Criss and Tell

Criss and Tell
Reviewer: SteveJ
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Makeup to Breakup:
My Life In and Out of Kiss
384 pages
First Printing edition
October 23, 2012
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:

The definitive and heartfelt account of Kiss drummer Peter Criss, from the streets of Brooklyn to the social clubs of New York City to the ultimate heights of rock ’n’ roll success and excess.

“Have you ever tasted the barrel of a .357 magnum that’s halfway down  your throat?” Those are the opening words in the Kiss drummer's autobiography. That alone should let the reader know his story will be more than rock’n’rolling all nite and partying every day, although it is every bit of that as well.

Peter Criss is a proud Brooklyn kid, and tells his story in the “dese and dose” prose of those streets. At times, I found it a weird combination of off-putting and putting-on street airs, but Criss maintains his voice throughout the book and comes across as (mostly) believable. So…it’s the familiar story of music, in this case drums, that saves a wayward street tough and steers him onto a path that only dreams are made of. One Gene Simmons answers Criss’ ad and the rest is history, with stops in heaven, hell, damnation and salvation…

One of the things Criss really captures is the language of Kiss’ head honchos Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Fans are well aware of this ambitious two-headed monster and Criss gets their tone, voice and language exactly right. From Simmons' condescension and school-marmish tone, to Stanley’s narcissistic detachment and passive-aggressive power plays, the picture he paints is utterly believable. Unfortunately for Gene and Paul, as they come off as, simply, a pair of assholes. Ace Frehley stars as the drugged-out savant and kindred spirit, who ultimately betrays his only friend in the band, in search of more money to fuel his drug habit.

This is a “warts and all” memoir, and one of the wartiest I can remember. It’s all here; the sex, the drugs, the egos, the sex, the drugs, the egos. And the sex. Some of Criss’ very explicit recollections made me blanch; not sure I needed to know about “the sniff test,” Peter. It’s a cautionary tale to be sure, one where our “hero” ends up broke, addicted and in a mental institution, only to be lured again into service, chasing the almighty dollar with bandmates he despises and does not trust. What a way to make a living…

And if revenge, like gin, is best served cold, this book orders it up double. Criss spares no one who crossed him; band mates, ex-wives, managers and assorted hangers-on are duly called out, served up, sliced and diced. It is, at times, vicious. However, Criss seems to want it both ways; he’s a praying Catholic after orgies and drug binges, a forgiving Christian while he utterly destroys bandmates, a man of faith as he cheats on his wives, an admitted complainer in the band, who reminds you he had a lot to complain about. Weird book…at times very readable and hard to put down; at other times, equally hard to pick back up.

Perhaps the Kiss story will need four “solo” books, to accurately portray the band and tell the whole story, but that’s a strategy that didn’t play so well the first time around, ending in disintegration and dissolution, and ultimately tarnishing the KISS brand. Something tells me reading Gene and Ace’s books will likewise only further fragment and distort the myth of “the hottest band in the land…KISS.”

Which, for a moment there, they were…


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