Sunday, June 28, 2015

'80s CONCERT FLASHBACKS (Pt. III): KISS

'80s CONCERT
FLASHBACKS
(Pt. III)
KISS
1983
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When it comes to live concerts,
the real story rarely plays out
onstage. And throughout this
series, I'll be sharing several of
my most memorable personal
experiences and mishaps. An
excerpt from my 2012 book,
C'MON!, this story recounts
one of my first up-close-and-
personal rock star encounters.
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The first time that I met the members of KISS was during their Lick it Up tour in Lakeland, Florida in December 1983. After experiencing some lean years in the early 1980s, the band was at the time enjoying some renewed popularity after recently dropping their legendary trademark make-up and costumes. Original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley were now out of the KISS picture and were both pursuing dubious solo careers. This finally left Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley free to call all of the shots. And in an attempt to compete with such new leading hard rock acts of the day as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Scorpions, Simmons and Stanley seemingly had surmised that shtick was out and musicianship was in. The band’s revamped line-up featured guitar wiz Vinnie Vincent and powerhouse drummer Eric Carr.

Although in the moment, I was thoroughly impressed with the show that night, in hindsight, I recognized that despite suddenly generating larger crowds, the Lick it Up show paled in comparison to the band's spectacular Creatures of the Night production that I'd seen at the same venue just ten months earlier. The audio mix was thin and brash-sounding. And simply put, the mystique had been exterminated. Seeing Paul Stanley wiggling and prancing in flats was less than thrilling. And quite honestly, without his iconic kabuki-faced persona, Gene Simmons was now about as intimidating as Tyne Daly


I was hanging out after the show in the lounge of Lakeland’s Huntley Hotel where I was staying with my girlfriend, Trish. In fact, after a four-year, on again-off-again high school sweetheart-type relationship, we recently had become engaged. We were also both longtime dedicated KISS Freaks. I never thought I’d actually meet any members of the band, so when they came walking into the hotel lounge after the concert, it blew my mind. I had idolized these guys for years and I planned to tell them all about it.

Eric Carr was completely unimpressed by my revelations. As he strutted to the bar with a cock-rock swagger, he fluffed his huge head of hair and informed me that I could ask him only one question and then I’d have to “go away.” And I wasn’t to ask him any “KISS stuff” either because as he told me, he was “off duty.” Granted, I probably had gotten a little over excited about meeting the guy, but in rock and roll, when you’re on tour, especially while being cool, hanging out at the hotel bar after the show, you’re never off duty!

Vinnie Vincent, on the other hand, was extremely cordial. He happily spent time talking to fans in the hotel lobby, posing for pictures, and signing autographs. The only odd thing about Vinnie (at that time) was that he had a tight grasp on a folded pink piece of paper. At one point he accidentally dropped it on the ground. I bent over to pick it up for him and he freaked out. “I got it! I got it!” he exclaimed as he snatched it up off the floor, once again quickly clutching it to his chest. To this day I still wonder what was on that paper.

Me, Vinnie Vincent and that
mysterious pink piece of paper.
Then in walked Gene Simmons. To say that he has an intimidating presence is an understatement. Even without his infamous seven-inch dragon boots he still had to practically duck to get through the doorway as he entered the hotel lounge.

I was 21 at the time and playing drums in a promising up-and-coming band called Trixx. However, my people skills were lacking and I had limited experience being around rock stars. So I was taken aback when Simmons completely ignored me and immediately took up with my blond 19-year-old fiancée. He sat Trish on his lap and began running his hand up under her black leather mini skirt while making various sexually explicit comments. Ten minutes earlier I didn’t think that I’d ever be fortunate enough to meet Gene Simmons. Now he was literally seducing my chick in front of the entire bar.

Not willing to accept this humiliation for another second I thought I’d get my hero’s attention by impressing him with my incredible wit. I worked my way right up next to the cozy couple and delivered what I thought was a delightful and hilarious comment about Simmons’ former girlfriend, Cher. I now realize that it was a stupid thing to say, but I was young and naïve and I had to make my presence known. Apparently I was the only one in the room who found any humor in my comment. Like right out of a classic western movie, the entire bar seemed to go silent as the crowd around us backed up. I think the lounge pianist in the corner even stopped playing. With one hand still under Trish’s skirt, Simmons made a fist with the other and shook it in my face. “I haven’t had to use this in a very long time,” he warned me. “Don’t make me use it now!”

Gene Simmons weighing his options 
bag my chick, kick my ass, or both.
I couldn’t believe it. I was finally face to face with “The Demon” and instead of wooing him with my endearing charm, he wanted to knock me out! He then looked at Trish, who was still sitting on his lap, and asked, “Are you with this guy?” And as if the situation couldn’t possibly get worse, she replied, “No. I’ve never seen him before in my life.”

I finally managed to pry Trish off Simmons’ lap and with my tail between my legs, I quietly led her back to our room. I’d just been treated like a common fool by my hero and denied by the girl who I was about to marry. But despite the feeling of total humiliation, my first personal KISS experience only further fueled my burning desire to achieve my own success in the rock world.

Ah, what a profound lesson to learn at a young age  fame equals power and money equals power. If you possess either, you have a definite advantage in life. And if you possess both, you’ve got the world in the palm of your hand. Strangers will be at your beck and call and you can steal any chick from any guy at any place and any time. And that ain’t a sexist point of view either, folks. I’d watch this scenario of both men and women compromising their values to be near their rock idols play out countless times throughout my music biz experiences over the next 30 years.

And BTW, there were NO post-show "Starchild" sightings that night. Yeah, I was bummed too.

-Christopher Long
(June 2015)

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Check out my entire
'80s Concert Flashbacks
series...

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Find ALL of my
KISS-related features
HERE.
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