Encounters with Paul Caravello
by Dale Sherman
P.O. Box 12146
Columbus OH 43212 USA
Copyrighted 1996 by Dale Sherman

"This is great! So now my totally useless life will be important to somebody. It's going to be in print!" -- Eric Carr, personal interview with the author, 1990.

November 25, 1991. I remember the night so clearly. I had just experienced a very frustrating and long day at work, only to top it off by getting on the wrong bus home when leaving. In order to get home, my wife had to drive out to pick me up in a less-than-hospitable part of town late that night. My wife, Jill, was driving us home when she told me the news: Eric Carr had died the day before. A friend had called up our place earlier that night and told her the news. I sat there, absorbing the words with little emotion coming over me. There was no sense of shock, no sense of anger. Just numbness.

It was not that the news was a surprise. It had been coming, and I had known it. While many people close to Eric; and even Eric himself; had tried to show that he was only getting stronger in the months following his heart surgery, there had been too many set-backs over the months to allow anyone to believe that Eric was completely healthy. Also, a week earlier, a person close to the band at the time had told me that I should "start praying." So, when the news finally struck I hardly flinched at all.

All I felt was a numbness that had come only a couple times in my life. Both times when a death had occurred in my family -- first my father, and later my grandfather. In looking back, I now realize that the numbness was my way of dealing with the emotional overload I felt. To help keep me in check so I could function. I also know that, while I have yet to lose a close, personal friend in this fashion, I will probaby go through the same reaction at that time as well.

But why now? Why did I feel such a loss for a rock musician? He wasn't a family member. This was not a close friend I had known for years. This was a man I had really only met face-to-face three times in my life and only really knew of him from his career. Why did his death touch me in such a way?

Perhaps the most boring and irritating thing a writer can do when discussing a topic is to talk about themselves instead of the subject. Far too often writers throw themselves into their writing on a personal level either to puff themselves up as being on the same level as their subject matter, or because they are too lazy to deal with the subject on a strictly factual level. Yet, perhaps the only way to explain why I felt such closeness to the man is to explore the circumstances that allowed me to get to know him over the years in some slight ways.

December 1984. A group of friends and I had gone to Louisville, Kentucky to see KISS during the ANIMALIZE tour. After the show, we went to meet some friends inside the bar of the hotel where the band was staying. While we sat at a table, Carlyn Nugent; one of the editor of STRANGE WAYS, a KISS fanzine we were publishing at the time (not the SW of the internet, but a fanzine from the early to mid-1980s); spotted Eric Carr sitting at the bar. He was nursing a drink and actively trying to pick up the girl sitting next to him.

Carlyn turned to me with a KISS promo album in her hand and asked me to go up and get his autograph for her. I quickly told her she was nuts to think that a guy would stop chatting up a date just to sign something for some guy who was a fan. I suggested she go up herself, since she had a better chance to turn his head than I ever would. Carlyn went up only to return a short time later with the album. I asked her if he had signed it.

She told me that Eric was reluctant to interrupt his conversation with the woman to talk to her. After finally getting his attention and asking for an autogaph, Eric grabbed the album and quickly wrote a short message and signed it.

The message read, "Leave me alone! Eric Carr." Seeing the message, Carlyn sarcastically thanked him for his time and began to walk away.

It was at that point that Eric realized he had done something wrong. Telling her to stop, he sighed and turned around to face her. Inviting her to sit down at the bar, he began asking her questions about the show that night, and even mentioned that he had seen her in the front row. After a few minutes, he thanked her for her time, apologized for what he had written on the album and went back to his date who was cooling her heels.

Carlyn told me she was a bit upset over Eric's initial reaction when she asked for his autograph, but felt that Eric made up for his callousness right after signing the album.

When I saw what he wrote, I burst out laughing.

Evansville, Indiana, 1985. Due to the success of STRANGE WAYS, I was allowed to go backstage before the ASYLUM concert occuring that night in Evansville. While back there I had ran into another member of KISS fandom who had taken some photos during the tour and brought some with her to show to the band members. She also came prepared with a ton of material to be autographed.

She had made herself known by the band over the years for appearing backstage at other shows and making a slight nuisance of herself. Not in any major ways, just being a little too enthusiastic when talking to the band members: essentially, wanting them to laugh at her jokes and treat her like a close friend they had not seen in a while. It was all a bit much at times, and easily got on the nerves. Still, she was my friend and I did not want to avoid her completely backstage.

She entered the backstage area wearing a self-sewed leotard outfit like the one Paul wore on the cover of LOVE GUN. To be polite, it did not look good on her; nevertheless, she strode backstage in confidence with all of her photos and merchandise items under her arms. The only ones backstage at the time were Gene and Paul. Paul took one look at her, and, seeing who it was, rolled his eyes and walked briskly back to the dressing room a few feet away. Gene quickly followed suit. This left only a few random roadies and and the members of King Kobra (who were opening for KISS on the tour), including Carmine Appice.

