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Kiss: The Pagan Beasties Of Teenage Rock

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'You know how it is when you sleep with chicks on the road," says Billy Miller, latest in a long line of Kiss tour managers. "You'll do anything to make them leave before morning. Without their makeup, they look like Señor Wences' fist."

Anderson smiles at the analogy as Paul Stanley lies on a couch, exhausted after the show. Most of the big black star over his right eye is sweated off. Did Stanley find any validity in the charge that some of their lyrics were sexist?

"Fuck 'm," he says. "I don't believe in women trying to be me. We're two different species. You get trouble in a relationship when they try to act like a man. Somebody needs to be in charge. I have a lot of respect for my own opinion."

Could it be that many rock stars lead insulated lives on the road and get distorted impressions by being with groupies all the time?

"Well, it would be easy to generalize that all women want is a free meal and a fuck. That's not my generalization, though."

Stanley is the Virgin Mary of Kiss – in the Unholy Quadrenity, he is the most approachable by the worshipers. He does the majority of singing, all the talking onstage (in a Southern accent rather incongruous with his upbringing in Manhattan), and some amazing dancing that includes clicking his heels in the air while wearing eight-inch platforms. It is almost more an athletic test of endurance than a concert.

I tell Stanley about the deodorant discussion with Simmons. "If we're selling something," he says, "it's good. We're selling escapism, relief from nine-to-five problems. Many people lead dreary lives and we fulfill a need to get away from it all. People take Valium, people buy records. It's just not as heavy as you want to make it. We reach the masses, we have fun, and that is valid. I sleep very soundly."

A photograph of Kiss without their makeup has never been published, and I wonder about the great emphasis placed on preserving the mystique. "We're not telling you we're from another planet or that we're laboratory creations," he says. "We try to keep, a sharp image because the public wants it. Who would have wanted to see Clark Gable without his false teeth?"

After Stanley takes a shower, we go down to the hotel bar, where a woman comes up to point out a rose tattoo on her shoulder, identical to one on Stanley's shoulder. He wears no makeup, but with his plentiful hair, fringed leather jacket and high platform shoes, it is obvious he is a rock star even if you can't place the face. I find Star Stowe's Bunny friend and, thinking to flirt, ask if she's really a lesbian.

"Don't say that out loud! I'm the most man-hungry woman in the world," she says, genuinely upset. I change the subject to Simmons. "He was right this afternoon, you know," she says. "He's always right in everything, except when he's wrong."

In his hotel room in Detroit, Peter Criss takes a quick swig from a white plastic bottle. "This protein liquid is the worst shit I ever tasted," he says with a grimace, as Al Ashton, a Canadian disc jockey, sets up a tape recorder to interview him and Ace Frehley. "I'll try anything to wake up. Even vitamins."

"Why not just take speed?" suggests Ace Frehley, who's slumped in a chair.

"'Cause I don't like it."

During the interview, Frehley will say that he wants to go to another planet before he dies, but Criss is the first to open up, reminiscing about his childhood. "They threw me out of the choir because I drank all the wine when I was an altar boy," he says. "They used to lock me in the closet for hours in school. They made me sit in the wastebasket. I hate nuns, man."

The resentful memory seems to jar loose some inhibitions because Criss is soon railing against the present-day equivalent to his old nuns. "We're the ones kicking shit out there every night! The only ones who know what's going on are the band and road crew. Record executives just sit behind desks getting their pictures taken for the trades and grabbing all the credit . . . Oh, God! I didn't say it! I've pulled a John Lennon!"

Frehley shrieks with high-pitched staccato laughter. The DJ asks about his childhood. "I was in the Bronx somewhere, floating." Again he shrieks. And his future plans ? "I want to start a monkey farm." Another shriek.

"And the agents!" Criss resumes, shouting. "They're bigger assholes than the record company. They'll book us anywhere. They drug us, say they'll let us bring our old ladies, have bodyguards to lock us up." A bellboy wheels in a cart with a big silver bucket of ice. "Oh, no! Not more champagne!" Criss cries. "See what I mean about drugs?"

Everyone takes the bellboy as a signal to end the radio interview. As I walk to the door, Alan Miller, head of promotion for Kiss' Aucoin Management, jokes: "If you say anything to hurt the group, we'll break your legs."

The four band members stare intently into the mirrors in their dressing room and smear on makeup as Bill Aucoin, president of Aucoin Management, announces that "Beth," their hit ballad of 1976, has tied with "Disco Duck" for best song of the year in the People's Choice Awards.

