It’s been nearly half a century since Chaim Witz, Stanley Eisen, Paul Frehley, and George Criscuola first got together in a New York City jam room. The band has since exploded, selling over 100 million albums and licensing their name to over 3,000 products, including condoms and coffins. The highly successful band has raked in an estimated net worth of “between one and five billion dollars.”
For generations, they have been one of the most popular and influential bands in pop culture and media. Throughout their long and colorful career, there have been so many crazy stories that it’s pretty much impossible to keep track of them.
Sit back and relax because today we’re going to talk about facts you may not know about the legendary band KISS.
They Were Tricked Into Unmasking
For a decade, the real faces behind the KISS band members were a secret. In 1980, they teased fans with a fake-out Unmasked album. However, in September 1983, when MTV aired the real unmasking, it was a really big deal. It attracted enough attention to rejuvenating the group’s career.
But the classic lineup had already been duped into posing for band shots sans greasepaint in 1974 by Charlie Auringer, an art director at the iconic magazine Creem. Charlie’s cunning plan was to tell the band that he had spoken to their management, who said it was okay. But he didn’t ask, and it wasn’t okay. Creem ultimately agreed not to publish the shots and preserve the mystery.
Launching a Wrestling Team
In 1999, the band negotiated with World Championship Wrestling to endorse a grappling group named The Warriors of Kiss. “The bottom line is, other bands can’t have fun,” Gene expressed to Entertainment Weekly. “If we were R.E.M., we couldn’t do this.”
Sadly, the project fizzled out when Brian Adams stepped down from the introductory role of The Kiss Demon without participating in a single match. He was replaced by Dale Torborg, who was sidelined because of internal politics at the WCW. Gene planned for all four band members to be represented in the ring and joined by female equivalents: “Big girls, with big boobs, wearing KISS makeup, wrestling.”
Katey Sagal Sang With Gene Simmons
Actress Katey Sagal whom you probably recognize as Gemma from Sons of Anarchy, Peg Bundy from Married… With Children, and of course, the voice of Leela in Futurama, was a waitress and aspiring singer when KISS walked into the restaurant she worked in the mid-‘70s. “Gene thought I was kinda cute, so we ended up going out,” she revealed.
Katey was in a band of her own called The Group With No Name, and in 1976, they were signed to Casablanca Records after Gene, you know, pulled some strings. Unfortunately, the group didn’t last very long, but Katey went on to sing backup for Bob Dylan, Bette Midler, and Molly Hatchet before rising to fame on television.
Teaming Up With Hello Kitty
Here is one that may seem a bit random. We know that the members of KISS are very protective of their brand, but in 2012, they embarked on a line of co-branded merchandising with fictional Japanese pussycat, Hello Kitty.
You can find T-shirts, mugs, toys, and badges showing the precious cartoon covered in KISS make-up. Out of all their Hello Kitty products, the highlight has got to be the toilet paper. None other than Mike Tyson personally tested it out at the product launch in Las Vegas.
Kiss Turns Down the Beatles!
Kiss turned down the Beatles. Well, I guess they didn’t exactly reject them in the way you may think. They simply declined when they were offered the chance to appear as the Future Villain Band in the 1978 Beatles musical Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The reason? KISS was worried that playing the bad boys might negatively affect their image. Apparently, it just wasn’t worth the risk. The role was then offered to and happily accepted by Aerosmith, who were way too stoned to care.
The Beatles Turned Down KISS!
Two can play at this game! In 1978, Gene attempted to round up any and all ex-Beatles to guest star on his solo album, but none of the Beatles showed up. According to Gene Simmons, Ringo declined, while the rest of the Fab Four were unavailable due to “scheduling commitments.”
His goal of reuniting The Beatles on his own solo album didn’t really go according to plan, so Simmons turned to the next available thing: the cast members of the tribute stage show Beatlemania. Close enough, I guess.
They Had a Frankenstein Prop on Stage
In Universal’s 1931’s horror classic Frankenstein, there was a lightning machine used in the laboratory set. Well, the same machine was used early in the 1976 Destroyer tour and was dubbed the God of Thunder machine.