Suddenly, Eric appeared from the dressing room and was quickly cornered by my friend. Agreeing to sign something for her, my friend pulled out a notebook full of photos and magazine ads for him to sign. He sighed and began signing them quickly, one right after the other. Since I was on the opposite side of Eric and a short distance away, no one knew that I knew the person who was the source of Eric's current torture. I watched as my friend turned away for a moment to get more material for Eric to sign. "Geez," Eric said, under his breath so my friend could not hear. "Do you want me to sign every page of the Bible as well? How much more stuff do you want me to sign?" When she turned back to him, he smiled and began signing again. He suddenly stopped at a photo of himself that he was to sign for her. It was a performance photo she had taken of him that was not very flattering. He looked at her and she laughed, saying that the photo made him look stupid. It was obvious to me that she did not realize how badly she had just insulted him.

Before he could response, Carmine Appice came up from behind Eric. He leaned over to Eric and said something derogatory about my friend's appearance. Eric snapped his head to face Carmine.

"Boy, you really know how to pick your groupies, Eric." Carmine teased.

Eric dropped the photo and violently shoved Carmine, who just laughed and walked away. Eric pick the photo off the floor and went back over to my friend. My friend, having not heard what Carmine had said, assumed the most innocent.

"See, even Carmine thought the photo as silly," She said, thinking Carmine was laughing at the photo and not at her.

Anger clouded Eric's face for a moment, and I thought he was about to tell her what really happened. He then laughed.

"Yeah, that's it. He thought the photo was silly too."

He signed the photo and then immediately excused himself to the dressing room. Later on that night, as more fans were allowed backstage, Eric reappeared to talk to the fans, sign autographs and have his picture taken with them. While a majority of fans were happy to see him, there were a few upset they were not getting a chance to meet Gene or Paul. Several times, fans went right up to him and asked him if any of the others were going to come out. He was obviously hurt by the question and attitude of the fans.

"Naw. I'm the only one that wanted to come out here to talk to you guys before the show tonight, he responded.

In 1989 I had begun work on a reference book about KISS that had originally been given an friendly nod of the head by Gene Simmons in 1988. After this news, I had hoped that I would be able to interview the band members over time while writing it. It never turned out. During the course of the next couple of years, Gene would schedule numerous interviews only to cancel due to other conflicts. After a brief discussion with Gene in 1990, it was decided that, while he hoped for the best on my project, he could not get involved. Yet, it was because of Gene's early interest that I was able to arrange an interview with Eric at the KISS Company offices in Manhattan during February 1990.

It was a golden opportunity for the book, as Eric had done relatively few interviews outside of the fan-press -- many of which were short and dealt with only the latest KISS album or songs. All in all, Eric had never had a serious full-length interview seen in print dealing with his life before and during KISS (although, I must admit, a few audio interviews have popped up in the past few years that are along these lines). Thus, it was a chance to get a perspective on KISS that was seldom heard, and a chance to be able to write about his career before KISS without resorting to old magazine articles.

I arrived at the KISS Company offices on 6th Avenue, to find Eric sitting behind the desk in Gene's office signing HOT IN THE SHADE promotional posters. There were two chairs in front of the desk: one empty, the other filled with about fifty copies of the HOT IN THE SHADE album, fully autographed by each band member. A tiny "fanboy" voice inside of me kept wanting to ask Eric about getting an album to take home, but I fought the impulse down. I was there to do professional business, and such an attitude at this time was inappropriate.

I had arrived dressed in a suit for the occasion in order to make an impression. When Eric saw me, however, he immediately began to laugh (I assume at my attire; at least I hope that was the reason). Eric, as always it seemed, was dressed in a Led Zepplin t-shirt and his always-present Boy Scout shirt. He asked me to sit down while he finished signing the posters. We began the interview shortly thereafter, and had been talking for some time when the worst thing possible during an interview occurred: The tape recorder I had with me had died. Eric not only patiently stood by while I struggle with new batteries and a fresh cassette, but he even made some suggestions to try and help as well. Still, it was not possible to get the recorder to work.

In frustration, I let slipped that I had borrowed the recorder from the band's fan-publicist as I had left my recorder back at the hotel I was staying at. Eric laughed, then offered a couple of solutions.

"Look, Dale. We can do one of two things. You could go to the electronics store downstairs right now and buy a new recorder; or, you can get your other recorder and we can finish up the interview tomorrow at the same time."

