kiss dead

a work of fiction by: william wilson
kiss special magazine - winter 1978

the plan was simple: the kiss members were all disguised with make-up. it would be an easy thing to replace them with any other schmoes who happened to come around. then, presto! the profits would all belong to the greedy crooks!

three investigative reporters working for this magazine have just wrapped up an assignment which boggles the mind. after six months of digging, we are publishing some facts which will knock the world of pop on its ear.

fact one: the kiss performers you love to see and hear are not the originals.

fact two: the original kiss members were cremated alive when a van they were in tipped over on a road outside the town of upper sandusky in ohio.

fact three: an eyewitness to the burning stated that all four members could be heard screaming at the top of their lungs. the van was so completely engulfed in a roaring ball of fire that it was impossible to save them. the eyewitness claimed that for a brief moment, four faces appeared at one of the windows in the van but he could not recognize them because they had no makeup on.

"the sound of the flames and twisted steel had something familiar about it," said the witness. "it was like one of their records".

there are more facts, plenty of them. facts that were unearthed only by sheer determination on the part of our reporters. they point to one inexorable conclusion: kiss is dead.

our files bulge with information gathered since the tragic accident one year ago. we have statements from pathologists, sheriff's deputies, record producers and makeup artists. we have photographs of the burn site, the charred van, the blackened corpses being gingerly removed from the wreckage. some of the pictures are so gruesome that they are not fit for public consumption. the autopsy reports are so bone-chilling that we must, as a measure of decency, report only superficially on what the medical examiner found.

every fact stated here has been corroborated. if we found no corroboration on a piece of information, it was not included in this article. our definition of corroboration is having a bit of information verified by two or more people.

a tape recorder salvaged from the wrecked van had miraculously escaped the searing heat. fire marshals investigating the accident removed the recorder and gave it to the group's recording manager, who had flown to the burning site by helicopter from toledo.a tape was in the machine.

according to one impeccable source, that tape was rushed to a recording studio in nashville, tennessee. by laying a certain amount of bread down in the right places, we were able to get a transcript of the last words of gene simmons, ace frehley, paul stanley and peter criss.

the voices of four who are now ghosts:

gene: i smell gasoline.

ace: so do i. slow down, paul.

paul: i'm only doing fifty.

peter: then speed it up, i'm in love with toledo.

paul: we got lots of time.

ace: slow down, i'm trying to read asimov.

gene: you can't read him even when we're parked.

ace: would you like to be sent to a black hole in space?

gene: what the hell's a black hole?

ace: it'd take too long to explain.

gene: so tell me.

peter: where are we now?

paul: upper sandusky.

peter: we should've taken a plane.

gene: too dangerous.

ace: when your time is up, you go no matter where you are.

gene: suppose the pilot's time is up?

ace: that's dumb.

paul: (serious) something's wrong.

gene: the wheel's locked.

paul: so's the gas pedal. we're in trouble.

ace: then slow down! you're doing seventy.

paul: i can't! this thing is acting crazy!

peter: hit the emergency brake!

gene: we're swaying! the van's rocking!

ace: we're tipping over!

at this point on the tape there is a sound of screeching brakes. next to a crashing noise, broken glass, steel scraping on macadam. finally, you can hear crackling fire.

all four men are heard screaming in terror. this sound lasts for fully two minutes.
then the tape goes silent.

when this tape was played for the first time in a studio, five men closely associated with the group were in the room. all were reduced to tears.

we showed the transcript to an ace auto mechanic. he said that steering wheels don't lock and gas pedals don't stick unless they have been tampered with. the inference is staggering. however, no accusations will come from this editorial office. the mechanic told us that if there had been tampering, the van would have acted up a lot sooner than it did. the group's starting point had been buffalo, new york. they were more than half-way to toledo when the van exploded in flames.

our investigative reporters visited the area and saw the patch of tar that had melted and hardened again. the county medical examiner confirmed that he had performed autopsies on four cadavers which were horribly burned.

the me reported, "the tongue of one of the bodies was actually cooked. in my opinion the victim had had his mouth open and his tongue extended at the time of the fire".

the pathologist said that all four victims died within three minutes after the explosion and that all had been so thoroughly fire-blackened that recognition was impossible.

a sheriff's deputy revealed that the inside of the van held musical instruments and electronics equipment. records and albums had melted. the sleeve of one album, however, had been untouched by fire and its title was grim irony - hotter than hell.

as you know, that album went gold, platinum and double platinum. what you probably don't know is that after kiss finished it in the studio gene simmons remarked solemnly, "we will live by fire and we'll die by fire."

