KISS and Las Vegas made for each other
“The future is certainly unwritten. The story continues to unfold.”
Written out, the words sound like something a deep-voiced narrator might intone as fog machines crank up for rock stars who dressed up like “Superman with a guitar,” as Paul Stanley puts it.
But Stanley actually sounds pretty laid-back on the phone, discussing the future of Kiss in Las Vegas and whether nine shows at the Hard Rock Hotel starting Wednesday will be the first of many.
Two things are definite. One is that “the opportunity to do something unique in Vegas is something we’ve wanted for a long time,” says Stanley, who’s been suited and booted as the rock heroes’ lead-singing Starchild for 40 years and counting.
And while he doesn’t get deep into spoilers about that unique something, he does volunteer, “The beauty of this is we’ve created a stage that doesn’t have to be transported literally nightly from city to city.”
It may not be the $40 million production show that was announced, wrongly as it turns out, for the Strip in 2009, but it is “a great opportunity to explore something we haven’t done before,” he says. “(T)he chance to do more because of the fact that it’s stationary and we don’t have to worry about the mobility of it.”
One thing is as obvious as the Hard Rock sitting right across the street from a Kiss-themed miniature-golf course: “Kiss in Vegas is a match that’s been a long time coming,” Stanley says.
Neither the grease-painted band nor the city built its reputation on being under the top.
“Subtlety is not our middle name,” Stanley agrees. “If we were going to sit on antique stools to play our guitars, we’d wind up setting the guitars on fire, the carpet and the stools.”
Beyond the obvious compatibility, the last few chapters of this year’s autobiography, “Face the Music: A Life Exposed,” reveal the 62-year-old Stanley as a guy who enjoys a late-arriving life as a family man and one who is pondering the end of his run in Kiss.
He agrees on the phone that the idea of Las Vegas as an extended commute, the way Rod Stewart treats it, has its appeal. For instance, he is friends with Picasso chef Julian Serrano and relates in the book that he almost proposed to his wife, Erin, in the Bellagio restaurant, but chickened out.
“I’m going to work my ass off and sing for my supper. And then I’m going to eat like a king,” he says.
However, “Since I’m not wearing a whole lot of clothes, I have to work twice as hard to make sure that I fit into them.”
Along those lines, the book’s release in April also raised eyebrows for Stanley writing that some day he and Gene Simmons will replace themselves so Kiss can carry on without them.
He hasn’t changed his mind. Those 30-pound boots aren’t getting any lighter.
“I work out five days a week and I love it. But the past 40 years? You try landing on your knees once, let alone doing it every night countless times,” he says. “If it doesn’t hurt you, then, it’ll hurt you 10 years later.”
At the same time, “I believe in Kiss as a concept,” he says. “What Kiss is is far bigger than any of us. Anybody who disagrees is already 50 percent wrong.”
He is, of course, talking about original drummer Peter Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley. Fans know it took a lot for the four to even stand on the same stage together in April for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
The Hall of Famers wanted all four to suit up and perform. Stanley and Simmons are so loyal to current drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer that they refused, while Frehley and Criss balked at a six-piece lineup. The band ended up not playing the event at all.
Though Stanley and Simmons have their bad days as well, the only vitriol in this chat is aimed at Frehley and Criss. He brings up the “farewell tour” with the four original members, which played the MGM Grand Garden way back in 2000.
Turns out it was a farewell “based on being absolutely miserable with two of the guys we brought back from poverty, literally, to being millionaires again. Once we realized there was no need to say farewell to the band, but only to two members, all bets were off after that. At this point, we’re 14 years later.”
Criss and Frehley “weren’t built for a marathon, they were built for a sprint. Ultimately, they were willing to compromise the band and the fans for their own indulgences. Likewise, I realize I can only do this for so long,” Stanley says. But the idea of the band coming to an end because I can no longer be part of it is a little … egotistical in a way that hurts everything that I’ve built.”
It’s hard to say if a Kiss without Stanley and Simmons would thrive. If it came to a vote, the majority of fans would likely agree the most critical two of the original four are still on board.
But Stanley argues, “You can take a photo of Kiss anywhere in the world, and people can tell you who it is, but they won’t necessarily tell you the names of all the members.”
“I’m incredibly proud of the legend and legacy of this band. … I want the band to continue without me,” he says. “Not today,” he adds with a laugh. “Not next year. But I’ll get a tremendous sense of pride in knowing that the band continues.”