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KISS on the high seas

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NASSAU, Bahamas--At first glance the thought of a Kiss cruise is tounge-in-cheek.

But when the first Kiss Kruise launched Friday from Miami, Fla. it was all business: rocking and rolling all night, wearing black and white face paint, and of course sticking your tongue just like the wet carpet of Kiss bassist Gene Simmons.

Its like I'm with 2,000 venus fly traps.

The four-day cruise, which concludes Monday has been so successful, it wouldn't be surprising to see it become an annual affair.....

........More than 2,000 people are on board the rugged Carnival Destiny (sounds like a stripper) representing 26 countries, according to a spokesperson for Sixthman, the Atlanta, Ga.-based promoter who has been designing musical themed cruises since 2001. I have met people from Brooklyn, N.Y., Scotland, Sweden, Colombia and Southern France.

What's not to like about a French Kiss fan?

Sixthman has partnered with Kid Rock, Lyle Lovett, John Mayer and even John Prine.

But there's been nothing like this with Kiss.

Just the Sunday itinerary includes a "Tattoo Social Hour," "Kiss Army Happy Hour," and a quarters drinking game hosted by metal band (and Kiss opening act) Skid Row.

You won't meet a guitarist with fangs named Nikki Sinn on a Lyle Lovett cruise.

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Friday night I had dinner with a guy and a girl who front Princess, a Lita Ford inspired glam band in Finland. It took them 22 hours to get to Miami.

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Black shorts and white legs? Plenty aboard.

Kiss performed electric shows with make-up as they featured '70s rarities Friday and Saturday in the ship's Palladium theater. They also played an engaging 90-minute outdoor greatest hits unplugged set without makeup Friday as the ship left Miami.

They are something to see in the Caribbean sun.

The newly married Simmons had his bride Shannon Tweed on board and she watched the unplugged concert with fans before moving to a side soundboard at the end of the set, where Kiss wound down with its anthem "Rock n' Roll All Nite."

Sitting on a barstool behind big shades, Simmons smiled and showed off his gold wedding ring before the band launched into a rhythm and blues tinged version of "Do You Love Me?"

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During a post-concert question and answer session with the Kiss Army (and now Navy) Simmons said, "With all honesty, any girl who would wait for an asshole like me for 28 years (their dating period} and give me two beautiful children is special. In all seriousness I love Shannon."

They have a 22-year-old son named Nick and an 18-year old daughter named Sophie.

Although the band is not making itself available to media on the ship, Kiss was generous in answering fan queries.

Simmons said a Kiss cartoon (or Kartoon?) series is in the works and should surface in the next six months on the Hasbro channel. Guitarist Tommy "The Spaceman" Thayer is working on a four-CD Kiss box set retrospective. People are still dying for those custom made Kiss coffins, which Simmons and Kiss co-founder Paul Stanley plugged.

So naturally Simmons hinted the Kiss legacy could be passed down to another generation.

"Everybody on this stage has talent in the family," he said. "In fact at our wedding Nick (his son) sang (the Doors} 'Roadhouse Blues' and tore the house down with his solo. And you'll see it October 18th on A&E."

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One thoughtful fan request was for the band to come up with a wish list of countries they have yet to visit. Stanley answered,. "Definitely China. We would play Israel but Gene would get drafted." The audience laughed.
Simmons was born as Chaim Weitz in Haifa, Israel.

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Friday night's KISS pre-Halloween KOSTUME party

Once known as "The Demon," Simmons was as mellow as a Bahama breeze. He admitted that of all four Kiss members, it takes him the longest time to apply his make up: two hours.
Another fan asked Kiss to pick a band they would have cruised with back in the day. Drummer Erik Singer chose Led Zeppelin.

Simmons picked The Electric Prunes.

There were no questions about Michael Jackson. Kiss was axed from the recent Jackson tribute concert because of Simmons' comments on Jackson's legal problems.

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The band has pretty much been sequestered to a top level of the 11-story ship. On Thursday night Singer ventured out to the blackjack table in the casino and on Friday afternoon a pasty Stanley waved to fans from the balcony of his cabin as they tendered back the ship from a day trip to Half Moon Cay, about 90 miles from Nassau.

It was on this shore excursion where I met a Kiss fan who worked at a Nissan plant outside of Asheville, N.C. He followed his girl friend to Asheville and saved his money for a year so he could go on the Kiss Kruise.

I told him how beautiful Asheville is.

"Really really great pot," he told me.

During the grass root press conference someone asked Simmons to pick the toughest gig he has played with Kiss---"The olympics (Closing of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah), the Super Bowl (1999 in Miami) or the Symphony (a Feb. 2003 gig with the 70-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in Australia.)"

"This sounds cornball but it is an honor to get in front of you," said Simmons, who formed Kiss with Stanley in 1973 from the shell of the Jersey band Wicked Lester. "You give us the time of day. There are no tough gigs. " Simmons and Stanley promised a big she-bang for the group's 40th anniversary celebration.

Simmons, 62, has gone Sammy Davis, Jr..

The star of the A&E hit "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" even told a wacky joke:

"God is sitting on his throne. There's a knock on the door and it magically opens. There's Ghandi. God says. 'Who are you and what do you believe in?' Ghandi says, 'I believe in helping the poor.' There's another knock on the door and it magically opens. There's Mother Teresa. God says, 'Who are you and what do you believe in?' Mother Teresa says, 'I believe in compassion,' God says, come on over here to my right. Another knock on the door and it magically opens. It's Gene Simmons.

God says, "Who are you and what do you believe in?'

Simmons dropped his voice and said, "I believe you're sitting in my seat'."

During the unplugged set and before drummer Singer took the vocals on a gnarly version of "Black Diamond," Stanley told the audience, "This is a first for us and actually better than I thought. We got to do this again next year."

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.

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This page contains a single entry by David Hoekstra published on October 15, 2011 12:42 PM.

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