Saturday, November 24, 2012

Easy, Catman--You Are Delirious!


"No one wants to be Peter Criss—not even Peter Criss!"—Peter Griffin ("Family Guy")

The rotund one from Quahog may well be right...

Time for yet another review of a Rock star autobiography book that I’ve completed reading. These things are becoming a bit of an addiction for me, and this latest tell-all manifesto comes from George Peter John Criscoula, better known to most humanoids as Peter Criss of Kiss and his new book, the cleverly-titled Makeup To Breakup-My Life In And Out Of Kiss.  Kitty-Cat is the third original member of Kiss to chronicle his life in a book, with Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley preceding him and Paul Stanley remaining the lone holdout (although word has it that the Starchild is currently working on one as well). As with Frehley’s book No Regrets last year, I looked forward very much to hearing what Mr. Criscoula had to say after lo, these many years of rancor, vitriol and invective hurled between the two factions of the original Kiss foursome (Simmons/Stanley vs. Frehley/Criss), which at times seems reminiscent of the Israelis vs. the Palestinians. Up ‘till now I’ve always been rather sympathetic towards Peter, and have often defended unfair criticism of him on Internet forums and such, but I came away very disappointed after reading his book. Criss comes off as a cross (Criss-cross?) between a persecuted martyr and a whiny jerk. Peter, my friend, love ya to death, and I realize you have a boatload of pent-up unresolved bitterness—much of it totally justified—but then again, many of your personal problems were of your own doing, both before and after you left Kiss. For a guy who seemingly once had it all, lost it all, then got it all back again, there’s a bit too much "woe is me" in these pages for my liking. After reading this, I could only come to the conclusion that the Catman is one big pussy. (Sorry!)
 
Like I said in my review of Simmons’ book, each of these guys could do a book and you’d get four different versions of the Kiss story, and it appears I was a prophet in that regard.  Even though Stanley hasn't done one yet, it's ironic how the Kiss tell-all autobiographies so far seem to parallel the 1978 Kiss solo albums in terms of quality—Ace's being the best, Gene's being mostly a load of bullshit and the Cat hocking up a fur ball once again. As I also did with Frehley, I found myself picking and choosing what to believe or not believe here because if you were fucked up a lot of the time on drugs, I automatically have to question your credibility, and sadly, much of Criss’ book is rather delusional. I knew going in that Peter would have some major axe-grinding to do on Paul and especially Gene—something would’ve been totally amiss if he didn’t go after them with his verbal bazooka—but this book just seemed at times to be every bit the mean-spirited, hateful and unfair hatchet-job that Simmons’ equally clever-titled Kiss And Make-Up was in 2002, if not even moreso.  Even Ace Frehley, Peter’s de facto "partner in crime" in Kiss, gets thrown under the bus here, as do current Kiss members Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, among many others, and even late Kiss guitarist Mark St. John was skewered pretty good—welcome to Bridge Burning 101, boys and girls!


SPOILER ALERT! As per my usual, I’ll be quoting from the book a lot here (in blue), so use discretion if you plan to read it yourself. There is also a fair amount of sexual content, so if that offends you, go read something else because in this particular case, "Spoiler" alert takes on a whole other meaning here. And please beware that this gets a bit lengthy if indeed you do choose to read on…

