Ron Buckley keeps his holiday tree up all year long in the cozy den of his Middle Island home. “It’s a KISSmas tree,” says Buckley, who has garnished it with the rock band's action figures, bulbs and a snow globe besides a giant logo that stands in for a star. In fact, the nurse has decorated his home in style of his favorite group, KISS, which brings its “End of the Road” farewell tour to NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on Friday.
“KISS gives you a good feeling and puts you in a different mindset,” says Buckley, 37, who has both a spare bedroom and a storage facility filled with thousands of KISS collectibles. “There’s no political view point and they are not preaching anything. This band is focused on having a good time.”
The band's costumed and face-painted characters — the Demon (bassist-vocalist Gene Simmons), the Starchild (guitarist-vocalist Paul Stanley), the Catman (drummer Eric Singer) and the Spaceman (guitarist Tommy Thayer) — are superheroes who rock. But, their fans don’t just listen to KISS — they live and breathe KISS. From their clothes to their bedroom walls to their family vacations, KISS is factored in.
“KISS takes me back to my childhood,” says Mike Brunn, 48, of Farmingdale, who has been a dedicated fan for 43 years. “I remember sitting on my bed looking at their album covers and listening to their music. KISS brings me to that place and allows me to escape reality.”
Brunn takes his family on a KISS Kruise every fall, when the band plays multiple shows on board and hosts cooking classes, drum competitions, guitar pick-throwing contests and songwriting master classes like the one he and his daughter Courtney took the past few years with Simmons.
“Me and my dad now have a song that we wrote that’s legally copyrighted,” recalls Courtney, 20. “It’s something I never would have done without Gene’s help.”
An avid KISS collector, Brunn purchased Simmons’ personally played bass for $5,000, Stanley’s used guitar for $3,500 and even has a $2,000 KISS pinball machine in his family room.
“It’s all worth every penny in the world to me,” says Brunn, who is an accountant. “But the KISS Kruise memories with my daughter are priceless.”
Besides its music, KISS is known for its outlandish stage shows which have grown extensively since the New York-based rock group began in 1973.
“There’s no other band on Earth that has the creativity of their concerts,” says Corrado Mazzuca, 52, of Hauppauge, who works as an IT tech. “From their pyrotechnics to Gene’s blood-spitting and fire-breathing to Paul flying across the audience to Eric’s levitating drum riser, they are just incredible. What other band does that?”
Mazzuca started his son C.J. early with KISS. At age 4, he dressed him up like Paul Stanley and took him to his first KISS show at Nassau Coliseum in 2009. C.J. ended up on “Good Morning America” and caught the attention of Simmons, who invited him backstage with his father at Jones Beach theater the following summer.
“I was star-struck but excited,” recalls C.J., who is now 14. “Surprisingly, I felt comfortable around him because Gene is so nice.”
KISS even inspires careers. Jeff Siegel, 44, of Carle Place became the general manager at The Space in Westbury and director of system sales and integration for Barbizon Lighting, he says, because of his interest in KISS.
“I was always into bringing more than just music to the audience, which is what KISS does,” says Siegel. “They give you that extra little something by mixing stage theatrics and music, which really clicked for me.”
Siegel brings his daughters Ana, 19 and Eva, 17, to see KISS every time they come to Long Island.
“It’s our thing,” says Eva, who is going to see KISS with her dad at Nassau Coliseum on Friday and Madison Square Garden next week. “KISS has always stayed true to who they are, which is something I admire.”
INKED IN KISS
Michael Mierzwa of Bay Shore loves KISS so much he dedicated his left arm to the band. The 55-year-old forklift mechanic has original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley and Simmons tattooed on his forearm as well as original KISS drummer Peter Criss and Stanley.
“It’s a way for me to show my love and support of the band,” says Mierzwa, who shares his KISS passion with his 23-year-old son, Michael Jr. “What better way than to permanently put it on my skin? It makes me happy.”
Thoughts of the band retiring make him sad.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow. This is an end of an era for me,” says Mierzwa, wearing Simmons monster boot slippers in his bedroom KISS shrine. “It’s going to break my heart. But, I’ll always be a fan.”
WHEN|WHERE 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 22, Nassau Coliseum
INFO 800-745-3000, nycblive.com