by Nathan Rabin December 21, 2011
Yes, Kiss had everything. But Kiss was an American rock ’n’ roll band, so everything was not enough. The group flirted with the idea of touring with a traveling amusement park called Kiss World before ultimately nixing the idea as prohibitively expensive. In a mark of hubris remarkable even for the era, Casablanca shipped 5 million total copies of the four solo albums the members of Kiss released on the same day. The idea was to launch four solo superstars simultaneously; instead the records were returned to Casablanca en masse. The world, it seems, had not been hankering to find out what Ace Frehley was capable of without the three other dudes holding him back.
By the late ’70s, the warriors of Kiss had everything. The band didn’t just play cities; it conquered them. It didn’t entertain crowds; it slaughtered them. Kiss was bigger than rock. Kiss had its own army. It was an industry onto itself. There seemed to be no limit to how far these meatheads in ridiculous face paint could go. Kiss’ label, Casablanca Records, was giddy with the kind of superhuman confidence that comes from runaway success—the label had launched both Kiss and The Village People into the stratosphere and had come to dominate disco—and rampant, widespread, more or less company-mandated cocaine abuse.
The band embarked on a movie project that had been pitched to them as a cross between A Hard Day’s Night and Star Wars. The resulting made-for-television movie, Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park, did not quite live up to such grandiose billing, in the sense that it was an intense humiliation for everyone involved. Kiss may have started as a swaggering, ballsy hard-rock outfit, but by the late ’70s they had devolved into cuddly, family-friendly cartoons. Phantom Of The Park was even produced by Hanna-Barbera, the animation powerhouse that gave the world Hong Kong Phooey, Yogi Bear, and Tom and Jerry. Kiss made a mint in merchandising, but no one took the group seriously.
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