My thoughts (in no particular order)…

--I’ll say this for Peter Criss, he spares his readers NOTHING in this book. His account of his life is very detailed and far too often he lurches into Too Much Information territory, right down to the day he crapped his drawers in grammar school!  I shit you not. (Sorry again!)  His tales—many of them quite tall—about his sexual escapades also fall into the T.M.I. zone, and he gets dirtier and WAY more graphic than Simmons ever did in his book. Granted, Peter didn’t fuck every female that merely had a pulse like Gene did (still does?), but based on the writing here, he was pretty lecherous and lascivious himself, even though Criss was the only married member of Kiss until Ace got hitched in 1978, so his criticisms of Gene’s decadent lifestyle ring pretty hollow to me here. "But pussy is like heroin," he confesses, "I couldn’t stop." When Peter talks about meeting his current wife, Gigi (whom he claims to cherish and adore) he actually refers to her as "this broad"—boy, that’s real classy. In reference to the 2003 Kiss "Symphony" concert in Melbourne, Australia, he says, "There’s something about a woman spreading her legs with a cello in between them that is so hot…I had a perpetual erection looking at those cello girls." In another passage, we’re treated to the phrase "played with her titties." This sounds like the utterances of some 7th-grader knee-deep in puberty, not those of a world-famous 66-year-old musician. I also didn’t really need to hear about Frehley’s preoccupation with jerking off a lot during their early days together, let alone Peter’s description of Ace’s and Paul’s genitalia, which I found quite off-putting. I actually felt like I needed a bath after reading that chapter—same feeling I get when I watch "The Jerry Springer Show". By the way, I highly recommend this book to any gay readers out there—you'll love it!  Look, I’m no prude, and I may be a bit biased (not to mention jaded) because it’s been 13 years since I played with anyone's titties myself (hey, I’m not proud of it), but if you’re going to go around bragging about your sexual conquests and especially about how big your dick is (9 inches, Criss claims), then you, sir, I can do without. Peter even goes so far as to proudly nickname his tallywhacker "The Spoiler". Dude, please…

--He calls current Kiss drummer Eric Singer a "schlep" in this book. Don’t know how to break this to you, Catman, but that schlep is a far superior drummer than you ever were, even at the height of your powers before your recreational drug usage took over. So was the late Eric Carr, who Criss only mentions in passing in the book. He also has an intense dislike for current Kiss guitarist Tommy Thayer, whom he calls "Gene and Paul’s butt boy for everything." It became clear to me after reading the book that any elementary school teacher in America would write on his report card "Peter doesn't work and play well with others."

--Peter frequently talks out of both sides of his mouth throughout the book. The way he refers to women in the book makes him sound boorish and disrespectful—even borderline misogynistic—especially for someone who claims to be a Christian and truly believes in God, yet all the while he constantly portrays himself as a "gentleman" good-guy. He got all enraged upon discovering that his first two wives were cheating on him, yet it was perfectly okey-dokey for him to be untrue to them with every groupie he could doink all those years.  He often mentions how being in Kiss was totally about the music for him, and he chafed at how for Gene Simmons it was always about the money. Yet, Criss constantly pisses and moans about how underpaid he was (compared to Gene, Paul and Ace) and missed out on all the merchandise revenue when he rejoined for the 1996 Reunion Tour and beyond. Regarding the reunion, he said, "It looked like Paul had settled down. He was a family man now, and I liked it. And Gene was now with Shannon Tweed and they had a couple of kids, so I got a good family vibe off this whole thing. Yeah, right." Well, did you like it and did you get a family vibe or didn’t you, Pete?  He bitches about Kiss "going disco" with 1979’s smash hit "I Was Made For Loving You", yet what was his lone contribution to the Dynasty album, "Dirty Livin’"—a fucking disco song! And a mighty lame one, at that. Way too many double-standards here, Bud…

--Criss had a brief flirtation (in the loosest sense) in 1989 with short-tenured Kiss guitarist Mark St. John, with hopes of putting a band together and maybe even exacting a little mutual sweet revenge for themselves on the Demon and Starchild in the process. "I thought working with the former guitarist of Kiss would surely make Gene and Paul crazy, but it made me crazy. I’d go to his house to rehearse and half the time he’d have overslept. One time the door to his room was open and I found kiddie-porn magazines from Germany all over the floor. It was really sick shit."  Sick shit, indeed, but I don’t really know a whole lot about St. John, so the kiddie-porn thing is news to me. Peter had better be telling the truth here—I think it's pretty low-rent to make accusations of this nature, especially about a guy who is deceased and can no longer defend himself.  True or not, now Mark's friends and loved-ones have to deal with this crap.  Nice job, Criscoula...

