The Starchild of KISS finally tells his side of the story in what is really the most readable of the four (co-authored) autobiographies by the band’s original members. While I’ve enjoyed all four books, Paul’s is the one where I constantly found myself saying, “Just one more chapter” every night before closing it.
The transformation of Stanley the One-eared Monster to the Starchild of the 1970s biggest and most outrageous rock band to the sub-par era of Unmasked through Hot in the Shade to the Reunion and beyond is quite an amazing journey. And, while the book is very much about KISS, the main focus, really, is Paul Stanley’s life, of which KISS is a major part, but certainly not the only part. We meet Stanley, the kid who suffered in school, dealt with his drug-addicted and violent sister, his distant parents, and the brilliant frontman who was so naive in business matters, and finally end up with a family man who has found a sense of inner peace. And millions of dollars.
Paul’s book is intelligently written, like Gene’s, but as always he comes off as the more down-to-earth, humble superstar who is thankful for the fans, and he is able to recognize his own flaws. There aren’t blank years of his life and albums and tours he can’t remember, like readers will find in Ace’s book, and he isn’t constantly breaking down in tears like Peter talked about.
But, Paul is merciless in his depiction of Peter Criss. Almost from the very beginning he talks about what a poor drummer Peter was and how Peter kept threatening to quit the band. It begs the question of why they didn’t fire Peter way back in the early days, before they’d even made their first demo, if Peter was so bad. It’s a question he never answers.
My only real complaint about this book is that there seems to be a lack of depth. Granted, Paul is covering around 60 years of his life in about 450 pages, but I could have done with fewer food descriptions and more details about the writing and recording of songs and albums. I would have liked to read his take on the photo shoot for the Hotter than Hell album cover. I wanted more of an explanation for Unmasked and The Elder. What sent them from the absolute crap of Hot in the Shade to Revenge, one of their best albums?
He does call out Gene for a number of things, nearly all related to the Demon’s massive ego. He addresses the persistent rumor of his hidden homosexuality, something Peter seemed to love to hint at in his book. And, while he talks briefly about the various ailments brought about by a life of performing in KISS, he doesn’t saying anything about the suitcase full of drugs that Peter claims Paul took on tour.
It would be interesting to take all the autobiographies, the authorized histories, and the tell-all books from people who have worked with the band and try to put them together to get an objective sense of what the internal workings of KISS was and is really like.
Finally, Paul talks about how KISS is bigger than its members and how the band should (or will) continue once he and Gene retire. As a fan, that’s unthinkable. I can accept Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer; I really like the two albums the band has done with these guys. But Paul and Gene have always been the main voices of the band, even when they maintained the illusion of four guys with equal input. It wouldn’t be KISS without them. And honestly, as much as I like the Monster album, after they seemed to phone in their last performance in Tulsa, maybe it is time to hang it up and cook Brussels sprouts.