Face the Music: A Life Exposed by Paul Stanley

I'm not just a member of Kiss.
I'm a member of the Kiss Army.

Paul Stanley has released his autobiography:

Despite his booking a steady string of ongoing media appearances to promote it, the book's release was overshadowed by the induction of Kiss into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which finally happened last week.

The RRHOF has an odd policy of dictating to the band it's inducting which specific members it considers worthy for inclusion. Gene and Paul (quite rightly, from where I'm sitting) said they couldn't in good conscience reward such a ridiculous policy with a live performance, as it would be a dis to the other members of Kiss. Whereupon the web exploded with much vitriol. It was immediately perceived as yet another example of Gene and Paul depriving Ace and Peter of their due consideration.

I'm actually surprised people vented anger at Paul and Gene for this one. Shouldn't all the members, past and present, of the band being inducted be included in the band's induction? I mean, why on earth wouldn't they be? And why on earth would the Hall of Fame think they get to dictate anything like that to the actual band or their fans?

The day after induction, Paul referred to Jann Wenner et al as "spineless weasels," citing the inconsiderate treatment they received at the event.
I can understand some fans' disappointment at not seeing one last performance from the original members. But really, how many times have these four guys played "Rock and Roll All Nite?" Can anyone seriously be justified in feeling deprived of one more? Especially at the (at least metaphorical) expense of Eric Carr et al.? Say whatever you want about Tommy Thayer or Eric Singer or whomever (I do it all the time;) they all are or were legitimate members of the band. Acquiescing to the RRHOF's presumptuous demands does not seem a proper way of celebrating the band's legacy.

Regarding the "at Peter's and Ace expense" business: there are plenty of times where I've speculated about some shady behavior on Gene's or Paul's parts vis-a-vis their former bandmates, but it must be acknowledged that that road has also extended from the former to the latter just as often. How would Peter act, say, if the shoe were on the other foot? (Ace probably wouldn't give a crap.)

Anyway - they all had nice things to say about one another at the induction, which was nice to see. (And that intro by Tom Morello was pretty rock and roll.)

Morello is also in Flight 666, come to think of it, professing his love for Maiden. I guess he and I'd be fine taking turns with the tape deck on a road trip.
Paul's book (segue!) has some nice things to say about everyone - probably about the same amount as you find in Gene's, Peter's, or Ace's books - but when he's not being nice, he's really not being nice. Particularly about Peter. He unloads an awful lot on Peter, but - at least the way he tells it - this is all a long time in coming.

It's one thing to put up with somebody who's a virtuoso and a prick. It's quite another to put up with somebody who can barely play their instrument and is also a prick.

Zing! Fair? Maybe. The playing on the last couple of tours with the original members was indeed pretty shoddy on Peter's and Ace's parts. I will say: of the 4 books, this one definitely seems the most self-aware. Perhaps due to what Peter wrote in his book: "I guess that's what talking to your shrink four hours a day for 20 years gets you." He meant it as a swipe, but there's some truth in that. Paul is pretty candid about his own narcissism and insecurity and jealousy issues and seems to have emerged from it all to a happy place.

It clocks in at 462 pages, making it the longest of the Kiss bios. (I'm sure someone from Peter's camp will see that as an over-compensation.) I chuckled a few times at some of the things from other books (Paul's compulsive cock-doodling, the band's lawsuit against Polygram in the 80s, etc.) that weren't mentioned. (Paul even laments that the label "did fuck-all" for the band in the 80s; well, no kidding. You called them Nazi sympathizers and brought them to court.) Mainly, it was nice to finally read a history of the band from just Paul's point of view. It's a lot easier to see how things played out the way they did, now that I've done so.

Paul, then and now.
I've avoided reading any reviews of the book, so I honestly don't know what others have been saying about it. I imagine reactions have been minor variations of the same reviews for the other Kiss-books.