--Criss was mangled up pretty good in a car accident in 1978 in which he was riding shotgun at a high rate of speed and not wearing a seat belt. He claims Paul Stanley came to visit him in the hospital and said to him, "Look at you. You really fucked up…How could you do this? You’re really a fucking idiot…Oh, and Gene wanted me to tell you that he thinks you’re a loser and a moron…he refuses to set foot in this hospital." Seriously, Petey? Gene and Paul are a lot of things, and even though I don’t know them personally, I find it impossible to believe that either of them was/is that cold and inhuman, not even Simmons. And why would Paul even say that Peter fucked up in the first place? Criss wasn’t even behind the wheel that night. Then Peter also claims that when Frehley came to visit, Ace got all demanding with the doctors and nurses because Criss was in such pain and needed more medication and threatened to "shut the place down" if they didn't help him.  Oh, and then later on some nurse came in to give Peter a blowjob to ease his suffering. Riiiiight. I’m calling bullshit on this whole scenario. You don’t need to sell books THAT badly, do you, Pete?  As they say on ESPN these days, "C'mon, Man..."

--I don’t mean to say that everything written here is Wookiee excrement. On the positive side, Catman does give proper (and long overdue) credit to the late Sean Delaney, who was instrumental in creating much of Kiss’ signature stage presentation and overall look. Often referred to as the "5th member of Kiss", Sean was a singer/musician himself and even though Stanley and Simmons like to take credit for creating the whole Kiss package themselves in their revisionist rehashes of the band’s history, Delaney is the one who mentored the band and helped refine their act into what we know today. SD would videotape Kiss rehearsals and go over them with the group, breaking their performances down in much the same manner that a football coach goes over game films. He also acted as peacemaker amongst the band and nursed them through their numerous personality conflicts. Kiss wouldn’t have been Kiss without Mr. Delaney, rest his soul. Criss also gives well-deserved props to the late Bill Aucoin, who was manager and early mastermind of the Kiss empire. Even though his background was in television instead of Rock ‘N’ Roll, he had the smarts on how to market the band and create their mega-superstar image. Aucoin believed in the band enough to finance their 1975 Dressed To Kill tour with his American Express card (as the legend goes), and his convictions were right that this band would hit the big-time.

--I also totally agree with Peter’s assessment of the recording of the first Kiss album, produced by Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise, who were cronies of late Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart. "There were no balls between those grooves…Kerner and Wise were too old-school. They were making us sound like a pop band…To my taste, they had great, great songs—masterpieces—and they made them sound pedestrian. The strength and the energy and the power of our band had been blunted." As enduring as the tracks on that album are—seven out of the ten ("Firehouse", "Deuce", "Strutter", "Nothin' To Lose", "Black Diamond", "100,000 Years" and "Cold Gin") still make the Kiss concert set list on a regular basis even today—one can only imagine what that album might’ve sounded like if Eddie Kramer (who produced the first Kiss demo tape and later Alive! and Rock And Roll Over) was available to work on it. We might be talking about Kiss in the same league with other classic debut albums like Boston, Van Halen, Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd, Are You Experienced? and Appetite For Destruction.

--Peter does corroborate Ace’s stories about Gene being a total slob when they roomed together during their early tours. Allegedly hygiene (Hi, Gene?) was more of a hobby for the Demon than a regular habit, and he rarely, if ever, showered (according to Criss), thus garnering him the nickname "Stinky". Apparently, Ace was fairly unkempt in those hotel rooms himself, and Peter also corroborates what Gene said about Space Ace's poor work ethic, and how he was lazy and unwilling to help load and unload equipment in the early years, and chronically late to rehearsals and such.

