Last time I went to Vegas, I saw the void, and it was Circus Circus. The epiphany I experienced there, next to a mulleted dad explaining to his crying kid that they couldn't leave yet because "mommy's on a streak," is too horrible to describe, but suffice it to say, I was traumatized enough to quit drinking the next day, and I've been sober since — and that was like a year and a half ago. So, pretty fucking traumatized.
Beneath the glitz, Vegas is existentially frightening: a mask on top of a mask on top of a mask that conceals our own diseased, vacuous souls. Or, as Gene Simmons described it last week at the Vegas opening of his brand-new Kiss-themed mini-golf park, "This venue is perfect for Las Vegas. Where else can you go play a round of Kiss by Monster Mini Golf and then renew your wedding vows in an official Kiss 'Hotter Than Hell' Wedding Chapel? Only in Vegas." And thank God for that, amiright? But speaking of tasteless marriages, Vegas and Kiss are perfect for each other.
As the sweating, beefy engine driving the Kiss machine, Simmons has long been surprisingly thoughtful about his band as a merchandising sideshow. "I've always been a fan of Americana, and Americana has always been about imagery, often above content," he once told Rolling Stone. True enough. Kiss, for example, has produced exactly one memorable hit in forty years; this is a band that is about spectacle with a totality few other bands even approach. It's the Vegas of bands, and it's just as eyeball-searing and just as depraved. (Lest ye doubt, consider this fun fact: Kiss has a line of coffins.) It's quintessential Americana.
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But as comforting as it is to believe that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, it isn't true: At the center of its black heart, Vegas is a cheap, plastic altar to the gods of money for nothing — so basically, just a concentrated version of what's already everywhere. Plus, Gene Simmons is a busy man.
At the same time he was kicking off his mini-golf course in the desert, Simmons was in a suburb of Los Angeles announcing the opening of his new chain of restaurants, Rock & Brews. And while this one is not explicitly Kiss-themed, it's equivalent in gimmickry; according to the press release, "The concept captures the excitement of live concerts in an authentically themed backstage environment." Presumably meaning you can order your club sandwich with a side of cocaine and a groupie blow job. That, or the menu will feature music-related puns. Probably the latter.
The big news, though, is that Rock & Brews is slated to spread like a malignant tumor to locations in Maui, Atlanta and — praise Jeebus! — Denver. And, really, that can't be all bad. It's something to think about, at any rate, on the day that you're finally fulfilling your life's purpose by staring at a poster of Ace Frehley while eating a sandwich possibly called the "Did You Ever Know That You're My Gyro": We're living in a land built on cheap gimmicks, and by God, it's the greatest goddamn country in the world.