I saw my first concert in 1990, when my dad took me to see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles play a white-hot set at the local Sub Base. That show was so good, that I didn’t have an inkling to see another concert until 6 years later, when I begged my mom to take me to see KISS at the Hartford Civic Center.
Tickets weren’t cheap, so I felt a little guilty for asking, but the on-sale date’s proximity to my father’s wedding got my wheels turning:
Weddings sometimes take place in churcheschurches ask people for moneyI need moneywhy should they get all the money? Drunk people are terrible at money
It was the closest I ever came to an entrepreneurial breakthrough.
This burst of inspiration led to the development of a cup. It was a 32 oz plastic cyan cup stolen from my father’s cupboard and festooned with a sign—produced on my dad’s sweet ass dot matrix printer—that said “Send a kid to KISS.” Because I have balls the size of small grapefruits I never asked anyone if I could do it, just waited until the open bar got everyone drunk enough to open their wallets. One lady tried to turn me into my father and stepmother for allegedly ruining their wedding, but Dad and Linda felt like if this was the least amount of trouble I was going to cause, they were lucky. I’m happy to report that the cup was a rousing success.
Later that night, a well meaning family member dropped my stepsister, her cousin and me off at my father’s house while the other adults continued the party back at the hotel. We ate like the kind of royalty that ate at Domino’s, as my dad said he’d pay me back if I used some cup money to order pizza. I gladly ordered both pizza and wings. It was a great feeling. For that brief period of time, I was a real adult, paying my own way in this world—at least until my father paid me back.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t great at managing resources. That Domino’s delivery represented the balance of the food in the house and I have a medical condition that prevents me from leaving any pizza unfinished, so the closest thing we had to breakfast food was the sauce left inside the wing container. Since I had changed into my tuxedo back at the hotel, my street clothes got left behind and probably saw some things they wish they didn’t have to see. That morning marked the first time I got the chance to search my dad’s house for clothes and walk a mile in another man’s comically oversized shoes to get a can of chili from the local convenience store.
I made it back to the house just in time for my grandfather to come pick me up, so I never ate that chili, which wasn’t much of tragedy. However, I got so excited to leave that I forgot my cup in my father’s entertainment center, effectively changing its function from “Send a Kid to KISS” to “Household Petty Cash.” It was gone by the time I came back next week, though I eventually brokered the release of one copy of Mortal Kombat Trilogy in lieu of the funds. Unfortunately, this fee did not take into account the $20 in pizza purchased with cup funds, but that’s my own fault for not getting it in writing. (For those wondering how much a 13 year old could make by passing around a cup at his father’s wedding, the answer is about $80. That’s $119 in 2014 money!)
My mother, taking pity on her son’s terrible money management skills, still bought me those KISS tickets. This was still pretty early in the reunion tour, so we didn’t get great seats, but we were there—I in a complete Ace Frehley costume, my mother in more sensible jeans.
(Note: If I can track down a picture of me in that costume, I’ll be sure to update this post)
It’s such a bizarre thing to see something you’ve only experienced on TV, especially back before HD. It took me about three songs to get used to the fact that this was really happening right in front of me (give or take a few yards). It was affecting enough that for my freshman year of high school, all I wore were KISS shirts. Luckily, I had a lot of them.
I saw KISS a few more times after that, but as my musical tastes reached in more extreme directions, I had to stretch my musical dollar, meaning that $80 tickets to just about anything were out of the picture (Exception: In 2000, I made my mom take me to see Iron Maiden on her birthday. I should probably feel worse about it than I do). Even when KISS announced their Farewell tour, I didn’t bite.
However, as a last minute addition to the final leg of the tour, a show was added at the Mohegan Sun Casino, which was like 20 minutes away from my house. And when my friend Andy stumbled into some tickets, well, who was I to say no?
Though they have an arena now, at the time their venue consisted of a large tent and some portable seating, which was interesting. Though on paper it would appear that our seats were pretty far back, given the incline of the portable seating arrangement, we were both fairly close and well elevated. And as an added bonus, we met Kevin.
Kevin was a larger man in Gene Simmons makeup that had been applied without a mirror and mostly by memory. His friend—who’s name I don’t recall, so let’s just call him Steve—was also a large man, but differentiated himself from Kevin by asking a young child to finger paint a picture of Ace Frehley’s makeup and then smashing the painting onto his face. They smelled like Budweiser and breathed like Clydesdales. Andy and I were already trying to stifle our laughter when we say them approaching and I have no idea why we didn’t break when Kevin sat down next to me, settled in and stared directly at me until I felt his eyes boring into the side of my face.
“I’m Kevin” he said, offering a hand that looked like five sausage links attached to a jelly donut.
Introductions were made, but when it came time for his friend Steve to shake hands his Space Ace makeup made him forget that gravity is different here on Earth and when he let go of his cup, it went crashing to the floor.
“Aw man.” He said as he made a Droopy Dog face in the direction of his beer. Then he pulled one of my favorite moves ever: he tried to scoop it back into the cup. I don’t know if you’ve ever spilled a liquid, but it’s a hell of a task to get it back in its original container using just your hands. And that’s why the small sip of beer that Steve was able to collect was the sweetest sip he ever had.
The gravity of the situation turned the clock to Beer:Thirty for Kevin and Steve, so off they went to collect a couple more Bud Lights. Being the gentlemen they are, they even offered to get a couple of brews for the 17 year olds next to them—we politely declined.
The show started soon after that and I’m happy to report that Kevin has the singing voice of an angel with throat cancer. I felt bad for the nice young woman that got a sloppy earful of “Beth” when she accidentally walked into Kevin’s strategically placed open arms as he struggled to find the sound, but I suppose that’s the risk one takes when walking anywhere near a man in sloppy KISS makeup.
The show eventually ended and we never saw Kevin and Steve again. I can only assume that given their level of intoxication and the fact that they planned on “hit[tting] the titty bar after [the show]”, they’re both dead now. The point of this story is that though I’m not a man of means and though going to shows takes a pretty decent toll on my body these days, I was willing to take out the credit cards usually reserved for emergency medications and max them out on tickets to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, just to see the original members of KISS one last time. So, I’d like to publicly thank Gene and Paul for not putting me in that position. It’s a quite relief—both monetarily and because I won’t have to be disappointed when Kevin isn’t there.