Gordon Gebert gets trapped in the Kiss Thought Vault!
Before you meet him, you want to dislike Gordon G.G. Gebert. The man with a name that would make for a hard "former friend of Ace's" puzzle on "Wheel of Fortune" has been living high on the hog for the last couple of years from the successes of his two Kiss-related books: 1997's Kiss and Tell., and it's 1998 followup Kiss and Tell More! As you know, both are based on Gordon's, Bob McAdams', and other's recollections of being an associate of Ace Frehley's. The books are written in a white guy, post-Wayne's World English that in spite of their grammatical shortcomings (and hey, I'm no genius) and lack of editing (I think the editor's approach was to remain as hands-off as possible) the books are compelling, if somewhat short reads. In addition, both books (especially ... More) contain interesting bits of information that all Kiss fans should familiarize themselves with.
Ace gets hits hard in these tomes. Although I'm not a major Ace fan (I think he's rather smug) I initially took umbrage to some the mudslinging, no make that mud cannon ball shooting toward the Spaceman that transpires in the texts. However, I eventually came to enjoy both of Gebert's books for their inadvertent commentary on the rises and falls of stardom. There's a lesson among the stories about Ace's killer dog, how he hustled a fan to get a computer, and so on. It's be careful what you wish for, because you may get it. Ace got fame, and didn't handle it. Gebert got Ace, and couldn't handle it. While Ace devotees may have hard times trying to believe Gebert's tales of Ace woe, I walked away from our meeting feeling that for better or for worse, the guy truly believes in what he's saying, right or wrong.
This interview was conducted on November 20, 1998 at the Fairfield Ramada Inn in Fairfield, New Jersey. Gebert and I were both at "Kiss Fest," a small, first-time ever Kiss convention. Gebert and I were seated next to each other at a table. Some other fans soon sat around, and within minutes a truly international meeting of the Kiss Army was ready to interrogate Gebert. Let's see ... There was a married couple from New Xena, uh Zealand, two guys from Germany (one was Harald Streibl, publisher of the half-German, half-English Kiss fanzine "Hotter Than Hell"), and the super-American Byron Fogle, who was filming this whole thing. During the course of the 45-minute interview, others came over to the table from time to time, including a fan from Korea. Many of these fans were in the greater New York Area to attend Kiss' Continental Airlines Arena show (which I give four stars out of five. Paul's great, Ace is lazy, and Peter rules. More on this some other time) on Sunday, November 21, and Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 22.
Ron Albanese: (to the international cadre of onlookers) Okay, we're going to do a little "round-table" discussion with Gordon Gebert. So, if anyone has any questions, chime right in! Basically, the whole deal is that there's been a whole slew of Kiss books: Official, unofficial, tell-all, tell-nothing ... and then out of nowhere someone (who doesn't even claim to be writer!) becomes this celebrity in the Kiss world, with a book about Ace Frehley.
He's the only one who fights back on the Internet -- I don't know if you know (pointing to people), but the Kiss newsgroup is practically the Gordon newsgroup! I'll be on there, trying to buy a Kiss frisbee or something, and I'll only find messages about him, and Vinnie Vincent.
I want to know something before we start: How many of us believe this guy's Ace Frehley stories? (international symposium gives overwhelming support) Hey, maybe we should cue up "Trouble Walkin'."
Gordon G.G. Gebert: I thought that was really cool in the first book. It's fits perfectly.
RA: As far as you credibility is concerned, is there a part of the country where people are more inclined to believe your Ace tales? I would think that fans in this region (America's central east coast area, including but not limited to New York [City and upstate], Long Island [where mostly big hair and power lines run amok], Connecticut [basically like New Jersey, but more north], and [you guessed it] New Jersey.) would support you, since Ace lives and hangs around here. A lot of people here seem to have their own "Crazy Ace" stories.
GGGG: It's weird, it doesn't go by area. In New York, everybody believes it, because they've all witnessed it firsthand in some way or another. I meet people in New York who say "I've met Ace too, and your stories are true."
But then, you get people in Europe ... actually, it's just the real diehard fan that takes offense to the book, and they defend Ace.
RA: Do you have any scary stories? Have you been stalked?
