Repayment for the Best Interview Ever
August 19, 2015 by Thomas Wictor
Can’t post tonight. Here’s my account of how a record company helped me out after I conducted the best interview ever of one of its stars.
Repayment for the best interview ever
After “Gene Simmons: Call Him Doctor Love” was published in Bass Player, I did something for the first and only time in my career as a music journalist: I asked a record company for tickets to a show, Kiss at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood. I figured I’d earned it.
Two weeks went by, my self-esteem withering a little more with each passing day. The tickets finally arrived the afternoon of the concert, my name misspelled on the envelope. By that time, my date had long since bailed, so I went by myself. I thought ahead and parked in a semi-distant lot instead of at the Forum, where about 15,000 tailgate parties were in progress. I made my way through the swarms of scalpers, who’d changed their sales pitches from when I was a college-aged concertgoer.
At the entrance to the stadium, I had my sides, armpits, and buttocks fondled by a disgusted security guard. Inside, I became aware of several things. One is that concertgoers are cattle, herded and prodded through concrete portals and chutes to meet their destiny in chaos and foul, slippery floors. I also learned that for Kiss fans, time is meaningless. I saw hundreds of men my age or older, in black T-shirts stretched over enormous paunches that hung in front of them like sacks of cement. They hurried by with giant cups of beer and cardboard boxes filled with reeking cheeseburgers and fries, ready to power-gobble like growing children. Many of these guys had shoulder-length hair sprouting from the sides of their otherwise bald heads, and the majority were there with their buddies instead of wives.
A few doffed their shirts before the show even started. The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” played on the PA, and they danced to it at their seats as if it were the first time they’d heard it instead of the ten millionth.
Conical, beer-bloated man-breasts flapped and bounced like the boobs of the best exotic dancers. I felt a rush of déja vu and realized the last time I’d seen these guys was in 1981 at a Clash concert in the Seattle Kingdome, where I’d had to save tiny Joe Cady from being trampled flat in the rush for the festival seating.
All of us were nineteen or so back then, and here we were again, together once more in our mid-thirties. I felt a moment of swooning panic, sure I was back at my hellish college, still floundering around as I tried to figure out what to do with my life.
In the Kiss Army, the Women’s Movement is as dead as Helen of Troy. I saw the most physically repulsive guys in the world walking hand-in-hand with taut, blonde, cheerful, siliconed cuties, leading them smugly into the fenced-off VIP areas in front of the stage. The women flounced along with pride, their heads high. There’s something almost sweet about someone who does whatever it takes to get what she wants. Looking at the men they were with made me admit that those women really earned their seats and passes.
My own seat was in the stratosphere. The stage resembled a neat, toy-like science project, a collection of black matchboxes, test tubes, and saltshakers. I could barely make out vague, tiny movements as the roadies fiddled with the equipment. Up where I was, the women were crammed into miniskirts, jeans, and black leather pants tight enough to damage circulation. These ladies weren’t the cheetah-like trophies of the VIPs.
One woman in front of me wore white vinyl pants and a tiny halter-top. Her stomach slopped over her belt like an empty brown wineskin. When her male companion slapped her butt, which he did every few seconds, the way you slap the haunch of a good dog, her entire body jiggled. Her back jiggled. A ripple ran from her backside all the way up to the top of her head, rebounded, and swept down to her ass again. She drank five enormous cups of beer while I was there, and when she turned around I saw she looked exactly like Leonid Brezhnev.
She was about twenty-seven years old.
The opening act was a group of nice kids who called themselves Stabbing Westward. After listening to their contemptuous, obscenity-laden rants at the bored, restless crowd, I figured the name had to be a sexual reference. Their songs were all identical, an earsplitting throbbing interspersed with crashes, clangs, roars, and node-embellished yowls. Everything was played in the same muddy key.
They hopped unhappily around the stage, their legs together and their arms held straight down by their sides, and they whipped their heads up and down like crazed iguanas. Then they left, the lead singer snarling, “Enjoy the rest of the shooooow!”
During the intermission, most of the people in the crowd began smoking pot. They also started winding themselves up into a stuporous frenzy, like zombies trying to slam dance. The spirit was willing, but alas, the flesh was weak. I wondered what was going to happen when the concert ended, because everyone was drinking, getting high, or both.
That guy over there, the one with the tattooed neck, the Megadeth T-shirt, the hair that had been cut with Playskool scissors, and the rotted, gap-toothed grin—the one swaying and coughing and roaring “Paaarrrrrty!”—was he the designated driver? He must’ve been, because he was much better off than his comatose pals. Thousands of weaving, careening vehicles would be unleashed on the streets and freeways as soon as the show ended. I felt doomed.
Suddenly, the lights went out, the audience lurched bellowing to its feet, and a voice warbled, “Lehdies an’ gennelmen, yoo ast f’ the best, yoo got it, th’ hottes’ ban’ inna lan’—KEEISS!” The floodlights snapped on and a giant curtain with the band’s Nazi-ish logo on it fell to the stage floor, accompanied by explosions as loud as municipal-strength fireworks. And there they were, the four of them, playing “Deuce.”
The guy next to me yelled “All right! Rock and roll!” He took out a pipe and had a few hits of pot or meth or crack. He was at least forty-five years old, with a swollen red face and a ghastly hair-weave. On his third hit, he gagged on his smoke and dropped the pipe, giggling “Whoopsie!” as his knees folded and he collapsed into a boneless pile on the cement floor. After a few seconds he pumped his fist feebly. I assumed he was still alive, though it could’ve been just a final reflexive spasm.
The audience began singing along with the band, which was unfathomably loud. To recreate Kiss’s sound, at least to my plugged, oversensitive ears, take an empty fifty-five-gallon oil drum, drop a switched-on Black and Decker circular saw into it, add an old-fashioned upright vacuum cleaner also switched on, and toss in a live cat and a double handful of steel ball bearings. Put your head into the drum, have a couple of friends bang the sides with sledgehammers, and scream “Waaaaaaaaaaaa” at the top of your lungs. My ears rang even with the plugs, a first for a stadium show.
I left after only four songs, woozy with secondhand pot smoke. The people around me were so relaxed they’d lost control of their bodily functions, puking like faucets or letting rip with sulfurous cheeseburger-farts of unimaginable pestilence. Body odor combined with the smells of spilled beer, vomit, intestinal gas, and weed to produce a miasma I could actually taste when I breathed through my mouth. I also knew if I stayed until the end, it would take three hours to get home, if I even made it at all with these thousands of impaired, middle-aged kids driving like bats out of hell, flooring it to be the first out of the parking lot. My mission to experience a Kiss concert was an abject failure.
Still, I’m forever grateful to Gene Simmons for the terrific performance art we created together.
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