I think this is the only time that Kiss played as a five-man band (except that one was a woman and didn`t actually plug in and play). Kiss was starting to get really big at this time in their history, and it is reflected by both Creem and NME printing this article. Enjoy!
`I was a Kiss (Kissette?) for a day`
Well, four minutes anyway.
Jaan Uhelszki tastes fame and madness with another bunch of American crazies.
Pix: Barry Levine
What am I going to pack to become a Kiss? I ponder over breakfast, wincing at the memory of the previous night`s show. What if that geekish bass player bites my neck, oozing red blood-goo on my unsuspecting shoulder?
Anxiety knots my stomach so much that I can`t even force a single Sugar Crisp down my throat.
Seated in seat 8A on the plane, my fear of flying is mixing badly with my apprehension. After a round of Hail Marys I look up to see Gene Simmons seated next to me, sans makeup of course, although he still makes a scene in his 7 inch platforms, cheese-colored scarf and black polish that he is presently chipping off his stubby nails.
Of all the members of the band, his appearance is the most obscured by the paint; he might just as easily be Omar Sharif or Joe Namath for that matter. Instead he was a former life guard, then a Boy-Friday at Vogue, has a B.A. in Education but secretly confesses a desire to be Bela Lugosi (and is lovingly dubbed Mr. Monster by the rest of his fellow inmates).
Kiss are essentially street snots yanked from their gangs and plugged into an amp. They were brash JD`s, tattoed and tough, who knew exactly what and who they were. Today, they still proudly display their tattoos (except Gene) but now their “colors” are a little more obvious – the paint they wear on stage.
Kiss` identities seem to be the result of some concurrent conception by Eric Van Daniken, Walt Disney, Stan Lee, and Russ Meyer.
Although they wear makeup, the classic stereotype of a flit, Kiss emerge as four macho lugs. “Hey, Uhelszki, you put out?” somebody asked.
“Room 421, Miss.” Key in hand, I rejoin the gang and anxiously ask, like an old hand, “When`s the sound check?”
“What sound check?” Gene blankly answers.
“You mean I don`t get to rehearse?” I ask nervously.
“Nah, you`ll catch on, just follow us,” says Paul.
“Yeah, but I`ve got nothing to wear…” I say with a trace of panic.
It`s 4.00 p.m., and all I have between me and showtime is Saturday afternoon TV. I`m watching Soul Train without having the slightest idea what I`m seeing, when the phone rings.
“Uhelszki?” (By this time I was one of the boys, and either called Uhelszki or kid).
“What size shoes do you wear?”
“8 1/2. Why?”
“Too bad. I thought we could snazz you up in a pair of silver boots.”
“Well, maybe I could stuff `em with Kleenex.”
“No, won`t work. Don`t worry, I`ll rummage around some more.”
I felt like I was getting ready for that Big Date – you know, the prom or Homecoming – when actually I was going to be on stage for a total of four minutes in an Ice Arena in Nowhere, Pennsylvania. But still fidgety, I kept trying on my leotard over and over, checking the image in the mirror, and feeling a lot like the motorcycle moll in Naked Under Leather. Drawing the drapes, I practiced a few classic Kiss kicks in the bathroom mirror without much success. My practice was cut short by a knock at the door, and an ominous voice: “Be in the lobby in one hour!”
The voice commanded; mine, as a mere member of the shock troops, was but to obey.
One hour later Ace shoves a bottle of cocoa butter towards me. “Here, use this. It`ll seal your pores.” I guess I looked confused, because Ace asked me, “How come you don`t know anything about putting on make-up, and you`re a chick?”
I ignore the remark and furiously pat the butter all over my naked face. “Broadway Red?” I ask, picking up a worn tube of lipstick.
“Yeah, I love it,” says Peter.
By general, consensus, Kiss have decided to make me up as a composite of all of them, just like the back cover of the Hotter Than Hell album. Now for the actual transformation.
“It`s time to make a little monster. Now watch, so you can do this,” he instructs as if he were a counselor for the Elizabeth Arden School of Beauty. “First rub Stein`s clown white all over your face. Smooth it very lightly, only using a little around the eyes.
“Okay, now sprinkle baby powder all over your face, so the base will set.” I look at Paul in the mirror and start to laugh.
“Didn`t you know we`re the clowns of rock and roll?” Paul jokes. Ace scowls at his reflection, muttering that he made “the goddamned lines too thick.” Unsatisfied, he storms out the door. Peter dabs on his last whisker, and preens in front of the mirror, caressing his lean leather thighs: “Tony Curtis, eat your heart out!”
Ace splotches a silver dot on my nose, and Peter adds his own feline touch in messy black crayon. Paul pauses over the conglomeration, and draws a smaller version of his star. Funny, somehow, I feel some kind of immunity behind the paint, a little more confidence. Maybe this rock and roll business won`t be so bad after all. Gene holds up a mirror and stands back, telling me to look at my reflection. “Don`t you feel special?” he inquires.
“No, silly,” I admit.
Now the presentation of my plugless wonder. Junior shoves a red guitar in my hands and I fumble with it. “You mean you don`t even know how to hold a guitar?” he asks increduously.
My last touch is the freak paraphernalia, and I go from person to person collecting their junk jewelry and brutish decorations. Finally I was outfitted in a studded collar, a menagerie of plastic eyeball (and other unidentified organs) rings, a metal cuff, and a studded belt whose buckle encased a tarantula.
The dressing room in all of its filthy linoleum splendor wasn`t the worst of its lot. Once inside, I`m afflicted with a bad case of modesty, and become obsessed with finding a secluded corner to change into my clothes.
