Face The Music: A Life Exposed
Confession time: over the holidays, yours truly fell down a KISS wormhole. I know exactly how it happened; I was searching for interviews of Chuck Klosterman on YouTube in relation to his latest book, But What If We’re Wrong?, and happened upon him being featured on a KISS-themed podcast, sharing his thoughts on the band. Curiosity led me to listen, and his chat was so compelling—even if it was an hour and a half long—that I was drawn to his second appearance, and then suddenly I found myself gouging in many of the interesting, funny, compelling, and occasionally sad episodes of the long-running Three Sides Of The Coin podcast. In a podcast I was listening to last week, a discussion arose about Paul Stanley’s book, Face The Music: A Life Exposed, and I decided to check it out on Amazon. Amazingly, it just so happened that the Kindle edition was being offered for ninety-nine cents, so I bought it. Having become accustomed to the puff-piece nature of celebrity autobiographies, my expectations weren’t high, and for the relatively cheap price, if I was disappointed, I wouldn’t feel terribly cheated.
Boy, was I wrong to assume, because Face The Music turned out to be much more revelatory and powerful than I had expected. Sure, the first part of his life was pretty much standard: boy from a working class family hears The Beatles and wants to become a musician. However, there was one element I had not expected, nor did I know about: Stanley was born without an ear, a physical deformity topped off with deafness. This made the young man painfully self-conscious, and his inward-looking self soon took to art as an escape—first with painting and illustration, and then with music.
Even as KISS became successful, Stanley secretly straddled a painful dichotomy: on one hand, he was flamboyant as the Starchild, yet emotionally his Inner Child still harbored great insecurities and self-doubt. But KISS gave him something to believe in, and believe in it he has. Part of the KISS creed—if one were to call it that—was that the band members had to adhere to sobriety, be willing to work hard, give it their all, and then always, always, put the show and the fans first. With Gene Simmons—a best friend he’s not always particularly friendly with, and a creative partner with whom he often has creative differences—he has stayed true to this vow. It’s why Simmons and Stanley have long been the core of the band, and explains why they’ve lost band members due to creative differences, addiction, and even death.
If anything, Face The Music was much more of a human read. Yes, there are rock and roll excesses and scores and scores of women to be had, but even as he’s regaling in his glory days, there’s an unavoidable sadness to it all; yes, he enjoys the pleasures of the flesh, but they never satisfy him. He learned quickly that it all is meaningless, and his quest for inner happiness and companionship and inner peace becomes more important than the spoils of rock superstardom. Thus, he steps outside KISS for satisfaction, whether it be working with charity groups—most importantly, one dedicated to helping children born with disfiguring birth defects—or stepping outside of the band to take on the lead role in a Canadian production of The Phantom Of The Opera. Happily, he does find the love of a lifetime, and the only thing greater than his elation is the reader’s sense of satisfaction that the man who could have it all finally gets to have what he needs.
While I’m most likely not going to become a KISS fanatic any time soon, I’m always up for a good tale, and Face The Music most certainly was that. It’s a story of a young man on a spiritual journey, even if he didn’t know he was on one at the time, and it’s a glimpse of a young man who took adversity and self-doubt and set it aside to become one of the most definitive examples of being a heavy metal superstar. I wasn’t expecting insight and wistfulness, and will gladly admit I was wrong.