Kissed Off

What do you do when Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters won't take your favorite band seriously?  If you're a member of the Kiss Army, you march on Voinovich Park August 5.

The legendary, face-painted spectacle known as Kiss was a pioneer of arena pyrotechnics and lord of the live album. But Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters have consistently ignored the ’70s rock icons since they first became eligible for enshrinement in 1999.

Maybe it’s the makeup. Maybe it’s the band’s lyrically simplistic desire to “rock and roll all night and party every day.” Maybe it’s all the stuff the group markets — from condoms to caskets (really) — that bears the Kiss logo.

Whatever the reason, die-hard Kiss followers from around the globe are coming to Voinovich Park Saturday, Aug. 5, at noon to protest that their favorite band has been repeatedly snubbed by Rock Hall voters.

Kiss Army March chairman Paul Carpenter, who lives near Detroit, claims it’s possible that up to 4,000 fans will attend the family-friendly event. He says the loose figure is based on e-mails (some coming from Kiss fan club chapters who have pledged to organize bus trips to Cleveland), Web site hits, mailing list sign-ups and vendor registrations that have come from throughout the United States and as far as Canada, Mexico and Europe.

“I got an e-mail at work last Aug. 4 from my friend, Joe Apple, who’s planning this with me, inviting me to sign another petition,” Carpenter recalls. “I suggested we do something different and wrote the Hall of Fame saying: Induct Kiss within one year or we’re coming to Cleveland. They passed on Kiss again, so we’re living up to what we said.”

He stresses the march is not a protest against the Rock Hall as an institution, but against its nomination and induction process, which is handled by music industry professionals.

“There’s a problem with the process,” Carpenter says. “The fans need a vote in this.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum actually enjoys that Kiss fans care deeply enough to campaign for the band’s enshrinement.

“This is why we exist — so people can have this type of discussion,” says Todd Mesek, the Rock Hall’s senior director of marketing and communications. “There are always going to be fans who think their band should be in and other bands shouldn’t be in. We welcome the dialogue because that’s why we’re here, so people can engage in that conversation.

“The passion and intensity of the fans shows how meaningful this art form is,” he continues. “People might not put this much effort into the things that affect their day-to-day lives, but this means something to them.”

It also means a lot to the band, according to Kiss manager Doc McGhee.

“Any time the fans get active on Kiss’ behalf, it’s always good,” he says. “We have a very strong following and very loyal fans. We’ve nurtured them and cultured them for the last 30 years. It’s nice to see people wanting to do something for Kiss. The fans believe in us and want to take action.”

Few bands have been as polarizing as Kiss. Snobbish critics look down on the music and classify the band’s theatrics as buffoonery, while rabid supporters argue the songs are catchy and the group’s over-the-top performances set showmanship standards for arena-rock spectacle that have yet to be matched.

Then there’s the relentless merchandising. The band’s singer and bassist, Gene Simmons, has gleefully acknowledged Kiss is a moneymaking machine and the very thought of capitalism sends drool cascading down his famous tongue. T-shirts, posters, lunch boxes and pinball machines ultimately spawned “Kiss Kondoms” and the “Kiss Kasket.”

“People tend to assume the more a band markets itself, the less the quality,” Mesek offers. “That’s not the case.”

So, will Kiss ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

“Oh, absolutely,” McGhee says. “Kiss has influenced numerous bands — probably more than most bands have outside of the Beatles and maybe Led Zeppelin.”

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And Another Thing

Ashlee, or not Ashlee — it was the question Jaded Era (“The Music Issue,” April 2004) faced when Geffen Records called in March to ask whether the Cuyahoga Falls-based band would let Ashlee Simpson record its song “Invisible” as her summer single. It was the title track of the 2003 self-produced Jaded Era CD that prompted Geffen Records to first take notice of the band. When a deal with the label didn’t materialize, the band turned down requests to let other unknown artists record the song. But a meeting with Geffen this spring mended fences, getting Jaded Era in the studio to work on new material this summer and “Invisible” OK’d as Simpson’s new single. “With her, you know it will get out there,” says Jaded Era guitarist Jeff Andrea. Simpson’s video for “Invisible” premiered on MTV’s “Total Request Live” June 2.

Comic book junkies who flocked to Comic-Con International: San Diego July 20 also had the chance to take in Ted Sikora and Milo Miller’s Cleveland-made flick “Hero Tomorrow” (“ ‘Hero’ Worship,” SepĀ­tember 2005). Looking for a place to unveil their tale of an aspiring comic-book writer who becomes obsessed with the character he creates, Sikora and Miller discovered the West Coast comic book convention also included a film festival. “It was a no-brainer,” Sikora told us shortly before heading west. “The Con is the largest pop culture event in the United States. It puts us right in the wheelhouse as far as the audience who we think is going to like this movie.” “Hero Tomorrow” premiered on the festival’s opening night.


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