--I was surprised Peter didn’t say much about the apathetic response his 1978 solo album received. I still don’t think he gets why most Kiss fans (me included) were so underwhelmed by it—it sounded like a cross between a David Cassidy and Ringo Starr album instead of an out-and-out Rock record. Kiss fans want balls, not crooning—hell, Andy Gibb was making edgier albums during that time!  And I was also downright shocked Criss said nothing about Eric Carr singing "Beth" on the 1988 Kiss greatest hits compilation Smashes, Thrashes &
 Hits.  Even I thought this was a disrespectful bullshit move by Gene and Paul to give Peter’s "baby" to Carr, who was desperate to get a solo vocal on a Kiss record, thus he reluctantly sang it. However, Pete did go to great lengths in the book to remind us that "Beth" was an award-winning tune. Yes, Peter, "Beth" is a wonderful song, but one home run doth not a Hall of Fame career make—even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then. The rest of Criss' Kiss contributions are questionable, at best. The aforementioned "Dirty Livin’" was weak, as was "Hooligan" from Love Gun, which he claims was "butchered" by the band. It should’ve been hacked to pieces, with lines like "I got a ’35 Chevy on a ’55 frame/Can’t even spell my name/Dropped out of school when I was 22..."  Gee, just how long were you planning to matriculate there, Pete?  The only other Criss composition on any Kiss album that cuts the cheese with me is "Baby Driver" from Rock And Roll Over, and even then it's the music I like more than the lyrics.

--Peter even injected some unintentional comedy into the book regarding Paul Stanley: "In his best days he couldn’t outsing me. He had no soul." I gotta call bullshit on this one too, Pete. You ain’t a bad singer in a Rod Stewart-by-way-of-Eddie Money kind of way, but come on, Stanley Harvey Eisen is light years better than you as a singer. Criss actually does admit that his lone solo vocal on 1998’s Psycho Circus, "I’ve Finally Found My Way" (written by Stanley) sucked, but claims he had to do the song "at gunpoint" or he wouldn’t have gotten to sing on that album at all. He says he was perfectly happy with his first vocal take on it, but Paul said he "sounded like Jimmy Durante" and made Criss re-record it. So, how come he still sounds like Schnozz-ola on the finished product?  Peter also says Ace’s "Into The Void" from Psycho "wasn’t really a good song." Uhh, Pete, you got kitty litter in your ears—"Void" was one of the few standout tracks on that half-assed album, along with Stanley’s title song and "Raise Your Glasses", while Gene’s songs on that record were largely forgettable. Anyway, more yuks from Shecky Criscoula: "The years that Ace and I were out of the band were easily Kiss’s leanest years…it got so bad that one night they played for 500 people!" Really, Bro?  Kiss thrived at times during the ’80s non-make-up era—I was there, I witnessed it. The 500 people he’s referring to were probably the special odd theater gig or two Kiss played during that time, and that’s all those venues could hold. Come on, dude, just because your book has ‘make-up’ in the title that doesn’t give you the right to make up shit.

--Several times in the book, Criss cheekily alludes to Paul Stanley’s sexuality and all but tries to "out" the man. True, Paul’s always been gender-bender to a degree, and even I have to say he has a nicer ass than a lot of genetic women do, but I think he’s straight—hell, he’s been married twice (to women) and has fathered two kids. And even if Paul is gay, so fucking what?  We all got over Freddie Mercury and Rob Halford being gay (as if that was shocking).  Meantime, Criss also talks about himself and Frehley grabbing each other’s junk and Ace allegedly blowing him (ewwww!) during threesomes, orgies and other hotel room frolics with groupies back in the early days, but he claims that was all just innocent fun because of that nutty guy Ace, ha ha!  Peter even brazenly calls Stanley a drug addict. "By then (the 1996 "Reunion Tour") Paul was carrying around a huge Louis Vuitton bag full of enough pills to choke a horse. Paul was a major hypochondriac so he had muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, pills to make you tan, pills to make you lose weight, pills to get you going." Let’s review here: Paul is deaf in one ear, has endured knee and hip procedures, cracked ribs, not to mention a heart abnormality that he has to control medically, and yet he often "takes one for the team" and plays hurt in concert year after year. That don’t sound like no hypochondriac to me. I call bullshit once again, Pete.

