Last Sunday at Woodfield Mall's Wentworth Gallery, in Schaumburg, Illinois, Kiss frontman Paul Stanley made a personal appearance to sell and autograph some of his paintings. I wasn't there, but I'm pretty sure this is how it went down:
"Ya know somethin', people, art ain't just about makin' things look pretty or weird. Sometimes it's about gettin' a little crazy and havin' a rock 'n' roll party!!!!"
The middle-aged Kiss fans in the gallery pumped their fists and screamed back at Stanley, while the middle-aged art lovers in their wake politely applauded, hoping to be spared a trampling. Stanley then resumed his speech, converting a famous painter's name into a high-pitched melody.
"I'm talkin' 'bout Vincent Van Gogh-ohh-ohh-ohhhhh!!!! I'm talkin' 'bout after he cut off his ear, people. When he could hear only half the classical lute music he was listenin' to. But that didn't stop him. Not ol' Vincent! He went on to paint flowers and stars and all kinds of crazy things. He had a passion! Just like you over there!"
Stanley began pointing to various people in the crowd.
"Over there! Right over here! That girl near the emergency exit! The guy with the sauvignon blanc in his hand! The pretty lady with the brie and the crackers and the napkin! The Kiss Army soldier eatin' the giant pretzel he bought at the food court!
"You have a passion just like ol' Vincent! A passion for great art created with the spirit of rock 'n' roll! I thank ya from the bottom of my heaaaart for comin' out tonight! You're awesome! Goodnight!"
For his encore Stanley expounded upon Wassily Kandinsky's paintings Black Lines (1913) and Several Circles (1926) and how the elements of chaos and control are important to balance whether you're illuminating a canvas or singing and maneuvering around live pyrotechnics in seven-inch leather heels.
The Arlington Heights Post reported that "the price range for the art by Stanley at the Schaumburg gallery is $1,550 to $60,000." Pretty steep, especially if you're a blue-collar Kiss fan, but he is signing the paintings, so quit your bitchin'. This is Starchild we're talking about, after all, the celestial being with the Noo Yawk accent.
I love the irony-free caption the Post used underneath one of his paintings on its Web site: "Paul Stanley's art is often abstract, but some works feature recognizable images such as heart shapes."
Now you know what to get grandma for Christmas.
In case you're in doubt, I really do respect Kiss as a band and a brand, and I appreciate that Stanley, who's a genuine rock showman, doesn't shoot his mouth off in interviews the way musical partner Gene Simmons does (see: Simmons talking to NPR's Terry Gross in 2002). And as Michael O'Mahony, the Wentworth Gallery's owner, said in the Post, "First and foremost, it's very good art ... It doesn't hurt that it's a famous guy and a rock star, but if it wasn't good, I wouldn't carry it."
Below is a terrific spoken-word piece by Adam Woodrow, the transcript of which I found somewhere on the Internet last year. It's called "The Love Theme From Kiss (Larger Than Life)," and it can be found on Vermiform Records' The Fear of Smell LP (c. 1993):
I'm sitting here listening to Dynasty ... some people call that their disco album. But their real fans know different. Not the kids who collect baseball cards and Kiss shit. I'm talking about those of us who hoped their parents would die in a car crash or something so they could be adopted. Maybe by Gene or Paul or Ace or Peter. I wanted to kill that little piece of shit Adam Rich: it said in Tiger Beat he was Gene's number one fan. That was so fucking unfair. Just because he's a celebrity? Fuck him.
I'm talking about losers from Queens and New Jersey and Long Island who defended Kiss when Van Halen was supposedly king. Kids who later dropped out of high school to work at their father's plumbing supply store. Cheesy chocolate-milk mustaches and faded transfer T-shirts and work boots—unlaced, of course. Girls with big asses and poofy hair and roach-clip feather earrings who still wear leg warmers: these are true Kiss fans. Fans who would take the time to write into Creem or Rip to defend Paul. How dare they say Paul's a fag—Kiss is the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world. How could he be a fag then? Tell us. Kiss isn't a joke to look back on, they weren't a phase. They were the whole fucking world. They weren't an escape because they were my entire reality.