It was a massive Tesla coil that emitted colored electrical beams, designed by Ken Strickfaden (considered “the Greatest High Voltage Special Effects Man Of All Time” according to the Tesla Technology research website). But it was soon abandoned for being too unreliable. Considering that it was built in the 1930s, it makes sense that technology advanced.
Just Taking a Nap
Ace recorded the song Shock Me lying down on his back. From 1977’s Love Gun, Shock Me was Spaceman’s very first lead vocal on a KISS LP, and the guitarist’s amazing performance was created by amusingly literal means.
In 1992, Dimebag Darell asked Ace in Guitar World magazine if the reason was to help him hit the high notes. “I did it because I was nervous, and I didn’t want anybody to see me sing!” Ace admitted. “I made [producer] Eddie Kramer lower the lights, and I lay down so he couldn’t see me!”
Buy Your KISS Urn Now
We thought the KISS Kasket was crazy, but that was just the beginning. They signed a deal with the memorials firm Eternal Image for a range of KISS cremation urns, and they are now on the market. Who doesn’t want to stay in a KISS urn for eternity?
The first design shows the band leaping out of flames which sounds a little intense. Don’t worry though, if you want a more subtle urn, three more designs will be out soon. The contracts include KISS bronze memorials, KISS player cards, KISS memorial candles, KISS registry books, and KISS cremation urns for pets.
Scooby and KISS
Do you remember the 2002 Halloween episode of What’s New Scooby-Doo? Well, Shaggy and Scooby are thrilled to find out that KISS is going to have a concert in their town. However, the show was interrupted by the ghost of Hank Banning and some spooky robot scarecrows.
When the faux-spectral mayhem kicks off while the band is rocking out to Shout It Out Loud, then Gene asks Paul what he thinks they should do next. “What we always do,” Paul shrieks. “Keep playing till the cops come!” They partnered up with the cartoon dog again in 2015 for the straight-to-DVD movie Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery.
Eddie Van Halen as Space Ace!
One year before the Van Halen debut in 1977, Gene invited Eddie and Alex Van Halen to join him on demo material for Love Gun. On the album, Gene managed to get Ace to play the Christine Sixteen solo note-for-note as Eddie had jammed it.
In 1982, when Ace left the band, Eddie (who was a superstar in his own right) told Gene he was sick and tired of Van Halen’s new direction and Dave Lee Roth’s ego. He wanted to join KISS instead. Gene talked him out of it and insisted that Eddie “cast too much of a shadow to be the guitar player in KISS.”
Gene’s Flammable Hair
New Year’s Eve in 1973 was KISS’s first “official” concert. The band was sharing the stage with Blue Öyster Cult and The Stooges. They had a new record and management deal, a debut on the way, a logo backdrop, and a new stunt: Gene breathing fire, something he learned from the magician Amaze-O.
Gene later discovered the reason Amaze-O was bald when the fire-breathing trick went wrong, and Gene’s hair caught on fire. He was consoled backstage by ‘70s superstars Todd Rundgren and Rick Derringer, who cautioned him about playing with fire. He went on to burn his hair several more times throughout his career.
$4,250 for a Three-Foot Book?!
Tommy Thayer had the audacity to write “A must-have for all KISS fans” in the advert for his appropriately titled Monster Book, which is a massive compilation of live snaps of the band. The limited-edition book has only 1,000 copies in existence.
This is a ridiculously massive tome that opens up to five feet in width. “You can get a couple of them and build a house,” Paul expressed. And let’s face it, you’ll probably need somewhere to live after spending a few thousand grand on a book.
Gene Encourages People to Pee on His Face
An original marketing campaign for Gene’s reality show Family Jewels included the USA-wide distribution of urinal cakes. You heard me correctly! They also feature a picture of Gene’s face with a urine-activated talking splash protector. If you thought it was ridiculous before, yes, it talks too.
