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Kiss Forever: 40 Years of Feuds and Fury

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The Hall of Fame ceremony could have included a heartwarming reunion of the original lineup, but maybe that kind of thing is for hippies. Instead, Simmons and Stanley insisted on playing as the current Kiss, with guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer. "We heard, 'We would like Ace and Peter in makeup,'" says Stanley. "And we said, 'That's not going to happen.' That band is long gone. I question what Ace and Peter would look like in those outfits. We've spent 40 years building something, and to dissipate what we've done, or confuse it by sending mixed messages? What we offered was to play with Tommy and Eric and then bring out Ace and Peter to play with us."

Criss and Frehley were so insulted by that proposition that they threatened to boycott the ceremony. "I won't be disrespected," Criss says, sitting in his New Jersey home. "How can you put me in the Hall of Fame and then tell me to sit over there in the corner while another guy puts on my makeup and plays? That's an injustice. To the fans, too."

Kiss and Tell: comparing all four original band members' memoirs

Stanley was affronted by the Hall's refusal to induct any of the musicians who played with Kiss after the original guys (several lead guitarists, plus two drummers: Singer and Criss' original replacement, the late Eric Carr). "I don't need the Hall of Fame," says Stanley. "And if there's not reciprocity, I'm not interested. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, practically every member was inducted, and virtually all 175 members of the Grateful Dead. Rules need to apply to everybody."

Simmons, meanwhile, says that Frehley and Criss "no longer deserve to wear the paint." "The makeup is earned," he adds. "Just being there at the beginning is not enough. You know, quite honestly, my hand to God? I would have preferred the same lineup all these years. But if I fuck up, I should be tossed out. And if you blow it for yourself, it's your fault. You can't blame your band members. 'Oh, look what happened to me. Oh, poor me.' Look at my little violin. I have no sympathy."

Hanging out in his San Diego condo, Frehley says that the resistance to a reunion is all business: After all, the current lineup has a summer tour planned. "The reason they don't want to perform with me and Peter," he says, "is because the last time they did, they had to do a reunion tour. We play three songs, the fans go crazy. They don't want to open up a can of worms."

Frehley and Criss may not get the performance they want, but it looks like they won't have to see anyone else in their makeup. Outmaneuvered, for once, Stanley and Simmons announced in late February that they wouldn't perform at all.

There is no Kiss memorabilia on display in Paul Stanley's house. "I know what I've accomplished," says Stanley, "so I don't need to see it. My friends don't need to see it. And it can also be misleading, because the impression it might give is that you're responsible for more than you actually were." Stanley lives in Beverly Hills just five minutes from Simmons, with three young kids and his wife of eight years, Erin, a former attorney (he also has a 19-year-old son from a previous marriage). But they don't get over to each others' places much. Stanley's house is a tastefully proportioned Mediterranean-style structure, with a guesthouse in back; he owns enough acres around the property that he's considering starting a vineyard.

He's sitting in his immaculate, fussily decorated living room, wearing black jeans and a V-neck tee that exposes impressively muscled biceps, along with a very familiar thatch of chest hair. Even with his makeup off, even at age 62, he looks like the Starchild – you half-expect to blink and find him transformed, ready to rock. On the wall opposite him is a painting of a textured orb, which turns out to be his work. "I've done multiple-seven-figures in sales of art," he says. Sadly, his sedate speaking voice bears no resemblance to his jive-y, throat-shredding aw yeah stage-banter shout, which began as an imitation of Steve Marriott's preacher-man shtick.

Paul Stanley's 20 best onstage quotes

Kiss' only enduring relationship is between Simmons and Stanley. "We've always seen each other as brothers," Stanley says. "What we seem to be at odds at is how you treat your brother. Gene's priority, by far, has always been himself. And he's not one to let anyone else's feelings or contributions get in the way."

Stanley comes off as friendly and warm, though he can be chillingly blunt in assessing his old bandmates. But if you believe Criss and Frehley, he is a Dick Cheney-like figure in Kiss, the real power behind a flashier figurehead. "Pauly's the one you've got to watch for," says Criss. "He'll leave this building, and then you'll go, 'Holy fucking shit, he cut my throat.' He really is the leader of Kiss. He's the guy who pulls the strings – trust me."

Stanley doesn't show any evil mastermind tendencies during our day together, as he lifts his daughters in the air ("I love you, little people," he says); closes his eyes while grooving on old Zeppelin tracks blasting from the spectacular stereo he's set up in a guesthouse man cave; shows off a photo where he's flipping pizza dough with impressive professionalism; and tools around Beverly Hills in an SUV filled with kids' DVDs. Each night, he says, he thanks his wife for their life together before they go to sleep. "I know two people who demonize me," he says. "It's funny, because I don't know anyone else who does. I can't possibly be responsible for those guys' situations or failures. Any more than I can make someone else responsible for mine."

Stanley does agree that Simmons' prominence as a band spokesman is misleading. "Gene's makeup is the face of Kiss," he says. "It's the strongest. But the idea that he's the motivating force in the band – that's only believed by people who don't know the band."

Once Frehley was out of Kiss, it was up to Simmons and Stanley to keep the band alive – and Simmons was busy pursuing an acting career and other projects, including managing Liza Minnelli's career. Stanley felt abandoned. "And it wasn't like he was making Gone With the Wind," he says. "Some of it was more like passing wind! But what I resented was just being informed and then working to his plan. It didn't seem fair." He considers Kiss' 1984 album, Animalize, close to a Paul Stanley solo album. "I could deal with that. What I couldn't deal with was that somebody wanted to be paid for not doing their job. If it applied to Ace and Peter, it applies to Gene, too."

He laughs when he hears that Simmons played me some of the very un-Kiss-like ballads he writes for fun. "Gene loves the sound of his own voice," he says. In all those episodes of Simmons' reality show – 167 of them – Stanley never appeared, despite many requests. "Because it wasn't reality," he says, laughing again. "To create a life that isn't accurate and for me to be a part of it, or to help you promote something that I think is questionable . . . and, quite honestly, waste my time? You're missing out on living a real life if you're filming a fake one."

Presented with a list of Stanley's beefs with him, Simmons simply pleads guilty. "The luckiest break I ever got was meeting Paul Stanley," he says. "Who hated me when he first met me – thought I was arrogant. True! Self-absorbed. True! Guilty as charged. Thinks that he's better than he actually is. Guilty as charged. And yet something in that mixture between us – you know they say that purebred dogs are retarded. It is the differences in things that make something stronger."

When I ask Stanley if the two men have ever sat down to work out their differences, he's genuinely confused. "I'm curious . . . what's there to work out?" he says. "The fact that we have 40-plus years between us means we worked it out."

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