Over the last few weeks, I have been scanning my Kiss file and thinking back of my time with them. Kiss was the first big band that understood the idea of photography helping define their image. As big as they got, they always allowed people to shoot the whole show. It was an embarrassment of riches- wherever you pointed the camera, a great photograph was happening. Every Kiss show was the ultimate photo op!!
In the 1980’s, their career went on the skids, and so did their photo policy. In the beginning of that period, things were still good, and photos were plentiful. The band was playing without makeup, and they wanted pictures out there.
But then, things went downhill. In 1987, I was working for the Oprah Winfrey Show. They were doing a show about Jackie Collins, celebrity author, who had just released a book called “Rock Star.” They had already booked Pamela DesBarre, the legendary groupie and author of the book “ I’m With the Band.” They needed some rock stars, and called me for advice. I looked at my calendar and saw that Kiss was going to be playing in the area the day after the taping. So I called their office, and found out that Gene and Paul would be delighted to be on the show. This show produced the famous moment when Oprah asked Gene how long his tongue was and he replied “Long enough to make you a happy woman.”
After the taping, their road manager came up to thank me and asked me if I was shooting the show the following night. I told him to put a pass at the box office for me. When I got to the venue (50 miles away in northern Indiana) I found out that I would be allowed to shoot the first three songs and only license photos to one publication! I went backstage and found the road manager- he told me that the word came down from Gene. I asked him to ask Gene if the rule could be changed. He checked with Gene and came back and told me no. I handed him back the pass, got in my car and went home. I never photographed them again.
The final chapter in the story occurred when the band put the makeup back on and went back to world domination. Their road manager called me before the tour to tell me that the band had come up with a great way to get photographers in the fold. I asked him what it was. Here is his explanation: “First off, you get to shoot the whole show from wherever you want. At the end of the show, I will meet you at the side of the stage with an envelope. You will put all of your film in the envelope and write your contact info on the outside. We will then pay for all the processing! At that point we will send you back 5 or 6 frames approved by the band for you to use to send to magazines. The band will then own the rest of your photos, but you will have some great shots to send to magazines!” After a shocked silence, I asked him who had agreed to this. He answered “Plenty of people.” I asked him if any of the known photographers who had helped the band get to where they were had agreed to the terms, and he answered “No- I don’t understand it.” I tried to explain, but I was wasting my breath.