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KISS'ed in Vegas
March 26, 2012 - Steve Schulwitz
Everyone has that special celebrity, athlete or political figure they dream of meeting or having a picture taken with. For me it has always been the rock band KISS, particularly founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. The band and its music have been a part of my life since I was eight years old and I love them today as much as I did then, maybe more.
Last Thursday, while visiting Las Vegas for a wedding, my dream came true, for the most part.
The band was in Vegas for the grand opening of the new Monster KISS Mini-Golf Course, which also features a wedding chapel, store, arcade and a large event had been planned.
My wife and I were granted VIP passes to the band's press conference, a private tour of the facility, the ribbon cutting and a posh VIP cocktail party in the evening. Words cannot describe how excited I was, and how nervous. I was on cloud-nine to say the least.
The event was taking place the same day we were to arrive in "Sin City" and by the time our plane landed, checked in the hotel, changed clothes and took a cab to the resort, I had missed most of the press conference and tour. I did however get a front row spot for the red, or in this case black, carpet walk where the band and other celebrities posed for photos and issued hellos.
I was stationed right next to the camera crew from the TV show "Extra" and flanked by all of the network affiliates. There were also many magazine and radio stations represented. At first I was overwhelmed but not for long.
My jitters quickly subsided when the band made its way toward my post and I quickly nudged, squeezed and jostled my way into the best possible position for a clear view to photograph the band members.
After posing for the media the band took time to answer a few questions from those of us on press row and soon Simmons made a slow walk toward me. "This is it," I thought. I'm going to get a chance to not only meet him, but ask him the questions I had rehearsed a hundred times on the plane ride to Nevada. I could feel my hands get clammy and my mouth get dry.
As he came to within about three feet of me, he veered hard to his right and decided to talk to the pretty blonde reporter to my left from Extra. NO!!!
Both Paul and Gene were still within an arm's reach of me, and as Gene answered the questions he joked and played with the rest of us who were still clicking pictures and politely yelling questions in his direction.
At one point the blonde reporter pulled a photo of "The Demon" and herself from the 1970s when they had met after a concert. He turned to me and asked me directly with a goofy grin, "Do you see how good looking I am?"
The band made its way back inside for the cocktail party and Andrea and I followed. Upon entering, it was complete chaos. We passed guitarist Tommy Thayer, who was being harrassed by a mass of people, and Gene took up shop behind the merchandising counter to assist the sales staff in serving those who were purchasing momentos.
Our closest encounter came while we were eating ( great meal) in the VIP area outside. Gene and his personal assistant made their way through and as he stopped to sign an autograph I took my wife's hand and headed over for a photo of her with him. I asked him politely for a picture and he responded to my wife with a "sure doll."
As he turned to put his arm around her his aid leaned over and said "Mr. Simmons, we need to go now, we have a very tight schedule." Simmons apologized to us and was off in a whisk.
NO! Not again!
After eating we decided it was time to head back to the strip where our friends were waiting for us. We were out there for the wedding for our friends Chris and Denise Swelling, oops, Flewelling, and wanted to share as much time with them and celebrate their nuptuals as much as possible while on the trip. The KISS experience was only a blip of what fun we had.
So in summery I got to see the band up close and photograph them, came within a half hour of interviewing them and came within a second of getting a picture with Gene. The experience was memorable, especially for Andrea as she got her picture taken with the Chippendales, but for me KISS once again left me wanting more.
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