Tag Archives: Destroyer

Ace Frehley: No Regrets


Ace Frehley has maintained his sobriety for years. I read parts of his books while drinking sangria.

Ace Frehley has maintained his sobriety for years. I read parts of his books while drinking sangria.

Ace Frehley used that expression frequently in interviews during the heyday of KISS, which occurred in the mid to late 1970s. Awk was part crutch, as Frehley struggled in social settings for years. It was also part asshole, the creation of someone often obliterated on alcohol and cocaine. Frehley said, “Awk,” so often, it was originally the only speaking line given to him for “KISS Meets Phantom of the Park” – a movie so awful even Gene Simmons might deny being involved. Frehley wasn’t pleased, and his dialogue was eventually reworked, even as the original lead guitarist of the recent inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame used filming as an excuse to snort coke and be merry around Los Angeles.

This much, and many other intimacies of Frehley’s life in and beyond KISS were revealed in No Regrets, which was released in 2011. Frehley was sober for nearly five years at the time of releasing the book, which he received help from Joe Layden and John Ostrosky.

Frehley admits his memory isn’t sharp. “Let’s face it – my memory isn’t what it used to be. Speaking with old friends and coworkers jarred my memory, allowing me to recapture the true flavor of some of the stories within these pages.” 

But Frehley remembers enough, and, after reading, it’s amazing the man is still alive let alone touring. (Full disclosure: I’ll be hitting Ace’s Nov. 15 show at the Palace Theater in Greensburg and have traveled to other states to see the legend do his thing.)

Frehley takes us from his time in grade school to his work with bands pre-KISS. Frehley once drank too much at a Grateful Dead show, where he worked his way backstage and came within a few feet of legendary Jerry Garcia, whom Frehley described as “down to earth” despite being one of rock’s biggest stars at the time. He woke up at the venue to discover he was alone and locked inside.

Frehley’s true excess began in earnest once KISS became a money-making machine shortly after the release of Alive. Frehley drank. Frehley snorted. Frehley cavorted (though this book makes no mentions of his alleged bisexual escapades that Peter Criss addressed in his autobiography.) Frehley had multiple brushes with death, was pulled over driving drunk by police on several occasions and destroyed relationships along the way.

But as he was ruining his life, KISS kept them in theirs, mostly because Frehley was worshipped by fans. Frehley reveals that, contrary to what Simmons and Paul Stanley say as time passes, he voluntarily left KISS – not once, but twice. The latter came after a highly successful reunion spurred by KISS’ appearance on MTV’s Unplugged and was fueled when, according to Frehley, Simmons snubbed him by cutting scenes of his daughter from the movie Detroit Rock City.

Among other tidbits revealed by Frehley – he was close friends with John Belushi, he dislikes Tommy Thayer, delights that his KISS solo album was better than and outperformed his bandmates’ releases and is rightfully proud of his work with KISS with a few exceptions like Music From the Elder.

Frehley’s book doesn’t hit hard. He doesn’t come across as bitter or whiny, and it appears he really wants to make the reader realize he’s just a likeable, happy-go-lucky guy who wants you to like him like everyone else does..

Finally, toward the end of the book, Frehley does let it fly.

“Since 2001, every move KISS has made has been premeditated and part of a well-orchestrated plan. Nothing, including their attempts to minimize my contributions, has been left to chance.

So, you might wonder now, ‘How does Ace feel about Kiss today?’ (Notice he didn’t use all caps here.)

Fair enough. Here’s my response: 

At this point in my life, I just need to let things go. Holding on to resentments can really make you ill, so I’ll leave the dirty work to my attorneys. I can sum up the KISS situation in just five simple words: ‘What goes around, comes around. No matter what happens, I’ll be just fine.

That being said, in reality, I think they’re just a bunch of dirty rotten whores. Awk!”

While Frehley tries hard to comes across as likable, it’s not something he needs to sell. Just watch the band’s induction into the rock hall and listen to the crowd roar in approval when Tom Morello mentions his guitar hero, “Ace Frehley.” There’s something about Ace that makes people root for him, and that’s what makes you crack a smile when you’ve finished this book.

The ‘liberating’ art of speechmaking

One day before the start of the 2010 high school football season, I made the short drive from the offices of the Observer-Reporter to Wash High Stadium, a throwback to the glory days of the sport in Western Pennsylvania.

