Legendary bass player and merchandising tycoon Gene Simmons has announced a new restaurant chain, creatively titled Rock & Brews, that will satisfy hungry classic-rock fans craving to eat in a place that looks like a glorified backstage area. The franchise will debut this year in El Segundo, California, and additional locations are slated to open in Denver, Tokyo, Atlanta and a handful of other cities around the world. But that's not the lowest Kiss has sunk to lighten the pockets of its adoring fan base.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the restaurant won't be covered in Kiss logos, despite the long-tongued bass legend's involvement. After all, the band that never stopped wanting to "rock and roll all day and party every night" has licensed over 3,000 items with the group's iconic likeness, including T-shirts, earrings, condoms, sleeping bags and lunchboxes, to name just a few.
While Kiss is probably competing against Disney, Coca-Cola and Budweiser for the title of "Most Merchandised Ever," not all of the items they've tried hawking to loyal members of the Kiss Army have been winners. Whether you're a fan or not, these five acts of shameless commercialism might be enough to tarnish even Kiss's sterling arena-rock reputation.
5. Kiss HD TV If you don't want to obsessively watch an endless loop of Kiss concert DVDs on a TV that looks like it was made of metal treads and has Kiss logos emblazoned on the lower corners, then you're not a real Kiss fan. Unfortunately, the Kiss HD TV actually exists. It comes in a variety of sizes (32," 42," and 55" models are available), meaning that almost any die-hard Kiss fan can afford to prove they have more expendable income and less to live for than their friends. Maybe if the TV emulated the band's stage show and shot fire out of the top every time there was an explosion on TV, then it would be the best TV ever. But as it is, this is just a TV with a Kiss logo on it. Put some stickers on the TV you have, and off you go.
4. Kiss shills for Walmart When you're the most commercially licensed band in the history of the universe, sometimes it's hard to figure out how to expand your market share. But then the world's largest retailer, Walmart, steps up and asks for exclusive distribution of your next album. Kiss raises the stakes by appearing in a two-minute-long promo video that is painfully awkward (and hilarious). What's really troubling about this is that it's hard to tell what's more offensive -- Kiss partnering with a retailer that undermined local economies in thousands of small towns across the country, or the fact that the band thought it should actually release another album (2010's Sonic Boom)
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This would be the pinnacle of selling out on most band's lists, but not Kiss...
3. The Kiss "Kasket" There's nothing more rock-and-roll than living fast and dying young, an idea that would seem to validate the awesomeness of a rock-themed coffin. But for some reason, the Kiss "Kasket" just feels wrong. If only the good die young, then it takes a special kind of person to be old and imagine profiting off fans' funerals. The band's uniquely branded coffin was originally made available in 2001, but was taken off the market in 2008. Due to popular demand, the coffin was brought back last year, including two new exterior designs: a demur one with just the band's faces against a black background, and one that appears to be covered in flames and Kiss logos. They'll be offering Kiss crematorium urns later this year, in case burial isn't your thing. Deceased Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell is buried in a Kiss Kasket, as he requested in his will, which makes them a little bit cooler, but only enough that they weren't number two on the list.
2. Kiss Mini-Golf Course There's nothing less rock-and-roll than golf. Golf is a "sport" that requires everyone to be quiet so that one person can concentrate. Rock is the opposite. It doesn't matter that Alice Cooper plays regularly. Nothing can reconcile the slow pace and wealth-centrism of golf to spitting vodka on a stranger and shredding on guitar. But that didn't stop Kiss from signing off on a themed mini-golf course in Las Vegas that opens this week. Even though miniature golf might not suffer from the classism or pacing issues of its full-sized counterpart, it should be the territory of windmills, exotic animals and tiny versions of landmarks, not eighteen holes of metallic platform boots and painted faces. Hopefully this is one example of something happening in Vegas and then staying in Vegas.
1. Kiss meets Hello Kitty Rock-and-roll bands have been after America's daughters for the last five decades, but this merchandising misstep goes too far. How can you be a bunch of grown men who wear platform boots and spiky leather suits, and not feel a little uncomfortable seeing your likeness plastered onto an anime kitty with a bow in its hair? Kiss may be huge in Japan, but that doesn't mean that the band needs to hop in bed with Hello Kitty. It's like they gave Peter Criss control of the merch for a day and he decided to get them back for making him be the one who looked like a lost Cats cast member. Never before has one band so effectively neutered the awesomeness of rock and roll. The only thing that could be worse than this is a collaboration between Kiss and Lisa Frank.