The venerable band teams up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and BOOMER for a cause that’s deep in the rockers’ roots
— BY DAVID L. ROBBINS —
“This,” says Gene Simmons, “is how the big boys do it.” Simmons, a big boy, is talking about his band, KISS
Nearing 63, he exudes disdain for the modern brand of rocker, the sloppy kids he claims look no different from their own roadies. Metaphorically, he sticks his famous elongated tongue out at them.
“When I’m up there, I’m wearing 40 pounds of armor and studs, in 10-inch heels. I’m like a Marine on a 26-mile trek in a loaded backpack.” Guitarist Tommy Thayer, only a 10-year veteran of the 39-yearold rock band, concurs with the military analogy. “When we’re getting into our outfits and makeup before a performance, we say we’re climbing into our battle gear. Putting on war paint.” Worldwide, the band has legions of fans, called The KISS Army. The likenesses to fighting men go on and on for the members of this ageless group. The similarities go even deeper, and they are not haphazard.
AMERICA – A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH
Gene’s mother, Flora, was a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp. The girl, then only 14, watched her mother accompany her grandmother into a gas chamber so the older woman would not die alone. That camp was eventually liberated by the U.S. Army, and Flora was rescued. Gene is adamant – and probably right – that without America’s troops, he wouldn’t be here. Tommy’s father, James Thayer, was a young Army officer fighting in the European theater. He was a captain in May 1945, when his unit liberated a Nazi concentration camp, Gunskirchen Lager, in northern Austria. The other two members of the band, founding guitarist Paul Stanley and 20-year drummer Eric Singer, also have personal motivations for this affinity with soldiering. Both of Paul’s parents fled Nazi Germany in the months before the war, narrowly escaping the horrors of the Holocaust. Eric hails from a long family history of military service, including cousins and his veteran father, the bandleader for whom Eric first played the drums professionally. Anyone who’s ever toiled in a band, from garage to coliseum, knows that the sweet spot is when the band plays “tight,” when you throb, croon and soar on a single united groove, so fused in the music it’s like mind reading. The members of KISS have years of experience together, married with extreme musical talent and a proven bombastic look and formula. When they rock, they really do roll.