Walking onto the same field where the likes of Brian Davis, Dan Mozes, Travis Thomas and Shai McKenzie made headlines, I approached the Prexies, who were huddled around head coach Mike Bosnic, a former player at Pitt who was at the High following a successful coaching stint at Carmichaels.

Practice had concluded, and Bosnic was at the beginning of a speech to his players. A day from that speech, Wash High would host Clairton, a perennial Class A power with a national following thanks to its wildly successful winning ways. Bosnic mentioned certain players, then told the team how that player was going to execute his assignments perfectly to help lead the Prexies to a 1-0 start.

It was inspiring, powerful and impactful. After Bosnic was done and his players headed toward the locker room, I approached to talk. I told him I was ready to run through a wall for him.

Thank goodness he didn’t take me up on it as Clairton manhandled Wash High, 41-0, in a game more lopsided than the final score.

Bosnic’s speech isn’t famous, nor will it ever be, but it’s one of many I’ve been lucky enough to hear during my long career as a sports writer. Whether it’s at the professional, college or high school level, the art of speech making is essential in coaching.

Maybe Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello is a coach because he delivered my favorite speech at the 2014 Rock and Roll Induction Ceremony. Morello inducted KISS, and wasn’t a popular choice heading into the event. After Morello’s awe-inspiring speech, no one complained.

Why mention it now? Well, my daughter, Anna, and I were listening to “Destroyer” as I drove her to school Monday and something made me think of Morello’s speech. After dropping her off, I went home and watched it. Then, I went to the gym and enjoyed a fantastic workout.

If you haven’t seen the speech, please check it out. It’s chill-inducing and liberating.

Joining the KISS Army


Anything can trigger a romance with rock. And the great thing about jumping into something serious with the art form is that love never dies. The flame may flicker, but it will always burn.

And it’s impossible to forget the thing that made you falls head over heels with it.

It can start with something simple. Maybe it’s holding a hard copy of KISS’ “Destroyer” on vinyl. At least that’s how the romance blossomed for me.

It happened along Water Street in West Brownsville, a sleepy, little community just inside the Washington County border and across the Monongahela River from Brownsville in Fayette County. West Brownsville’s inhabitants are hard-working people. Some worked on the railroads, or at least had a father or uncle who did. By the time I was six, my mother’s parents lived on Water Street, and my Uncle Jimmy occupied one of the upstairs bedrooms. Inside that bedroom was one kickin’ record collection.

Elton John. Little River Band. Loggins & Messina. Hall & Oates. Just some of the records that caught my attention at an impressionable age.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, made an impact like “Destroyer” did. The cover – the four members of KISS in their full kabuki regalia, rock poses struck, an ominous skyline possibly from another planet – remains one of the best on rock history and easily ranks among the best KISS created, with “Dressed To Kill” right there.

I had to know more.

I had to hear this band.

And what I heard wasn’t anything like I had heard before. This wasn’t Michael Jackson or Kenny Rogers or Neil Diamond (all amazing acts). This was rock. I was hooked. It wasn’t long before I was on a mission to own every KISS recording on cassette.

And, 34 years later, KISS still makes a giant impact, not only on me, but the music of theirs I share with my 5-year-old daughter, Anna, who wants to be a certified card-carrying member of the KISS Army. See, KISS isn’t the devil’s music, like some wanted people to believe in the 1970s and 80s. Paul Stanley, aka the Starchild, is Walt Disney and Cal Ripken rolled into one package of 60-and-over awesomeness. Listen to the Starchild and, you too, will believe hard work and rock can change the world. That’s the Walt Disney in him. Watch Stanley bring it every single night on stage and it’s easy to realize he brings it every single night, never taking a night off. That’s the Cal Ripken in him.

Stanley sure brought it Sunday night at First Niagara Pavillion (so hard not calling it Star Lake). So did the rest of KISS, particularly guitarist Tommy Thayer, who are co-headlining a tour with Def Leppard.  It’s the 40th anniversary of the New York band, and they weren’t lacking for energy or volume.


Indeed, it was another outstanding show, albeit a short setlist. No “Strutter” or “Firehouse” or “God Gave Rock’n’Roll to You II” or “Cold Gin” or “I was Made For Lovin’ You”  or “Shock Me” – all KISS live staples. That’s about the only complaint to be had from the show. Unlike Motley Crue, who are stuggling through a farewell tour, KISS seem to be getting stronger.

They can’t get back to Pittsburgh soon enough. Hopefully, it’s not with another headliner.