Friday, June 6, 2008

PAUL STANLEY - "Art, Theater, Music - There Is No Difference"

The Boston Globe recently ran the following story on KISS frontman Paul Stanley:

Members of the Kiss Army, as the rock band's fans call themselves, are mobilizing. They strut past the Bloomingdale's makeup ladies in the Mall at Chestnut Hill, wearing leather vests and concert T-shirts as they make their way to singer Paul Stanley's art show at the Wentworth Gallery at the end of April.

Stanley, who is in the middle of Kiss's 35th anniversary world tour, is setting aside time for private meetings with anyone who buys one of his acrylic paintings or prints, priced from $1,500 to more than $50,000.

The crowd is a motley crew: a pudgy guy with a Red Sox cap and buzz cut, a blonde who could pass for an aging groupie, an art collector with a turtleneck. The brightly lit gallery is located next to a Sephora skincare shop, which is fitting for the primped and groomed singer known for his black-and-white "Starchild" makeup.

"Does he look good? How's his hair? Oh, god, there he is!" says Lisa Fiorino, a mother of two from Randolph, as she catches a glimpse of the 56-year-old Stanley, who is decked out in a dark vest with red pinstripes, skinny jeans, black boots, and his trademark jet-black mane.

Fiorino wears a guitar-pick necklace, uses a 'Calling Dr. Love' cellphone ringtone, and has a tattoo of Stanley's face on her upper back. She's hoping the singer will mingle after he meets the paying customers, who are accorded VIP status with free wine and photo ops. A Kiss soundtrack plays overhead.

"I'm a little flustered and need some wine," Jennifer Jack says after meeting Stanley, who signed her silver Kiss purse. She and her husband, George, who bought 1978's "Double Platinum" when he was 8 years old, purchased a print of Stanley's "Mona Lisa," a riff on da Vinci's famous painting, for their Concord, N.H., home.

Stanley draws closer when George Jack tells him his paintings are reminiscent of LeRoy Neiman, the 80-year-old American artist who got his start as a contributor to Playboy magazine.

"I keep finding that all these people connect with me, not just through music but through art," Stanley says.

The youngest patron is 18-month-old Zakk Robinson, who was named after Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde, according to his father, Michael Robinson of Wrentham. The baby wears a T-shirt featuring the cover of 1976's "Rock and Roll Over" album. On the shirt, made specially for Kiss Army offspring, the title has been altered to "Rock Me and Roll Over."

Robinson, who bought a print of Stanley's tortured, hollow-eyed "Scream," wrote on the entertainment website "Next to my wedding day and the birth of my son," Kiss's 1996 reunion tour featuring the original members was a "monumental time in my life."

Stanley, a father of two, pays special attention to the VIPs' kids, giving them high-fives, making googly eyes, and signing miniature electric guitars. He still speaks with a thick New York accent.

"Paul Stanley's a regular guy," said VIP Dean Demagistris of Bedford, N.H. "I like his music, but I didn't think his art would be this good."

Demagistris, who keeps a room filled with rock merchandise, said he's seen Kiss perform 45 times. He paid about $4,000 for two prints, including the abstract "Purple Haze," a tribute to guitarist Jimi Hendrix.

For Stanley, the tour of the Wentworth Gallery chain marks his most recent reincarnation. A graduate of the New York City High School of Music and Art, the setting of television show "Fame," the singer last stepped outside rock music when he starred in a stage production of "Phantom of the Opera" almost a decade ago.

"Art, theater, music - there is no difference," Stanley says. "No one should tell anyone else what's good and what isn't."

After the last of the VIPs head home, Stanley appears from behind a roped-off area to address the non-buyers who are finally given entry to the gallery.

"I want to apologize for not being able to speak to everyone," he says in a raised voice. "I know everyone would want to shake my hand, have me sign something, tell me a story, but there just isn't enough time."

Fiorino, standing in the front row after waiting outside the gallery for two hours, turns around to reveal the Starchild tattoo. Others hold up memorabilia to sign. Stanley throws up his hands.

Just then, the singer notices a boy in a wheelchair off to the side and heads over for a snapshot, breaking his own policy. When he's finished, Stanley smiles and tells the fans, "OK now, don't go out and get a wheelchair and try to come back here."

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