Saturday, November 19, 2011

Regrets, He's Had A Few...

Not surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to read Ace Frehley’s new memoir, No Regrets.  As expected, it was an entertaining read, given that Planet Jendell’s most famous citizen is my favorite member of Kiss.  Gene Simmons used to be my favorite, but his continued douche-y-ness over the years has given me cause to drop him in the rankings, just ahead of Vinnie Vincent.  And as much as I enjoyed Ace’s book, I do have to question his credibility at times here—if you have to enlist the help of other people to recall parts of your own life because you were too fucked up to remember it yourself, then how accurate can your stories be?  The book’s title annoys me slightly, too—it drives me nuts whenever someone claims they have no regrets or that they wouldn’t change anything that happened in their life, if given the chance.  Bullshit!  We all have things in our pasts that we’d give anything to revise or just plain eliminate.  I know I do, anyway.

Spoiler alert:  I’ll be quoting several passages in the book verbatim here, so if you plan to read it yourself, you might want to consider whether to pass or play.  And now my thoughts, in no particular order…

--Ace played in numerous local NY bands in the late ‘60s and early ’70s before joining Kiss, and he mentioned that some of them covered songs by Cream, Jimi Hendrix, The Who and even my boys Paul Revere & The Raiders.  Man, I’d love to have heard Ace ripping up on the likes of “The Great Airplane Strike”, “Hungry” and “Steppin’ Out.”

--I was unaware that Mr. Frehley was friends with the late John Belushi in the early ‘80s.  Not shockingly, they were excitable boys who partied hardy, according to Ace.

--It’s real easy to forget that Ace’s given name is Paul.  He got his legendary nickname during his teen years because of his natural ability to score with the ladies, thus making him an “ace”.  He still went by Paul even by the time he auditioned for Kiss, but since “Paul” was already spoken-for by Mr. Stanley, Frehley made Ace his professional name.  His close friends, family and significant others all call him Paul, though, even today.  That would be weird to me to be known by two different names, but I could live with it, I suppose.

--I was a bit surprised at some of the stuff Ace didn’t talk about in the book.  He kept all his discussions about his relationship with drummer Peter Criss to a minimum throughout, even though Pete was more or less his drinking buddy/confidant within the band.  Maybe he decided to let the Catman tell his own story in that regard if and when he comes forth with his own Kiss memoir (and I hope he does).  Ace barely mentioned the late Eric Carr, either.  Then again, they didn’t work together all that long (two years and change, basically), but I seem to remember that Ace always looked upon Little Caeser fondly.  I was somewhat disappointed that Frehley didn’t at least refer to Eric’s untimely passing (20 years ago next week).  Nor did Ace discuss working with Eric Singer after Criss left Kiss in 2001.  He also didn’t spend much time talking about his solo career during the Frehley’s Comet era in the ‘80s or discussing his working partnership with Tod Howarth, who served a similar capacity to that which Derek St. Holmes did for Ted Nugent in the ‘70s, i.e., the good-looking singer/rhythm guitarist opposite the guitar god, so to speak.

--On Kiss’ infamous 1979 appearance on Tom Snyder’s “Tomorrow” show Ace writes: "You’re supposed to be some sort of spaceman, right?" Tom asked me at one point, while gesturing to my costume.  "No, actually, I’m a plumber!"  Snyder laughed from the gut, and fired right back, "Oh, well I’ve got a piece of pipe backstage I’d like to have you work on."  A hanging curveball if I ever saw one!  Regardless, I completed the R-rated joke with the delivery of a major-league all-star.  "Tell me about it!’"

If you watch the video you can actually see me turning to Gene and putting my hands up at one point and quietly saying ‘What?’ like a child who’s misbehaving at a family function and wants his dad to loosen up and join in the fun.  Gene was sometimes incapable of that, even in a setting that clearly called for some spontaneity and horsing around. It was all so ridiculous.  How seriously can you take yourself when you’re sitting there in a superhero costume and full face makeup?  Gene missed the whole thing.  If he would have allowed himself to be just a little more lighthearted about everything and stopped fuckin’ thinking about money all the time, things might have turned out differently.  I love the guy, but he never, ever got it.

Tom picked up on Gene’s negativity, and you could tell he wasn’t digging it.  At one point Gene tried to make a joke about selling Tom some swampland in New Jersey, and Snyder completely ignored him and turned his attention back to me.  It was like Gene didn’t exist.

Simmons himself has even admitted that he should’ve taken Ace’s advice and loosened up some. Apart from his 1978 solo album, the Snyder show was Frehley’s finest hour as a member of Kiss.

--The one story in Frehley’s book that really stuck with me (and I totally believe it) involves Gene Simmons’ invitation to Ace to appear on his “Family Jewels” show for the infamous celebrity roast episode in 2007.  According to Space Ace:  I listened to the (voice mail) message a few times, and with each playback, I became more convinced that I could sense a slight tone of desperation in his voice. Most of the roasts I recalled consisted of people who were friends or co-workers of the person being ‘honored’.  That’s when it suddenly hit me:  Gene doesn’t have any friends!  Never did—as far back as I can remember.  And everyone who has ever worked with Gene in the past has either been fired or quit.  The only person who’s remained with him over the years is Paul Stanley.

