Monday, October 30, 2006

Halloween Nostalgia Of The Day

San Diego college boys confuse KISS with firefighters, Halloween '94

College was a low point for me when it came to Halloween. The holiday I had loved as a kid was now a bit more confusing, consisting more of beer and sexy maids (or sexy devils, or sexy baseball players, or sexy -insert any occupation you can think of here-) than ghouls and creepy graveyards.

Not that I had a problem with beer and sorority chicks with extra cleavage. But for me anyway, Halloween had always been a day of mystery and horror. And, well, at San Diego State there's always beer and cleavage, so for me it mostly just meant the loss of my favorite holiday.

One year I even decided to sell out and pander to my not-so-clever classmates, and dressed up like a kook - pink dolphin shorts, UGG boots (this was 1992 and sheepskin was in between eras), visor on backwards, etc. - and used electrical tape to create the Greek letters of a rival fraternity on a white sweatshirt. At my frat party that night, I was a star. Thing is, I knew that heckling a fraternity was about the lamest idea for a costume ever and, after almost getting beat up on the way home after getting in a dorm elevator with about 5 members of that aforementioned rival fraternity who didn't think my costume was funny, I decided I was going to boycott Halloween until I grew up and had kids of my own.

That is, until the summer of 1994 when I discovered the band, KISS. Okay, I didn't discover them. But I didn't really re-discover them either (like when you pull out your old Van Halen albums and go, "Damn, I forgot how good this shit is!" and listen to Women And Children First nonstop for a week).

See, KISS had pretty much jumped the shark by 1980, when I was only 7. After that they were pretty much a joke without an audience. So while I vaguely remembered them from the 70's, the memories were mostly visual...and kind of vague. White and black Kabuki makeup, blood, fire...the kind of stuff that freaks out a 5-year old and gets burned in his brain.

Which is why in the fall of 1993, after seeing Dazed and Confused in the theater for the 2nd time, I suddenly started having all these KISS flashbacks - the commercials, the comic books, the posters, the album covers at the record stores. And if you know anything about The Colonel, I dove in head first. It started off with a greatest hits tape I bought used at Music Trader, but then almost immediately mushroomed into vinyl albums, CDs, books, video tapes and posters. I was obsessed.

And just like some jock in 1978 with Rock And Roll Over hidden under his mattress, I had to hide it. In short because nothing was less cool than classic rock in 1994, and even amongst classic rock fans in 1994, nothing could have been less cool than KISS, the lamest of the lame. So I pushed my Pearl Jam and Green Day CDs to the front, and hid Love Gun in the back.

But then I had an idea. What if my roommates and I were KISS for Halloween? No one else would be doing it (I don't think anyone had dressed up like KISS for Halloween probably since before they took off the makeup live on MTV in 1983). It was a great group costume. And we could take credit for resurrecting an old school 70's band - a skillful argument on my part as the 70's revival was in full swing.

It worked. My roommates bought in and I went shopping. Without going into all the production details, it started with a trip to the SDSU Theater Department which made extra cash by renting out props for Halloween (I still have my receipt which reads, "4 punk outfits") and ended with a trip to Home Depot where I bought an 8-foot long 4x6 which I had the dude cut into 8 1-foot long blocks. See the picture above and try to spot the lumber.

2 weeks later we strolled into Winston's, a one-of-a-kind reggae bar a block from our house in Ocean Beach (Sllloooooowwww B, as our Mission and Pacific Beach brethren called it) for an October 30th test run. And what happened? The band STOPPED PLAYING. That's right, they fucking stopped in mid-song. The lead singer then said, "Um, holy shit, I think KISS just walked into the bar."

Talk about instant celebrities. People flocked around us, buying us drinks, and asking who we were under the makeup. I (Gene, of course...c'mon, it was my idea so I got first pick) even stuck out my tongue a few times and the place went crazy.

After that it was two days of parties, culminating in a costume contest at Club Tremors in PB (which might even still be there), where we got 3rd place in front of like...I dunno, the place was packed and there was a line around the corner. And the only reason we got 3rd was because some guy showed up in, like, the actual prop from Predator with crazy crab jaws and all, and some dumb chick showed up with a black dress on and pigtails and walked around all night without smiling. So when Wednesday Adams stood on stage next to us while we preened and mugged and air guitared, she gave everyone her best poker face, didn't move a muscle, and well, how the hell can you compete with that?

But the amazing part of it all was the reactions we got from people. We had cops running up to us telling us how much they loved KISS when they were teenagers and how this brought back great memories. Chicks screamed for the tongue. Dudes grabbed their buddies and pointed and flashed us devil horns. Crossing Garnet St. in our 6+ inch boots, we practically caused an accident.

And then, lo and behold, what happened? Garth Brooks, the Gin Blossoms, and a dozen popular rockers released a tribute album. Weezer wrote a song. KISS reunited on MTV Unplugged, re-donned the makeup for the '96 GRAMMY Awards (appearing on stage with Tupac!) they re-formed, and they've been massive ever since.

I'm still awaiting a royalty check. Or at least a "thanks for sparking the re-interest and resurrecting our career" check.

Anyhow, Happy Halloween.


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