Overzealous KISS fans apparently tried to steal the items. Gene laughed it off and was even quoted saying, “Remember to wash ‘em before you take ‘em home.” What the talking urinal cakes said is unclear. Reportedly, one of them tells people when they are too drunk to drive.
KISS Tribute Band of Dwarves
“You wanted the littlest; you got the littlest!” In 1996, Mini-KISS was formed in New York City by a die-hard KISS fan and 4’4” Mini-Demon Joey Fatale. They were pretty popular themselves. At their first show, the venue was mobbed, and the police had to be called.
They toured with A Perfect Circle in 2004, and Mini KISS starred alongside regular-sized KISS in a Dr. Pepper Superbowl commercial in 2010. Joey sadly lost his life in 2011, but Mini-KISS continues to live on, appearing with Elvis and Mini Gaga at the Minipalooza Festival in 2012.
Space Ace Can Change His Skin Color
The horrendous 1978 movie KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park was so hated by the band that mentioning the movie or even alluding to it was forbidden by KISS. Well, while the appalling movie was being filmed, Ace butted heads with director Gordon Hessler.
Once when Spaceman stormed off the set, he was replaced by a black stunt double on screen. Ummm… teleporting, I can believe, but a full ethnic transformation makes me a bit skeptical. If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t waste your time.
They Were Dropped From Jacko’s Tribute Concert
The band was dropped for Jacko’s tribute concert. On August 15, 2011, Michael Jackson’s mother announced live on CNN the addition of KISS to the bill of the Michael Forever tribute concert in Cardiff. Very exciting, right? Well, it was a short-lived celebration.
The very next day, the band was “un-invited” thanks to the outrage of Jackson fans, raising concerns about some remarks Gene Simmons made about Jackson a year prior. Apparently, one of the comments Simmons made included, “There’s no question in my mind he molested those kids.”
KISS Can Help You Win!
Back in 1975, the college American football team, the Cadillac High Vikings, was feeling down and discouraged; they weren’t playing very well. But then, couch Jim Neff started playing KISS albums in the locker rooms and in the team bus.
By the time the season ended, the team had won seven consecutive games and ended up Conference champions! Neff contacted KISS’s management to notify them about the team’s success and how KISS music pumped them up. KISS responded by offering to play a concert on campus and take part in the town’s Homecoming Parade.
They Have to Alter Their Logo in Certain Countries
KISS is famous all around the world; you could say the band is as recognizable as Mickey Mouse or Batman. That’s why it comes as no surprise that they would tour all across the ocean too. But what you may not know is that their iconic symbol needs to be changed in certain countries.
If the band is touring around Germany, Israel, or anywhere else where German symbols are outlawed, they change the design. The reason? The double, lightning bolt-shaped Ss in the KISS logo was also used by Germany’s Schutzstaffel during World War II.
Vincent Vinnie Used to Record Music for TV Shows
In 1980, a couple of years before he replaced Ace “the Spaceman” Frehley and became a member of the band, Vinnie moved to Los Angeles and made a name for himself as a songwriter for television shows like Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi.
Vinnie wrote a lot of the show’s songs with an acoustic guitar while standing at the Cunningham’s famous kitchen table on the Happy Days set. Vinnie was married to AnnMarie Peters, and they had twins together. Annmarie was tragically murdered after the pair divorced.
Gene’s Infamous Tongue Rumors
For those of you who don’t already know, the legend was that KISS bassist Gene Simmons had the tongue of a cow attached to his own tongue in order to make it longer. If this is true (considering how large cows are), he would literally have to have surgically enlarged his mouth to fit even half of a cow’s tongue in there.
The truth is that Gene Simmons was just born with his signature 7-inch tongue. He didn’t even notice it until he was a teenager when it “came in handy with the girls,” according to the rocker. Some people are born with big tongues, and other people are born with other big body parts.
The Band Name Was Kind of Random
For years, fans of KISS thought that the group’s band was an acronym for “Knights In Satan’s Service.” However, this is not true. According to Simmons, this is just about as big of a lie as the rumor that he has a piece of a cow’s tongue attached to his.
