Paul Stanley's New Book Looks Like the Most Reliable KISStory to Date

Categories: Get Lit

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Photo by Neil Zlozower/Courtesy of HarperOne
KISS in their '70s prime
Face the Music: A Life Exposed
By Paul Stanley
HarperOne, 480 pp., $28.99

With the publication of this glitter-, greasepaint- and leather-slathered tome, all four original members of KISS have now penned their autobiographies.Not surprisingly, as one astute Web site pointed out recently by comparing the quartet -- their memories and opinions of the same shared incidents don't always coincide. Or even come close to similarity. Lead singer/rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley, aka "The Starchild," always seemed like the most level-headed member of the group. Now he has written the best memoir of the four with the most insightful -- and probably accurate -- reading of KISStory.

See also: KISS Drummer Peter Criss Absolves Himself of All Responsibility

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Courtesy of HarperOne
A teenaged Stanley Eisen in his bedroom.
Face the Music is being released the same week of KISS's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, amid soap-opera-worthy squabbling and infighting among both various members/former members and the Hall's organizers. It should be a very, very interesting ceremony tomorrow.

Casual fans will be surprised to discover at the book's start that Stanley (born Stanley Eisen) was born without a fully-formed right ear, just a mass of cartilage, a condition called microtia. Not only did it render him completely deaf on that side of his face, but it led to taunting from neighborhood kids as "Stanley the One-Eared Monster."

Then throw in an upbringing with two unhappy parents seemingly incapable of expressing love or support, and a sister with diagnosed mental problems who once attempted to kill her younger brother with a pair of scissors shortly after leaving a mental institution. You can see how a boy's drive and ambition to become something -- anything -- else fueled his desire to become a rock and roll star.

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In fact, Stanley writes of how the famous KISS makeup and costumes allowed him to be become the flamboyant front man, a character that he could never be in real life. He carried a crippling self-doubt that would haunt him even as he became world-famous, rich, worshipped by fans, and was bedding actresses and Playboy and Penthouse centerfolds by the dozens.

"My makeup was a mask that provided distance between me and the crowd," he writes. "And it gave me the shield I needed. Whatever fears I had of being ridiculed...disappeared. The makeup was my armor. It protected me."

On a side note, Stanley utterly dismisses the rampant rumors that he is/was gay, though even he admits it was an easy conclusion to come to given his effeminate and androgynous stage persona and moves.

The story of how KISS became "the hottest band in the world," according to their own concert intro, is already well-documented, most recently with the extensive oral history of the band's early years, Nothin' to Lose. But Stanley adds a lot to the story from personal experience and sheds light on his love/hate relationship with his KISS co-founder and bandmate, the even more-driven-to-succeed Gene Simmons.


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