Peter Criss is the latest member of KISS, my favorite band from way back, to write a book. Gene was first (of course, you thought he’d let anyone cash in before him???) and Ace followed recently with his oddly titled (for a recovering alcoholic) book “No Regrets”. So, having said that, comparisons to those books are inevitable. Ace’s book was lacking in details, missing some timeline years and seemed to be pulling a lot of punches, almost as if he’s still on the payroll for KISS, LTD. Gene’s book was pretty good, better than KISSTORY but not nearly as good as one of Ken Sharp or Dale Sherman’s books. He really didn’t lay it on the line about himself or Paul Stanley but his girlfriend (now wife) Shannon Tweed’s book was okay so if you read them both it’s a nice one-two punch from that end of the spectrum. Which brings us to Peter.
For a guy who has always been derided as the least essential KISS-er, the odd man out, the least popular solo album, Peter Criss has finally delivered. Family Guy’s Peter Griffin once famously said “Nobody wants to be Peter Criss…..not even Peter Criss”. Ironically, once or twice in “Makeup To Breakup” Peter actually says there were times he wished he could stop being Peter Criss and go back to being Peter Crisscoula, the kid from Brooklyn. “Makeup To Breakup” begins with that kid’s story and I must admit I was very surprised at how interesting the pre-fame portion of the book is. Criss was wise to pair with co-author Larry “Ratso” Sloman who famously worked with Howard Stern to deliver his page-turning best sellers. The resulting flow of Peter’s story is compelling, easy to read and always, always feels like it’s in his own voice which is my number one criticism of most rock bios. It also doesn’t hurt that Peter comes across as the most emotional and “real” member of KISS to write a book compared to Ace and Gene. He wears his Italian heart on his sleeve and his story is filled with the kind of emotional highs and lows that rivet fans and non-fans alike.
Peter Criss was rumored to be working on a book years ago entitled “A KISS Without A Face” and it’s hard to tell how much of that book made it into this book but we are probably all much better for having to wait. The initial struggles of making it in music and falling outs with KISS bandmates and wives are all here but equally interesting are the stories of slugging it out in shitty bars post-KISS as well as the extreme peaks and valleys following the massively successful KISS Reunion Tour in 1996. We hold out hope that Bruce Kulick, Vinnie Vincent or Paul Stanley will throw their hats in the literary ring as I am sure that each one of them has a totally interesting and totally different viewpoint but for now “Makeup To Breakup” is the best KISS book to come from a band member and much of that is due to the emotional undercurrent omnipresent in Peter’s story. You feel his excitement, you feel his pain and it’s so easy to read it’s almost cinematic. Combined with ex-wife Lydia Criss’s excellent book “Sealed With A KISS” (which features another side to many of these stories and far more photographs) there probably is enough for a screenwriter to work with. Lydia talked to us for an upcoming interview and disputed a great deal of Peter’s claims (saying he is prone to exaggeration) but the fact of the matter is, this book is never boring and is one helluva read.
I really don’t want to spoil any of the more jaw-dropping elements of “Makeup To Breakup”, you can google countless other reviews if that’s what you’re looking for, but no one is left unscathed in Peter’s book, particularly not Gene or Paul which was to be expected. Peter really doesn’t seem to mind ruffling feathers and that surprisingly even includes even a few less than flattering mentions of his bandmate Ace. If you’re looking for wild, drug and alcohol fueled exploits (some involving Criss’s party buddy John Belushi) you will find them. If you’re looking for unbridled, at times blushingly candid, sexual scenarios with women of all ages you’ll find them. You want fly on the wall accounts of the Destroyer recording sessions including producer Bob Ezrin’s motivational tactics? You got em. The inner workings of the KISS company and the personalities of those involved have rarely been spoken about with such candor by someone so closely involved. Lots of those people involved may not like all of this and this book may be sweeping away ashes of bridges burned years ago but it’s better to be brutally blunt than brutally boring. As a KISS fan or fan of rock music in general you would be hard pressed to find a more fun book to read. I’d easily give “Makeup To Breakup” five stars if it had more photos. As it stands, it’s easily a four star effort. Well done, Catman.
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