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Press Release - Sealed With A KISS

by Christa Titus

When singer/guitarist Paul Stanley thought of the name "KISS" for his band in 1973, drummer Peter Criss' then-wife, Lydia, wasn't convinced. The group "wanted everyone to remember them just as they remembered their first KISS," she writes in "Sealed With A KISS." "My reaction was the name was too soft, too girlish. Shows what I know."

Turns out she knows a lot. Lydia lived the rock star wife's dream of watching her husband rise to stardom, rubbing shoulders with celebrities like Alice Cooper, buying a mansion as her starter home and partying the nights away. She also suffered the spousal nightmare of infidelity, divorce, legal hassles and financial hardship. Having survived both sides of the coin to become a professional photographer, Lydia looks back on her life in a self-published tome that completely cleans the vaults. Her history is presented in a four-color tome designed like a high school yearbook crossed with a tour program that can sit on a shelf next to the family album.

Lydia meticulously and lovingly archived every matchbook, contract, tour rider, note, canceled check, royalty statement, ticket stub, boarding pass, bill, poster, event program, invoice, clipping, press release, telegram, backstage pass, greeting card, postcard and business card she could get her hands onóright down to the credit card receipts she confronted Peter with when she correctly suspected him of cheating on her. They are precisely organized and tell as much of the story as the book's text. KISS Army members will salivate, especially fans of the Cat. This is as deep as you can get into someone's personnel file without being their lawyer or shrink. Memories large (winning a People's Choice Award for breakthrough hit "Beth" in 1977, with Lydia accepting for the band) and small (look at the cute KISS record player for 45s!) are all accounted for.

And photographs? She's got your photographs alright, more than 1,500 of them. Lydia puts today's world of instant access and virtual archiving to shame. Her chronology comes from an era where you dedicated serious effort to buying film, lugging it to the developer and physically storing the prints. Again, she either recorded every situation imaginable or found a picture of it. Where else will you see photographs of Peter's wedding, honeymoon and vacations around the world with his wife? Plus Ace Frehley's nuptials, the band dressing up in drag for laughs, rare backstage and live concert shots, private parties . . . but don't expect dirty pics of KISS groupies. Lydia left that to singer/guitarist Gene Simmons, whom she reveals took salacious Polaroids and made home movies of his conquests while on the road. (Once again, Simmons was ahead of his time.)

Coffee-table books usually rely on images to sell themselves, but "Sealed" is equally packed with words. Lydia's recall is detailed and dry-eyed; she remembers everything right down to the menus of the band's after-parties. As a first-time author she hit the material jackpot. With anecdotes like her husband smashing up cars while wasted and how "Beth" was rewritten for her, there's too much juice for this to ever get boring. As rich as it is with KISS lore, Lydia's marriage to a famous musician and her insider adventures related to his band are the larger focal points. With the wives/girlfriends apparently kept in the dark by management about business matters, she doesn't reveal much about how or why KISS exploded like it did, or the day-to-day mechanics of life in the band.

The rote recall could use finessing to eliminate triteness from plot-rich tales like a cocaine-fueled John Belushi upsetting his wife during a stay at the Criss' because he wanted to sleep with Lydia. "Peter decided to go into the guest bedroom with [his] knife behind his back and confront John," Lydia writes. "I really didn't need this." A thread of continuity would also keep observations from awkwardly popping up at readers. Once she drops the bomb that she never trusted Peter again after finding a woman's phone number in his jacket, Lydia makes scant mention of her distrust until many pages later. She relates incidents of Peter's paranoia and occasionally violent outbursts so matter-of-factly, you hardly get a read on her own emotional register.

"Sealed With A KISS" isn't meant as an ironic title, as the memoir isn't vicious or bloodthirsty. Despite their sometimes rocky relationship, Lydia's steadfast loyalty had her defending Peter when a tabloid falsely reported that he was homeless in California, and he expresses his gratitude to her in a quote reprinted from Simmons' "Tongue" magazine. Her trip down memory lane recounts the good, the bad, the ugly and the incredible of what happened when fate threw her into the path of four would-be superstars on the verge of music history. She seems happy to have landed the gig.

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Sealed With A KISS - The true inside story by a real insider!