KISS and Tell

"As though our lives depended on it," Stanley says, adding that the band has little interest in fooling around with the canon. "When we play the older songs, they sound exactly like they're supposed to.... What would be worse than for me to say, 'Now we're gonna do "Love Gun,"' and suddenly you hear a reggae song?"

In a way, the group's greatest achievement might be just hanging in there. "KISS is almost like this living, breathing thing that we're kind of holding on to," notes Stanley. There's still a note of genuine wonder in his voice when he talks of the old days and how it all has ended up. "When we started out, John Denver was the biggest act, and people looked at us like we were out of our minds," he remembers. "I think we hoped for about five good years. That would have been amazing. The concept of being together in twenty years was pretty absurd."

So here's KISS in 1995, hauling its own traveling museum across the world, taking aim on the Beatles' streak of 26 consecutive gold records, and basking in something approaching respect. Even music critics, who for decades have delighted in ridiculing the band as kiddie-rock buffoons, have started to come around to the KISS way of thinking.

"Why? Because they're not the critics of twenty years ago," Stanley says, triumphant. Finally that bleary voice starts to sound like the guy at Detroit's Cobo Hall in 1975. "They're the fans who've now become the critics. What's happened is that this virus has permeated everything. KISS has worked its way up the ladder, mainly because the fans have done the same. All those people turned out to be doctors, lawyers, policemen, you name it."

At that Paul Stanley pauses, savoring perhaps the vision of the conquering KISS Army and the KISS World that has come to pass at last. "We won," he says. "And it was a long battle."

The Worldwide KISS Convention takes place today, July 6, from noon to midnight, at the Radisson Mart Plaza Hotel, 711 NW 72nd Ave; 261-3800. Admission costs $100.

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