Greg Zimmerman

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Hello people, I'm Greg from Zurich, Switzerland. Here's my personal Kisstory...

One afternoon during the summer of 1976 I was at a friend's place. He had enthused about this band called KISS for weeks, but I had always been reluctant to learn anything about them. Remember, KISS had just toured across Europe for the very first time, and since they had also played in Zurich, magazines and newspapers were full of them. I disliked KISS because in my mind at that time, they were a wild bunch of punks, putting on a very violent show - after all, wasn't there blood spilled on stage?

It was in this frame of mind that I entered this friend's room. He picked up a few albums from a pile on the floor and handed them to me. They were KISS albums. "Hotter Than Hell" was there, and "Alive!" and "KISS". When I looked at the covers, something began to change. They looked very cool and very exciting, especially on the "Alive!" cover. My friend put "Alive!" on his turntable, and when the band tore into "Deuce" and all those bombs went off, I turned into a fan. This was it! Here finally was a band that played fresh and exciting hard rock and had the image to match. I was in awe. Apart from "Deuce", it was "Strutter", "She", "100,000 Years" and "Black Diamond" that knocked me out completely.

In September 1980 I got to see KISS live for the first time. By that time, Eric Carr had replaced Peter Criss on the drums. It was a fantastic sold-out show. I didn't like the costumes from the Dynasty/Unmasked period much, but otherwise it was an unforgettable experience.

In July 1981 I spent a few days in New York and paid a visit to the Aucoin Management on Manhattan's Madison Avenue. The receptionist welcomed me warmly and pointed out to me that I had just missed Eric Carr by half an hour. In the adjoining office I could see Bill Aucoin sitting in his chair and making a phone call with his feet on the desk. The receptionist gave me posters and stickers and autographed photos.

In 1983 I saw KISS live in concert - and without their make-up. By that time, Vinnie Vincent was the lead guitarist. The fact that I don't remember much about that show speaks for itself. It must have been a pretty ordinary presentation, and not particularly "KISS".

In October 1984 I was in London. My mum's side of the family live here, so I get to come to London quite often. Anyway, I saw the second show at Wembley Arena, now with Bruce Kulick, who at that point was still only a temporary fill-in. It was a solid, energetic show, but nowhere near as spectacular as in the make-up days. The day after the show, a friend and I were invited to Sky Channel studios. It had been arranged for us to visit the studio, meet VJ Pat Sharp and get a look behind the curtains. But the day turned out quite different. First, we actually went on the show as Pat's guests. Second, while we were hanging around in the lobby in the afternoon, waiting to meet the other VJ Gary Davis, something quite surprising happened: When, after what had seemed like hours, the door opened and we expected Gary to step in, a tall figure with long hair marched in, said "Hi" and sat down on a chair opposite from me and my friend. It was PAUL STANLEY! We weren't quite over the initial shock yet, when the door opened again and GENE SIMMONS came in. He sat down next to me and smiled. I said something like
"Wow, this is incredible! We've been KISS fans for ages, and now we finally get to meet you!"
I told Paul that I had really enjoyed the previous night's show, and he nodded his approval. Gene in the meantime had spotted my copy of Kerrang magazine and asked me if he could have a look at it. He read Dante Bonutto's review of the first concert and smiled a lot. Then a man came in and offered refreshments. Paul had a Coke, Gene had water. We all sat there waiting for something to happen. Paul and Gene had a pile of black-and-white photos with them (the group shot from the back cover of "Animalize") and signed them. Of course, my friend and I got our copies. After a while, a young woman entered. It became apparent that she was very friendly with Paul. He suddenly started singing Barry Manilow's "Mandy", but with slightly altered lyrics: "Oh Mandy, you came once, you came twice, you came all night..." And winking at the woman whose name obviously was Mandy, he said "Next time bring your sister too!" Ah, the lives rock stars lead... When Gary Davis finally turned up, the mystery of Paul and Gene's presence at Sky Channel was solved. KISS were to host a show together with Gary, chat about this and that, with a few video clips thrown in. Supposedly, Eric and Bruce were downstairs somewhere.

We all went downstairs to the studio, where we met Bruce and Eric. Bruce turned out to be shy and gentle and was genuinely pleased when I told him how well he suited the band. When I asked him to sign on the photo (showing Mark St. John, not Bruce), he scribbled his name very modestly on the top right corner, away from the others. Eric on the other hand was as funny as you'd expect him to be. Bear in mind that I was holding my magazine and the photo, my friend was holding a camera, and Eric himself was holding a can of Coke plus a little artificial bird that he wanted to stick on his shoulder for the show. We tried to do this with string, but the bird wouldn't stand up properly. Eric engaged us in a hilarious little swapping game. He handed me the Coke so he could get hold of the bird, asked for my friend's camera while giving him the bird. I had to hand him the magazine, took the camera off Eric who in turn placed the Coke in my friend's hands and - you get the picture. Finally, the bird wound up on Eric's leather bracelet, and you can actually see it on his right wrist when you watch the show closely. He named the bird "Brenda the parrot" and at the end of the show you can see Eric pluck the poor thing! Me and my friend also got our autographs.

The director asked Bruce to shave as he showed considerable stubble, and then the four of them were made up for the show. As KISS and Gary Davis did their antics, we stood nearby, right next to Mark, the producer of the show. He was very pleased and said "What a professional band they are." It's true, almost all of the show was done in first takes, it all went very smoothly.

Later on, we were all hanging around. Another woman had appeared out of nowhere, she seemed to be very friendly with Gene. There was laughter and singing, but suddenly a man said, "All right, let's get moving, you've got to do a radio interview!" He pointed out that KISS were already late. I jumped up and said, "Please, can we take your picture?" It was Gene who replied, "Sure, but you've got to hurry." We all stepped outside, I stood right next to KISS and said to my bewildered friend, "Quick, take a picture!" He had one more exposure on his film, that was it, so there was no chance of taking two photos. He looked around for someone to take the camera, but somehow everybody else had gone back into the building or hopped into one of the two waiting limousines, so my friend reluctantly took the picture. It didn't come out very well, but that's life.

In 1995 I attended a Kiss Konvention in Lausanne, Switzerland. Special guest was Ace Frehley who readily answered all questions, no matter how often he must have heard some of them.

So much for my KISS encounters. I have seen them in concert five times (twice during the reunion tour in 1996 and 1997). I own all their albums (original vinyl releases), and I also have the 1979 Ibanez Paul Stanley guitar, of which I'm very proud. I used to have thousands of photos and articles cut out of magazines, as well as posters, but I've cut down on those considerably. Still, I have remained a KISS fan to this day. I smile when I think back to when I was eleven years old and my parents would say, "It's a passing craze, he will be over KISS in two years time". They were never wronger...

So, I hope you enjoyed my story. I would love to hear from you, for unbelievable as it seems - nobody in my circle of friends is into KISS! I'm 34 years old, and my e-mail address is: g.zimmermann@vonerlach.ch. Thanks - and never stop rocking!

 

 

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