December 09, 2009
A Merry KISSmas to Oakville

By Angela Blackburn, Oakville Beaver Staff
Photo by Riziero Vertolli / OAKVILLE BEAVER

They were expecting Santa, but got 'Gene Simmons' first - and they liked it.

Oakville residents voted Tom Linhares' Gene Simmons' Family KISSmas float, runner-up in the new Oakville's Choice Award for the Santa Parade.

"Tom said the looks on the faces of not only the kids, but the adults, as he went by, were something he'll never forget," said Pam Damoff, chair of the 2009 Santa Claus Parade.

Not many who attended the Nov. 21 parade are likely to forget seeing Linhares, a. k. a. Gene Simmons, either.

He was clad in black leather and silver rivets, complete with elaborate KISS makeup.

It was the Gene Simmons Family KISSmas and all of Tom's family - his wife and four children - took part.

"I tried not to stick out my tongue at the kids, but I did at some older ladies," laughed Tom.

He confessed he's been a KISS fan for several decades, since he was 10 years old - and itís fun.

What has become a Halloween tradition, to dress up a la KISS, usually Gene Simmons, was extended into Christmas this year.

"This will be the first KISSmas our family celebrates," said Tom who has always done the makeup, but this year bought a stage costume.

"It's not every day that you can strut your stuff down Lakeshore Road and get away with it," smiled Tom, who said ultimately the comic book style of KISS, the dressing up as someone else briefly, all appeal to the child in him.

And KISS plays rock music.

It just so happened the theme of this year's parade was a rock'n'roll Christmas. Tom admits he's probably the biggest KISS fan on the west side of Winston Churchill Boulevard.

And while the float represented a financial commitment, Tom said it was not expensive given the amount of fun he and his family had.

Nor many local residents - if you go by the online votes.

While his wife Suzanne drove the float, his children Aaron, 19, Amanda, 11, Julia, 6, and Hailey, 2, took part as well.

They all painted their faces except Hailey, who wanted to be a princess, said her dad.

Tom said he even hung mistletoe on the float, then added, "But I had no takers. My wife kept jerking the truck."

Tom said placing as a runner up surprised him- St. Ignatius of Loyola won, as well as being named best overall float - but said, "It made my mom so proud."

"I love where I live, I love Oakville," said Tom, a middle manager at a Mississauga plant who first moved to Clearview in 1995 and then moved to his home in Falgarwood.