--Criss calls Simmons and Stanley "Machiavellian" numerous times in the book. Damn, are these two really THAT bad? I’m beginning to wonder. He says, "Look at all the people they drove mad. Poor Eric Carr, the guy who first replaced me, was reduced to sitting in his hotel room naked with the blinds all drawn, drinking and refusing to come out. Bill Aucoin lost his whole empire on drugs. Sean (Delaney) went crazy. Howard Marks (subsequent Kiss co-manager) died a drunk. Neil Bogart died. They drove Mark St. John and Vinnie Vincent crazy. The list could go on and on. There was no way in hell that I would ever tour with those guys again." I’m not sure what incident he’s referring to in regards to Carr here, but I will point out that Bogart died of cancer, totally unrelated to Gene and Paul’s behavior, and he was no longer involved with Kiss at the time of his passing anyway. Aucoin losing his fortune was his own damn fault, not Gene and Paul’s. Vinnie Vincent was/is a megalomaniac to begin with and Mark St. John apparently had his own personal demons. While I do have my questions about Gene and Paul and how they conduct themselves with their bandmates and management at times, I still counter that Singer (Schlep), Thayer (Butt Boy) and erstwhile Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick have never exhibited any major issues with Simmons and Stanley, so maybe it just boils down to personality conflicts and a bad attitude/raging paranoia on Criss’ part more than any sort of hidden agendas Gene and Paul might have. Simmons and Stanley certainly come off way better in my eyes after reading Criss’ book, even though Peter no doubt had the opposite intention.

--Just as an aside, I still can’t figure out for the life of me why, given Gene’s and Paul’s adamant anti-drug and alcohol stances, they’ve worked so closely with so many people over the years who had fairly immense drug problems or were connected to drugs in some way. I’m not just talking about Peter and Ace, either—I’m referring to Aucoin, Bogart, Delaney, producer Bob Ezrin (during both Destroyer and especially Music From The Elder) and current Kiss manager Doc McGhee, who himself was once arrested for drug trafficking! Whatever (and whoever) it takes to get the job done, I suppose, but it sure makes Simmons and Stanley look like hypocrites when they rip on Criss and Frehley for their past substance abuse issues, especially since both of them are (allegedly) sober now.

To sum up, there’s a prevailing theme in the book that Peter’s problems were everyone else’s fault but his own. Yep, Peter—Gene and Paul shoved all that cocaine up your nose themselves to make you let the band and Kiss fans like me down by being a selfish drug addict. Violent outbursts with guns—that’s real bright. Marrying your second wife because she was a Playboy bunny and you were only thinking with your dick?  Fucking brilliant!  Hiring a Mafioso to handle your finances when you’re fresh out of rehab for cocaine addiction? MENSA candidate!  Driving through the da hood in L.A. with $100,000 cash in your car and antagonizing some brass knuckle-wearing homey and getting your face rearranged? Rhodes scholar! This all coming from someone who brags about being so "street-smart" because of his rough upbringing in Brooklyn. When faced with raised eyebrows from readers like yours truly about why this book sucks, Peter will no doubt blame his ghost writer, Larry "Ratso" Sloman, saying he fucked up and didn’t write it properly. In several places in the book, Peter laments times when his young daughter Jenilee would read things in the media about his drug use and such or the nasty stuff Gene and Paul said about him. What about now?  I realize she’s a 20-something adult today, but do you really want Jenilee reading THIS trash?  If this were my autobiography, I’d be totally mortified.  Is this how you really want Kiss fans to remember you when you’re gone, Peter?  I would hope not.  Had I known you were going to put out a crude and embarrassing memoir like this, I would’ve said, "Catman, don’t!" 


From here, I move on to my next Rock otto-biography Who I Am by The Who's Pete Townshend.  Clearly a case of Pete and Re-Pete...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just read this book, and I can't believe that there hasn't been more made of the Mark St. John accusation. This makes me think that not many people have read this book -- at least not carefully. I googled some key phrases regarding what Criss wrote, and this is the only site that came up. Since being a pedophile and perpetuating the exploitation of children is arguably the worst thing a person can be and do, this has got me wondering...