this statement was heard by paul, peter and ace, also by the engineers at the village recorder in los angeles, where the album was produced.

prophetic? who knows? what we do know is that for three days following the accident, a village in the upper sandusky area swarmed with music world and hollywood personalities who had flown to the area on the "qt" to pay their last respects to the world's "most popular rock band".

we have the names, but it would serve no purpose here to list them. was cher among them? we don't know, still, a check of her whereabouts at that time reveals that she was in seclusion.

another fact uncovered is that at a local crematory the files indicate that four bodies were cremated and their ashes placed in urns. the names of those bodies in the records have been inked out.

said the funeral director, "it was crazy around here. we had limos everywhere. big vips milling about. they took the urns and then chartered one of the bigger fishing boats. heard they went out on the lake (erie) in the afternoon with the urns. they were playing music on board, wild music."

our reporters traced the fishing boat used and the cabin boy said the people who chartered the boat played kiss records. he recognized the albums as dressed to kill, love gun, and destroyer. "we were about five miles out when they threw the urns overboard," said the cabin boy.
"they were sad, even though they were playing kiss."

according to the witness, and the boat's first mate, the nameless celebrities talked about the history of kiss. one said, "five lousy years and now they're gone."

another said, "they were good years."

one recalled, "i saw them at the coventry in queens in late 1973. they were just getting started. at that time they were experimenting with their make-up."

"i saw them before that." said another. "they didn't have ace frehley then. kiss was a trio. but it was at the coventry that their visual concept developed."

so did their characters. by the end of 1973, their on-stage personalities were firmly set. gene simmons was the tongue-thrusting, fire-breathing demon, peter criss was the whiskered feline, ace "space" frehley , silver-eyed man in space, and paul stanley, the star-eyed sex symbol with the pouting ruby red lips.

"but 1974 was their big year," said another celebrity. "they were playing gigs. opening acts. they got more attention than the headliners in those days. their army was building even then."

"i remember," said another. "that was when tv director and producer bill aucoin got interested in kiss. he signed on as their manager and got them hooked up with neil bogart's casablanca records."

"the label was new," added a listener who'd been silent until now. "kiss was the first act. their first album, kiss, hit the shops in february. do you remember some of the numbers on it? "strutter", "nothing to lose", "deuce". they're kiss classics now.

"their second album, hotter than hell, was released at the end of the year, 1974, and right after that, in the beginning of 1975, they released their third album, dressed to kill.

"they were working like hell at that time," said a close associate of kiss. "in early 1975 they released their fourth album, alive."

the group went silent. alive. that word should not have been spoken. all eyes, glistening now, turned to the four urns resting on the deck. the first mate reported to our investigators that three of the women dropped to their knees and said prayers while they faced the urns.

one man said softly, "i knew them. they loved life. they made millions of people happy. they didn't deserve this."

another nodded his head. "gene always said that kiss provided an escape for the fans. gave them something different to think about for a couple of hours."

"release, that's what they provided," said a woman on her knees, looking up. "you got that when you went to their show. you were entertained completely."

"we don't like to mention the word `alive,'but it was that album that really put them over," said another woman. "two million copies in this country alone."

(eddie kramer produced alive in 1975. he worked with jimi hendrix and led zeppelin, had been friends with kiss from the band's inception and had produced kiss' first demo).

"alive was kiss'first gold," said a young man who was a close friend of paul stanley's. "it went double platinum eventually."

"do you remember detroit's cobo hall?" asked one of the group on the boat. "sold out. it was kiss'first headline gig, and 12,000 showed up. it was a wild night. the whole place was in an uproar, and when gene went into his fire-breathing act he brought the house down."

"fire there was something about fire with all of them," said one of the women.

"gene was burned more often than the public knows. his hair caught up. his mouth was burned two or three times. he studies so hard, too. had an expert teach him."

"yeah, i remember that expert saying that he'd never do what gene did. i mean breathing fire without wearing an asbestos suit and with all that hair it was dangerous."

another said, "what was it about fire? it was like a curse or something with them. there was that tragic summer fire in which paul lost most of his chest hair and the heavy emphasis on songs about fire and heat "radioactive", "burning up with fever", "god of thunder", "flaming youth", and i don't know how many others. they were obsessed with it."

"that's bull," said an older man who was well dressed and had a pipe clamped between his teeth. "the only thing kiss was obsessed with was work."

a girl said dreamily, "i remember picking up their first smash hit single, 'rock and roll all nite.'it was on their dressed to kill album. beautiful."

"what about ace's smoking guitar?" asks a girl. "fire again. there was something about fire. she choked up at this point and buried her face in her hands.

