When Kiss Made Their National TV Debut
When Kiss were signed up to perform on Dick Clark’s TV show In Concert, it was more than just another step toward success for Paul Stanley – it was also the moment he met one of his heroes.
The fledgling rock stars were just beginning to make their mark. They had signed to Casablanca Records but received neutral or negative responses from many of the industry insiders who gave them a look, which led to early supporter Alice Cooper to joke that the makeup-clad quartet needed to find a gimmick. Still, audiences were attracted to Kiss' onstage performances that eventually became their selling point.
The band's first national TV appearance was recorded at the Aquarius Theater in Los Angeles on Feb. 19, 1974, and aired on March 29. When Clark himself – famous for American Bandstand and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve shows, among others – visited Kiss in their dressing room, Stanley found himself starstruck. “When I shook his hand, all I could think was, ‘That’s Dick fucking Clark!’” he wrote in his 2014 memoir, Face the Music: A Life Exposed. “For all those years he had been an inspiration to me as a kid, he had seemed as fantastical as Superman – but no, Dick Clark really existed.”
He was so impressed that the performance itself was almost less of an experience. He recalled that Kiss set up on the off-camera side of a revolving stage and waited until another band, Redbone, played their set. “Then the stage turned, and the dim lighting suddenly became bright stage lighting,” Stanley wrote. “There we were in front of the cameras. But we were a machine by that point, and we played ferociously wherever we were. We felt good about the performance. We didn’t see it until six weeks later, when we hurried back to a motel after a concert in Asbury Park, N.J., to watch the broadcast on a crappy TV.”
Watch Kiss Perform on 'In Concert' in 1974
When Clark died in 2012, Stanley once again spoke about how important the broadcaster was to himself and many others. “Dick Clark was the face of rock ’n’ roll and its best ambassador,” he said. “He championed Kiss when others turned away and was instrumental in breaking us through his show In Concert. ... Through the years, Dick was always available when I had a question or wanted guidance. Dick Clark was the rare exception who was a bigger person in real life than the public image or legend that was also to be his legacy.”
Stanley later noted that “rock’s greats spanning five decades” were “humbled” while “giving thanks to this giant." “Any of the current Idol/Voice-type shows wouldn't exist without the trail that Dick Clark blazed to make them possible. … He will live on through his impact on countless aspects of American pop culture.”
Gene Simmons’ praise was equally high. Recalling the In Concert show in 2012, the bassist said Clark "made it a point to come up to our small, cluttered dressing room, stretch out his arm, and say, ‘If there’s anything you need, just let me know. It’s a pleasure to have you here.' And he smiled. And I never forgot the kind gesture. Since that day, because of him, I have tried to always offer a kind word to young talent starting out in their career.”
Stanley remained certain of the massive impact Clark had on Kiss and their career, fondly recalling an introverted moment after the In Concert show was recorded and the band flew home to New York.
“I remember lying in bed in my parents’ apartment, thinking about my time in Los Angeles – women, restaurants, TV shows, fancy hotels, and all the perks and amenities that went along with success,” he said. “The chubby, unpopular kid was being chased by women, purely because of how I was perceived differently. And I was now being paid to do what I loved doing anyway. … I wanted more. And I was terrified it would end too soon. ‘God, don’t take this away from me yet. Please, God. Not now, not yet.’”