And even the Starchild refused to participate in this debacle.  To his credit, Paul keeps to himself when he’s not doing the Kiss thing, and doesn’t feel the need to prostitute his private/personal life around for public consumption like Gene does—it amazes me how these two function together, given what polar opposites they are, personality-wise.  Anyway, Peter Criss was also invited to be a roaster, but the Catman was busy cleaning his litter box that weekend and politely declined, as did Ace.  This explains Gene’s flotilla of newfound “friends” on the dais—hacks like Carrot Top, Paul Rodriguez, Andrew Dice Clay, Eddie Griffin and Danny Bonaduce—getting paid to roast him.  After hearing how putridly the show turned out, Ace said:  For a moment, I almost felt bad for Gene. I mean, really. How embarrassing.  Btw, given the way Gene has repeatedly criticized Criss’ and Frehley’s well-documented substance abuse issues over the years, then why in blue blazes would he even consider being friends with a total fuck-up/fuckwad/desperate-to-remain-in-the-limelight whore like Bonaduce?  Ol’ Dante’s drug/alcohol problem seems far worse than any of Ace and Peter’s past transgressions.  But, I digress…

--Frehley’s stories about rooming with Gene Simmons during Kiss’s early touring days are pretty intriguing (assuming they’re true, that is)…

“I can’t say for sure because I don’t know a lot about his sexual history prior to KISS, but I do know that once we got out on the road, Gene reacted like a starving man at a smorgasbord.  I believe Gene is a sex addict, in much the same way that I’m an alcoholic.  We all have our issues and vices, and I saw Gene’s behavior affect him and the band in a negative way.  Maybe not to the extent that my drinking impacted the band, but certainly there were consequences…See, Gene in those days seemed to live in a state of perpetual infestation.  He would fuck almost anything (and I think he’s admitted as much).  Short, tall; plump, svelte; attractive…merely tolerable.  We all opened our beds to companionship on a regular basis, but somehow Gene was the one who would end up with bugs in his bush.

Gene has had a lot of unkind things to say about me over the years.  Some of the criticism is legitimate.  In sobriety you embrace accountability, and I can’t deny that my drinking and drug use eventually became highly disruptive and problematic.  But some of the personal jabs have been harder to take, partly because we were all friends at one time, and we did do something remarkable, but also because Gene wasn’t exactly the easiest guy to get along with, either.  Fastidious, if not downright anal in his professional life, Gene was an utter mess in his personal life.  I guess having a love for money doesn’t have anything to do with cleanliness.  I should know—for the first several tours Gene and I were roommates.  Strange, considering we had so little in common…As I quickly discovered, Gene was an epic slob.

What can I tell you? Gene is eccentric.  Always has been.  He had a lot of idiosyncrasies.  That’s okay.  To each his own. I just thought it was a little strange.

First off, I’m impressed in this passage how Ace owns up to being a fuck-up back in the day (as he does throughout the book), and secondly, I think I have a much clearer picture of what Gene Simmons is really like from Ace’s book than what I got from Simmons’ own autobiography/hatchet job, Kiss And Make-Up, and it’s not too hard to figure out why Mr. Demon alienates so many people.  Gene is such a control freak, it’s no wonder he pisses and moans about the things Ace and Peter did, simply because they didn’t do things HIS way.  He has a very off-putting demeanor (even Paul Stanley thought he was a total dick when they first met), thus Gene’s basically been a loner all his life and doesn’t seem to have anyone you could call a longtime close friend.  Kinda sad when you think about it—my old man was like that too.  I’m a loner too, but at least I do have a few close friends.

--Just as an aside, why is it in every book I ever read that mentions Kiss, the band’s name is always KISS in all caps?  True, this is how the iconic Kiss logo (designed by Ace) appears, but you don’t see CREAM or LOVERBOY referred to in print this way, do ya?  In spite of what all the Holy Rollers will tell you that KISS is an acronym for Knights In Satanic Service, I personally think the name should be ‘capital K, little i, little s, little s’ in print.  Ace’s original logo, by the way, had a diamond above it to dot the ‘I’ and a set of lips below it, but he later refined it to what we know and love today.  The slashed s’s that are reminiscent of those made famous by Hitler in WWII and the fact that Ace is of German descent?  Just a coincidence—Ace Frehley is not a Nazi, folks.  Hell, two of his bandmates were Jewish…

--In one chapter Ace writes:  So you might wonder now, "How does Ace feel about Kiss today?"  I think they’re just a bunch of dirty rotten whores.  Yet in another he says:  Despite the many ups and downs I had with Kiss over the years, I couldn’t help but remember all the fun we shared in our formative years.  We achieved greatness in the music industry and had several groundbreaking achievements well into the new millennium.  To this day I still consider them my brothers in Rock ‘N’ Roll and love them.  Okay, so which is it, Ace?  In his appearance on the “Today Show” week before last, Ace talked about recently having lunch with Gene Simmons and how everything was cordial, blah blah blah.  I don’t see how this can possibly be true after all these years of verbal media pissing matches between them.  There’s certainly no way I’d be on friendly terms with Simmons if I were Ace—we’d have been at the “fuck you/I hope your dog dies” stage years ago.  Then again, I’m not a very forgiving person in those terms, so take that for what it’s worth.

All in all, No Regrets is a fun read, and the pre-Kiss photos Ace enclosed are fun to look at.  Not sure I believe everything he wrote, but I’m glad he finally got to fire back at Gene (and Paul, to a lesser extent), given the way they’ve talked out of their asses about Ace all these years.

Next book on the docket:  Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven And Hell by Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi.