Issue #5: "The Urban Legends of KISS"
With the coming release of the next KISS album and word of a possible tour afterwards, the rumor mill has slowly begun its ritualistic turning of the wheel in fan-circles. It's understandable. Any fan eager to hear news about the new album and tour has been anxiously waiting for official news, and when that has been slow in coming, people begin to speculate on what they hope or fear will come in the near future.
What this brings to my mind is not an article dealing with the rumors surrounding what is happening now; most of you probably know more about it than I do right now; but rather, some old rumors that never seem to die in the minds of fans and non-fans alike.
I am, of course, talking about the urban legends of KISS. Urban legends, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, are stories believed to be true and told from friend to friend, acquittance to acquittance about a topic -- normally with a twist of irony or shock. These types of stories are believed because "I know someone who knew someone who was a cousin to the person this happened to." There is just enough faint airs of recognition and believability to get a story past on to someone else. Some stories live on for years, some die readily.
To make it clearer, I'm talking about stories like the famous cookie recipe that went for two-fifty ($250, actually) that is still circulating the Internet even today. Or that Bubble Yum has spider eggs in it. That a certain soap company works for the devil or that a famous rock star (take your pick) had to go to the emergency room to get his stomach pumped for a reason I can't go into here in a family-oriented article. And just forget about the gerbil story!
You know these stories. You've heard them. More importantly, they're all hogwash! None of them are true. They're legends, and because they are from modern-day, they have been called urban legends. A lot of them are pretty interesting, and there are a few websites you might want to check out to learn about more of the most common ones.
So, enough with the explanations, let's talk about a few of the fun ones that KISS has gone through over the years.
1) KISS stands for:
FALSE. Well, except for H.
I think we all know this one. There has been a lot of speculation on where and how this was started, but the earliest known case of the rumor was in March 1976 when protesters outside of a Harrisburg, PA show explained to anyone who would listen what the name meant. It does seem to go around and come around every couple of years. Probably the biggest wave the K.I.S.S. rumor ever had was in 1979 - 1980, when the band was becoming more popish in its influences and had the major hit of "I Was Made For Lovin' You." It certainly was a big enough rumor that even the official KISS ARMY NEWSLETTER had to print an announcement about the rumor to explain that it wasn't true.
Of course it didn't help that some fans seemed to get excited about the band being "evil" or "satanic" in some fashion. Nor that bootleg merchandise that came out in the mid-1980s promoted the band as being Satanists. I remember going to an ANIMALIZE tour in Evansville, Indiana where a bootlegger was selling t-shirts that said "Knights In Satan's Service" on the back. A friend of mine who was dressed up as Simmons in a full ALIVE outfit threaten to punch the guy's face in because of the shirts. The guy took off, probably more confused by the threat than anything else.
Where did the rumor come from? Hard to say for sure, but it is usually used by individuals out to prove that all rock music is satanic, much less that KISS is evil. While the Peters Brothers stayed away from this obvious route, it didn't stop others from doing so. Such references in religious propaganda is the biggest problem in trying to cut down this rumor. Once it appears in a book somewhere and is taken up by the religious promoters, it's hard to squash as these people would "never lie about anything." Furthermore, if it is proven otherwise to them in step-by-step analysis, then the reaction is, "so we made a mistake, so what? KISS is still evil!"
Of course, the name KISS really means just that it is a name of a band. Nothing more. In saying that though, we lead into our next rumor . . .
2) The band was originally going to call themselves a certain four-letter word starting with the letter "F". Instead, they named themselves KISS because they knew they would never get away with the other name.
Can't blame anyone for believing this one, as Gene himself has perpetuated the myth about the band wanting to call themselves the f-word for years and years. He's said it in interviews and in print.
Trouble is, it's not true according to Paul Stanley. His remembrance of the "f-word" incident is that, while it's a nice story and it's good to have stories told about you, it never happened in the first place.
Instead, as Paul himself told in the book ROCK NAMES, the incident happened when Paul, Gene and Peter were discussing what to name the band after their deal with Wicked Lester fell through. Paul, remembering that Peter was in a band called Lips, suggested that they call themselves KISS. Ironically enough, Paul goes on to say in ROCK NAMES that he was worried what the other two would think as he was unsure if the name was going to be laughed when he mentioned it to them. Instead, Peter and Gene thought the name sounded alright and history was made. No mention of the f-word at all.
Not a very exciting story though, is it? Maybe it's just as well that Gene perks it up a little. Getting back to being satanic, let's go to our third rumor:
3) Gene does "the devil horns" during the concert. It is a satanic sign that was taken up by others in rock and roll to pay their respects to the devil.
This is one that you don't hear much about any more. Just as well, really.
Gene, during the makeup days and occasionally today since the Reunion Tour had done a hand gesture on stage and in photos that looked a bit odd. The hand was raised up with the thumb, index finger and little finger extended out and the two other fingers folded into the palm.
What did it mean? Well, it meant a few things, but only if you talked to the right people.
To the religious persecutors of the band, the hand gesture was to mean a symbol of the devil. To compound the problem, Gene did it so often that kids in the audience started doing it as well. Which just upset the religious fanatics even more. Of course, they believe, Gene was just trying to influence the children to worship Satan.
Gene, however, has told two separate stories on how the gesture came about. One was that he wanted to wave to the audience during an early show, but didn't want to lose his pick for his guitar; so he ended up waving with the pick between his middle fingers and thought that the wave looked cool and stuck with it.