Did I learn anything new? For the most part, no, but I've been a fairly gluttonous consumer of Kiss product over the years and particularly over the past few months, looking stuff over for these blogs. I wasn't surprised, therefore, to discover he's got complicated feelings about his longtime friend and business partner.

(Gene's) being the default spokesman of the band would lead to countless more episodes of him using "I" instead of "we," subtly and not so subtly implying that he was the frontman, lead singer, and mastermind all wrapped up in one. He never attempted to clarify his role or refute media assumptions. Why would he? These false assumptions were based on Gene's own statements. I found myself scratching my head at his refusal to be honest.

But I was taken aback at the acuity of some of his insights into Gene and was happy to see some of my impressions reflected back at me.

Anyone can write a song in 5 minutes. The difference is since we had a record deal, Gene got to put his songs on an album, whether or not they were any good. (In the 80s) Gene denied his subpar and often nonexistent contributions to the group. (...) He was clearly going to do whatever he wanted to do, regardless of any objections from me or even his legal obligations under our partnership. (...) I had the choice of walking away or of doing the work of 2 people. The catch was that I had to share the credit, even if I did double the work.

Finally confronted about this during the Crazy Nights sessions, Gene owned up to his lack of involvement and professionalism and apologized by way of buying Paul a black Porsche. It can be seen in the "Reason To Live" video:

Which also features...
Eloise Broady, who married...
John Paul DeJoria, who took the place of Gene in Shark Tank when Gene passed on the show. (According to Gene, "the deal wasn't good enough." Whether this is true or just one of Gene's flights of fancy regarding his own business acumen, I have no idea.) All roads lead back to Kiss, is what I'm getting at.
I was apparently in error when I wrote in my review of Gene's book that he "was (and remains) the driving force behind Kiss's merchandising." According to Paul, this isn't even remotely true.

Gene's most successful venture in business was promoting the perception that he was a savvy businessman. That has been an undeniable success.

Back to Gene's songwriting, a subject I can sometimes get cranky about:

I was annoyed that he saw himself as operating at a level that qualified him to pass judgment on me, particularly because I hadn't thought much of his songs. The idea that he was judging me seemed arrogant, condescending, and ludicrous. (He) wrote a lot of very odd songs. Maybe it was because he was originally from another country? I wasn't sure. He had one called "Stanley the Parrot" and another called "My Uncle Is a Raft." He even had one called "My Mother Is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World." Uh, okay, (I thought.) That's weird.

I kind of like "My Uncle Is a Raft" as a title. But what do I know? I once named a song "Johnny Cash Goes to the Bathroom."

All in all, as he notes several times, he and Gene laugh at each other's quirks now and accept that they're just different people and count their (considerable) blessings. Still, some resentments linger. Paul doesn't bother hiding his antipathy towards Gene in a recent Rolling Stone overview.

Kiss' only enduring relationship is between Simmons and Stanley. "We've always seen each other as brothers," Stanley says. "What we seem to be at odds at is how you treat your brother. Gene's priority, by far, has always been himself. And he's not one to let anyone else's feelings or contributions get in the way."

The same article contains some really amusing interaction between Gene and Billy Ray Cyrus. ("You got any Matzo?") It's worth reading in full.
What's more surprising is Paul's commentary on his and Eric Carr's relationship. I had no idea it was as ambivalent as it was. Eric's side of it will sadly never be known, but Paul relays long periods of bad communication and hurt feelings and confusion. And expresses some real regret about it:

In the wake of Eric's death, I continued to spend a lot of time wondering whether I had handled things correctly. Though I thought I had made the best choices at the time, I began to realize I'd been wrong. We had cut Eric off in perhaps the worst way, by denying him what mattered to him most - his place in Kiss. (...) I should have seen that, since the band functioned the same way for me, and I wasn't even sick. I should have known.

