Being a Male KISS Groupie: My Life as a KISS Fanzine Publisher (CHAPTER I)

KISS.Article.Cyrus.Aman

Article on KISS I wrote for my school paper.

When I was in high school, my life was KISS. Sure, I had friends and family, but those people were victims of my endless rants about how KISS was the greatest-damn-band-in-the-world and why-they-should-be-listening-to-them. On Halloween I’d go to school in KISS make-up. If there was a talent show at school, I’d appear in KISS make-up to lip synch their songs. On every other day I was wearing a KISS t-shirt. My room was covered in KISS posters. I was obsessed.

Cyrus.Aman.Vinnie.Vincent

A heavy-set teen, with a big Iranian nose, trying to pull off being Vinnie Vincent. Didn’t even have the color scheme right (he had a gold Ankh, not silver).

Cyrus.Aman.Gene.Simmons

Competing in a High School talent show. I lost.

Cyrus.Aman.Paul.Stanley

Had the star on the wrong eye. That’s what you get for trusting the mirror.

Within months of buying my first KISS album I owned their entire catalog on compact disc (at the time, a luxury format). I scoured Heavy Metal magazines, both domestic (Circus, Hit Parader) and import (Metal Hammer, Kerrang!) for any minute shred of information I could get on them. However, those publications didn’t satisfy my craving. I soon discovered an alternative venue of KISS news, that was ALL KISS news: The underground world of fanzines. Before blog sites, there were fanzines (“‘zines”, for short). Fan produced magazines were the source of information you wouldn’t find in mainstream media. Not only would a music-based ‘zine contain articles and/or interviews on the subjects they covered, but also fan art and “For Sale” or “For Swap” classified columns, as well as fan art and photography. There were a plethora of such KISS ‘zines in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

KISS.Crazy.Eric.Carr.Cyrus.Aman

For me it was KISS Crack.

My first exposure to one was “KISS Crazy” a UK based ‘zine, that I bought at my local record store. It had an interview with Gene Simmons that was more personal than I’d ever read in any national publication. Then there was “The New England KISS Collector’s Network”. The publishers (John and Karen Lesniewski) were also the authors of the “KISS Collectibles: Identification and Price Guide“.
They even had photos of themselves posing with Gene Simmons! In my eyes, they were living a fantasy-life that I wanted to be a part of. Shortly after I graduated high school, a friend said to me “Why don’t you do the same thing? That way YOU can meet KISS!”

KISS.Cyrus.Aman.Price.Guide

Karen & John’s KISS Price Guide. I subscribed to their ‘zine, and Karen really helped me get my start (Rest In Peace, Karen).

I took him up on the idea. I got a hold of Karen at The New England Kiss Collector’s Network, and asked her how she did it. She explained that Gene had a guy he hired, named Brad, to run what he (Gene) called “KISS Central”. KISS Central was a conduit for fanzine publishers to set up interviews or get backstage passes to KISS shows. This way the ‘zines had content. Needless to say, I was in. Within a month I’d printed (well, photocopied) my first issue of “Washington State KISS Konnection”, and within three months I met Mr. Simmons himself.

My 'zine.

My ‘zine.

The first time I met Gene was in late 1992. I knew KISS were going to play Seattle, so I gave Brad a call. He said he could hook me up with pre-show passes (backstage passes for before the show begins) and a photo pass (to take my camera right up to the front of the stage, with all the press photographers). I was 18 at the time, and drooling KISS blood at this prospect. “You’ll just have to pick them up at will-call,” he told me.

I lugged my grandfather’s 35mm Nikon camera to that show, hoping everything would go smooth. Sure enough, the passes were there. They were adhesive; so I stuck them on my shirt, below my jean jacket. At one point a security person told me “You can’t have a camera in the venue.” It felt great to open my coat and show her my photo pass. “Oh, OK. You’re good!”

KISS.Backstage.Pass.Cyrus.Aman

The Golden Tickets.

Eric.Singer.KISS.Seattle.1992.Cyrus.Aman

Eric rushing past some groupies, backstage.

When I got backstage I briefly met Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick of KISS, as they were walking from catering. But the real moment of transfixion was when Gene appeared. From a distance I saw him appear at the end of a hallway. Local Seattle strippers were in wait (they were there as stage dancers for the KISS song “Take It Off”). Gene picked up the blonde one and started making out with her in front of everyone. After he had his way with her, he slowly walked over to the gaggle of fans—including me—who were await.

KISS.Gene.Simmons.stripper.Seattle.1992.Cyrus.Aman

Gene’s strippers.

King.Gene.Simmons.Seattle.1992.Cyrus.Aman

King Gene, approaching his minions.

He had brief conversations with everyone. When he got to me I was in complete shock. I showed him a copy of my ‘zine, and rambled about how Karen gave me pointers for the fanzine, that I used to be into Duran Duran before KISS (he gave me a leery eye at that one), and on, and on. I kept yammering, and he began imitating my lips moving up and down. I calmed down and asked for a photo. I asked if he’d take a photo of us sticking our tongues out together. Gene sticks his tongue out often for fans, but you don’t see many (at that point, I’d seen none) where he sticks his tongue out with a fan. He furrowed his brows and leered again, signaling that I may be asking for too much. But I was 18 and desperate.

“PLEASE! PLEASE!” I begged him, like the whiny kid I was.

He reluctantly said, “OK.”

Cyrus.Aman.Gene.Simmons.KISS.Seattle.1992

18 years old, with my then-idol.

KISS.Gene.Simmons.Seattle.1992.Cyrus.Aman

I got some shots of goofy Gene.

The night was fantastic. I got plenty of photos of the band onstage, and went home having had one of the best experiences —at that point—of my life.

Here’s some shots during the first 3 songs of their set:

KISS.band.1992.Seattle.Cyrus.Aman

Playing “Deuce”.

KISS.Gene.Simmons.2.Seattle.1992.Cyrus.Aman

“The Demon” at play.

KISS.Paul.Stanley.Seattle.1992.Cyrus.Aman

“Woo!”

Bruce.Kulick.KISS.Seattle.1992.Cyrus.Aman

Bruce is a swell guy. He plays for Grand Funk Railroad now.

Paul probably wouldn't want this in a press-kit.

Paul probably wouldn’t want this in a press kit.

It was less than two years later that I met Gene again, at a local music festival called “Endfest”, put on by 107.7 “The End. You can read more about that in Part III.

In 1993 I would find myself corresponding with KISS by mail and phone. Check that out in Part II.

7 thoughts on “Being a Male KISS Groupie: My Life as a KISS Fanzine Publisher (CHAPTER I)

  1. Pingback: Being a Male KISS Groupie: My Life as a KISS Fanzine Publisher (CHAPTER II) | Cyrus Aman

  2. Great post!! Those live pics from Seattle 1992 are some of the best I’ve seen of the modified and refinished #1 B.C. Rich Eagle and until now I had never realized that Paul actually pulled out the #3 PS10 prototype for the Revenge tour. With your permission I’d like to use some of those pics on my site-under-construction about the guitars of KISS: http://www.axeology.com

  3. Pingback: webbtips – Being a Male KISS Groupie - Destroyer- Kiss Army Sweden

  4. My name is Angelina – Karen was my mother, and it is so nice to see what a positive impact she had on you and others in the Kiss community. Thank you for the kind words. 🙂

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