Mega Festival Fair act brings back fond memories

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 6, 2003

When you are a child, you tend to want to be a superhero. In my day, most kids wanted to be Superman, Batman or Spiderman. Not me.

I wanted to be Ace Frehley. "Who is Ace Frehley?" some of you may ask. He is the lead guitarist for the band KISS.

When I heard the Tri-State Mega Festival & Fair had secured the KISS Army tribute band, I reflected on my childhood, when KISS members were, in fact, superheroes to many American children. After all, how cool are four face-painted musicians in comic-book costumes spitting fire and blood?

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Back in the mid- to late-1970s, three of the neighborhood kids and I were KISS. I was Ace, Chad was Peter Criss, Doug was Gene Simmons and Vic was Paul Stanley. We had concerts, in costume, complete with flashing strobelights. We put the band's LPs on the turntable and would lipsync to the tunes.

Some of the concerts were held in my garage, but most were performed in Chad's basement.

Every once in a while, we even had an audience. I recall one day when we had a concert in my garage, close to a dozen other kids showed up. Some probably came because they thought we were crazy, but others were obviously entertained by our portrayal of one of the most popular rock bands of the 1970s.

Sometimes we wore makeup for our concerts, but only when our parents could help us paint our faces. When we couldn't wear makeup, we would draw the designs on paper with crayons or markers and tape them to our faces.

We had altered old snow boots to look like the ones KISS wore. We would use aluminum foil and other household items to bring about the metallic effect of the band's costumes.

For obvious reasons, we didn't get into the fire-breathing and pyrotechnics, but on a few occasions we had some vampire blood left over from Halloween to simulate bassist/singer Gene Simmons' blood-spitting episodes.

Looking at old pictures, I now see that we looked flat-out silly. In the eyes of 7-, 8- and 9-year-old kids, though, we looked like the "Real McCoys."

During those years, I was too young to see KISS perform live. One time, I had an offer from a babysitter to go with him to a show in Cincinnati when I was about 8, but, of course, my parents said no. When I was finally allowed to go to a KISS concerts -- in 1984 -- the band had removed the makeup and had made some personnel changes, leaving just Paul and Gene from the original line-up. Although it was great to hear them perform some of the old songs, the mystique wasn't the same.

Then it happened. In 1996, some 20 years since I first got into KISS, the aging rockers put the makeup and stage costumes back on and went on tour again. In '96 and '97, I saw the band three times.

I felt like a kid again. The vivid memories of my KISS tribute days came back.

Last night, of course, I went to the Mega Festival to watch KISS Army. Although it was a good show, I don't think they were quite the showmen that Chad, Doug, Vic and I were. But then again, that was 25 years ago, and all I have left are the memories -- and a few pictures.

Shawn Doyle is managing editor of The Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445 ext. 19 or by e-mail to shawn.doyle