‘I was never looking to make a pop album,’ claimedRead more...
By 1975 KISS were already set to become one of the biggest rock groups in the world, having captured the imagination of the public with their theatrical stage shows and elaborate characters. Their first three albums had all become modest successes, while the recently released Alive! and the launch of the KISS Army fan club would transcend them to another level of popularity. Although they had yet to achieve Platinum status or score a hit single, KISS had become more than just a group, they were now an institution.
While September saw the foursome marking their way to the Electric Lady Studios in New York City to work with acclaimed producer Bob Ezrin on what was to become their masterpiece Destroyer, they took a break in October to make their way to a city in Michigan to surprise the football team of a local high school, whose players had been playing KISS songs as a pre-game ritual before winning three successive matches. ‘My assistant came in one day with this letter from the football coach of Cadillac High, explaining the problems and what happened,’ the band’s manager Bill Aucoin told author Tom Shannon.
‘Everyone liked KISS, and could KISS come to the school because they felt that the kids had a lot of apathy and didn’t have the excitement they should have in high school. I then built on that. I said there is a possibility, but we have to make it something more exciting. I then came up with the idea of everyone wearing KISS make-up; make it all be one big thing…By the time we actually got there, it had caught on and the whole town was involved. That’s why it turned out to be so great. There is a great story about us.’
KISS have long exploited their cinematic potential, at first with their starring roles in the 1978 made-for-TV movie KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, in which they portrayed fictional versions of themselves who must defeat the evil engineer of a theme park. The film received negative reviews but would later achieve cult status due to its camp tone, poor acting and performances from the band. Bassist Gene Simmons embarked on a short-lived acting career in the mid-1980s with his role as the villainous Luther in the sci-fi thriller Runaway, while also making appearances in the low budget horror Trick or Treat and the Rutger Hauer action flick Wanted: Dead or Alive, all released during the era that KISS had retired their theatrical image.
KISS has continued to influence popular culture, with the 1999 coming-of-age drama Detroit Rock City (taking its name from Destroyer’s opening track), which told of four die-hard teenage KISS fans who try to meet the band while in Detroit in 1978. Along with members of KISS, the film was also notable for an appearance from Simmons’ long-time partner and former softcore actress Shannon Tweed. In 2008 another comedy, Role Models, featured KISS as a central theme, with two irresponsible thirty-somethings who are forced under court order to perform community service as ‘big brothers’ to troubled children. When one of the children, who obsesses over live action role playing tournaments, is in need of an army to compete, the two loveable losers create their own version of the KISS Army.
In December 2011 producers had submitted an application to the Michigan Film Office to request permission to shoot a movie in Cadillac, Pontiac and Detroit that would be based on KISS‘ October 1975 visit to the Cadillac High School Vikings. The project was officially announced the following March, with Michelle Begnoche of the Michigan Film Office claiming that ‘It was a project that we wanted to make sure to do everything possible to keep here in Michigan.’
Over the years the line-up of KISS has changed regularly, with only Simmons and frontman Paul Stanley as consistent members. By the early 1980s both guitarist Ace Frehley and Peter Criss had parted ways with the band and in the decades that followed there was a certain amount of animosity between KISS and their former bandmates. ‘KISS is Tommy Thayer, Eric Singer, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons,’ Simmons told Rolling Stone in 2013. ‘It’s like, if you introduced me to your wife and I go, ‘Wait, where are all the other wives?’ It’s like, ‘Yeah, I was married to them and now I’m here.” More recently he told the Tampa Tribune, ‘We’ve already danced that dance three different times. No way will we reunite. It wouldn’t be fair to Tommy and Eric.’But the KISS line-up of 1975 was Simmons, Stanley, Frehley and Criss, so whether or not the former members will be involved in the project, entitled Cadillac High. The budget for the movie will be approximately $27 million, with the producers receiving around $8 million in incentives. Simmons has now confirmed with MLive.com that the project has now officially moved into development. ‘It’s now been fully funded and it’s now in pre-production,’ he revealed. ‘The only date or timeline (for a release) I can give would be a guess.’ Cadillac High will be produced by Philip Steuer, who was recently hired as Senior Vice President of Physical Production at Disney, having previously worked for the studio on the live action blockbusters The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Oz the Great and Powerful.