"What did we win?" says Stanley. "A hundred pounds of dog food?"

Aucoin chuckles and says they have to discuss how they will receive the award since they will be on the road during the ceremony.

"I don't think we should be on TV at all," says Simmons.

"Are you kidding?" says Aucoin. "We'll make it a surprise for Peter. He'll go out to sing the song alone as usual, and you guys will come out and say you just got a wire that you've won the award. Peter says thanks, blah blah, you walk off and he does the song. We'll put together a tape and send it to the show."

After a few more minutes of makeup smearing, Criss announces with ridiculous solemnity that it is time for Gene Simmons to come out of the closet and admit to his leadership role in the gay liberation movement. He suggests several loathsomely graphic possibilities for the origin of Simmons' long tongue, to uproarious laughter among several roadies and other assistants.

"He says if he likes you he'll swallow it," says Stanley. "He even owns stock in K-Y jelly."

Simmons stands defenseless against this locker-room onslaught and says nothing after a couple of lame attempts to link Criss' Italian heritage to the Mafia. I catch his eye and for the first time see the monster pleading.

Someone brings in a box and says it is a present from the family at whose house Kiss has been invited to party after the concert. Criss opens the box and pulls out a bottle of wine. "If these people are as rich as they say, how come they send us Gallo?" he asks. "Oh, man! Look at this!" He passes around a greeting card that shows a photograph of a slightly obese businessman, his wife and two beautiful children smiling out from their suburban living room. "This is Middle America, man. They're sicker than we are."

Peter Criss walks out of the bathroom with a smoking hair dryer in his hand. "I was blowing on my hair when all of a sudden sparks started coming out of the thing," he says. "I could have gone up in flames. Imagine that: all these years of bombs going off next to me every night and I finally get done in by a hair dryer."

As he settles down in a chair to towel off, I ask about the ribbing of Simmons. "That was heavier than usual because you were there," he says. "We were showing off and really getting to him because the press means so much to him. Joking keeps my mind off the performance and keeps us all friends."

And the outburst this afternoon with the DJ? "It's a game. We built up this whole thing about being outlaws against the system. But I do feel the guys behind desks a lot of times don't know what the hell's going on.

"My social life has suffered," he continues. "I go to parties and find myself really scared – always sitting in the corner, not knowing how to act. It's sick. I used to go to parties and flaunt the rock-star role, but now that I am one, I can't. I'm losing the real Peter Criss somewhere and it scares me. I never go to sleep at night. I sometimes have an insecurity that I'm not good enough for the success. But I believe I've worked very hard and I'm entitled to it now. I've cleared that up. I'm pretty happy. I'm very excited over the band."

Does he find any conflict between the Christian crosses he wears around his neck and the group's image of evil and sex?

"I find myself evil," he says. "I believe in the devil as much as God. You can use either one to get things done."

What would he tell God about how he had been spending his life if the hair dryer had in fact fried him?

"I don't know. I'm having a good time. It's all show business. I would tell him, 'You should have been there, man.'"

Ace Frehley braces himself for my questions with a beer and a firm dismissal of a couple of little kids who are staring at him at the party thrown by the family who sent them the Gallo. They've turned out to be more upper than middle class, with a mansion in Grosse Pointe, just outside Detroit. Seeing "the spaceman" without his makeup, the children appear to have just learned that there is no Santa Claus.

"I go crazy about privacy," says Frehley in a heavy New York accent. "I have to, to keep my sanity and handle stardom. Onstage I'm Ace Frehley, and offstage I'm a kid from the Bronx. I consider myself lucky in a way. Mick Jagger will always be Mick Jagger, but I can take off my makeup and know who I am. When all the girls scream, it's not me they're grabbing. It's what I represent."

Does he really believe he's going to another planet?

"I eat, sleep and drink my character. It is my fantasy to go to another planet. By the time I'm 40, interplanetary travel will be common. Nobody will want to talk to me at that age anyway. Stardom is a temporary phase. You become a candidate for the nuthouse when you believe what you are is everlasting."

Don't all stars play for immortality, though? Doesn't he want to be remembered in 50 years?

"I'm gonna be on Mars. It doesn't fuckin' matter. This planet won't be here in 50 years."

And how does he feel about deodorant?

"Better to compare us to President Carter," he says, "because people vote the same way they buy records."

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