Paul's referring to his and Gene's decision to exclude Eric from Kiss activity during his chemo and recovery period. (Gene doesn't seem aware of any of this. Outside of relaying a couple of anecdotes about paying his hospital bills - no small thing, certainly - and banging his girlfriend, Gene, tellingly, experiences no such regret in his book.) It's easy to see how doing what one felt was only right in the situation (i.e. stay home and rest, Eric; we'll handle the tunes) could have such unintended consequences.

Less surprising than his feelings towards Gene and Eric are his feelings towards Peter and Ace. 

If I even attempted to corral Paul's many Peter-is-just-an-idiot stories into this blog, we'd be here all week. Suffice it to say, Paul must have really been pissed about Peter's book, particularly Peter's assertion that "on Paul's best day, he could never out-sing me." (My favorite of all of these anecdotes was during the reunion tour, when Ace missed rehearsal because (he claimed) he had Lyme Disease from a deer tick. That's bullshit, said Peter, "genius that he is," Ace has never been bitten by a deer.)

As for Ace

you get the usual mix of bemusement and exasperation at his antics:

He would go through all kinds of contortions (to get more prescription drugs.) He even managed to get a superficial gunshot wound in Dallas. (...) While I traveled with one rolling suitcase, Ace was now traveling with 17 bags, including one that weighed more than 100 pounds. In it was a projector and cables so he could run an image of his face and Elvis's face morphing into each other on a loop in his hotel room.


A Russian oligarch offered us $1m to play for about 300 people at his 30th birthday. Ace wouldn't do it. He thought the whole thing was a dastardly plot to get him out of the country so Gene, Doc, and I could have him assassinated. That way, we could replace him with no problem. (But actually) replacing him was easier than all that.

Kiss was bigger than any of the individuals. And I do not mean "except for me." I have a high regard for what I do, but I don't fool myself by thinking I'm the only one who can do it.

I found this very interesting. One, you'd never hear Gene say anything like that. Two, of all the guys who have ever been in the band, Paul is easily the least replaceable. I'm not sure anyone can really do what Paul Stanley does, if I'm being honest.

Maybe Lady Gaga. Maybe.
Incidentally, the look on Paul's face here is hilarious.
I do appreciate his point - and I'm very curious what will happen to the Kiss brand once Gene and Paul retire or die - but it's just kind of funny that the guy most responsible for the band's longevity, its principal musician and songwriter, and harshest critic, is capable of making this observation.

He addresses the controversy of using the Catman and Spaceman make-up for Eric and Tommy.

The idea that we would stop using any of the four iconic images was as ridiculous as the idea that we would stop playing any of the songs. Interestingly, years before, when we decided to try and buy the rights to the Catman and Spaceman images, Peter and Ace dealt their characters away as if they had no value. To them, they were mere bargaining chips. That they so readily relinquished them showed me how little they cared for them. I was glad those guys couldn't start turning up at Halloween conventions signing autographs in tattered Kiss costumes and makeup. I valued the images and wanted to protect them.
I've been pretty critical of this in the past, but what he says there is certainly understandable. And to be completely fair to Paul, he applies the same reasoning to Gene when the need arises:

(Gene's) use of the Kiss logo and make-up and his self-promotion in the press escalated in the 90s and beyond. (...) He was no marketing genius. He just took credit for things. (...) After the Farewell tour, I saw sketches of a concept for a cartoon series Gene had sold. The cartoon was basically Gene in Kiss makeup. It was about a guy in a band. Hey man, that's a Kiss entity, I said. (Gene denied it.) That got settled real quickly. Fairness prevailed, but not by Gene's volition. Beyond the anger I felt each time he showed such blatant disregard for our partnership, my feelings were also hurt that the guy with whom I'd built all of this would treat me - when it served his purposes - with the same indifference I often saw him exhibit with people I knew he didn't care about.