GGGG: Yeah, I've definitely been stalked, and I've had my share of death threats. But, you what? That shows you are measure of success. I mean, I'm sure Mother Theresa had stalkers! It doesn't matter, good, bad, or whatever. Movie stars, musicians, you get wackos everywhere. I got a wacko on the west coast. I don't even want to give the guy attention, but I had to get the FBI come in on this guy. That's how bad it got. If you're a stalker, you're a loser and you've got no life, and you wanna ruin somebody else's that's more successful. That sucks. Concentrate on your own life. Be a success yourself. That's what I say.
Let's hope Bob removed the lens cap
RA: Let's go from the general to the majorly specific for a moment: Being that this event is being held in part in the memory of Eric Carr, I want to bring up chapter 20 from the first book ("Our Memories of Eric"), in which Bob McAdams casually refers to working a video camera during Eric's Kiss audition. Did he actually film --
GGGG: Yes, he did.
RA: You see, it's parts like that make me think that your books ask more questions than they answer.
GGGG: Yes. I think both books create more questions. And you were cool -- when you read it, you picked up on something that other people don't figure out. You're one of the more intelligent guys, that wants more out of it --
RA: (uncontrollable about the possibility that an Eric audition video exists) Did you ever ask him --
GGGG: Where that is? I think Gene has it.
RA: (gleefully) So it should be around?
GGGG: Yeah, Gene has it, or Paul. But I'm sure Gene has it somewhere in the archives. And if he finds it ... he'll take it and sell it! (laughs with guys from Germany)
RA: In the same chapter, you recall first meeting Eric at a NAMM show in California, and then recall how Eric played drums for Ace while he was auditioning guitarists.
GGGG: I was there.
RA: How exactly did that come to be?
GGGG: Ace called Eric, and said "Can you do me a favor? I need a drummer to audition guitarists," and Eric said "I'd do it in a second." But, Ace told me confidentially that Eric was nervous (about it), and didn't want the retaliation from Gene and Paul. It was always a secretive kind of thing. He didn't want it getting back to them.
RA: Around the time (1988-90) that happened, there were rumors were running rampant about the possibility of a Kiss reunion of sorts, or at least a return to the makeup ...
GGGG: I was in Ace's apartment on 67th in Manhattan when Gene called, and they had a conference call, around '89 - '90. Ace is talking to him, and said, "Let me put you on speaker phone," and I heard Gene ... with a lawyer! Gene was saying, "How do you feel about doing a reunion?" And Ace goes, "Yeah, that's cool," and keeps playing it cool. So Gene had a lawyer on the phone, and it was really weird to hear Gene and a lawyer speak to Ace. So then Gene asked Ace about how he would feel if they did it with Eric Carr, not Peter Criss.
So, back then Gene wanted to do the reunion, not with Peter Criss, but with Eric Carr, and he asked Ace how it would go over, and this and that. And Ace was kind of fending for himself. He was worried about how much he was going to get paid. So then Gene goes "How much will it take to do this reunion?" And to my surprise, Ace spurts out a number! I forgot what it was, something like five million, or ten million. He just spouted out this figure. I'm looking at Ace in the room, asking why he was giving out figures for. Gene got his lawyer on the phone -- shouldn't you have a business manager discuss that later? That's something that should be discussed down the road. Right away, he was spouting a ridiculous figure.
RA: Perhaps that story serves as a good indicator of Ace's mental and financial state at the time.
GGGG: That was a typical example of Ace not being business man. Not having a business sense or anything like that. He showed it right in front of me, and I was like "What are you doing, Ace?"
RA: Would you say that at the time Ace was enthusiastic about the prospect of rejoining Kiss?
GGGG: You know what he was enthusiastic about? Making money again. I think that's what he was after.
RA: Well, what happened? How did this all fizzle out?
GGGG: Well, another thing was that Gene wanted to know how Ace was doing physically, and that meant alcohol, drugs. Gene always wanted Ace to be sober, which was another story in the book. We were driving to a show in New Jersey. Ace presented a question about a hypothetical situation to me in the car: "What would you tell Gene if he called and asked you if I was drinking? I turned to Ace and said I'd tell him the truth (note: just as Gebert was relating this tale, "Cold Gin" was blasting throughout the convention area!) Ace got mad at that answer. I asked him why he was getting mad, and he said "Well, you're going to tell Gene that I'm drinking." We had a big fight going to the show.