The other story that Gene has told is that he remembered Dr. Strange from the Steve Ditko days of the comic book used the hand gesture and started doing it for that reason. Actually, it appears that the true story is a bit of a combination of both stories Gene has told: he started doing it one night, suddenly remembered that Dr. Strange did the same thing, and kept with it.
As the intensity of the religious right grew in the early 1980s, and as other bands took up the symbol to actually mean something satanic, Gene dropped the gesture from the shows and photo Ops. He has done it once in a while since the Reunion Tour occurred, but sparingly.
More common in heavy mental music anyway, was a variation of Gene's gesture that did not have the thumb extended. Research actually shows that this was a symbol meaning "devil horns", but was actually used in Sumerian times as a symbol to protect oneself again the devil and NOT to invoke the devil. Bit of a difference there.
As to what Dr. Strange's symbol meant? Well, it appears that Ditko got the symbol from sign language and that it mean "I love you." This was a fascinating tidbit for the superhero, as it meant that he was actually using "love" to defeat the villains of the world. As to Gene and KISS? Well, I guess we love you too.
4) Gene's had his tongue surgically extended.
This one was around since about 1977 or 1978. Gene's tongue just seemed too long for his own good and it bothered a lot of people at the time. Most variations of this rumor state that Gene had a cow's tongue surgically attached in order to make it as long as it was. Of course, this is genetically impossible. Yet it makes for a great story.
The best recent variation of this story is one that states Gene was actually double-jointed in the jaw; thus, he was able to make his tongue look longer due to his double-jointedness. Good way to continue the thread there.
5) Ace was supposed to be on the CREATURES tour.
TRUE, but false.
When the band was releasing CREATURES OF THE NIGHT and planning their tour, there were rumors that Ace may not be playing with them on the tour. It was a rumor that at first the band tried to avoid answering. In fact, Ace was convinced to appear with the others in a short promotional tour for the album in order to keep up appearances (although Ace looked terrible at the time of the promotional tour).
When it finally came clear to Gene and Paul that Ace was not going to be doing the tour, the band was already prepared with his replacement, Vinnie Vincent. Only problem was, what to tell the fans?
The answer was simple in its own way. The band announced that Ace was still so banged-up from his car wreck from 1982 that he couldn't appear on the tour with them. Instead Vinnie "The Wiz" Vincent would be replacing him for SOME of the shows on the tour. Ace would then be back for the next album and everything would be fine again. Gene and Paul also mentioned that Ace would be appearing at some of the shows during the tour IF he was able to make them.
Of course, this never happened. Instead, Ace was long gone from the band at the tour began and Vinnie was to become a fixture in the group for one and a half albums. Still, Vinnie's appearance lead itself to another rumor . . .
6) Vinnie is a woman. (a.k.a. "Ace is a woman." a.k.a. "The new drummer is a woman.")
This one went around when Vinnie started appearing on tour with the band for CREATURES OF THE NIGHT. Vinnie was a new discovery for fans who appeared at the show, and because of his slim, small build, I heard from several people who thought that the band had replaced Ace with a woman. Of course, anyone who saw Vinnie up-close could tell that Vinnie really was a man.
At least, most of the fans could. I had the following conversation with a friend during the CREATURES show in Dayton, Ohio. We were in the front row.
"That's a woman," my friend said.That was pretty much the end of the conversation. Amazing how that one went around, however.
"No, it's not," was my reply.
"That's a woman."
"No, it isn't."
"I'm telling you that that chick is a woman!"
"He's got hair on this chest."
"It's a wig," he replied.
"You're an idiot," was my response.
Ace had a short-lived problem with this as well, although once people started hearing him speak, the game was up. As to the drummer rumor, this was started when KISS was replacing Peter in the band with Eric Carr. When the announcement was made, one reporter misunderstood the news and reported that KISS was hiring a woman named ERICA as the drummer. Of course, that turned out not to be, but wouldn't that had been cool? Just think of what they would have been like with a strong woman drummer in the band. I can just picture Denise Dufort of Girlschool in there (well, it would have at least been the right time period, anyway).
Hey, if we're talking rumors, we might as well extend it out to the possibilities they held, right?
Okay, moving on.
7) KISS once beat up Shaun Cassidy backstage at a show, with each member of KISS using their own individual methods of punishment when they had their shot at Cassidy.
Okay, false. But wouldn't this have been great if it was true!
The story goes that Cassidy showed up at a KISS show one time in the late 1970s and each KISS member took turns beating him up. Peter using his drumstick and Ace his guitar are the only two I can remember from this story, however. Can't remember what Gene and Paul were to have used. I certainly hope it wasn't Gene's tongue.
These are just a few of the fun rumors that went around about KISS over the past few decades. I'm sure there are more. And if you have any, send them my way and we'll do a follow-up some time in the future. Until then, here's one last one that I had only heard about recently . . . .
8) The Marvel KISS comic book has real blood mixed-in with the red ink used in the printing of the comic books.
TRUE, but with a new twist.
The latest rumor about this is that the vials of blood from each member of KISS was poured into the red-ink vats at the printing company used by Marvel for their comic books. HOWEVER, the comic was delayed a day due to other problems and the people running the plant decided to print one of their other scheduled magazines instead while waiting for final problems to be ironed out on the KISS comic. By the time the KISS comic was ready to go, all of the blood-mixed, red ink was gone and a new batch was whipped up to take its place.
Therefore, all of the KISS comics have standard red ink in them. HOWEVER, there is a lost stack of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED from that week that is printed in "real KISS blood!"
Something to ponder. Something to think about. Only in the Urban KISS Zone.