Friday, April 18, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Paul Stanley "Face the Music"

Face the Music:
A Life Exposed
- Paul Stanley -

With three of the original 
"Fab Four" having offered
their own version of 
"KISStory" in the last
decade, only one piece 
of the dysfunctional 
puzzle remained. And
this is the one I've
been waiting for.

Superstar endorsements from the likes of Jimmy Page, Elton John and Dave Grohl grace the back cover and introductory page of FACE THE MUSIC: A Life Exposed the long-awaited personal tell-all bio from co-founding KISS frontman, Paul Stanley.

Seemingly honest and transparent, Stanley begins sharing his life story while leading readers through his nightly pre-concert regimen. First, I wipe my face with an astringent, to close the pours. Then I grab a container of "clown white, " a thick, cream-based makeup. I dip my fingers into the tub of white goo and start applying it all over my face, leaving some space open around my right eye, where the rough outline of the star will be. And in short order before he can even lead us to the next step  sketching out that iconic star with the pointed end of a beautician's comb, the rock legend sets the stage for his rollercoaster tale. 

More than the typical "rags to riches" rock and roll saga, FACE THE MUSIC is the rather unlikely story of how Stanley Bert Eisen a Jewish kid of German / Polish descent, raised in a less than affluent part of Manhattan during the '50s and '60s, beat the odds not only by overcoming a disability, but also by achieving unimaginable success.

I was born with an ear deformity called microtia, in which the outer ear cartilage fails to form properly and, to varying degrees of severity, leaves you with just a crumpled mass of cartilage. I had nothing more than a stump on the right side of my head. And my ear canal was also closed, so I was deaf.

Told in an engaging, no-nonsense style, the "Starchild" recounts in vivid, heartbreaking detail how he was taunted and ridiculed from an early age by other children who would wield such verbal daggers as, "Stanley the one-eared monster." He further reveals the dark realities of growing up in a dysfunctional home with less than nurturing parents and a one-time institutionalized sister who once came at him with a hammer and then proceeded to use said hammer to break down his bedroom door, Jack Torrance-style. 

Simmons and Stanley, circa 2012.
Of course most of Stanley's story centers around his epic 40-year career with KISS, including details of his often volatile personal and professional relationship with musical partner, Gene Simmons. And make no mistake, much energy is spent on maligning original KISS members, guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss. In fact, despite the love, kindness and God-factor Stanley weaves into his story, his relentless snarky commentary regarding his two former bandmates tends to dilute his effectiveness. C'mon fellas, enough is enough already with the bashing. I expected that kind of crass language and nastiness from Peter Criss' book, but I was disappointed that Stanley didn't seek a higher road with his. Conversely, mad props are extended ad nauseam to current drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer.

Stanley does however, give credit where its due in portraying original KISS manager Bill Aucoin and choreographer / road manager / songwriter / producer Sean Delaney, yet the role of Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart is somewhat minimalized. And while every name and juicy detail of every one of Stanley's Playmate / actress liaisons made it into print, the names and stories of such key KISStory players as John Hartman, Peter "Moose" Oreckinto, Carl Glickman, Larry Harris, Jeff Franklin, Fritz Postlethwaite, Wally Meyrowitz, C.K. Lendt and many others are all noticeably MIA.

Family man!
(Good stuff, indeed!)
But jamming a 60-year life story of this magnitude into a mere 450+ pages certainly is a tall order. And be sure that despite glossing over a few prime eras, omitting some key players and bypassing such insightful topics as the KISS arena football team, coffee shop, miniature golf course and his series of hip replacement surgeries, FACE THE MUSIC certainly does deliver a slew of salacious stories and plenty of "WOW!" moments. However, one of its biggest payoffs is Stanley's more recent accounts offstage starring as a dedicated husband and proud father. A recommended read for KISS fans everywhere.

-Christopher Long
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