achieving an impressive hat-trick, 1990's Heartbreak Station hit the million mark as well. Then came the grunge movement and Cinderella was forced on hiatus. But after experiencing a series of setbacks, the band returned to the road in the late '90s. And in the 2000s the guys are once again filling arenas and amphitheaters, coast-to-coast.

"There is no doubt that
people still want to be
served rock and roll.
It just hasn't been on
the menu for the last
ten years."
–Tom Keifer (2002)

In  2002, Cinderella is preparing to embark on another major U.S. summer concert tour. But I was becoming a bit frustrated recently as I put together this story to promote their upcoming date in West Palm Beach.

Communication with Cinderella’s organization was proving to be a challenge. Numerous messages left with the band's handlers went unanswered and I was getting nowhere fast. Then, just two days before my deadline, the call finally came through. An interview with founding frontman / guitarist Tom Keifer was scheduled for the following day at 4PM. Unfortunately, the next day came and went with no call from Keifer. I had learned early in my writing career that when it comes to interviewing rock stars, Monday usually means Tuesday, 4PM means 6PM and so on. This time, however, I was getting stressed because my deadline now was only 24 hours away  I needed to get this story.


I was sleeping-in late on the morning of my deadline after having been out ‘til the wee hours DJ-ing at a club the night before. Suddenly the phone rang. I couldn’t imagine who on earth would be so rude as to disturb me at the crack of noon on a Saturday. As I fumbled for the phone, I glanced down at the Caller ID and to my surprise (and relief), Tom Keifer was on the line!

"Rock and roll is like 
primal instincts.
It appeals to 
everybody."
–Tom Keifer (2002)

For an hour or more, we discussed various phases of Keifer’s amazing career, going all the way back to his teenage years when he made what was to be a life-changing discovery rock and roll.

“What is this music?” Keifer asked himself upon seeing his first live rock band performing at a school dance. “This is just amazing!”

"I listened to everything growing up," Keifer continued. "I grew up listening to all of the American rock and roll and all of the music that influenced it — from blues to country to gospel."


While discussing his own records released over the years, Keifer chuckled in agreement when I confessed that I thought Cinderella’s third record, 1990’s Heartbreak Station was the best of his career. “There was a magic going on when we recorded that record,” Keifer recalled. “It’s my favorite of the ones we’ve made. We really had a good time making that record.”

Plagued by throat problems while in the studio, Keifer described Cinderella’s fourth album, Still Climbing, as a “torturous” album to make. However, he still considers “Bad Attitude Shuffle” and “Through the Rain” to be a couple of their all-time best songs.

Of course at some point, I had to ask him about the short-lived, yet lethal Seattle grunge movement of the early ‘90s that exterminated the arena rock scene seemingly overnight. 

“What happened in the ‘90s was not as much of a musical change as it was a fashion change. A lot of people listen to music with their eyes. Soundgarden and Nirvana it’s loud guitars cranked up through Marshalls with screaming vocals. It all sounded like rock and roll to me. I never got what the difference really was other than the look.”

"I loved Nirvana. I
 thought they were 
a great rock and 
roll band."
Tom Keifer (2002)

I found Keifer's easy-going openness to be quite refreshing and he proved to be as engaging throughout our one-on-one conversion as he's appeared to be over the years performing onstage in front of thousands. I appreciated his time, and the experience remains one of my all-time favorite writing ops. I just wish that after all these years I could relocate the cassette tape with the entire interview!

-Christopher Long
(April 2002)

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