RA: As you talk with me, I get the impression that a constant dynamic in your relationship with Ace was that everything would be okay with you two as long as you would go along with his opinions.
GGGG: That was one thing about my relationship with Ace. I was never a yes man, or a kiss ass. But that's the way it was with Ace. Hopefully he had respect for that. Because I wasn't a guy just going along for the ride saying "yeah Ace" with my thumbs up. I was always there saying Ace you should do this, you should do that.
Another example is when Ace was doing one of his albums, we went to a strip club called "Scores" in New York City. (turns toward New Zealand folks) It's famous. So we're in the titty bar, so a song came on, and it was Ozzy's "No More Tears." I turned to Ace and go "this is what you should be doing." I wanted to get keyboards on his albums, you know, that gothic sound. And he goes "No, you don't know what the fuck you're talking about." I said that I would have loved to have heard that kind of music from him, and he nixed the whole idea. He didn't give a second thought. He didn't think that I knew his style of music.
RA: The main reason you have cited for having your falling out with Ace was the "Rock Soldiers" fan club fiasco.
GGGG: Can I go into details about that?
RA: Sure. But first tell me: How many actual "Rock Soldiers" were there at the club's peak?
GGGG: Probably around 700-800.
GGGG: Well, that's not big for me at all.
RA: But for Ace, at that time....
GGGG: Well, the idea that I had that we were at odds about was that your building up all these "Rock Soldiers." Ace wanted to get back in Kiss, so you can tap all these Ace Frehley fans with merchandise. I don't want to sound like we wanted to suck money out of Ace Frehley fans, but I wanted Ace to connect with his fans one on one.
He would still be buddy buddy with the fans, but Ace was always standoffish with the fans.
RA: Well, what happened with the club? The meet-and-greets were always disastrous (Gordon turns serious) ... I think there are people who are still waiting for their "Rock Soldiers" newsletters! What was the main reason for all this? It was your gig, basically.
GGGG: It was always disastrous. It was horrible. I was trying to make it a money-making company. Everybody criticizes Gene right? But you know what? He needs money to keep Kiss going. But, you need a balance. I can criticize him in a way. It is about the music. You should be making more music. But, you can't criticize a band for making as much money as they can with merchandising.
But getting back to the thing (laughs), the idea with "Rock Soldiers" was to create this fan base for Ace for when he got back in Kiss so that he would have another income. It could have been a six, seven figure business for Ace aside from Kiss, a supplemental income.
RA: So you're confirming that Ace's getting back into Kiss was a plan, or at least just an eventuality?
GGGG: Exactly. Ace was always talking about it. He always said there's was going to be a reunion. And then he did the Guitar World issue (note: a cover story than appeared in the summer of 1993). We had a meeting about that issue -- between me, Carol Kaye (former Kiss publicist; she worked with Ace from the mid to late '80s), John Apostle, and Ace -- at my house. And we discussed what strategy, what angle Ace should take doing this interview. Should he badmouth Gene? Put his fists up, antagonize, and fight with them? Or, kiss their ass? So Ace said, "I'm gonna do it my way." But, there was a strategy involved into that issue, to force Gene into some kind of discussion.
RA: That interview was a major turning point in Kisstory.
GGGG: It was, and you know what? He has to thank Carol Kaye for that. Because she made that interview. She set that up. And Ace doesn't give credit to people that he should, so I'm going to do it for him, and thank Carol Kaye.
RA: (addressing the international table) Does anyone else have a question?
GGGG: Bill was like a number one fan. (to New Zealand guy) You know Bill Baker? (guy nods)
RA: Is that how he got to know Ace, by way of being a mega fan?
GGGG: Actually, he got to know Ace through me, with "Rock Soldiers." He would call me up and say "I've got this museum I want to show Ace" This guy actually had a tribute museum in his house. That's how he keep in touch with Ace, through me. And then, Bill Baker had a falling out with me over certain things, which was Ace's doing, and he didn't even know it. And then, Bill had experience himself with what happens first hand. What happened between Ace and I was the same thing that happened with Bill Baker, which is explained in Kiss and Tell More. E-mail: the great equalizer
RA: So you want to bring up Kiss and Tell More, huh?
GGGG: (laughing) Oh, you want to bring it up!
RA: To me that seems to be a hodge-podge --
GGGG: A hodge-podge?
