KISS at Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin Friday

By Piet Levy of the Journal Sentinel

The traditional gift for a 40th wedding anniversary is a ruby. Maybe there's a party, or a trip.

KISS is celebrating its 40th anniversary on the road including an Alpine Valley show with Def Leppard Friday "with a 60-foot spider that does everything but give birth," said the flamboyant rock band's tongue-wagging bassist and co-lead vocalist, Gene Simmons. "And there's more firepower than most third-world countries."

KISS fans, of course, wouldn't have it any other way.

The black and white face paint, the metal-studded leather costumes, the pyro-powered live show spectacles, and songs like "Rock & Roll All Nite" are immortalized in rock history. This year, it became official, when KISS was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The band has been eligible for 15 years, and regardless of the protests, petitions and letters from the most devout members of the KISS Army fan base, it seemed recognition would never come. Critics weren't always receptive to the KISS circus, and between the comics, toys, a much-maligned TV movie, a Las Vegas limo service, even a "KISS Kasket," the band sometimes appeared more interested in branding than the music.

But the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame isn't strictly about the music either, Simmons said.
Slamming a 'sham' honor

"It's become a sham, a political organization," Simmons said. "My only question for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is, when is KISS going to be inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame?... Then what the (expletive) is Run-D.M.C. doing in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Are you kidding me? It's ridiculous."

But KISS showed up for its honor in April anyway, "because the fans wanted it," Simmons said. The acceptance speech marked a reunion with Simmons and co-frontman and guitarist Paul Stanley with their estranged former bandmates Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. But the original lineup didn't perform together, because, according to an interview Stanley gave to Rolling Stone, current KISS members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer weren't allowed to perform at the ceremony, nor were they inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The decision not to play received some negative feedback; even Stevie Nicks criticized KISS' choice in an interview. But from his perspective, Simmons suggests fans wouldn't want to see Frehley and Criss perform in KISS again anyway.

"The reason I know that is because there hasn't been a single show where I've seen anyone holding up a sign," for Frehley and Criss, Simmons said. "Why don't you get back together with your first girlfriend? Well, why should it be different for us?"

"We love Ace and Peter and wish them all the best, but with all the alcohol and drugs and dark clouds (in the past), they're not allowed to be in KISS anymore," Simmons said. "These are hallowed grounds. If you can't respect yourself enough, you're not allowed to be in the band. They were given three chances. They're out."

What the fans really want, Simmons suggests, is what he still wants out of KISS: "to be the hottest band in the world."
Wisconsin memories

From the first Wisconsin gig in 1974 where Simmons still reminisces about an "encore" with a "friendly local girl" at a Holiday Inn to playing for 40,000 people at Rock Fest in Cadott, Wis., in 2007, listed on the band's website as one of its top accomplishments, KISS, in the eyes of many, has lived up to that mission statement. And KISS will keep at it "as long as it's convincing," Simmons said.

"After all the money, all the fame and all that stuff, pride is what you want, to get up there on that stage and live up to our mandate," Simmons said. "It's a spectacle, but what we see is a fan spectacle. We see three generations of fans standing on their seats going nuts. And when there's a 5-year-old kid sitting on the shoulder of his dad, and they're wearing KISS makeup, it's emotional. It's not just a show. You get a lump in your throat."

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As KISS turns 40, it's still working on new material. Simmons told the Journal Sentinel that he recently wrote a song, "Your Wish Is My Command," that could appear on a possible follow-up to "Monster," its 20th studio album, released in 2012.

But KISS, being KISS, is working on new promotional opportunities, too. That includes the LA KISS Arena Football League team co-owned by Simmons, Stanley and band manager Doc McGhee. The team's inaugural season is the basis of a new reality series, "4th and Loud," that premiered on AMC this week.

"This is real kick-ass stuff," Simmons said of the show. "The drama is real, the injuries are real, the players have real stakes."

Piet Levy


KISS co-frontman Paul Stanley wasn't available for an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but he had a whole lot to say in his autobiography, "Face the Music: A Life Exposed," released in April.

Here are three revelations from the book:

1. Actress Donna Dixon was in a relationship with Paul Stanley when she secretly married actor Dan Aykroyd in 1983.

2. Gene Simmons wasn't invited to Stanley's wedding to Erin Sutton.

3. After a car accident in 1990, no one from the band called Stanley to check on his condition.


Who: KISS and Def Leppard with the Dead Daisies

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Alpine Valley Music Theatre, W2699 County Road D, East Troy

Tickets:$36 to $160 at the box office, (800) 745-3000

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