Hot on the heels of yesterday’s KISS-related post comes yet another, but I just had to get this off my chest…
This morning an article from Culturemap Austin found its way into my newsfeed with the headline: “KISS members shake up Texas with new rock ‘n’ roll restaurant venture.” It contained a photograph of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, both in their 60s, standing behind several plates of Applebees-esque “comfort food.” The pair were promoting their new restaurant Rock & Brews, as the article went on to explain:
The restaurant and entertainment concept, founded by two rockers with infamous reputations, is a family-friendly space serving up “American comfort food” and a wide selection of beer. The decor is heavily inspired by rock ‘n’ roll music and includes concert lighting and music-themed art.
“We spend a lot of time performing in large venues while on tour, and we are proud to be part of the AT&T Center renovations to enhance the fan experience,” said Stanley, who will perform the national anthem at the December 11 game.
Rock & Brews is just one facet of the $110 million AT&T Center renovation completed in October. Other updates include new seating, streamlined entryways, additional concession options, and a more modern look.
Granted the members of KISS are successful businessmen in their 60s, and granted they are widely known for their crass marketing of anything they can put the KISS name on, but I’ll be honest, as a lifelong fan, the article bummed me out—really for no other reason than because it just seemed so goddamned uncool.
And yes, I know this sort of thing is nothing new for Gene and Paul, but somehow it hit me harder than normal today. Here’s the band I grew up with, who were the epitome of everything cool when I was a kid. Not just the music and the makeup and the outfits and the blood and the fire… there was a whole mystique there.
When we were kids we believed that KISS really had the magical powers we saw in KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. We believed that their name really stood for “Knights In Satan’s Service.” We believed that Gene Simmons had a cow’s tongue grafted onto his own. We believed that Gene had once stomped on Shaun Cassidy’s face onstage with his dragon boots. All of these (bullshit) things we believed in because KISS were a mystery. They were cool.
As my favorite Luis Buñuel quote goes, “Mystery is the essential element of every work of art.”
Now, do I really think that the bands we thought were cool as kids owe it to their fans to stay cool forever? Not really, no. I mean, we all grow up. We figure out that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy aren’t real. If the Demon and the Starchild want to open a rock and roll version of a fucking Chili’s in a giant corporate complex, then they should do that. It’s their gig. If I have a problem with that being uncool, then, sure, that’s MY problem.
But still, it feels like a bummer. These were my childhood idols, man.
In many ways, the genie (no pun intended) is already out of the KISS bottle. All the bullshit marketing aside… All the reunion tours with stand-in members wearing Peter and Ace’s make-up aside… As soon as you do a reality show, THAT’S IT. The mystery is gone forever. Ozzy set the precedent and Gene followed. Shit, Dee Snider too. The Prince of Darkness, The Demon, The Twisted Sister… they can’t be gods anymore. They’re exposed as middle-aged schlubs with boring family problems like the rest of us. You don’t get to go back to being cool after that. Why not open an “American Comfort Food” joint? That’s as cool as it gets from here on out.
Something tells me Paul and Gene are OK with that and they certainly don’t give a shit whether or not some blogger at Dangerous Minds thinks they’re cool or not. And they shouldn’t.
Still, I was thinking about this new restaurant and the kinds of things KISS does today to promote their brand (like appearing in Walmart commercials), versus how they promoted their brand in the early days—when they were still cool.
I remembered one of my favorite cool KISS stories. It’s the tale of a really neat Little Rascals-style promotional stunt that KISS pulled off in 1975. This was right as the band were poised to become huge megastars right after the release of Alive!.
The band had heard that a high school football team in Cadillac, Michigan were KISS fans who played their music in the locker room before games. KISS adopted the Cadillac High Vikings as “their team” and visited the high school to play their Homecoming. The entire town embraced the young band and declared a “KISS Day,” with a parade and the members receiving the key to the city. When you look at photos from that event, it’s hard to tell if it was a cooler thing for the band or the town. Maybe it was a wash. It was great promotional gimmick for the group and I’m sure the kids in Cadillac have never forgotten the experience. The photographic evidence indicates that everyone was having the time of their lives. Now THAT’s cool.
These 1975 Cadillac, Michigan photos (uploaded to the “70s KISS” Facebook page) kill me:
‘KISS 1975 vs KISS in 2015: Do they owe it to their fans to remain ‘cool’?’ continues after the jump…