Friday, October 19, 2012

Book Review: MAKEUP TO BREAKUP: My Life In and Out of KISS by Peter Criss

Peter Criss, the original drummer and founding member of KISS, has finally written the memoir that the KISS ARMY has been waiting for.  MAKEUP TO BREAKUP: My Life In and Out of KISS is filled with prerequisite tales of Sex, Drugs, and Rock N' Roll combined with enough insider dirt to make Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley squirm in their moon boots.

Written with the help of New York Times bestselling author Larry "Ratso" Sloman, this book delivers the rollicking story of a Catholic boy growing up on the rough streets of Brooklyn to become one of the world's biggest RockStars. Growing up in the entertainment hot-bed of New York had its benefits, and Criss details the opportunity and influence that music had on his early life.  Seeing performers like Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Little Stevie Wonder, and Gene Krupa convinced Peter to chase his dreams.  With the full support of his mother, Criss turned to music and the drums as a way out of the gang-filled neighborhoods of his youth.  After quitting school he made a vow to his mother about Madison Square Garden: "Ma, I'm going to play that hall someday," and he never looked back.

There is certainly no lack of published options regaling the history of KISS, but this book may be the most genuine, no-holds barred account of the Rise and Fall of the original four members.  Criss seems heartbreakingly honest in his retelling of the band's breakup, with greed rising up as the dominating factor in every move KISS ever made.  The betrayal of Ace Frehley, his original partner-in-crime on the road, seems almost too hard for Peter to accept and therefore the founding guitarist receives the least amount of ink in this book.  

Gene Simmons, on the other hand, is mentioned often and fondly at first but is described as a man with horrible hygiene who let fame transform him into an "egotistical Hollywood madman."  With the 1970's rise in KISS' popularity came wealth, and with the wealth came greed.  "Here we were, four guys who started putting shoe polish on our faces and dying our hair in a bathtub in the Village, and now we're vying for the most expensive watch."  Whether it was a car, a toy, a television, or a house, Gene would tell their manager to..."buy four."  As far as Gene's well-documented sexual escapades go, Criss remains rather disgusted with his bandmates lack of cleanliness.  Rushing into the "Chicken Coop", a hotel banquet room rented specifically for the overflow of groupies after a concert, Gene was the only one to never shower first, "...he just put his clothes on over the filth.  Half of his makeup was still on; he couldn't wait to run to the room.  Of course, Gene was the first one there."

The sexual preferences of Paul Stanley are a different story.  While Criss never comes right out and outs the lead singer, he certainly makes numerous and rather humorous references to back up the long standing rumors.  When asked directly if Paul Stanley is gay or not, Criss' pat answer is "No, not that I know." The quoting of an early reviewer's take that Stanley "bi-modulates bi-sexually across the stage" comes early on and we learn of Paul's obsession with constantly drawing and sketching male genitals.  A few more examples include: "Paul would be much happier going shopping and looking at drapes...or oriental rugs."  "He would go to women's boutiques to buy frilly blouses that he would wear offstage."  "Paul just spent his fortune buying bigger and bigger apartments in New York and decorating them."  "Paul would come out with Pink Feathers around his neck, skintight pants, orange wristbands, and all these bangles going up his arms in every fucking color in the world.  He looked like an old drag queen."  "He became a focal point for a lot of gay guys.  They would congregate in a section in the front of the stage and just look up at him and drool."  And my personal favorite, "Thayer (Tommy Thayer, Ace's replacement) was Paul's bitch.  He was on twenty-four-hour call in case Paul wanted to go out and look at fabrics or blinds."

In a nod to Detroit, Criss fondly remembers the early successes at Cobo Hall..."In a lot of ways, Detroit turned a bunch of green kids into men, and we'll always be indebted to that town."  I was in attendance at the phenomenal Tiger Stadium Reunion concert on June 28, 1996 and I can personally vouch for this account of that night: "When it came time to do 'Beth,' the next-to-last encore, I walked around from behind the drums and sat on that stool again and I started crying.  We always had a special bond with the Detroit fans: They were the ones who embraced us first and put us on the map.  I was overwhelmed by the love that was coming toward me...How could I not cry?"

In a poignant section near the end of the book, Criss details his baffling yet successful battle with Male Breast Cancer.  After going public with his story, not one of his former band mates even called to reach out to him.  "I really thought Gene would call but he didn't.  Paul didn't call.  I definitely expected Ace...but he didn't." 

In this passage, Peter tries to explain his current place in life and seems to be at peace with himself despite the years of drug abuse, failed marriages, and an attempt at suicide.  "I made a lot of mistakes when I was wasted on drugs, but I've also had my trust violated so may times.  Trust was the most important code on the streets.  Trust, honor, integrity, respect-all those things were very sacred to me.  Then the trust was violated-by the mother of my daughter, by my manager, by my bandmates-all the people to whom I really gave the keys to my heart.  So I have barbed wire around my heart, scars from the rock 'n' roll wars.  I've got battle fatigue."

With this new book, Peter Criss has successfully thrown back the sheets on KISS, exposing their ugly Rock N' Roll secrets, yet all the while endearing himself to the reader with his humble approach to storytelling.  It's been a long time coming, but it's been definitely worth the wait. 

MAKEUP TO BREAKUP: My Life In and Out of KISS by Peter Criss with Larry "Ratso" Sloman is available on October 23, 2012 by Scribner publishing.

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    Thanks for the review :)

    1. Hey...THANKS!
      And...You're welcome!

  2. Finally Peter Criss has spoken.I'm looking forward to this book.Genes book was self indulgent ME ME ME ME ME fucking bullshit hated it im great pauls great Ace sucks Peter sucks etc etc............Aces book so so sucked up to simmons to much.So Peter hope you deliver on this and get you point across.Paul Gay? NEVER????

  3. Just read the book 10/10 the best Kiss book ever.Lost what little respect i had for Simmons esp Stanley and Ace.Peter hope you can get over to the UK to sign the book.

    1. Thanks for the comment.
      10 out of 10, yeah!

  4. Peters book about the hotter than hell cover shot party pure class a must read.


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