The second option appealed to me more. Not only would it give me a night to do some research on some questions Eric had raised during that day's portion of the interview; it would mean more time than had originally been given to me for the interview in the first place. I immediately agreed, and started packing up. As I was doing so, Eric mentioned an issue of the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS from 1972 that his picture appeared in. Since I was going to the library to do some research anyway, he suggested that I look for it.

The next day I went back to the offices with a fresh recorder and we began again. Eric seemed disappointed that I was unable to find the DAILY NEWS photo, but I was successful in location several articles on the barroom fire he was in during 1974. Interested in seeing them, Eric leafed through the articles and pointed out one photo that showed his van parked out front of the nightclub.

"It was blocking the front of the club when the fire had started because I had brought it around so we could pack up our equipment. The firemen almost towed it away," Eric remembered before we began recording.

After the initial hiccups of the day before, the rest of the interview went extremely well. In the course of changing tapes at one point, Eric even made a call and bumped off a lunch date he had so we could continue for an extra hour. All in all, we talked for several hours, with the topics ranging from the Cellar Men to Flasher; from MUSIC FROM 'THE ELDER' to HOT IN THE SHADE; from ROCK HEADS to Hari Kari (the all-female thrash metal band he was working with during 1989). We even talked about Rocky & Bullwinkle and Betty Boop.

I finally looked down at my watch and saw that it was past Noon. Feeling that I had eaten up enough of his time, I decided to stop the interview for the time being. "You sure?" Eric asked. "I can talk some more if you want too, since you're here and all."

"Well," I said, "if I come across anything else while doing research I will get in touch with you if you're interested."

"Yeah. You can call me and we can do something by phone or whatever. Just let me know."

As I began to pack, I looked over at the autographed HOT IN THE SHADE albums and inwardly sighed. Eric, meanwhile, had grabbed one of the posters he had been signing and handed one to me.

"Would you be interested in one of these?"

"Um. . . . Sure!" I said, still trying to be the professional I knew I did not sound like. Eric stepped out of the room while I continued to pack. A few seconds later he raced back in with a copy of_the limited edition FIRST KISS. . . LAST LICKS album. "Do you have this?"

"Uh. . . no. Thanks." Eric then reached over to the chair with the autographed HOT IN THE SHADE albums and handed one to me.

"Here. These are for record executives and people like that, but I don't care about that bullshit. Take one of these."

"Wow. Thanks. . . ." My voice trailed off as he left the room again. I managed to cram the stuff into my bag and went out into the hall.

Eric was standing at a closet, full of KISS promotional items. I went up to thank him again for the interview when he pulled out a MUSIC FROM "THE ELDER" CD.

"Hey! We talked about this album. Would you like the CD of it?

"Sure," I said cautiously, feeling overwhelmed.

"Oh, here. Take one of these. . .and this. . .and this. . . ." Eric continued as he pulled out more and more stuff. He finally pulled out a CD of HOT IN THE SHADE. "Do you have this yet?"

Not having a CD-player, I did not. "Um. . .no."

"Oh, some fan you are. You don't even have most of this stuff! Here take it."

I struggled to fit the material into the bag, and left the office hunched-over due to the weight of it all. I thanked Eric again in the lobby as the elevator doors closed.

The last time I met up with Eric was when the HOT IN THE SHADE tour came to Dayton, Ohio. As with previous tours, KISS was allowing fanzine editors to come backstage before the shows to meet the band face-to-face. Getting passes, I went backstage with fan-artist Larry Blake, Jan Carter (editor of the fanzine KISS FORUM), her daughter Sarah, and my fiance (and soon-to-be wife) Jill.

Waiting in a large room with several fans that had won a local radio contest, the excitement was high. And when Eric and Bruce arrived to talk to the fans, they were swarmed. Yet, when Gene and Paul arrived in the hallway outside of the room, most of the fans ran out to greet them, leaving Bruce and Eric alone with a couple of other fans and our group. Eric was signing an album for a fan when the ink ran out of the pen he was using. I handed him a pen and he grabbed it, quickly looking up at me and saying thanks. Eric then did a double-take as he looked at me again.

"Hey! Dale, right?"

I was surprised and happy to see that he remembered me, and we talked for a couple of minutes when Jill stepped up to get in on the conversation. Jill and I pointed to each other.

"This is my fiance," we said in unison. We then began to laugh.

"Ah. The fiancees are here." Eric said. He then turned to Jill. "Dale's a great guy. You won't go wrong with him."

I never got a chance to thank him for that.

Jan brought her daughter up to Eric to sign a note for her. As Eric was about to sign it, Sarah said, "You're dead."

Eric was puzzled. "What?"

"You're dead."

When Eric looked to Jan for an answer, Jan laughed. "Oh, Sarah had four goldfish at home that we named after the members of the band, and the other day your goldfish died."

