Paul Stanley and my mother

Paul Stanley is 64 years old. He has had two hip replacements and can still dance on seven inch heels for two solid hours, fly on a harness across the length of an arena – guitar in tow, to land on an island revolve, and then still keep dancing, and playing, and singing, while being all round super awesome cool and iconic.

Here’s another picture of the great man.

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I tell this to my mother on the eve of her hip replacement operation. She is unimpressed. She even pretends not to know who he is. I say unless you’ve developed a galloping case of dementia as well as a bad hip, you know exactly who he is! For God’s sake my bedroom was plastered with posters of the man for a good deal of my early life.

Oh yes, she says, I think I remember.

Of course you remember Mother, how do you forget what is arguably the greatest rock act on the planet and the man who was destined for a time to become your son in law!? Anyway, the point is Ma, you’re not far off the same age. If he can do all that on two new hips – you will be fine.

Two weeks earlier. You can bite the expectation in the air. Emily and I are a little drunk and a lot excited. The KISS 40th Anniversary Tour. Neither of us had seen them live before, and indeed I might not have this time had it not been for Emily and her spare ticket awakening a long forgotten ten year olds’ allegiance to greasepaint and glitter.

Trains and trams and taxis disgorge their human cargo by the tens of thousands. Crowds converge on the arena. Emily and I fall into step with the other pilgrims. We walk past a man with a big suitcase on the footpath – a shifty purveyor of unofficial merchandise. In the gathering dark his features are indistinct but his whole demeanor definitely adds up to shifty. He pulls tee shirts out of his case and looks around – shiftily.

What’s your price mate? I ask.

One for 20, two for 30, he spits out the corner of his mouth.

See you later on I say.

Too soon to buy now. I’d have to carry the damn thing through the whole concert or put it on and try and stuff what I’m already wearing into my bag. Besides, it’s a ritual to peruse the official merchandise, be appalled and outraged at the inflated prices, and walk away imperiously – afterward, being full of regret on account of not buying anything.

As per the ritual, Emily and I peruse the official merchandise, are by turns appalled and outraged by the inflated prices, and walk away imperiously – this time without regret, because we like the design of the unofficial merchandise better.

In the arena a few adolescents sport greasepaint, though none of the senior members of the KISS Army do. Maybe like me, they had entertained the idea briefly the night before but the hot weather and the thought of trying to get it all off again later had curtailed the plan well before they got to the greasepaint shop. Maybe like me, they had also spent the night before trying to remember what stupid impulse had made us throw out our prized KISS Army membership key-ring when we were 15 because we had become way too cool to like KISS anymore and had moved on to The Violent Femmes.

We take our seats. Darkness descends. Guitars roar to life and a thousand lights light up, spelling out KISS, in case anyone was in doubt as to where they were.

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Detroit Rock City is the first song. Fans who’ve seen them many times will tell you it’s always the first song. It’s also my favourite song to crank up in the car when I’m sitting in traffic.

Two weeks later, I’m in sitting in traffic. I’ve just come from dropping my mother off at the hospital. I’ve been telling her for weeks now: You’ll be fine. It’s a simple operation. Everybody knows hundreds of people who’ve had it and they were all up and about in a minute. She believes me I think, but as the nurse pushes her away in a wheelchair, I’m not sure I believe me. A tear escapes. Brushing it away furiously, I think there’s only one antidote. Detroit Rock City. I crank it up.

The surgeon calls a few hours later. Everything went fine. Textbook, he said. Your mum’s recovering nicely.

I Wanna Rock n Roll All Night is the final song of the concert and everyone in that arena wants to do just that, but before we do, Emily and I have to find our shifty purveyor of unofficial merchandise. Happily, amongst the crowd spilling onto the street, there is now a veritable proliferation of shifty tee shirt sellers.

The day after the concert I see my friend Andy who is a technical manager for many of the big rock acts that come to Melbourne. He asks me what I thought of the concert. Best rock n roll show I’ve ever seen, I say, one of the best nights of my life.

Then he reveals that he’d worked with KISS for years…

I was with ‘em masked, then unmasked, then masked again, says Andy.

Oh my God! Really! Why didn’t I know that?!

Then he said, I got too many black tee shirts and gave me this: Oh yeah, I’m with the band!

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I pick my mother up from the hospital. I negotiate her carefully into the car, turn the ignition and Detroit Rock City comes blaring out of the speakers.

Oh, Alice, turn that awful noise off!

No worries Ma.