Beyond his feelings on the other members of the group, there's a whole lot about Paul's romantic misadventures. Not, admirably, in a self-aggrandizing way (though of course there's some of that; this is a Kiss-related project, after all. Live! To! Win!) But he (and ghost-writer Tim Mohr of course) combine it all pretty well with the book's themes of self-discovery and overcoming the childhood insecurities resulting from lack of parental affection (that old chestnut) and his deafness/ ear deformity (since surgically corrected) that prevented him from meaningful interpersonal relationships.

So much of my life was about chasing approval, acknowledgement, and love. I was stunned (when I actually caught it.)

This translated to a progression common to many diehard narcissists: first maintaining only sexual relationships ("Room Service"), then only love triangles, ("Wouldn't You Like To Know Me?" "It's All Right," "Tonight You Belong To Me") and eventually to the sort of public-eye pairings expected of rock stars then and now, i.e.  actresses and Playboy and Penthouse models. ("Psycho Circus." Okay, just kidding. Probably "Bang Bang You.") Many of whom might not be recognizable names nowadays. Here's a partial list - whole lot of 80s hair coming your way:

There was Cher's sister, Georganne LaPiere.

Donna Dixon, who left Paul for Dan Ackroyd, and for whom Paul wrote (allegedly) "I Still Love You."

Lisa Hartman

Samantha Fox

then Pam Bowen, whom he married. (Without, as he laments later, a pre-nuptial agreement.)

Pictured here with son Evan.
Pam was mostly a guest star during her heyday.

Those of us with Cheers OCD may remember her from Season 6's "The Sam in the Gray Flannel Suit."
And no, sadly, I did not need imdb to help me with this one.
Paul's fairly candid about his own failures with all of the above, and it all ends on a happy enough note when he meets current wife-Erin, an attorney.

They've since added 2 more children to the above picture.
This sort of thing is a staple of any celebrity memoir. But I give Paul credit for not slagging off any of them, despite the manner in which many of the above have conducted themselves when asked about their relationships with Paul.

He touches on a few other things worth mentioning:


Our entrepreneurial ability wasn't a positive trait, but rather deceit or manipulation - because this wasn't rock and all, this was what Jews did.

I'm usually the first one to roll my eyes at criticism that is deflected into "Oh you're just saying that because I'm black / a woman / Jewish," etc.; all too often it's a misdirection away from any relevant consideration or the substance of the criticism. But this is certainly something I've noticed many times when Kiss is brought up. (Even from their fans.)


When Axl played me "Nightrain," I thought it was really good, but I told him that maybe the chorus could be used as a pre-chorus instead, and there could be another chorus afterwards. That was the last time he ever spoke to me. Ever.

I offered to help Slash get in touch with people who could hook him up with some free guitars - we were sponsored by all sorts of instrument companies, and I figured a young guy like him could use some help getting equipment to record with. 

Immediately after my interaction with the band, I started to hear lots of stories Slash was saying behind my back - he called me gay, made fun of my clothes, all sorts of things designed to give himself some sort of rock credibility. This was years before his top hat, sunglasses, and dangling cigarette became a cartoon costume that he would continue to milk with the best of us for decades.

The surprise came a few months later when Slash called me and wanted to follow up on my offer to help him get some free guitars. "You want me to help you get guitars after you went around saying all that shit behind my back?" Slash got real quiet. "You know," I said, "one thing you're going to learn is not to air your dirty laundry in public. Nice knowing you. Go fuck yourself."


Each member of the band included a note written from their personas (the Starchild, Demon, etc.) in the packaging for Alive. The Starchild's reads: "Dear Lovers, Nothing arouses me more than seeing you get off on me."

It could have been taken for heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual love. I wasn't threatened by any implications of the superficial aspects of sexuality or style.

Admirable a sentiment as that is, I feel the utter ridiculousness of the message is being obscured. But that's kinda what I love about Paul. He's so committed to his narcissism that the homophobic hang-ups common to many American heterosexual men never even occur to him.

