KISS Conventions: A Carnival of Like-Minded Souls

KISS' official web site has published an advance story from issue No. 5 of the official KISS magazine. Written by Melanie "Sass" Falina, the story focuses on the countless KISS conventions and expos that are regularly held around the world. An excerpt from the article follows:

In the vast world of all things KISS, few elicit such loyalty and devotion as the KISS conventions and expos. Whether organized by fans or thrown by KISS themselves (the Official Worldwide Conventions), these events serve as living, breathing proof of not only how utterly important KISS is to their fans, and how important the fans are to KISS, but also of how necessary that symbiosis is to both.

"The KISS conventions were started very naturally as a labor of love by the fans. It was always very appreciated, and I actually admired it a lot," said Gene Simmons in a frank conversation with KISS Magazine.

"But one of the reasons we couldn't appear at these things is because any live event has to have an insurance umbrella. That is, when we have a concert, there's concert protection: there are cops and laws and insurance paid in case anybody gets hurt or something like that." After years of hearing about the conventions thrown for the glory of KISS, the band decided to do their own 23-city official convention tour.

"KISS conventions were something we always wanted to do. The conventions were a chance, at least conceptually, for us to get up there and get real close to the fans without a snake pit and without security guards, yet every KISS convention was run professionally."

Paul adds, "The idea behind the KISS Conventions was that, being the band, we could offer an experience that no one else could. And in a lot of ways, that no other band could. We had a traveling museum where the fans could see the evolution of the costumes. In a way all the other Expos were really nothing more than KISS flea markets."

"At that time," Simmons continues, "Tommy Thayer — who was just coming off of being lead guitar player in BLACK 'N BLUE — started working for us doing odd jobs and putting together production stuff for 'KISStory' (which was another project I was stubborn about doing ourselves, because when we let publishers do it, it always winds up being second-rate; they don't get KISS the way we do). Tommy always had the kind of dedication and hard work ethic that I wish more people would have—I certainly hope that I have that.'

The process of finding out what needed to be done and preparing for the convention was tedious. "I'd get on the phone, and newspaper editors would be a little taken aback because I don't use secretaries. 'Hi, it's Gene Simmons. What's a full-page ad cost in the Sunday paper?' And the guy would say, 'You're Gene Simmons? Prove it!' Then the guy would say, 'Sunday, full-page ad, twenty grand.' So I'd say, 'Do me a favor; I'll get you tickets, get you a sandwich, whatever.' He'd say, 'Oh, for you, ten grand.'
"Tommy went ahead of us. We sent him to the major hotels in each of the cities, and his orders were pretty strict: You go on your own, get the best deals you can, take over the ballroom, find out who the local editor is, get the fans involved because they want to be involved. The first American one popped in Los Angeles because that made the most sense. For the first time, we actually got to meet and get to know the fans. The fans were a part of our lives, and it seems we certainly have been a part of their lives."

Paul remembers, "It was a unique experience and although it was high priced, because of the relatively low number of people at each event, we didn't make a lot of money. But wealth sometimes comes in other measures. It was quite an experience starting a song that you knew there was no way you were going to make it to the end of. That being said, musically it led to 'KISS Unplugged'. MTV sent someone out to one of them and said ‘You have to do this on 'Unplugged'.' It was always so great — and the idea of it being important enough to someone to get married at is something that stays with you. We were fortunate to experience the out pouring of appreciation from the fans—and the fun that it allowed us to have."

Read the entire article at KissOnline.com.

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