In the Mid-Seventies, I sang and played guitar in a high school rock band called “Storm”. We were dedicated; we rehearsed three nights per week, and we drummed up our own gigs. We built a strong reputation and worked hard to keep it. Our set-list provided a four-hour, danceable, concert-like experience.
In addition to school dances throughout the Mid-Hudson Valley, we played just about any other gigs we could find: Fourth of July picnics, birthday parties, Christmas parties, pool parties... even a Halloween party at the Sawkill Firehouse.
Given the occasion and the era, it made sense that we would play the gig decked out as KISS. As the front man, it fell to me to be Paul Stanley. I didn’t have the chest hair for the role, but I thought that big black greasepaint star might look pretty damn cool painted over my right eye.
As with many of the best-laid rock-band plans, it was a girl that caused this one to go awry. Her name was Leslie; needless to say, she was beautiful. She was also smart. Honestly, she was out of my league. But she was a sophomore and I was a senior, and that evened things out just enough.
Leslie’s grand vision for the Sawkill Firehouse Halloween Party of 1976 was that she and I would attend the event as Harpo & Groucho Marx. It will hardly come as a surprise that my bandmates did not welcome the idea with enthusiasm. Peter Criss on drums, Ace Freely on lead guitar, Gene Simmons on bass, and Groucho fronting the foursome just didn’t strike them as a commanding lineup. But Leslie’s leverage was significant, so that is exactly how we appeared.
“I want to rock and roll every night and party ev-er-y-day…”
While I threw myself into being the Paul-Stanley-est Groucho that ever strutted a stage, Leslie was cavorting with a guy named Joe. He was a confirmed lover-boy, rarely solo, but uncharacteristically dateless that night. I watched them chatting, and laughing, and dancing… And then I watched them leave together. She honked her little bicycle horn and waved to me as they exited. I couldn’t blame him really – she was adorable in that curly yellow wig.
Through the lens of retrospection, train wrecks often seem so cleanly inevitable.