Well. Usually:

Paul's much-maligned appearance in The Decline of Western Civilization, pt. 2: The Metal Years. He claims he was sending up his image, "it was all obviously just a joke."
Still sending it up, I guess! (With the LA-Kiss cheerleaders.)

The sections of the book dealing with the 80s are perhaps the most interesting. During this period, the band was more or less Paul's baby. Gene was pursuing Hollywood ambitions and half-assing his Kiss work, and Paul was in the driver's seat. Unfortunately, (rightly or wrongly) the car he/ Kiss was driving was following the other bands of the period rather than pursuing its own course. Nowhere was this more evident than in the lyrics and costumes of this period of the band's career.

He disses both the songs (which I think is unfair; "Rock Hard" is a great little Kiss tune. Catchy, melodic, and fun-silly as hell) and the videos (definitely fair, though they're not the worst examples of 80s videos) recorded for Smashes, Thrashes and Hits.

In the course of those 2 videos, I wrote the textbook on what not to do in a music video. I mean, I don't walk around on the street in tights with bicycle reflectors sewn on them or Body Glove tank-tops cut off just below my nipples. This was a whole new level of bad taste and judgment.

"Love's like a glove and it fits just right." There's a lot of literal-interpretation going on in these things. Everytime Paul sings the word "down," for example, Gene points to the floor and nods sagely.
He's a bit of a dick about the models hired for the videos. ("They look like underfed pelicans - no tits and no ass.") But if anyone's expecting more body-image-enlightened commentary from the author of "Let's Put the X in Sex" and "(You Make Me) Rock Hard," they may be debating in a vacuum, as Captain Kirk once said.


All in all, Paul Stanley's life and career is compelling reading. I wager that we all like a "I was blind and now I see" sort of story, and this certainly follows that trajectory. I leave you first with these typical-from-Paul-but-no-less-worthwhile sentiments from the end of the book.

What Kiss does is timeless. We sing about self-empowerment, celebrating life, believing in yourself - and sex. It ain't a crime to be good to yourself. 

Is there anything more truthful than that?

(Sounds better coming out of Paul than it does out of Gene, doesn't it?)

and lastly with these 45 glorious mind-warping minutes of time-stretched Paul Stanley stage banter. I agree wholeheartedly with the first commenter: "This piece is not just beautiful, but NECESSARY and INEVITABLE."


  1. This sounds every bit as glorious as one would expect.

    I was sort of annoyed when I heard Kiss wouldn't perform at the RRHOF induction, but I had no idea it was due more to the Hall of Fame's policies. That's really weird that they mandate what members of a band can play.

    I would vote "yes" to Lady Gaga being a member of Kiss. In a heartbeat.

    That bit about Peter being adamant that Ace had never been bitten by a deer cracks me up. Not only because of the deep stupidity on Peter's part, but also because of his ill-advised certainty; I mean, if anyone is likely to actually HAVE been bitten by a deer at some point, Ace Frehley is probably high on the list.

    Looks like another book to put on my to-buy list.

    1. "if anyone is likely to actually HAVE been bitten by a deer at some point, Ace Frehley is probably high on the list."

      Damn, I wish I'd thought to write that - in addition to cracking me up, it is 100% accurate.

      Glad you enjoyed. Yeah it's a damn fun read. (As one might expect.)

  2. Great read. For a KI$$ nerd, at least.

    I like that you pointed out how even KISS fans seem anti-semitic sometimes. In fact, I like to tell people that hate on KISS, that they just don't like the Jews.

  3. Falling love with Kiss is like living your life for Chucky Cheese , its all good until one you hear who the cook jacked off on the pizza and its all over.

    Its a band that was made to have replacements fill in , Gene was a smart Jewish boy who cared about one thing money , not the work.

    1. https://soundcloud.com/lozzfabulous/45-minutes-of-45-time

    2. That's about as solid a reply as I could imagine anyone ever making.