RA: It's got a lot of different stuff in there. Was (doing the book) something where your editor said, "Print e-mails for forty pages," or was it something that you wanted to do?
GGGG: It's was something I wanted to do. I wanted to document. I mean, I get mixed emotions about the second book, but the second is much thicker, there's much more information in there. I know it's not just funny and hilarious, but it's feedback from the Kiss that I got. And I wanted fans to experience what I endured: all the slams, the bullshit, the lies that come up. I want people to distinguish bullshit from truth, and how it can be spread. I'm here to say, to show how you could differentiate truth from fiction.
RA: Well, I think the second book serves well as an addendum to the first one. I think the royalty statements -- How did you get those? Because that was after your falling out with Ace.
RA: There are lot more Kiss-related characters in the second book. Joe Renda --
GGGG: I'm glad you mentioned him. Joe Renda discovered the Jerky Boys (note: is this good, or bad?). He did. See, that you'll believe, but there's some shit you don't believe.
RA: All right, let's talk about one of these guys in the second book, Ron Leejack. Now, did he write his contribution from inside an insane asylum, or was he let out for a day? (Gordon cracks up) His writing comes off as being a diary of madman. Is he really that bitter?
GGGG: I have no idea what his motives were. I have been friends with Ron for a long time -- just as long as with Ace. Maybe ten, twelve years or whatever. I met him through Vince Martell who was in Vanilla Fudge. I gave Ron an opportunity to write whatever he wanted in the chapter. I did no editing, I let it stand on its own, I just let him do what he wanted. To some people, it comes across as insane, to some people it comes across whatever. But that's Ron.
See, that's how I was trying to be fair in Kiss and Tell More., and people said I really bashed Ace in Kiss and Tell. Well, you know what? I let the fans bash me in Kiss and Tell More. I let them vent. I repeated everything: I am a scumbag, I'm this and that. I printed it in my own book. I'm just giving a balance and a fairness to everything. I am fair to everybody, Ace wasn't fair to me. So everything balances out.
RA: About the e-mail content in the second book, there might be a good five people in the world that aren't hooked into the Internet.
GGGG: You're on it, you've read it, but there are a lot of people who haven't read this stuff. I know that those chapters might be boring.
Kiss fans come up to me, and go "how could you put up with all that shit," because I wrote this book (Kiss and Tell). I'm trying to show what kind of person I am, to vindicate myself.
Thought Vault Intermission:
"Vindicate" was used in the Kiss number "War Machine." Judging by the overall song it appears in, the song's writers Gene Simmons and the powder-puff Egyptian Vinnie Vincent may have used it incorrectly: The line "gonna vindicate the human race" implies that Gene [the implied "war machine"] wants to redeem the terran species as "right." In the eyes of whom? Why? The rest of the song's words seem to tell of a battle creature's plans for domination over all beings, not an effort to save anyone.
All of this gets more confusing if one goes by the live version of this wobbly-riffed number, as one line was dropped from the second verse: "Tear down the walls of reason, let the arrows fly, you're freedom's just a state of mind."
In addition, Gene would sometimes further mess around with the tune's lyrical intent by changing pronouns. Again in the second verse, he would sometimes substitute "you can" for the "I'm gonna" in the original line segment, "strike down the one who leads me, I'm gonna take his place." "Me" would sometimes become "you" as well, but not always.
In the next line, which is the one that got this whole diversionary section going, our favorite SAG member (figure it out) would sometimes sing/growl "you can vindicate the human race" in lieu of the implied "I" in "gonna vindicate the human race," which would fit in line with the rest of the lyrics that are tantamount to a first-person declaration of intent.
To conclude this argument, the word "vindicate" is incorrectly used in the song "War Machine," since the song's theme is one of wanton domination, not redemption. Also, Gene's 1980's habit [I am not referring to one of his Asylum stage costumes, just one of his tendencies] of swapping pronouns has no redeeming value, barring, of course, that it perhaps makes "War Machine" fit in better Kiss' songs whose lyrics urge listeners to stand up for themselves (ex. "Shout it Out Loud").
RA: How are you holding up through all this? Have you had to get extensive therapy?
GGGG: (feigns mental anguish, then speaks in a mock-crying voice) Ace is not my friend anymore! No, I don't care.