Clutching my costume, I spot an empty stall and dart in relieved, bolting the door. Like a quick change artist, I tear off my teeshirt, tug at my Landlubbers and don my basic black, feeling more like a naked seal than part of Kiss. Timidly, I sneak out of the stall and approach Ace Frehley: “Hey, do you have another pair of tights I can wear? I`m freezing,” I lie.
“Yeah, but they`re size D,” says Ace.
“But Jaan, yours look better. They`re much hotter, because you can see your skin through them. Doncha wanna look good in the pictures?”
“That`s what I was afraid of.”
“Hey, hey, if you don`t watch those legs they`re gonna get grabbed,” leers Simmons.
Embarrassed, I turn on the stage manager and shout: “Hey, how long until we go on?”
“Lookit her, give her a black outfit and make her a Kiss, and already she`s hard core,” he laughs.
The first band is on and the crowd is a stiff. No encore. Manager Bill Aucoin sticks his head into the dressing room, shoves five backstage passes towards us, and tells us we`ve got 45 minutes until showtime. My palms have started to sweat so much that they`re beginning to obliterate the lettering on my pass, so I stick it on my right shoe, figuring the local goon squad would never believe that I was “Kiss For A Night” and give me the shove, figuring me to be just another fanatical Kiss groupie who had painted her face like her heroes, which seems to be the current fashion among the fans.
In keeping with the code of concealing the real identity of Kiss, my photographer can`t start shooting until the guys have sufficiently obscured their features. I take a spin around the backstage area which is littered with underage glitter queens of varying age and brilliance. A fourteen year old Patty Play Pal accosts me.
“You know Gene Simmons?” she drools.
“Yeah,” I reply matter-of-factly.
“Does he really do those things with his tongue?” she asks excitedly.
“I guess so,” I reply.
“Gee, I wish he`d use that tongue on me,” she says wistfully.
I return, and Kiss are in the final stages of completion, and ready to give me tips on cosmetology. I`m hesitant to let them know that the last time I put on face make-up was in the 10th grade, in the girls` loo at Southfield High School.
Like a rock and roll Casey Stenger Bill gave me an impromptu pep talk about standing up straight, not watching the audience, and looking “like you belong there.”
What he didn`t realize was I was getting a little trigger happy, and maybe even stage struck, but just in case I motioned him over to me. “I have every intention of going through with this, but when it`s time for me to go on stage, don`t give me a hand sign, just shove.”
The set seemed to take forever; I felt like I was sitting through the rock version of Gone With The Wind.
The make-up was beginning to itch unbearably. As I raised a lone fingernail to scratch, Bill Aucoin was at my side, like a trained pro, grabbing my hand. “That`s a no-no” he said, and fanned my face to relieve the irritation. “Did you know you`re on next?” he inquired.
I didn`t. From stage left I peeked at the greedy crowd, and was horrified that the stage was only inches off the floor – well 24 inches. This struck me as odd, since this is a Kiss concert and everybody knows their reputation for riling up an audience, whether it be amorous ladies intent on wrapping their arms around Ace`s mike stand, or just uncounted masses of genderless groupies who want to cop a feel.
Countdown. Then the shove, and I`m on stage, moving like I`m unremotely controlled. Forgetting completely that I am in front of 5,000 people participating as one fifth of this sadistic cheerleading squad, bobbing and gyrating instinctively, I no longer hear the music, just a noise and a beat. On cue I strut over to Simmons` mike and lean into it and sing. Singing loud without hearing myself, oblivious to everything but those four other beings on stage. Gene whispers for me to “shake it” and I loosen up a little more, until I feel like a Vegas show girl going to a go go.
Suddenly it strikes me: I like this. And I venture a look at the crowd, that clamouring hungry throng of bodies below me. All I can think at that moment is how much of all those kids resemble an unleashed pit of snakes, their outstretched arms bobbing and nodding, as if charmed by the music. I wonder if they will pick up on the hoax? But they keep screaming and cheering, so I might just as well be Peter Criss, unleashed from his drum kit, as anyone, the only difference is, I am the only Kiss with tits.
I slide over to Stanley`s mike, sneaking up behind him, and mimic his calisthenics. He whirls around and catches me, emitting a huge red crimson laugh from his painted lips. I push my unplugged guitar to one side and do an aborted version of the bump and the bossa nova, singing into Paul`s mike this time.
“I wanna rock and roll all night, and party every day!
“I wanna rock and roll all night, and party every day!”
And right on cue, to add that last dash of drama, Junior`s beefy arms ceremoniously lift me and the guitar three feet off the stage, and I look like a furious fan who almost managed to fullfill her fantasy, but was foiled in the end. But you know something? I feel foiled; I wanted to finish the song. My song!
We trekked back to the dressing room and now, after the ordeal, my legs went marshmallow. Wanting to appear blase after my big debut, I grabbed a wooden chair and draped myself over it.
“It was hysterical!” laughed Paul. “I forgot about you, then all of a sudden I look and see you dancing, looking like Minnie Mouse.”
“You`re a perfect stage personality,” said Gene. You took over, stealing scenes like a pro. The kids thought you were a part of the show.”
Junior walked over. I was afraid of his verdict but he liked it, he liked it! “You did it! You got out there like a trouper. I gave you the sign and away you went.”
“I didn`t think they noticed…” I sputtered.
“I was watching people in the front row, and they were saying `Who is this chick. What is she doing up there? What`s going on?`” Junior continued.
The party was over, the fans dispersed, but the five of us were armed with five boxes of Kleenex and four bottles of cold cream. “You know, if we don`t get rich, I`m gonna need a padded cell,” confessed Peter.
Reprinted courtesy of “CREEM” magazine.
Read more by and of Jaan Uhelszki here: http://jaanuhelszki.com/
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Nils Lofgren, Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Ivor Cutler, Steve Howe, Spud, John Cale.
The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!
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