Thursday, June 16, 2016

My Interview with Lydia Criss, Ex-Wife of Original KISS Drummer Peter Criss

The legendary rock band KISS, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, has been in the news a lot lately. Founding members  and Paul Stanley, still wearing kabuki makeup and crazy costumes, keep the brand alive by continuing to tour (with drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer) and involve themselves in such enterprises as the Rock & Brews restaurant chain and the LA KISS Indoor League Football team.

Original KISS guitarist  has a new solo album filled with cover tunes, Origins Vol. 1. The band’s first drummer, , has pretty much retired from pounding the skins professionally, but he’s still in the public eye, as evidenced by his recent appearance at Texas Frightmare Weekend, where he signed autographs and posed for pictures with a large crowd of happy fans.

Criss’s ex-wife, Lydia, who was married to the Catman from 1970 to 1979, has been visible as well, promoting her spectacular book, . The autobiographical tome is filled with candid stories of Lydia’s exciting, if sometimes tumultuous life with Peter and is loaded with rare photos, including early pics of the band sans makeup.

I recently caught up with Lydia , who discussed her book and her years with  and KISS.

BRETT WEISS: Growing up, what kind of music and what bands did you like?

LYDIA CRISS: Initially I liked Motown. Then when  arrived I changed to the British bands, like the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, and .

WEISS: If someone had told your teenage self that one day you would be married to a famous rock star, what would you have said?

CRISS: No Way!!

WEISS: Please describe the first time you met , and your first date. What attracted you to him initially?

CRISS: I met Peter at a club in Brooklyn when he was playing with the Barracudas.  My friend was dating the bass player, and she thought I would like Peter, the drummer. Our first date was the following day. We went to the beach with a bunch of his friends. What attracted me to Peter was his personality.

WEISS: When and how did Peter propose?

CRISS: Peter never proposed. We went out to dinner and then went to see Romeo and Juliet, and he then said he wanted to get married. It was just understood that after three-and-half years of dating that we would get married. I never did receive an engagement ring.

WEISS: Did you help Peter come up with his Catman character and look? Did you ever offer Peter any advice about his music or costumes?

CRISS: No, Peter came up with the Catman character and look by himself. There was always discussion about his music, but me not being a musician, I didn’t give him any advice. Regarding his costumes, I did help make some of them in the early days, but after they signed with Casablanca, there were professional people working with them on their costumes. Peter would come home with sketches, and we would discuss the sketches.

WEISS: You were there at the Coventry on January 30, 1973, when KISS played their first show. Please describe that experience.

CRISS: It was exciting that they were finally getting out of the rehearsal loft and playing to the public. It was also scary. The first night, there were only three people in the audience. It was Jan Walsh (Gene’s girlfriend), Jan’s friend, and me. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: Other reports have described the crowd as being “less than 10 people.”]

WEISS: You supported Peter financially before KISS became successful. Did either of you resent this? Was he truly appreciative?

CRISS: Yes, I supported Peter for the first six years of our marriage, and the three-and-a-half before we got married. I didn’t resent it. I think it paid off. As far as Peter being truly appreciative, you will have to ask Peter that question. I really don’t know the answer.

WEISS: What was it like watching the band morph from guys in T-shirts and jeans, playing in a loft and in bars, to famous rock stars adored by millions?

CRISS: It was great seeing this happen, but it was a slow process. First they got the show and costumes together, thanks to Sean Delaney. Then they had to get the public to love them. That’s what took a while. They were playing small venues for the first two years, and then in the third year it all started to explode. 

WEISS: What was the best thing about being married to Peter?

CRISS: He was very funny, and I like guys that make me laugh.

WEISS: What was the worst thing?

CRISS: His dependency on drugs.

WEISS: In your mind, what caused the divorce? Who instigated the divorce, you or Peter?

CRISS: Infidelity on his part. Peter wanted the divorce.

WEISS: What is your opinion of ?

CRISS: I liked all of the guys.  It was always fun being around them.  Lots of laughs. As far as Gene, he was a very understanding and pleasant.  He was the person to talk finances with.

WEISS: What about Paul Stanley?

CRISS: I thought Paul and Peter were the closest back then. They roomed together in the beginning, and we went on vacations with Paul. He was good to talk to about clothes and food.


CRISS: Ace was just a happy-go-lucky guy, always telling jokes.

WEISS: What is your favorite KISS song and why?

CRISS: My favorite KISS song is, of course, “Beth.”  I do have other favorites, but that is number one. I also like “Hard Luck Woman,” “Strutter,” “Do You Love Me?”, and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.” My favorite albums are Destroyer and Love Gun.

WEISS: Please describe your life as ex-wife of . Do you still talk to Peter or any of the other band members?

CRISS: I only talk to Peter if we happen to be at the same place together. I do talk to Ace, but now that he moved to the West Coast, I only see him when he plays on the East Coast.

WEISS: Your book, Sealed With A KISS, is truly amazing—lots of great stories and information, and the photos are incredible. How long did the book take you to write? Please describe the writing and publishing process.

CRISS: Writing  was a long process. I was approached by a publisher who was a KISS fan. He had published a couple of books before I met him. I started writing the book in December of 1997.  I was working a fulltime job at the time and was also going back and forth to Brooklyn to take care of my father, who was sick. I finished the text around May, 1999.  In the meantime, the publisher had Dave Snowden scanning all the photos. By March of 2002, the book was still in progress when the publisher went bankrupt. I got all my stuff returned and then started to figure out how I could publish it myself. In 2004, I started finding people who could work with me. I finally decided to started the book in 2005 and finished it in 2006. 

WEISS: Did , who is fiercely protective of the KISS brand, have a problem with you publishing the book? Did you get any feedback from KISS members about the book?

CRISS: As far as I know, KISS did not have a problem with the book. I did check with three lawyers before I printed it. I believe I was protected by our First Amendment right. The only feedback I got from KISS is that Tommy Thayer bought the book and told me that I did a really good job. Tommy was one of the major writers for KISStory, so I felt that was a great compliment.

WEISS: Anything else you care to share about your book or about your life in general?

CRISS: Well, if you don’t have my book, you have to get it. It is one of the best KISS books. It is the most accurate and the most honest. It’s a hardcover coffee table book, 12” x 10” glossy, full color, 384 pages. It has over 1,500 photos and approximately 120,000 words. It weighs almost five pounds. If you purchase an autographed copy from, you will get a free CD by my boyfriend, Richie Fontana, who played drums on Paul Stanley’s 1978 solo album. The CD is called Steady On the Steel.

WEISS: Thanks for your time, Lydia!

My Sega Collection & Room of Doom

Check out my latest video showing my Sega collection and Room of Doom. To watch my videos in full screen and subscribe to my channel, click HERE. Thanks for watching! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Encyclopedia of KISS -- Brett Weiss Interview

I was interviewed recently by Patrick Hickey Jr. of Review Fix about my KISS book. Here's that interview: 

Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this book?

Brett Weiss: Three years or so ago, I went through a phase where I was reading every KISS book I could get my hands on. It occurred to me that no one had over done an encyclopedia on the band, even though such musical acts as , the Stones, the Beatles, and Elvis had encyclopedias. KISS is in the same conversation with those guys regarding their iconic nature, so I figured it was long overdue that someone write such a book. Since I’m a freelance writer and have been a huge KISS fan since the mid-1970s, it seemed like something I should do—fill a gaping hole in the music and reference book publishing industry. Fortunately, the editors at McFarland Publishers agreed with me, and the rest is KISStory.

Review Fix: Why does KISS still matter?

Weiss: Like the Beatles, KISS influenced countless singers and musicians to grab a microphone and/or a musical instrument, including such popular acts as Garth Brooks, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lenny Kravitz, Motley Crue, Pearl Jam, Poison, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister and Marilyn Manson. Further, their music is timeless, especially their first six studio albums, their first two live albums (Alive and Alive II), and Creatures of the Night—those records rock! Most of their other music is awesome as well. And the band is still recording, performing, and making public appearances today (such as their Rock & Brews and LA KISS events), and you can hear “Rock and Roll All Nite” during various games in sports arenas all around the country.

Review Fix: How has KISS played a role in your life?

Weiss: Sometime around 1975 or so, I discovered the band through my older brother and some of his friends. I was eight- or nine-years-old and completely blown away by Alive!, one of the three or four greatest live albums of all time. I was mesmerized by the subsequent records—what I call the second Holy Trinity of KISS albums—Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over, and Love Gun. I would play those records over and over again on our hold furniture-style stereo while starring at the covers, especially Destroyer and Love Gun. The fantasy, larger-than-life depictions of KISS by Ken Kelly are phenomenal, and I love every song on those albums. The makeup, blood, bombs, and all of that is cool, but it is the music that has kept me a KISS fan for 40 years.

KISS has affected me from a more personal standpoint as well. When I was a kid, before I know about any of the problems in the band—the in-fighting, Paul’s insecurities, Ace and Peter’s alcohol and drug abuse, etc.—they were my larger than life heroes, a colorful, cool, and exciting contrast from such hassles and mundanities as school, chores, and getting sick all the time (I had bad bronchitis, allergies, etc., which I’ve outgrown, thankfully). Some of the most exciting times in my young life were KISS moments: the first Marvel comic book, watching KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park on TV when it originally aired (I loved every second of it, even though it is cheesy seen through adult eyes), pouring over the various magazines and making my own scrapbook, and finally getting to see them in concert for the first time in 1983. Sadly, I didn’t get to see them in makeup until the 1996 Reunion Tour, but that was awesome as well. KISS is an amalgamation of sorts of many of the things I loved as a kid and still enjoy: rock music, monsters, mystery (who were these guys behind the makeup?), comic books, spectacle, and science fiction.

Review Fix: What did you learn about the band through this book?

Weiss: I learned crazy things about and his ex-wives. I learned that Tom Arnold and Dallas Taylor rushed to the aid of a homeless person who they thought was Peter Criss (check out the “Peter Criss Imposter” entry in the book). I learned that Gene’s son Nick was accused of plagiarism. I learned that Tony Powers, who wrote “Odyssey” from Music from “The Elder” also wrote “We’re the Banana Splits” from the old Saturday morning kids’ show. I learned about obscure movie and TV appearances by the band members, more than I ever wanted to know about KISS condoms, and much more. I learned KISS was featured in an Animaniacs comic book. Encyclopedia of KISS is filled with this kind of stuff–I learned a TON.

Review Fix: Any obstacles?

Weiss: The publisher insisted on a generic cover because they wanted to avoid copyright violation and any negative attention from the band. The inside of the book, however, is all KISS all the time, including photos.

Review Fix: Why should a KISS fan own this book?

Weiss: Virtually everything important to know about KISS is conveniently laid out in alphabetical order in this one volume, plus there’s an insane amount of minutia and obscure trivial tidbits—the kind of stuff dedicated KISS fans will enjoy. The book provides detailed information on songs, albums, tours, special events, girlfriends, family members, solo projects, current and former members, movie and TV appearances, comic book appearances, and much, much more. Plus, I quote experts, band members, family members, critics, etc. Researchers, historians, music journalists, and casual and hardcore KISS fans should enjoy the book.

Review Fix: What’s next?

Weiss: Lots of writing. I need to wrap up the next book in my Classic Home Video Games series and then maybe get started on a possible sequel to The100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987. I recently interviewed LydiaCriss, so that should be on my website soon.

Sony PlayStation Press Conference At E3

If you missed last night's PlayStation Press Conference, don't worry, you can check it out here. The actual conference starts at the 30:00 mark.

Orlando Shooting

This isn't an either/or situation, and it shouldn't divide us along party lines. I'm pretty sure we could (or should be able to) make smart gun laws and fight radical Islamic terrorism at the same time.
Not every tragedy has to divide us and resort us to childish name-calling. In fact, it should do the opposite, as it has for many--as evidenced by the outpouring of love, kind words, blood donations, etc. Regardless, this nonsense has to stop.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Let's Play Gaming Expo - June 18-19 in Plano, Texas

Kick off summer at the Let's Play Gaming Expo

LPGE returns to the Plano Centre THIS WEEKEND, June 18–19, as the largest interactive gaming event happening this summer in North Texas! 
Get ready to enjoy 90+ classic arcades, retro and modern gaming, a regional Tetris tournament, 8-player Mario Kart, a Minecraft competition, a Halo 5 tournament, Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat X tournaments, a Guitar Hero competition, tabletop gaming, vendors, artists, developers, panel discussions, cosplay, and Low Tier City 4, one of the largest Smash Bros. tournaments in the United States.

CLICK HERE! to learn more about the Let's Play Gaming Expo.

Register online to save $5 on admission
Weekend passes are only $25 ($30 at the door) and day passes are only $15 ($20 at the door) and as always, children 12 and under get in FREE with a paid adult.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Holdsquare Videogame Podcast #11 - Muhammad Ali - E3 Preview

Join outlawcurtis and myself for the latest HoldSquare Videogame Podcast as we discuss Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, E3, the Powers TV show, Dallas Fan Expo, meeting celebrities and more.

Click HERE to watch our videos in full screen. Thanks for watching, subscribing and liking our videos!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Dallas Fan Expo 2016

My kids and I had a blast at Dallas Fan Expo over the weekend. We enjoyed the cosplay, met some celebs, found some bargains, hung out with friends and in general geeked out.

Brent Black, a.k.a. Brentalfloss, is essentially the "Weird Al Yankovic" of video games. Very talented and clever. He's also super nice and great to talk to. We are both contributing writers to Pat Contri's NES book. If you've never seen Brent's videos, check out The Bioshock Song--it's my favorite:

Since my KISS encyclopedia was just published, I had to get my pic made with this Paul Stanley cosplayer.

If you've watched my podcast, you know I have some hot sports opinions on The Chewbacca Mom. My kids were excited to meet her at Fan Expo. She seems like a really nice, really down-to-earth lady, despite her new-found fame. 

My kids had their 15 seconds of fame on the 10:00 news.

On Saturday, Ryan and I went to Candice Patton's panel. She plays Iris West in The Flash. She was a terrific panelist and very friendly. Check out the panel HERE.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali

Last night I couldn't sleep, so I flipped on the TV and was saddened to discover of the passing of the greatest boxer of all time (he would have told you as much in his inimitable fashion), . As a kid, I didn't like Ali quite as much as KISS or Julius "Dr. J" Erving, but he was right up there with Evel Knievel in the awe and coolness factor, at least in my book. Speaking of books, one of my favorite comic books of all time is the  treasury sized edition my cousin gave me when I was an impressionable young lad. You can read my 4,000-word article about this issue in my book, Retro Pop Culture A to Z.