When Heroes Become Human

April 19, 1994 is a day I will never forget. That was the day I met Gene Simmons of KISS.

We met backstage at an outdoor concert here in San Antonio called La Semana Allegre. I remember it like it was yesterday. Why? Because he is one of my lifelong heroes.

Do you think Gene Simmons remembers our meeting as well as I do? Not likely. Is that because he’s a jerk? No. It’s because he’s human. For him, that was most likely just another day at the “office.” Why should he remember that show, much less meeting little old me?

I bring this up because lately I’ve gotten hooked on Gene’s newest TV show, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, and last week’s episode was, for some, an eye-opener.

Long story short, Gene spent a day with a hardcore KISS fan as part of a radio contest and, at times, seemed less than thrilled to be doing so. Couple this with his family poking fun at his more overzealous fans and, well, shit hit the fan.

Some fans bombarded his site with angry messages. Some of my own friends complained they didn’t show more respect for his fans. Even I felt a twinge of resentment before I remembered the night I met Gene in person.

Yes, our meeting was rushed and it was anything but warm and fuzzy, but what else could I expect? After all, I was just one of at least a hundred people backstage that night. And besides, it was what happened next that changed my opinion of him forever.

Gene, Paul and the rest of the band went out on stage and played with such intensity and enthusiasm that you’d have thought they were still struggling for their first record deal.

And in fact, every KISS show I’ve ever seen – maybe a dozen or so – has been the same way. But why?

These guys have been at this for 3 decades now. They don’t have to put their all into their shows to bring out the fans. They could just coast but they don’t.

So maybe they get tired of all the attention once in a while. Maybe they aren’t as excited to meet their fans as their fans are to meet them. If so, that’s just because they’re human.

The real question is why do they still put so much energy into their shows? That’s because they’re heroes.

Originally published October 2, 2006
[sociallocker id=”1845″] I just finished reading original KISS drummer Peter Criss’ biography, Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss. As a lifelong KISS fan, I found it fascinating. And sad.

I loved reading so many behind-the-scenes stories of the band’s early years, but hated learning how much animosity developed among its members. I’m glad I didn’t learn these things when I was a teenager, spending my days painting my face and drooling “blood” with my friends. But now, I realize there are “ugly” parts of every story, of every life, and that those parts don’t automatically cancel out the good ones, the kind ones, the heroic ones.

This is the lesson I am thinking about today. And it is the lesson I was thinking about some years back when I wrote the following post about meeting some fellow humans. Humans who also happen to be my heroes.