December 09, 2009

As an oversized tour bus rolled to a halt in front of the grand front foyer of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, fans rolled outside, lining up to welcome the band.

Iconic rock act KISS greeted fans on Wednesday to sign memorabilia for the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, a day after a near full-house concert at Tulsa's BOK Center.

Hundreds upon hundreds of fans raised digital cameras - and screams - in unison as the foursome marched in wearing full makeup. Their inches-tall platform boots raised them to superstar status as they peered over their fans.

They said hello, and within minutes the scene evaporated. Beautiful blonds handed the band two guitars: A Washburn guitar and Gibson bass, it was passed around, autographed and set aside. That didn't keep fans from packing in shoulder-to-shoulder to watch what 12-year-old Michael Hernandez called a "once-in-a-lifetime event."

"This may even be more exciting than the concert," said his mom Kathi Hernandez. "The band is right there, right in front of us."

Band members Tommy Thayer, Gene Simmons, Eric Singer and Paul Stanley stayed at the hotel Tuesday and Wednesday night before heading out to Kansas City to continue the Alive/35 world tour, hotel executives confirmed.

The band's been around for 35 years. That's a lot of time to win over hordes of fans, young and old.

Take 9-year-old Skylar Leach, for example. She and brother Trey, 12, and dad Charles, brought in an electric guitar on the off chance someone in the band might autograph it.

"They said 'no autographs' earlier," said Charles Leach, standing in the chill and hefting a black and white Fender as his children huddled next to him.

"But Paul took my guitar," said Skylar Leach of KISS lead singer Paul Stanley. "He signed it." She pointed as a Sharpie-tattooed black star and scribbled signature dried on the pickguard. Skylar Leach beamed.

During a news conference, asked what the most surprising thing was about those intervening decades, Stanley said bluntly, "You."

He pointed to the crowd. "We've become something multigenerational. We just hope we can give back to you all that you've given to us over the years."

Young children sat on shoulders as parents swayed underneath them, all singing along to KISS hit "Rock and Roll All Nite" as it played over the intercom.

"This is what Hard Rock's all about," said David Stewart, CEO of Cherokee Nation Entertainment, which owns the property. "The word's out that Tulsa's the place to be. We'll just keep adding to it all."

But there's something else, too. ... "And of course, there's all the pretty girls," said KISS bassist Gene Simmons. "It must be something in the water."