"wanna hear something really significant?" asks a youth who is well known on tv and on the pop scene. "when kiss made dressed to kill they appeared on the album cover in business suits. why? i'll tell you why. because they were wearing business suits when the van exploded."

there were gasps from the others. one growled, "that is coincidence, nothing else."

according to the cabin boy and the first mate, nothing much was said until the boat stopped on the lake and the urns were placed in the water. they sank almost at once. deep silence followed. the record player was playing "larger than life". somebody said, "they sure were."

on the trip back, the conversation picked up again. somebody said, "gene never smoked or drank. said he didn't have time for it."

"peter criss was the oldest," said another. "close to fifty."

imagine that! didn't look it. he had a son, 28, who's a patent attorney.

"who did peter write beth for? i never knew."

"his wife," was the answer.

silence.

then another question came up. "why did they break with kramer for one album?"

"that was the complex destroyer. came out in mid-1976. they had a good producer for it, bob ezrin. he worked with alice cooper. good man. paul said that kiss learned plenty about what can be done in a studio from ezrin, but that they wanted to get back to the hard-rock live sound that had made them so successful in the first place.

"well they did that all right," said a kiss associate. "look at rock and roll over, which was released in late 1976. kramer did that one and he had kiss record it in the star theater in nanuet, new york, so that they could get that much desirable live sound."

another said, "i'll never forget the night in 1975, new year's eve, it was. they were greeted like conquering heroes at the nassau coliseum in new york.
the fans went wild."

"we've got to get back to fire," said a woman who had been quiet for a long time. "there was a connection. i'm sure of it. i saw kiss at anaheim, california. there were 50,000 people there. remember what happened? kiss blew up the set and there were fireworks, too. the whole sky was lit up."

"that's all nonsense!" snapped the one dissenter in the group. "they merely used fire for effect. there was no ominous relationship between fire and the way they died. i tell you the force at work here is coincidence."

no one rebuffed him at this point. each was concerned with his or her own thoughts about kiss. perhaps they were thinking about the banner year of 1976 when kiss received international acclaim on their tours of canada, england, germany, switzerland, france, the netherlands, sweden and denmark. perhaps they were thinking about the band's experiments with new music on their album destroyer, and how beth had become the hit single from it.

it's possible that many of them were thinking about kiss' "firsts" with love gun and alive ii. you'll remember that on the former, eddie kramer and kiss combined production duties for the first time and the experiment was a walloping success. love gun was released in mid-1977. later on, alive ii was recorded at the los angeles forum and was released at christmas, 1977. a "first" on love gun was heard when all four members were each featured performing lead vocals. the formula was so successful that it was followed on alive ii.

according to the cabin boy and the first mate, the boat was brought into dock and the passengers got off and climbed into their waiting limos. there was no talk now. the women dabbed at their eyes with handkerchiefs and the men were solemn.

the entourage pulled out of the area of upper sandusky and were never to return.

our three investigative reporters talked to a lot of people in the vicinity of the accident. most had no idea who had been burned up in the van. there had been no stories about it in the local newspapers. the incident did not appear on any local tv news show. it can only be guessed here that a massive effort was exerted to keep the tragedy from the new media. and apparently, the perpetrators were successful.

it must be remembered, too, that the conversation on the boat was not verbatim.

the words were told to our reporters by the two crew members. we can't be sure that they were telling the absolute truth or feeding us what they thought we wanted to hear.

with that in mind, our men contacted a psychic in toledo and drove her to the accident site. sybil gluck agreed that in many instances, the victims of sudden and violent death are spiritually bound to the area. "their spirits may still be there," sybil said. "earthbound. unable to leave the site because they are not convinced they are dead."

we wanted to know if she could contact them. our reporters offered to pay her for her time, but she refused. she said her payment would come if she were able to reach them to let them know that they had passed over and that they should follow "the light."

at the site of the burning, a tape recorder was flicked on. we have that tape in our editorial offices.

sybil: i get bad vibes here. there are entities in trouble.

reporter: sybil is walking around on the macadam road. she is directly over the burn area. her arms are extended; eyes closed.

sybil: four spirits. i get a g.s. he wants to know why no one can see him or hear him. i get an a.f. who says he has visited venus but keeps returning here because his three friends won't go with him. someone says his name is peter, and another calls himself paul. peter insists that they are late for a gig and is blaming it on the lack of transportation. paul says they lost their instruments. g.s. says their makeup is gone and he and his friends will not appear in public without it. does any of this make any sense to you people?