RA: We talked about royalties earlier. The statements reproduced in the book were impressive, but were not indicative of Ace's average royalty income, for they reflected a period concurrent with the 1996 Kiss reunion tour. Did you ever see any of his royalty statements or checks during the lean years? GGGG: Yeah I saw his checks. They were like pennies. He would get checks for ten, twenty grand, something like that.
RA: Every year?
GGGG: No, every six months. I didn't know what was true coming from Ace. At one point, we had a meeting, and he was literally almost crying -- "I need money." Then he was saying that the IRS attached all his royalties. Now I go to the bankruptcy hearing, and he supposedly still has his royalties. You'd never know when he was bullshitting for sympathy. He would say, "I received no royalties from Kiss." Then, two months down the road he say "yeah, I got my royalties." You would never know what to believe from this guy, you know? Always flip-flopping.
Stock tip: don't buy comet
RA: Has (former Frehley's Comet bassist) John Regan made back any of that seventy grand that it was reported in Kiss And Tell that he lost after investing in Ace Frehley?
GGGG: I hope so. I don't know how much. I'm not John's accountant.
RA: True, but just wait: In the next Kiss and Tell you'll probably have John's royalty statements.
GGGG: I hope he recoups his money. Here's another guy that was dedicated to the cause of Ace, and a good friend. He wanted to make a living with Ace. They're not your enemy because they want to make money.
There's managers out there. I hate rock-n-roll managers; they're all scumbags. They really are. there's very few managers that you could trust. Whenever Ace got a manager, I would always tell Ace, look over their shoulder. Look at the account. He didn't want to do that; he was too lazy. He would go (imitates Ace) "I can't do that, I can't literally look over ... " (shakes head) no, you idiot! Just check, have them send finance reports. And then later on, double check the finance reports. It only takes five, ten minutes to look at this shit. He didn't wanted to be bothered. It was pulling teeth.
RA: One problem I have with Ace today is that he portrays himself as such a family man, and he just loves to do nothing but play with his computers...
GGGG: I have a comment on that. Ace knows the power of the media. There were so many times, where I went to an interview and he would say "I've been sober so six months," and then he would say "let's go Gordon," and boom! right to the bar.
Did you know that in Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park the "chamber of thrills" scene's main music (short, mysterious sounding keyboard chordings) was also used in a late '70s "Superfriends" cartoon short? It was also produced by Hanna Barbera.
So, what did you think? Is Gordon G.G. Gebert to be taken seriously by Kiss and Ace fans? Hopefully the preceding interview helped you to make a decision. We'll may never know for sure if Gordon's profile of the guitarist as a turncoat, bum spaceman is entirely accurate, but it's best to take his stories and file them in the Kiss mythos under "unsolved mysteries" for future debunking ... or validation.
Based on our interview (which was videotaped and watched two times to put this Vault together) Gordon is a man of conviction; he truly believes in what he says, and is not afraid of being challenged. He has gotten "in the ring" with Kiss fans the world over (radio interviews, conventions) and now definitively in cyberspace in a lengthy interview that has forced him to develop his published assertions further for accuracy's sake.
A significant point is that this interview was conducted in person. One to one is where one can best determine whether or not a subject is replying truthfully to a question. For example, watch any Unmasked era video interview where Kiss is asked about Peter's departure ... and watch them squirm. While their answers for the most part made sense linguistically, the group's body language always told a different story; shifting eyes, running hands through one's hair, and general moving around all told another story that the Cat's leaving was more than a prowl to a quiet life. Body language either will buttress one's answers or belie them. It's up to the audience (interviewers, onlookers, etc.,) to make the call.
During our interview (save your body watching jokes, please) I noted that while Gordon has a couple of stock movements that go along with most of his answers (fixing his Trixter-approved hair [!] and laughing is something he does constantly) that are designed to promote a casual feeling to the proceedings (he may not even realize this), when asked an off-the-beaten path question he wouldn't blow off a question, Simmons style. In fact, throughout the entire interview, Gordon did not refuse to answer any question. He simply would sort of "shut down" for a moment, and concentrate and supplying a response based on his experiences. It at points like these that it was evident that while his (and his cronies) stories are most certainly not the complete Ace Frehley story, they are certainly valid.
Next time: The Ron Responds Vault! A ton of great e-mail about interesting Kiss topics!
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