Tuesday, May 13, 2014
My Mom and Peter Criss
When I was in grade school in the mid-1970s, KISS was usually on the tip of my tongue whenever I talked rock with some of my classmates.
A handful of us at Our Lady of Guadalupe School (OLG) in Hermosa Beach, CA literally bowed down to the Catman, Starchild, Demon and Spaceman. On the playground and in the classroom, we spoke of everything KISS. One time, I told my buddy Tony that I saw KISS ... he shook his head in disbelief ... but I meant I checked out the band on the cover of "Alive!" the night before at Best Records in Redondo Beach.
My KISS obsession was so deep that I nearly dropped the cake I'd won at our Friday afternoon carnival because I was walking home so fast to watch the band on the Paul Lynde TV show that night. The show wasn't on until later that evening, but I had to get focused early. I know, dumb kid stuff, but it was a big deal then. My sister, Kristin, was a huge Catman fan, as well, when she wasn't digging on the Bay City Rollers guys.
So, would any of us have believed then that the Catman -- Peter Criss himself -- would someday make several appearances at our school? Hell no.
But it happened in the late-'80s -- no lie.
With my Mom teaching second grade at OLG, Criss' daughter, Jenilee, enrolled in her class. She was a good student, Mom recalled recently.
When Criss' wife at the time, Debra, swung by the school to meet with my Mom about Jenilee's progress, she mentioned that her husband was the Catman, the former drummer of our heroes, KISS.
"I asked her what her husband did, and she said he was in KISS," Mom said. "I said, 'Oh, yes, KISS, we're crazy about KISS!'"
Later that year, Mom finally got to meet Criss. He popped by OLG for a parents' meeting about his daughter. Mom said he was softspoken when they talked about Jenilee.
Mom doesn't remember if she ever mentioned KISS to Criss, but that's OK because she was having a one-on-one meeting with the Catman.
She saw him at school a few more times after that and went up to him and chatted for a bit.
It was either at an open house or a talent show when Mom spotted Criss sitting alone at the edge of the crowd. She went up to him, patted him on the shoulder and made him feel comfortable at old OLG.
Well done, Mom.
P.S. I bought Mom Criss' book "Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of KISS" for Christmas a few years ago. It's a good read, she says.