reporter: all of it does, sybil. can you release them from this planet?

sybil: all i can do is try. please be quiet.

reporter: sybil has folded her arms. her eyes are closed. she is not in a trance, but she is obviously communicating with someone. her lips move as though she is talking. her head nods. she has maintained that position for five minutes and is now walking toward our car. she is smiling.

sybil: i feel that i have convinced them. the bad vibes are gone. who are they? i must say they seem like a wild group. they kept joking and carrying on even though there was much anguish.

reporter: just friends of ours. we were concerned about them.

sybil: you don't have to be concerned anymore. they saw the light. i told them to follow it. they did. now how about that dinner you promised me?

our investigators gently probed into sybil's background over dinner. she was 64 years old. she had never heard of kiss. she had not known that there has been a violent accident on the road where she had picked up the bad vibes. we did not elaborate on who the people were, nor did she care to find out.

the questions that haunted our reporters now were: if kiss were really dead, who were the impostors now performing in their place? who selected them? who is managing the impossible task of keeping the truth under wraps?

this is one bastion our investigators have not been able to crack. casablanca people aren't talking. since kiss did movies for tv, our men interviewed those who had worked on the nbc-tv movie-of-the-week film "kiss meets the phantom of the park". they did talk, but insisted that the gene, paul, ace, and peter that are negotiating with them now, are the same foursome who made the film. they also gave our men some queer looks when they suggested that the new kiss might be only dead-ringers.

next to interview was abc-tv's paul lynde. at halloween, 1977, kiss had guested on his show. it was a special. lynde, however, was unavailable for comment. his underlings were not at all helpful.

during the probe into this enigma, more than 500 members of the kiss army were interviewed. not one registered any doubt that the kiss they watched in concert were not the same ones who had returned from the japanese tour in 1977.

"what're you tryin'to say," growled one fan, "that kiss was cloned? don't be dumb."

said another: "i was there when they got off the plane from japan. we held up a big sign that said, `glad to have you back, gene!' he smiled at us and waved.

i saw him again just the other night. he smiled and waved again in exactly the same way. no, mister, kiss is the original. they don't use stand-ins."

that, roughly, is the way all of the interviews went. the army simply would not tolerate the thought that kiss might be fudging on them, that they were not seeing the originals. of course, our reporters did not suggest at any time that kiss might be dead. we did not reveal the facts we had already compiled.

what was being suggested was that kiss might be using doubles to conserve energy. the suggestion outraged most of the army members.

nevertheless, there are subtle differences which only insiders might catch. our reporters have caught some. perhaps the reader might have noticed others.

we have learned, for instance, that gene simmons some time ago dropped out of the count dracula society. he stated at the time that he did not have to be a member anymore because he had become a personality on his own. "i'm a rock and roll monster," he said. "i can take my place right alongside dracula. in lots of ways, i'm more scary than he was. the only edge that he has was that he was supernatural."

surprisingly, gene simmons has re-upped with the count dracula society. why? he didn't need them before. why does he need them now? is it because the new "rock and roll monster" feels a need to belong?

peter criss is another puzzle. three months after the tragic accident, he returned to his digs, supposedly coming off a concert tour. one of our three investigators maintained a stake-out on his house. there was not much activity. criss has always lived quietly. however, our man noticed that there was an uncommonly large amount of garbage being thrown out. long after midnight, our agent checked the "garbage." in the boxes and cans were toys of all types and medieval antiques and things like heavy swords, candle holders and iron crosses.

that was strange enough for our man to report to us right away. criss had always been a "nut" on toys and antiques. it was said that his dining room looked like king arthur's court. also among the garbage were photographs of frank sinatra. that was unusual because sinatra was always criss'idol.

had this unique turn of events taken place because the original peter criss lies in an urn at the bottom of lake erie?

paul stanley. here's a case of complete turn-about. paul always played music loud in his digs, whether he was writing the music or just listening to it. he has not been accused of loud playing by his neighbors in more than eight months! another switcheroo in paul's life is that he is no longer a womanizer. he's not even talking about dating steady. the question is: what happened to paul the romantic?

ace frehley. if you've been a kiss watcher for the past year you will have undoubtedly noted that ace no longer falls down on stage. it used to happen every three or four shows because his moon boots weigh ten pounds. now it doesn't. what happened? where has all the grace come from?

here are more new wrinkles in ace's life:

he got rid of his cocker spaniel named blondie.

he no longer talks "space." science fiction doesn't interest him anymore.

interesting.

critics are also beginning to notice. one west coast scribe said recently:

"gene simmons, although the consummate performer as usual, does seem to lack the boundless confidence he once enjoyed. his act often excludes the fire-breathing segment. and there are times when he registers more disgust at his blood-dripping mouth than does his audience."

a new york critic wrote: "after five years of experiencing a fall-away drum set, peter criss is now wary of it. at least that's the impression i got while watching kiss recently. is he now afraid he'll get hurt?"

one well-known writer on the pop scene said: "i think kiss is beginning to show its age, or its fatigue. the monster is not so monstrous anymore, the lover seems bored, the feline looks as though he wishes he were in a back alley, and the spaceman appears disillusioned with earth people."

a hollywood music-world critic got right down to the nitty-gritty with this statement. he said: "what has happened with kiss? are we being handed four lip-synching substitutes? i long for the kiss which toured japan in 1977. even the kiss which toured the same country in march 1978.

"japanese audiences gave their unparalleled support to the group on both occasions. so did i. kiss enjoyed the most successful set of concerts since the beatles appeared at tokyo's budokan."

"waves of fans demonstrated throughout the country. thousands gathered at the airport to greet the band. in 1978, kiss beat its own record in japan by selling out five budokan dates. music life magazine, the most prestigious and widely circulated publication in japan, presented kiss with eight popularity awards."

"kiss members are super-heroes (or were). their fans see them as larger than life figures (or did). kiss has maintained its mystique by never allowing their fans to see them unmasked. kiss fans are the most intense in rock music (or were). they often show up at kiss concerts wearing their own versions of kiss makeup."

"kiss look-alikes have made front-page news in the united states, japan and australia. the kiss army now numbers in the hundreds of thousands. it was originally formed when a fan in terre haute, indiana, led a march on a local radio station to protest the absence of kiss records on the station's playlist."

"a continuing series of kiss comics was issued via marvel comics group, which marked the first time a comic book was based on real people or almost real people."

"that was kiss. but what happened lately? did someone take four kiss look-alikes and put them in full costume and then place them on the stage?"

no one ever answered the critics probing questions.

our own feeling here is that something must have happened to kiss. perhaps we're wrong. we hope we are. because kiss was so much different from the other groups appearing around the country.

we don't mean the costumes, the makeup, and the act. we mean that kiss was the first group to our knowledge to release all of their own solo albums simultaneously. they also took a touring break so that each member would have the time to make his own statement, do his own thing in an individual project.

this is unheard of in the music world.

"jealousy does exist with us," said gene. "we're all individual artists. we have to develop outside the group as well as it. kiss won't last forever. one or two of us could be dead tomorrow. we figure that by doing our own albums we are insuring our security."

nevertheless, kiss still has priority over individual efforts. this was obvious when it came time to start the group's first movie. all four members were scattered throughout the world, but when the call came they headed for the movie set even though they were in the middle of cutting albums.

said paul, "as long as we're popular as a group, then the group's activities come first. as soon as the film was in the can, we went back to what we were doing and there was no hassling among any of us."

said an associate at the time, "kiss is more than a rock and roll band. it's an institution and an inspiration to their fans. the beautiful part is that there is no temperament displays, no big egos to deal with. they're fun guys, fun to work with, fun to play with."

no kiss member was permitted to hear the others'albums until they were nearly finished. each member contacted friends and colleagues to sit in on the sessions, so that on gene simmon's album, for instance, you hear such personalities as bob seger, helen reddy and donna summer. also cher, who sings "living in sin".

each album is unmistakably kiss, but peter criss was able to bring to life the funky rhythmic pulse of his new york home town. he used a stellar line-up of los angeles session players, with vini poncia producing. ace's album roars into outer space with some of the most unearthly guitar passages that have ever assailed the human ear. paul's album is melodic and romantic, naturally. he started cutting in the united states, and ended up in london, where he snared the best engineer in the business, mike stone.

but all of that is history. what about now? are we listening to kiss originals, or has someone brought in four ringers on us?

we can only look for the subtle nuances that tell us something is different about them.

staring at their latest photographs doesn't reveal anything. they still look the same, although we can't be sure that the handouts are recent or old.

we do know that a well-known plastic surgeon in a new york city hospital recently performed an unusual operation on a young man who said he was in the music business. according to an impeccable source, the young man had his tongue reshaped and lengthened. even the surgeon who performed the operation reported to our informant that it was one of the most unusual requests he has ever had.

the facts given here are the most important ones taken from our bulging files.

it's your privilege to accept what we have said or reject it.

we do know that kiss did use fire in their act, and that they may or may not have been obsessed with it. true or not, you do know, of course, that their logo shows two clear lightning bolts.....


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