They love it loud: Fans of Kiss ap­pre­ci­ate how band hor­ri­fied the elites

The Buffalo News - - OPINION - Washington Post Writ­ers Group

WASHINGTON – I have a con­fes­sion to make. I’m a mem­ber of the Kiss Army.

In 1976, I bought my first Kiss al­bum. I loved the rock band’s makeup and crazy char­ac­ters, and quickly I was hooked.

I had Kiss posters, Kiss ac­tion fig­ures, a Kiss lunch­box, and on Hal­loween I dressed up in a Kiss cos­tume to go trick-or-treat­ing. Two decades later, I took my fu­ture wife out on our first date ... to a Kiss con­cert. (She mar­ried me any­way.)

And now, a cou­ple of decades af­ter that, we just took our kids to Philadelphia to see Kiss on their farewell “End of the Road” tour. Some of us (yes, me) even wore Kiss makeup.

In a sense, Kiss pre­fig­ured to­day’s age of pop­ulism. Just like a cer­tain Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, they hor­ri­fied the elites – but in­spired a loyal, de­voted fol­low­ing that rev­eled in their scorn and con­de­scen­sion.

Be­ing a Kiss fan was an act of re­bel­lion against the es­tab­lish­ment. The band was panned by the critics, never won a sin­gle Grammy, and were only re­luc­tantly ad­mit­ted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 – 15 years af­ter they first be­came el­i­gi­ble.

They got in by pop­u­lar ac­cla­ma­tion, despite the best ef­forts of the mu­sic in­dus­try es­tab­lish­ment to keep them out. As lead singer Paul Stan­ley put it in the Philadelphia con­cert, “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hates us!” The crowd cheered.

Kiss is a uniquely Amer­i­can phe­nom­e­non. Co-founder Gene Sim­mons was born Chaim Witz in Haifa, Is­rael, the son of a Holo­caust sur­vivor from Hun­gary who saw her fam­ily killed in a con­cen­tra­tion camp.

His mother em­i­grated to Is­rael, where they lived in ab­ject poverty. “We had noth­ing – torn sweaters and we never even saw toi­let pa­per,” he says.

When Sim­mons was 8, they moved to New York, where he learned to speak English by reading comic books – which later in­spired the cos­tumes and makeup that made Kiss fa­mous.

Stan­ley (born Stan­ley Bert Eisen) also grew up in New York to a Jewish fam­ily that fled Nazi Germany. They seized the opportunities this coun­try gave them, ris­ing from noth­ing to sell more than 100 mil­lion al­bums, li­cense more than 3,000 prod­uct cat­e­gories, play more than 2,000 shows and earn more Gold Records than any Amer­i­can band.

Kiss is ar­guably both the big­gest rock band, and the big­gest rock brand, in history.

“I am a di­rect re­sult of the capitalist sys­tem. I came to America and I had noth­ing,” Sim­mons says. “We’re blessed to be liv­ing in America, which is the land of op­por­tu­nity.”

Sim­mons will turn 70 dur­ing the course of this tour, yet he is still breath­ing fire and sell­ing out sta­di­ums. What a coun­try! Kiss loves America be­cause they have lived the Amer­i­can Dream. So, it’s lit­tle won­der that they are un­apolo­getic pa­tri­ots.

In 2016, when NFL play­ers be­gan tak­ing a knee dur­ing the na­tional an­them, Kiss re­sponded by launch­ing its “Free­dom to Rock” tour. They of­fered dis­counted tickets for veter­ans, in­vited a mem­ber of the Na­tional Guard and the Re­serves to be a roadie for a day and, at ev­ery stop, raised hun­dreds of thou­sands of dollars for veter­ans’ char­i­ties, such as Hir­ing our He­roes and the Wounded War­rior Project.

At shows, they played the na­tional an­them and led the crowd in the Pledge of Al­le­giance. As Stan­ley told the crowd, “You should re­mem­ber, pa­tri­o­tism is al­ways cool. Lov­ing your coun­try is al­ways cool. Standing up, re­spect­ing and hon­or­ing our mil­i­tary is al­ways cool.”

To­day, as they reach the end of the road, Kiss is still cool.

For their fi­nal tour, they de­liv­ered the big­gest Kiss show ever. The band de­scended from the sky on plat­forms while ex­plod­ing plumes of fire shot into the air that were so hot you could feel the heat in the up­per deck.

Sim­mons spit blood and fire. Stan­ley (at age 67) flew across the au­di­ence on a zip line. Tommy Thayer shot out the klieg lights above the stage with blasts of fire from his gui­tar.

And in the grand fi­nale, Sim­mons and Thayer boarded long-armed me­chan­i­cal plat­forms that took them high above the au­di­ence to reach the up­per level of the sta­dium, giv­ing those of us in the cheap seats a front row ex­pe­ri­ence for at least one song.

My kids were mes­mer­ized by the spec­ta­cle. They’ll never see any­thing like it again.

(Kiss’ End of the World tour will stop in Toronto’s Sco­tia­bank Arena on Aug. 17 and the Darien Lake Amp­ithe­atre on Aug. 23.)

Marc Thiessen Newly sworn-in cit­i­zens more re­spect­ful than na­tives

On Satur­day I was at my church de­liv­er­ing pussy wil­lows and when I walked out of the church I saw two guys in the park­ing lot. Both ha­bit­u­ally park there and at this time one of them was work­ing on his car

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.