40 YEARS SINCE CHANGED FACE OF ROCK
March 24, 2013
It's been 40 years since KISS put on paint and changed the face of rock and roll

New York band has sold more than 100 million records and played to 22 million fans since they first formed on E. 23rd St. in 1973

By Ethan Sacks / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Back before they could afford to party all day, they were already rock ’n’ rolling all night.

Forty years ago this month, KISS bassist Gene Simmons, guitarists Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss dabbed on some black and white facepaint bought in a Manhattan hobby store and forever left their mark on music history.

“We were just four kids off the streets of New York that dreamed big," Simmons, who was born Chaim Witz, told the Daily News this week.

There’s no historical plaque in front of the six-story, cast-iron building at 10 E. 23rd St., where KISS first formed and practiced their three-chord riffs in a dingy fourth floor loft with yolk-encrusted egg crates nailed to the walls to muffle the noise.

But maybe there should be one: KISS has gone on to sell more than 100 million records and perform live in front of an estimated 22 million fans.

Stanley (born Stanley Eisen), who drove a cab to pay the bills in those days, says one of them hit on the eureka idea one day that an ominous look would get people to notice them long enough to hear their music in a New York scene already oversaturated with bands.
The makeup was a work in progress.

“Paul drew a circle around his eye,” says Simmons. “He looked like the dog on ‘Our Gang.’ It was Ace who suggested to Paul to put two stars, one over each eyes, and Paul said, ‘I'm just going to do one. I'm too lazy.’ And that's why to this day he only has one star.”

Stanley remembers it slightly differently.

“I always liked the asymmetry of it,” he says, laughing. “Maybe it's because there's at least two sides to me.”

They debuted their new look at a pair of gigs at an Amityville, Long Island, club called The Daisy on March 9 and 10, 1973 — and got panned by their first critic.

“I remember playing The Daisy and locking ourselves in the owner's office because one of the bouncers said he was going to kill us because of the way we looked,” says Stanley.

“The first night there really was a handful of people, but within a few times of playing there, they were literally breaking the windows to get into the place.”

Within a few days, the band found themselves in a studio, recording a demo with producer Eddie Kramer of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin fame.

“That five-song demo got us a record contract right away; that five-song demo got us a manager,” says Simmons.

“Within a year and a half of that record coming out, we were playing Anaheim Stadium.”

Criss, aka George Peter Criscuolla of Brooklyn, was drummed out of the band in 1980; Frehley left two years later. Both have briefly returned several times over the years, but their platform shoes currently are filled.

Stanley still can close his eyes and recall stepping on the Madison Square Garden stage for the first time — a Queens boy's dream.

“When I played there the first time, I remembered not too much earlier than that, driving my cab and driving a couple to Madison Square Garden to see Elvis Presley (in 1972),” says Stanley, “and I thought to myself,

‘One of these days people are going to be coming here to see me.’ ”