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KISS Drummer Peter Criss Absolves Himself of All Responsibility

Gene Simmons: greedy, misogynistic, megalomaniacal bag of dicks. Paul Stanley: platitude-spewing ultra-narcissist. Also greedy. Ace Frehley: OK, sorta cool in that aloof guitar-hero way, but so whacked out on hard drugs and liquor for most of his life, kinda pathetic, really.

Peter Criss, however, has arguably been the least intolerable of the four original members of KISS: the lovable fuck-up, the "emotional one," the heart and soul of a frequently heartless, soulless band. Never considered a particularly great drummer, his contributions were crucial nonetheless—his "Beth," however sappy, was KISS's biggest-ever hit, and his vocals made "Black Diamond" and "Hard Luck Woman" two of the band's better tunes. But he seemed forever pushed around and disrespected by Gene and Paul. And his addictions and unceasing protestations of unfair treatment earned him multiple pink slips from the KISS corporation over the years.

It has made Criss a fairly sympathetic figure, and maybe if he'd kept his mouth shut and his pen away from paper, things would have stayed that way. But Criss, who'd been threatening to write a tell-all memoir for the past 25 years, finally completed the deed with his newly published Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of KISS—co-authored by Larry "Ratso" Sloman (who helped write Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis's Scar Tissue and Howard Stern's Private Parts and Miss America).

Bad move. Makeup to Breakup—through which Criss clearly intended to settle scores with his erstwhile bandmates, various KISS associates, and his two ex-wives—backfires dramatically, coming off exceedingly petty, exasperating, and selfish. Criss hardly portrays himself as a saint, but even though he details his many personal and professional failings, candidly recounting them isn't the same as owning them. In the end, his lack of genuine soul-searching—as promised in the preface—and his persistently righteous indignation and self-pity render him an unlikable, bitter, oblivious lout.

Criss plays the sympathy card from the book's outset in the admittedly compelling opening line, "Have you ever tasted the barrel of a .357 Magnum that's halfway down your throat?" It's January 17, 1994—the date of the Northridge earthquake—and Criss is sitting inside his demolished Hollywood apartment, down to his last $100,000 (cash in a bag, because he doesn't trust banks), lamenting his IRS woes and status as a washed-up rock-'n'-roll has-been. He sticks the gun in his mouth, then, just as he's about to pull the trigger, he spots a photo of his young daughter on the floor and decides to go on living. Nearly 400 pages later, after we've been taken through the ups and downs of his 66 years on the planet, he says he's "a deeper Peter Criss" for whom "trust, honor, integrity, respect—all those were very sacred to me." But the bulk of the book blasts that claim to pieces.

Read the complete Village Voice article here >>

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