Yeah, I guess some of this gossip goes a bit too far. In reality, he was driving around New York with fellow founding member Paul Stanley and drummer Peter Criss. That’s when Criss mentioned something about being in a band called “Lips.” After a bit of deliberation, Stanley asked, “What about KISS?”
Eddie Van Halen Was Almost in the Band!
Eddie Van Halen almost replaced Ace “the Spaceman” Frehley, the original lead guitarist. Eddie was disillusioned with Van Halen’s new sound when Ace left KISS, so he approached Gene to let him know that he wanted to leave the band.
Gene ultimately talked Eddie out of it by telling him that he “cast too much of a shadow to be the guitar player in KISS.” Even still, could you imagine this guy wearing black and white makeup on stage, rocking out as a member of KISS?
They Owned a Football Team
I know it’s a bit random, considering athletes and musicians tend to have a completely different skill set, but that doesn’t mean the band wasn’t involved in sports. KISS owned an Arena Football league team. When the team folded for three years (from 2013 to 2016), Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons shared the team ownership with the team manager Doc McGhee.
Their home games were played at the Honda Center near Anaheim. Who else played there? The Anaheim Ducks! Both teams were liquidated in October 2016 during the off-season, but the band pulled their support a season earlier.
Red Like Blood
So, Marvel Comic published a KISS comic book. Rumor has it that the ink from the first comic has the band members’ blood in it. I know it sounds like some kind of urban legend, but this one is true! But if you think about it…, does it really come as a surprise?
Apparently, Gene Simmons remembers flying up to Buffalo with the band to Marvel’s printing plant, where he watched them pour the ink that was used in publishing the comics. The public record noted that there were witnesses watching the blood being drawn.
Haters Gonna Hate
Many critics don’t necessarily understand KISS. They don’t get the antics they perform on stage, and they aren’t particularly impressed by their music either; the haters never had any real love or respect for the band. However, the critiques didn’t make the band any less popular.
Their core fan base, known as the KISS Army, thinks they are pretty much the best thing in the world since sliced bread. Their fans are certainly loyal and devoted. You can even make the argument that fans are the reason the band is still beloved after more than three decades.
A KISS Member Is Deaf in One Ear
Interestingly, not all the band members have perfect hearing. You may think that would affect their music, but apparently not. Founding member Paul Stanley was actually born unable to hear in his right ear. He needed to wear an implanted hearing aid for most of his life.
Stanley was born with Level 3 Microtia, a deformity of the cartilage of the outer ear. Because of this condition, he was virtually deaf in his ear since there is no access for sound to enter. Luckily, he had this hearing aid option.
Protesting Fans Made Up the KISS Army
As we mentioned, KISS fans are referred to as the KISS Army. But where did this name come from? It all started in the early ‘70s in Indiana when a radio station wouldn’t play any KISS songs. A group of fans started protesting outside of the radio station, calling themselves the KISS Army.
After that, the name kind of stuck. Considering the fact that almost all celebrity fan bases now have names, this wasn’t the case in the ‘70s. It was just a different time, and word didn’t spread through social media. Instead, the name was started by protesting fans.
Luckily, They Went With KISS
We mentioned that the band name was a little random. It came about when Paul suggested it, after his ex-band named Lips. Although the band, their tongues, and their antics just perfectly fit the name KISS. However, if Paul’s former band wasn’t Lips, who knows what KISS would have been called?
A few other names were thrown around and considered. Ace really liked the name Albatross, and Peter wanted The Crimson Harpoon. Gene Simmons wanted to go with the name F*CK… which doesn’t come as a surprise. Either way, they ultimately made the right choice.
Only Two KISS Members Didn’t Use a Stage Name
Only ten official people who have been part of the band used their given names: guitarists Bruce Kulick and Tommy Thayer. The eight other members are Gene Simmons, who was born Chaim Weitz; Paul Stanley’s real name is Stanley Harvey Eisen, and Ace Frehley is Paul Daniel Frehley.
Peter Criss is George Peter John Criscuolo; Eric Carr was born Paul Charles Caravello; Vinnie Vincent was named Vincent John Cusano; Mark St. John’s real name Mark Leslie North; and last but not least, Eric Singer is Eric Doyle Mensinger. It’s pretty interesting to find out that Gene is Chaim, but stage names are not uncommon.
Paul Stanley Had a “Bandit” Persona Before His “Starchild” Image
By mid-1973, Gene, Ace, and Peter finally settled on some basic ideas for their infamous makeup designs. However, Peter tried a whole new look which is now known as the “Bandit.” The first version had plain black paint framing both eyes.
After plan A made Paul look like a raccoon, they tried again. The second variation was more of a diamond shape, and although it didn’t last long, there is photographic evidence of him in that makeup. To be fair, the iconic makeup look they ultimately went with is also pretty crazy. The difference is, we’re used to it at this point.
KISS Performed as a Trio Twice
Throughout their career, KISS only performed as a trio twice… at least in public. The first time was on January 28, 1982: Gene, Paul, and Eric Carr were the only members to show up at Studio 54 to lip-sync “I” for satellite transmission to the San Remo Music Festival in Italy. The music was from their recently released album, The Elder.
Before the show of July 27, 2007, Paul’s heartbeat was extremely rapid, and he needed to be hospitalized. This was the first time KISS ever performed as a trio during a live concert. It was also the first concert that Stanley missed during his 34-year run with the band.
RIP Eric Carr
There is one non-original band member of KISS who truly earned the love and respect of the KISS Army: the late Eric Carr. From the moment he joined the band in 1980, Carr dedicated himself to the group as well as its fans. By 1991, Carr was in the band longer than co-founder Peter Criss.
But in February of that year, he was beginning to feel sick and was eventually diagnosed with heart cancer. He had a rough battle with the disease, but he was determined. Carr even flew from New York to California to film a music video with KISS that July, but then he needed to focus on his health.
The Same Day Freddie Mercury Died
Carr made his last appearance with KISS at the MTV Video Music Awards in September 1991. He suffered an aneurysm just two days later and was rushed to the hospital. He managed to fight through, but the end was near. The cancer had spread to his brain, and he was left unconscious from a brain hemorrhage.
Carr never recovered and sadly died on November 24, 1991. He was only 41 years old. Strangely, the same day, Freddie Mercury, legendary Queen frontman, passed away due to complications from AIDS. He was just four years older than Carr.
Paul Stanley Wrote God of Thunder…
Gene Simmons’ most famous song was written by Paul Stanley. Any KISS fan knows that God of Thunder is Gene’s signature song and is synonymous with his Demon persona. While performing the song, Gene usually plays his bass solo, split blood, and is even lifted above the stage with wires.
Despite Gene’s association with God of Thunder, the song was originally supposed to be sung by Paul, who wrote the song to prove he could take on heavier and darker traits just like Gene. Or so he thought.
But the Producer Gave It to Gene
Producer Bob Ezrin didn’t feel like it sounded right for Paul. Therefore, he and Simmons modified the lyrics and arrangement, slowing down the tempo quite a bit. Ezrin truly felt like the song matched Gene’s voice and persona way better, so he gave him the song.
As you can imagine, Paul wasn’t thrilled. He was trying to prove a point that was basically disproven. But Paul was a good sport and went along with it anyway. The original version of God of Thunder didn’t see the light of day until 2001 when KISS released it in their five-disk box set.
Bryan Adams Co-Wrote Two KISS Songs
Bryan Adams, the brains behind Summer of ‘69 and (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, is credited on two KISS songs. In 1982, Adams and his songwriting partner Jim Vallance were approached by producer Michael James Jackson and asked if they had any material they want to submit to KISS, who were working on their Creature of the Night record at the time.
They submitted a couple of songs: “War Machine” and “Rock and Roll HELL.” Three months after Creatures of the Night came out, Adams released his Cuts Like a Knife LP and rose to stardom in his own right.