Eric chuckled. "Well, that figures." He signed the note for Sarah and handed it back to her. We talked a few more minutes with Eric and he expressed an interest in getting back together with me after the tour to talk some more for the book. After saying goodbye, we watched as he went out in the hallway and circled about the crowd around Gene and Paul in order to get to the stage.

No one even turned towards him

I continued to work on the book and was about to get back in touch with Eric for another interview when the news came out that he was in the hospital having open-heart surgery. Figuring it was not the right time to bother him, I put off the interview and sent him a card along with a copy of one of my favorite Beatles book.

Looking back at the HOT IN THE SHADE tour, I now recall a second time that I was able to go backstage. I had used the second opportunity to discuss with Gene about the book and had only caught a quick glimps of Eric out of the corner of my eyes. By the time I turned to talk to him he was gone. I was told later by someone who had gone with me that he had left suddenly, stressing that he was not feeling very well.

I had often wondered if his sudden departure that night might had be related to his then-undiscovered illness.

As time went on it became harder and harder to get word about Eric's health, although a few bits and pieces came out. Still, I had hope. I think we all did. And everytime we heard that he had gotten back on his feet, we hoped a little more and smiled in anticipation of his comeback. Yes, the chances were small for his recovery, but that did not stop us from wanting to see Eric pull through.

When I arrived home after hearing the news, I began calling friends. Several were doing the same in trying to get in touch with others as well. Many were friends that had moved over the years, some whom I had lost touch with between the days of first getting into KISS fandom and the present. In reaching out to them, or them reaching out to me, I felt a little closer to them all. I knew that my feelings of intimacy with Eric seemed strangely almost universal among the fans I talked to over those next few days. And over the years, when talking to fans who had been fortunate enough to meet the man, I had been left with the same feeling I had of him. Eric never wanted to nor tried to be anything more to the fans he met than just "a guy in a band." Time and time again I have heard stories from people about Eric and his passion for trying to communicate one-to-one with everyone he met.

Perhaps it came from Eric finding success later in life than the others in the band. Having been a fan of bands for so long, and dreaming to make it himself for so long, he had a certain bond to the average kid in the street that Gene, Paul and the others could never quite match. He knew what it was like to meet someone they admired finally face-to-face, and knew that helping those people feel comfortable with him made them feel good.

In essence, he was a true link between the fans and KISS. Gene and Paul have always played lip-service to the idea that they have never forgotten what it was like to be a fan, but it seemed at times that KISS has to be more important to those fans that could afford to do the glossy fanzines, that could afford to cough up $100 to see them at a small convention, that could somehow impress them with their business savvy. With their estimation of what a fan should be, KISS began to lose their grip with the bottom rung of the fan-ladder: the fans who did not get to go backstage, who were not just trying to impress them in order to get something; who were not writing books to make money off of them or for them; the ones that only cared about the music. About KISS. About the band.

Eric never forgot that he was Paul Caravello, the drummer who worked for ten years to make and was lucky enough to succeed. And being so happy to have made it, it only made Eric want to share his fame with the fans as well. He never wanted to hurt their feelings, never tried to play the fame game with them. When he opened that cabinet at the KISS offices and started handing me stuff, he was not trying to impress me and win my favor; he was just as excited about giving the stuff away as I was to take it. It was Eric saying, "Look at this! This is cool! This is really neat! Do you want to share in it?"

In the years since, I have talked to others that knew Eric and have discovered that my caring for him was because he cared for us, the fans. He was not just a face in a band, or a voice on a record, he was a friend. A couple of people had mentioned that, privately, Eric sometimes felt that he was just lucky to have made it. Moreso, that he felt he was not important enough to amount to anything on his own.

Perhaps it is true. In the end, Eric Carr, a drummer for KISS, was not important in the larger scheme of our lives. Yet, Paul Carravello, the man who took the name of Eric Carr, will remain more important than any rock star could be. I can only hope that I was important enough for him to think of me as a friend as well.

About three months after his death, I received a phone call from Jan. She had found the autograph that Eric had signed for Sarah and was so surprised by what Eric had written that she had to call me. The note read:

"To Sarah --

I love you even though I'm dead.
Eric Carr"

I sat there stunned for a moment after Jan finished reading it to me. Then, realizing that Eric had been talking about Sarah's goldfish, I began to laugh.

Somewhere, I knew, Paul Caravello was laughing as well at the innocent irony of the note. I am sure he would have shrugged his shoulders while he laughed.

"Hey, it was only a joke," he would have said.

This article is Exclusive to The KISS Asylum and Copyrighted 1996 by Dale Sherman. No unautherized use is allowed without permission from Dale Sherman and The KISS Asylum.

More cool stuff with Dale and The KISS Asylum are in the works for '97! Look out! =)