09/17/2015

KISS: 'I'm one-fifth of a sadistic cheerleading squad' – a classic encounter from the vaults

It’s 40 years this month since KISS released Alive!, the album that made them stars. A few weeks earlier, Creem’s Jaan Uhelszki had joined them – to be a member of KISS for one night only. Read her account, in this piece from Rock’s Backpages

By Jaan Uhelszki / The Guardian

I dreamed I was on stage with Kiss in my Maidenform bra … well, not exactly my idea of the perfect fantasy, but I was curious about life on the other side of the footlights. Armed with an abundance of determination and a tight pair of Danskins (Danskins aren’t only for dancing), I approached Larry Harris, the vice-president of Casablanca Records, with my plan: “How about if I join Kiss for a night?”

No answer, and then nervous laughter. Obviously, Larry thought I just wanted to know what it was like to mouth-kiss a vampire. Sure, they were eager for a feature on the band, but this scheme was a little bizarre. I pushed the point, and they told me disturbing tales of other fresh-faced females who were transformed into raging teenage nymphs after attending a Kiss concert. “But I don’t want to see the show, I want to be in it!” I persisted. Reluctantly, the Casablanca crowd conceded (only after making me promise not to call KISS a glitter band), assuring me I could join these contorted Kewpie dolls on stage for one number or four minutes, whatever came first, on the following Saturday.

On Thursday, I decided to drop in on the Detroit rehearsal to see what kind of atrocities I’d be in for. Soon after I arrived, I found some of the band lounging on the side of the stage, so I walked up and asked what they thought of the idea of me being a Kiss (Kissette?) for a night. They all looked at me vacantly, and I realised that NO ONE HAD TOLD THEM! I felt like a Rockette who gets told “no, thanks” at the open call before she’s had a chance to do her dance. Undaunted, I fumed at the executive-in-residence, and demanded he explain the plan.

I returned to a seat in the empty hall and watched the band rehearse, to “pick up some tips”. A stage hand divulged that bassist Gene Simmons had accidentally set his hair on fire while practising the fire-breathing segment of the show, which I admit made me squirm and fear for my own charred remains. My visions of stardom were quickly evaporating like warm Jell-O. During their break, Simmons came over and pulled out the few strands of singed curls, assuring me that “it was nothing”, but I couldn’t prevent myself from biting the Lilac Frost off my nails. I was beginning to have misgivings. I think Ace Frehley did, too, because he just stared over my left shoulder. But Peter raised a comradely drum stick when Paul Stanley pointed to the empty stage and stated: “Saturday night, that’s you up there!”

What am I going to pack to become a Kiss? I ponder over breakfast, wincing at the memory of last night’s show. What if that geekish bass player bites my neck, oozing red blood-goo on my shoulder? Anxiety knots my stomach so much that I can’t even force a single piece of Sugar Crisp down my throat, so I return upstairs to case my closet. One leotard (black), one pair tights (black), and one pair six-inch platforms (also black). I zip up my Samsonite and hurry out the door.

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