By Christian McPhate
It's hard to imagine a time when KISS didn't exist. A friend wearing a Gene Simmons mask introduced me to their music when I was five years old, living in Germany. The Berlin Wall hadn't fallen yet. He revealed the KISS Double Platinum as if he were holding the holy grail of heavy metal. Since then, I've watched the band reach the height of their stardom in the late '70s, the nightmare of losing their makeup (and in essence their power), to the rise from the ashes in the '90s with the original member reunion.
Their painted faces mesmerized me, and I devoured their TV movie Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Starchild, Space Ace, Catman and, my personal favorite, the Demon battling evil robot doppelgängers: they were my superheroes.
They were a lot people's superheroes. "There are more people than I can count that have KISS tattoos," said Paul Stanley in a recent press conference with journalists from across the country and Canada. "That's like being a lifer in the Army. Anybody can put on a uniform and take it off, but when you tattoo yourself, you're in it for the long haul. So that's an incredible sign of dedication."
These "lifers" are part of the "KISS Army." Legend has it that a mob of fans once surrounded a radio station, demanding to hear KISS. Today, their legion is innumerable. "Knights in Satan's Service" is one of their more notorious monikers. But with soldiers from four generations of fans, it's not hard to imagine why people outside of the tribe would not look fondly on a bunch of people celebrating a fire-breathing demon onstage singing about the god of thunder.