by Bob Wilson
The main reason most of us pick up a rock star’s autobiography is to live vicariously through the anecdotes of the famous. Many times the star in question feels the need to rise above “the dish”, and serve us a plate of attempted deep insights, or possibly to highlight how “intelligent and gifted” they are. Peter Criss on the other hand, makes no attempt to have us believe he spent many of his Kiss days ruminating on whether the unexamined life is worth living, in his most recent effort “Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of KISS”. Rather the former Peter Criscuola leaves us wondering whether or not he really was a cat with nine lives, because it seems he used about seven of them up before half of the pages are turned.
Kiss never projected much pretense about what they were attempting to do on stage, which is to present a heavy metal circus, and simply to entertain. Criss recounts how Kiss started out paying their dues in seedy venues, and rose at their pinnacle to New York’s Madison Square Garden. It is refreshing to not hear him complain about the perks that went along with his rise to music stardom. His idol Gene Krupa never had it so good.
Criss does tend to whine at times that he was misunderstood, especially by his second wife, and Gene Simmons. You have to scratch your head when Criss tells us that his second wife was a shrew for leaving him. Mainly that is because Criss had taken a Magnum, and blew a hole in the ceiling of the first floor of their posh Connecticut home with wife, infant daughter, and a Kiss toadie on hand. Said toadie ran screaming from the manse two miles to alert the Connecticut police, who sent a SWAT team to the cat’s lair.
Fortunately, this ended peacefully, with the local police imposing the sentence of a night at the local Marriott Hotel until he calmed down the next day. Criss recounts the tale (no pun intended) with great rancor for the police, seemingly deriding them for not locking him away. Yet, he is still confounded how his wife would find him unstable enough to leave him. The former Coppertone sun screen model is depicted as just short of Judas Iscariot, although Criss also had admittedly roughed her up, and neither seems an innocent.
The Kiss road antics do not disappoint the voyeur in the reader, coming close to what we would expect from the Emperor Caligula if he could sing, and shoot rockets from his guitar. The Cat-Man takes some verbal revenge for Simmons bashing him in the press, telling us in a highlight that Gene Simmons managed the later career of “Lilly Munster” actress Yvonne DeCarlo. The hy-gene challenged Simmons is said to have “bagged” Lilly when she was 63 years old. While intended as a barb, when Simmons read this account, you can’t help but think it left him with a satisfied smile.
Wild nights after shows of Ace, Paul, Gene and a road crew that seemed so twisted it would take pliers to warp them more, will fulfill the Kiss Army’s expectations. Stage highlights include Criss hitting Simmons with a tossed drumstick, and Simmons kicking him with his large serpentine boot in reply. The image is, as the commercial says, “Pricless”. Peter responded by going after Simmons backstage with a broken champagne bottle, while both were in full regalia.
Criss left Kiss the first time in a drunken and drugged haze, while retaining 25% of the Kiss corporation. Later, on the reunion tours, Criss felt underpaid to the point of being robbed by Paul and Gene, and said he hated them so much, he fantasized about shooting them . He does not seem to grasp that he still did collect quite a check, and he could have sunk the brand when he squandered his first go round with the group quite carelessly. Perhaps the frontmen held some resentment about that, and felt he had already been compensated. That aside, the squabbles are entertaining to hear recounted.
A car wreck straight form the song “Detroit Rock City” could have left Criss dead, as could have a youth of gang violence in Brooklyn. Place the second obligatory comment about him having nine lives here. He also tells us how he struggled to keep his Catholic faith through the tours and Roman orgies, and it plays as a sincere inner conflict. It is refreshing that a rock star admits he enjoyed the fame, and is grateful to his fans for helping to make it possible for him to fulfill his dreams.
Maybe some would say that they didn’t need to know that Peter rubbed himself to have a bigger bulge when he came out from behind the drums to sing “Beth”. Or that Paul Stanley stuffed his crotch during a tour with Aerosmith, and the band flayed him for apparently changing sizes. If you are a person who did need to know that, crack the cover open. The band will meet you in the “Ladies Room”, ready to rock and roll all night, and party everyday!
Check out “100,000 Years” w/ a Peter Criss drum solo at the 2:50 mark: