By John Jeffrey
Attention KISS fans!! Brace yourselves, because original drummer Peter Criss has been issued the launch codes, and on October 23, 2012, Criss will be dropping the bomb, which will cause an upheaval in the ranks of the KISS Army for sure! Peter's projectile will come in the form of his autography, "Makeup To Breakup - My Life in and out of KISS" (co-authored by Larry "Ratso" Sloman), which is by far the most scathing and dirt dishing book put out in reference to any member of KISS, past or present. "Makeup To Breakup" makes the dirt rags ("KISS & Tell" by Gordon Gebert and "Into the Void" by Wendy Moore) written about former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley come off looking tame by comparison. Being so volatile, it makes Gene Simmons' "KISS and Makeup" read like a school text book and it's so raw and racy, it makes Ace Frehley's "No Regrets" seem like an after-school special.
"Makeup to Breakup" does start out rather slow, as the first couple of chapters deal with Peter's childhood, which is the oh so typical, 'poor kid, growing up in a poor neighborhood, gets picked on by the neighborhood bad boys, fights back, eventually becomes one himself, until finding an outlet to escape his surroundings and begins the path on the road to his journey of fame and stardom.'
The beginning of Peter's musical life also coincides with beginning of his relationship with his childhood sweetheart and first wife Lydia Criss. Interestingly enough, the chapters surrounding their relationship and the early days of KISS, closely parallels Lydia's own story she published in her book, "Sealed with a KISS." Getting further into the book, I began recognizing stories that I had read in other KISS related books, like Sean Delaney's "Hellbox" and certain factual data which I recalled reading in "KISS Alive Forever" (Jeff Suhs & Curt Gooch). It's good to know that Criss and Sloman did their homework when compiling the stories and the dates of when things occurred, but unfortunately, I can only give them a B or a C for their efforts, as there are quite a few factual and grammatical errors in the book. While I won't nitpick every mistake, big ones in there are the dates of the last show he claims he performed with KISS (in the picture section of the book it states it was December 20, 2004, when it was actually 2003) and the year that his father passed away (the book states 1995, when it was in December of 1994).
When Peter begins recounting details from the early days of KISS, the readers jaw will undoubtedly drop. While some fans would suspect that Peter would touch on Paul Stanley's long rumored bi-sexual tendencies (which Peter does touch on briefly), it was shocking to read Criss' claims of Ace Frehley's sexual duality. Not only does Peter allude to receiving oral sex from Frehley during a threesome, but stated that he questioned the true nature of Ace's "friendship" with one of his (Ace's) longtime friends.
Peter Criss provides a descriptive and detailed account of his first, second and third run with KISS, in addition to his personal relationships with various girlfriends and his first, second and third wives (Lydia, Debra and currently Gigi). He also provides his account of the beginning and end of his various solo projects, his run in with the mafia, his stint in rehab, his (almost) attempted suicide, and most recently, his diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.
When describing his various 'reunions' with KISS from 1996 on, you get a clear picture that instead of time healing wounds between Criss and his former bandmates, instead, it created a brand new hatred for Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and manager Doc McGhee. His distain of the KISS Co. trio became so extreme that he needed to seek professional counseling in order to prevent himself from following through with his ever increasing fantasy of "packing a gun and taking a plane to L.A. and shooting the three cocksuckers." Keeping with co-author Larry Sloman's self-deprecating writing style, Peter did not hesitate to throw himself under the bus throughout the tales in his memoir, however it seems no one else in Peter's circle was safe from that fate as well. While constantly citing his history of repeated drug use, he claims he and Ace were not the only ones to partake in the festivities. He claims that Gene and Paul were "contact high" throughout the recording sessions of "Dressed To Kill," due to all of the marijuana being smoked by producer Neil Bogart. Peter proclaimed, "Gene would order four dozen donuts and chow on them constantly." Later on, Criss alluded to Paul Stanley being a doctor shopping, prescription drug addict, stating that he carried a Louis Vuitton bag filled with everything from pain killers, tranquilizers to sexual stimulants, along with a "phone book of over 50 doctors' names."
(Then again, it would have been weirder if he carried a list of local drug rehab centers around.)
The thing I found most surprising in the book is Criss' apparent bitterness towards Ace Frehley. Most KISS fans always viewed the band as a divided group, with Gene and Paul on one side and Peter and Ace on the other. However, in "Makeup to Breakup" Peter makes it clear that he certainly doesn't reside with team Frehley. While it seems that he feels a kinship to Ace, from the very early days of the band, Peter comments on how lazy Ace was, and states that while he felt that he (Peter) was the best singer in the band (even a better vocalist than Paul), that Ace should have never been allowed to sing in KISS. It seems that because Peter was the third member to join the band, he disagreed with the idea that Ace was more valuable to KISS than he was. Peter always fought to make as much money as Ace did during the 'Reunion' era, and was devastated when he found out that Ace was making more money than he was on the Farewell tour. Between that and Ace going along with Criss' termination in 1979, it seems that Peter still holds a grudge somewhat, as he even noted that the song he wrote called "Space Ace" (from his 2007 "One for All" CD), was not a tribute to Ace like most people thought (including Ace), but actually a slam for "Ace's betrayal."
As scandalous and sensationalized "Makeup to Breakup" is, the storytelling and attention to detail (although at times flawed) is really top notch. It's an entertaining read for any music or KISS fan and it will be up to the reader to determine what may be fact or fiction. Like part of the old William Cooper quote goes, "Listen to everyone, read everything, (and) believe nothing."