KISS AND MAKE-UP
The "Phantom of the Park," aka Simmons, needs nary a ghostwriter to pen his bio, for he ably delivers this season's most fascinating backstage pass. Articulately detailing his life from his birth in Israel through the 30-year life span of Kiss, he charts how glam-metal's greatest pioneers provided the most outrageous spectacles of arena rock in the 1970s. Those same pyrotechnics, pneumatic drum risers, jacked-up personas and frightening face paints have sold 80 million records worldwide. Simmons, the "guy who sticks his tongue out and spits fire," boasts other onstage innovations, including "throwing up blood" and creating the ubiquitous headbanger's hand sign for the devil. All in all, the rock 'n' roll extravaganzas of the Kiss empire hardly run short of the obvious—wild parties, famous faces, hotel fiascoes, banging up cars and getting busy with groupies. Though no Wilt Chamberlain, Simmons describes at length how he has slept with 4,600 women. But when the smoke clears, the book is as well written as it is interesting: the story of a Jewish kid from Brooklyn, the endearingly sincere struggles Simmons faces over the years, his eventual marriage and fatherhood—as well as juicy material like his extended romances with Cher and Diana Ross. While moldering rock stars who have tales to tell may be a dime a dozen, Simmons's enjoyable and intriguing autobiography deserves attention. 50 b&w photos. (Jan.)
Forecast:Thanks to Kiss comic books, dolls and other paraphernalia, the band's quasicult fan base runs the gamut of age and cultural orientation. Expect big sales garnered from mass e-mails, author interviews and a 50-city radio tour.