11 January 2008 | MetalGeek
"Trekkies" for KISS fans
I recently found out through a friend that I happened to be in a documentary film called "KISS Loves You," a look at KISS fandom filmed during the 1990s. I immediately tracked down a copy of this DVD for myself, and watched it last night. I was afraid I was going to be embarrassed by this video, but it turned out to be a very fun little movie... and yes, my brother and I are in it, for all of two seconds. Near the start of the film there's a shot of all the people lined up waiting to get into the 1995 KISS Convention. As the camera goes down the line, I open my jacket to display my Kiss T-shirt and give a thumbs up, and my brother mutters a sarcastic "Heyyyy, HEAVY METAL dude!" at the camera. But enough about my cinematic debut
how's the movie, you ask? Even if I wasn't in this movie, I would've enjoyed it anyway, as it brought back a lot of memories for me. "KISS Loves You" is an interesting time capsule covering a somewhat odd period in KISStory.
By the early 1990s KISS were at a low point in terms of popularity and a lot of local fans began dreaming of a return to the band's makeup-encrusted days of yore. Some of these fans banded together and started up a loose network of local KISS conventions or formed tribute bands as a way to try and recapture a little of that classic vibe. I was a regular New Jersey KISS Convention attendee every year back then, and I saw more than my share of tribute bands as well, so "KISS Loves You" made me smile, it made me cringe at times, and even made me a little sad in places.
The cast of characters in "KISS Loves You" is as large as the KISS Nation of course, but it focuses on the members of two tributes in particular -- Hotter Than Hell and Strutter -- and a fella named Bill Baker, an Ace Frehley lookalike/obsessed collector who was also a regular at the conventions, with his massive collection of Ace memorabilia in tow (much of it obtained from Frehley himself) and performing with his Frehley tribute band, "Fractured Mirror." Of course, a lot of weirdos from the Convention floor get time in front of the camera as well, including "The KISS Family," an entire Brooklyn clan that came to the Convention every year in full KISS makeup and homemade costumes, including a four year old Paul, a horrendously obese uncle as Gene, and a Mom who apparently had no idea who Ace Frehley is, even though she dressed like him. This portion of the documentary is the most fun, with various fans making Bold Statements about the state of KISS fandom and additional KISS related commentary from celebs such as Jerry Only (the Misfits), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), and Dick Manitoba (The Dictators). Much additional hilarity is provided by the comments from members of Strutter sniping about the guys in Hotter Than Hell, and vice versa... turns out that Hotter Than Hell's "Ace" and "Peter" were one time Strutter members who broke away and formed their own band after a falling out with Strutter's "Gene" over money. (Sound familiar?) Then the scene switches to 1995 and things start to get ugly real fast. Some grainy news footage is shown of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley crashing a KISS Convention in Michigan and taking back costumes and gear that was apparently stolen from one of their warehouses, in front of hundreds of amazed attendees. Noting the popularity of these conventions, the band then mounts its own Official KISS Convention Tour (at $100 a ticket!!) and copyrights the phrase "KISS Convention." Local fan gatherings are known as "Expos" from this point on. A year later in 1996, the original KISS lineup finally reunites. Of course, everyone's thrilled at the prospect at first, and all is right with the KISS fan universe
for about a year. Then things start falling apart in KISS fan land. With the real thing back in action, there's not as much demand for tribute bands, so Strutter and Hotter Than Hell find themselves playing fewer gigs (with less people showing up at the gigs they DO get). A very bitter Bill Baker reveals that Ace dropped him like a hot rock as soon as he rejoined KISS and doesn't even return his phone calls anymore (it turns out that Bill eventually sold off all of his Ace crap, bought a house with the proceeds, and now collects Elvis crap instead). Attendance at the Expos starts to dip (which I personally can attest to
the last one I went to in 1997 was the least populated, and least fun, of all the Expos/Cons I attended), and by 1999 everyone was pretty much KISSed out and sick of the whole thing. One of the last images in the film is a local KISS Expo being held in a nearly empty gymnasium in 2001. I suppose the message is that maybe KISS fans should've been more careful what they wished for. They may have gotten what they wanted when the Gods of Thunder returned, but in the end it wound up blowing their little local "scene" apart.
"KISS Loves You" was a cool little time capsule that I think most KISS diehards will enjoy checking out. If you've ever attended a KISS Convention or Expo on the East Coast, keep an eye peeled because you might find yourself in the film too!!