KISS fan loaning Key to the City for KISS Cadillac Homecoming
By Mardi Suhs / CadillacNews.com
CADILLAC — A valuable piece of KISS memorabilia from the band's 1975 visit to Cadillac will be on display during the KISS Cadillac Homecoming 40th Anniversary Celebration in October.
The Key to the City of Cadillac, presented to the band during a civic breakfast 40 years ago, is being loaned to organizer Jim Neff by a KISS fan and memorabilia collector.
Cadillac civic and business leaders used to meet once a month for breakfast at Bill Oliver's Caberfae Lodge. In 1975, they were scheduled to meet on Friday, Oct. 10, during the KISS visit.
"The KISS concert was Thursday night and the regularly scheduled breakfast just happened to be that next morning," Neff explained. "It just all fell together. It was easy to adapt the breakfast to include KISS."
School administrators, city officials and football coaches Neff and Dave Brines arrived early that morning and had KISS make-up applied by members of the band and volunteers.
"Some of the make up was really bad, but the good stuff was done by the guys (in the band)," Neff recalled.
"Gene Simmons painted my face like his," said former Cadillac High School Principal John Laurent. "Then Bill Smith, our superintendent, had his face painted. I didn't have a problem getting the make up. We also had a press conference that morning and all the city dignitaries, their faces were painted, too."
During the breakfast, then Mayor Raymond "Pete" Wagner presented the band with a large key to the city and proclaimed Oct. 10, "KISS Day."
Since then, Neff always wondered what happened to the key.
Legions of KISS fans and collectors across the globe keep track of band memorabilia, including Michigan native Thad Zylka.
Zylka, who lives in Las Vegas, has been tracking Jim Neff's Cadillac News columns about the KISS Cadillac movie and 40th anniversary celebration.
In June, he contacted Neff and told him he had the KISS Key to the City.
"I just thought you'd like to know who has the key," Zylka said in his first call, explaining that he bought it in 2000 at an auction in Los Angeles.
"This is a really cool thing," said Neff, from a loft in his home, where he spends hours every week organizing the October anniversary event. "I just never knew what happened with the key, I heard rumors that it had been sold. When he contacted me, I was tickled."
As the two men swapped fan stories, Neff threw out a question — would Zylka consider loaning the key for display during the homecoming festivities?
"You know, this key could have wound up in the hands of anyone, anywhere in the world," Neff said. "But it went to a Michigan fan who loves the KISS Cadillac story."
Since purchasing the key, Zylka has increased its value by going to KISS book signings and concerts and having it signed by the original members of the band.
To make sure the key is on display in a secure location, Neff is considering placing it in the Cadillac High School trophy case at the entrance across from the athletic office. When people arrive for the Mr. Speed (World's Best KISS Tribute) concert on Saturday, Oct. 10, they will walk right past it.
The KISS Cadillac Homecoming, October 9-10
A 40-year celebration of the rock band KISS's visit to Cadillac will be held during the Cadillac Viking Homecoming festivities in October. The event is a collaboration between Cadillac Area Festival & Events, Cadillac Area Public Schools, the Cadillac Viking Athletic Boosters, and the Cadillac Band Boosters. All net proceeds from the event will benefit the two booster clubs.
The "enhanced" traditional CHS homecoming will include the pep assembly, parade, football game and homecoming dance. There will be a re-creation of the concert in the gym featuring KISS tribute band Mr. Speed, the unveiling of a permanent KISS monument, walking tours of "KISStorical" markers at spots around town and more.