I certainly didn’t expect my first trip back abroad post-pandemic to be to Paris, where I’d board rock band KISS’ private jet, seated in a luxurious leather seat facing the legends. living Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.
When you’re a reporter for 60 Minutes, you have to be prepared for some pretty weird and wonderful, sometimes downright wacky, adventures. You don’t always know where you might end up or who you might be sitting across from. And I can tell you that I certainly didn’t expect my first trip back abroad after the pandemic to be to Paris, where I would board rock band KISS’ private jet, seated in a luxurious leather seat facing living legends Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.
The thought never occurred to me.
Yet there I was, on the road with the rockers, traveling from Paris to London after seeing them perform in the City of Love just 12 hours earlier. This was the European leg of their ‘End of the Road’ world tour and 60 Minutes were granted exclusive access as they ‘kissed’ the stage goodbye.
And let me tell you, it was a wild ride. I was prepared for (and warned of) the innuendo and antics of these music veterans – Gene 72 and Paul 70 have played bass and guitar respectively since they formed KISS in 1973 – but they also been controversial, cheeky, loud, and flirty for so long.
And few things have changed, but time has ripened them. And these days, they seem perhaps more playful than controversial. A bit more daggy daddy than sleazy rock god (hope they don’t read that, not sure they’d like that!) and they’re certainly gracious.
Like most people, I know the music of Kiss, Rock and Roll All Night, Shout it out loud and I was meant to love you, are among the most famous songs. Everyone recognizes their iconic makeup and everyone has heard stories about their desire for the ladies. They are not afraid of the fact that they have always sought to capitalize on fame and fortune.
They also appreciate, however, that it takes a lot of hard work and countless hours to maintain that fame and fortune. But by reaching out more to the group before the story, I learned a lot more about them, their origins and their history, how they built the brand of kisses and that, beyond the women and the money, generally Gene and Paul’s excesses did not extend to the murky world of drugs and alcohol often inhabited by other rock bands of the same era, in fact by the original co-members of their own band, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.
And the truth is, very soon after meeting them, I was much more intrigued than I thought. They are quite humorous, they are intelligent, savvy and professional. And they know how to have fun. They know that to maintain their brains and the wealth that goes with it, they need to be just as enthusiastic today as they were 49 years ago. During the few days we spent with KISS, I gained important knowledge.
It was fascinating to watch them perform and observe their actions and interactions both on and off camera. The four band members – Tommy Thayer on guitar and Eric Singer on drums rounding out the band – are all very different people with their own personalities. Eric, for example, is fascinated by watches. Tommy enjoys reading books, especially biographies.
They are all big consumers of news and information and when the cameras weren’t rolling, Paul was showing me pictures of his family and a new present for his wife and Gene was telling me about Syria and the art of language – he speaks five – as well as his philanthropy.
Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t deny that Kiss has built an empire. It’s not just about the music, but it’s the music that keeps the wheels turning. Sure, they’ve had their criticisms over the years and maybe some of them were justified, but whichever way you look at them, the powerhouse supergroup certainly know how to entertain.
There, the stage is their home. They transform physically and mentally into their alter-egos – the demon, the star child, the space man and the cat man – and love every second of being something else for the night. While they’re very happy to tell you, it’s also clear that for men in their 60s and 60s, they have the energy of artists in their 20s, which isn’t easy in these suits. I tried on Gene’s boots and they are heavy!
If you judge a book by its cover, Kiss would just be a bunch of goofy men painting their faces and dressing up like superhero (or villain) comic book characters, imagining their next business venture. But flip through the pages and you see there’s so much more substance behind the war paint and these guys sure have a hell of a story to tell.
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