Kiss, Cher, and Rock and Roll

Buckle up for this one. It’s going to be a crazy, zig-zaggy ride.

When I heard the news a couple of weeks ago that Kiss was finally going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I was thrilled, but surprised that they weren’t already in there.

Sidenote: You might be surprised to learn that I’m a big fan of Kiss. Surprise! I like their music a lot, I think Gene Simmons is one of the smartest business-minds out there, and shhhh! Guilty pleasure alert: I loved watching the adventures of the Tweed-Simmons family on A&E’s “Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels” (“Scripted Reality” or not, that was good television). Oddly enough, I became a Kiss fan after purchasing and playing to death the soundtrack to a 1981 movie I was not allowed to see at that time: “Endless Love”. Kiss’ song “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” was on that record album (yes, record album), and that’s what got me hooked.

The movie soundtrack was not my first exposure to the music, though. I knew about Kiss before that, but just didn’t like them. Naturally, I have a story.

Anyway, the news of the band’s induction and subsequently, their first Rolling Stone cover ever—I mean, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? First ever???—got me thinking about my fifth grade talent show. I decided, with my friend Suzanne, to audition for the talent show even though the idea of being on stage made me want to throw up. We thought it would be fantastic to be in the talent show doing a Sonny and Cher variety act. Suzanne, being a petite little thing, was going to take on the role of Sonny Bono. Being taller, I lucked out because I would be Cher.

We practiced our song (“I Got You, Babe”, of course) and a couple of jokes in the fun-loving-but-biting style that the duo shared on their television show. And we practiced. And we practiced.

In fact, I thought even more about practicing for that talent show when I pulled this out of my closet recently…

Butterfly disco shirt

…because had my mom bought it in 1978 instead of 1980, perhaps I would have worn that to the talent show. That’s definitely a Cher-worthy shirt.

On the day of auditions, I was completely grossed out by a group of boys that was ahead of us. They were auditioning as a band named Kiss that I had never heard of, and the boy who was impersonating Gene Simmons had ketchup packets in his mouth that, at the right time, he bit down on so as to look like he was spitting “blood” just like Gene did onstage. I thought it was disgusting. Also, the ketchup smelled awful.

Suzanne and I ended up making the talent show but chickened out shortly after being selected. We were both having second thoughts about our act (funny, the real Sonny and Cher ended up having second thoughts, too) and I didn’t want to see those boys performing their Kiss song with the stinky ketchup, anyway.

Years later in 1985 and after I had become a Kiss fan, I accompanied Jim’s family to the Knoxville airport to see him off to Navy Boot Camp. When we arrived at the gate, we noticed that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were sitting there, waiting for their plane.

I KNOW, RIGHT???!!!!

We sat in the next row over and watched person after person go over and ask for autographs. My sister-in-law (then thirteen) and I (then seventeen) were too afraid to approach them. They had enormous presence, ENORMOUS and intimidating. Although I was trying to work up the courage to say something, they jokingly gave a teenaged boy a hard time when he asked them to sign his cassette tape and I decided I would just observe.

Eventually they got up to board their plane and once they were out of sight my sister-in-law and I immediately went over to where they had been sitting, sat down, and started singing crazy songs about how our butts were in the same spots as the butts of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. Don’t visualize me doing that as the Melisa you know now; picture me doing it as the Melisa from back then. Trust me. It’s not quite as scary or creepy. Maybe. And that’s the story of why Kiss has a special place in my heart.

Oh, one more thing. As I wrote this post I remembered that Cher and Gene Simmons dated for a while (in 1979-80). It really has nothing to do with anything but I think that random pop culture fact is a pretty good way to connect all the pieces of this nonsensical post, don’t you think?

Or maybe just this: