|By Brett Weiss
Pop metal rockers KISS played their first gig at the Popcorn Club (renamed Coventry shortly thereafter) Jan. 30, 1973, in Queens, New York. To celebrate their 40th anniversary, the band has released a mammoth book called Monster, which is as tall as a guitar and costs a whopping $4,250.
Limited to 1,000 handmade copies, the titanic tome is loaded with rare photos and is signed by all four current members: Gene “the Demon” Simmons, Paul “Starchild” Stanley, Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer, and Eric “Catman” Singer.
For those who haven’t followed KISS during the last couple of decades, original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss left the band years ago, embarking on iffy solo careers, plus projects with other bands. Of the two, Criss has had a higher post-KISS profile – though Frehley has sold more records – largely due to a public bout with breast cancer in 2008, which included several nationally televised interviews.
Born George Peter John Criscuola, Peter Criss was the drummer for KISS from 1972 to 1980. Gene, Paul and Ace maintain that he was fired from the band while Peter claims in his autobiography, Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss (2012, Scribner), that he quit. The book also chronicles Criss’ hedonistic lifestyle during the band’s heyday (and after), which included copious amounts of sex, drugs, car crashes, and trashed hotel rooms.
“Like all coke addicts, I could never have enough,” Criss wrote. “I would stay up for days on end. One time I stayed up for seven straight days.”
Criss, along with Frehley, rejoined KISS during the mid-1990s and early 2000s, engaging in a series of reunion tours (including an Unplugged performance on MTV), but Makeup to Breakup paints Simmons and Stanley in a decidedly negative light, saying they treated him as an employee, not a partner.
The book also states that the KISS reunion paid Criss $40,000 per show while Frehley got $50,000, a painful blow to the drummer’s fragile ego.
Criss’ biggest claim to fame is composing and writing KISS’ biggest hit single, Beth (1976), a ballad he devoted to his first wife, Lydia. Ironically, the song was also his greatest downfall as it inflated his ego and gave him an overstated impression of his importance to the band, and of his potential as a solo act.
Despite his tumultuous life during and after KISS – he resents Eric Singer wearing his “Catman” makeup – Criss remains a popular figure with KISS fans and is a valuable commodity in the field of pop culture collectibles.
A recent search of completed eBay auctions turned up the following Peter Criss items:
•Signed Beth stool from Love Gun tour with accompanying poster, $2,585
•Lizard necklace worn by Criss during 1978 concert, $799
•Tiger portable KISS record player signed by Criss, $600
•Concert-used drumstick from 1977-78 tour, $500
•Sideshow figure (No. 8 of 1,000) with autographed base, $405
•1977 Pearl Drums promo poster, $389
•1980 reel-to-reel tape cut from his second solo album, $372
•1978 Halloween costume in box, $316
•1977 Mego doll in box, $265
•Factory sealed 1978 Aucoin T-shirt, $150
•1978 Aucoin Pacifica belt buckle, $149
•1978 Majic Market cup, $80