KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park

In 1978, the band KISS had reached a point in their carrier where they were a household name. You’d have to have been living in a cave to be unaware of the band that wore demonic makeup, spit blood and breathed fire! Their images were on everything from lunchboxes to notebooks to trashcans and you could buy KISS merchandise that included Halloween costumes, portable radios, dolls and pinball machines. In an attempt to conquer an even larger share of the public consciousness, the band was convinced by their manager, Bill Aucoin, to let Hanna-Barbara film a Made-for-TV movie starring KISS. The movie was pitched to the band as Star Wars meets A Hard Day’s Night. With Star Wars being the other hot product of the day and Gene Simmons being a huge Beatles fan with aspirations of being a movie star, it’s not surprising that the project was approved. If you’re familiar with Made-for-TV movies from the 1970s, it will be no surprise that the resulting movie, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, was mind-blowingly cheesy and not at all what the band had in mind! In fact, it’s been reported that for years after the film’s release, no one working with KISS was allowed to mention the film in their presence.

So was it really all that bad? I personally think it’s an awesome movie! Yes, it’s super cheesy. Yes, the story is ridiculous. Yes, some of the acting is pretty bad. However, it’s a very fun movie that gave fans a chance to watch KISS on TV!   Also, you have to remember that in 1978, there was no YouTube. There was no MTV. VCRs were just beginning to make their ways into a few homes in the USA. You couldn’t watch a video of KISS performing live any time you felt like it. The best you could get was a silent 8mm film of the band in concert and try to synch it up with your copy of Alive! When KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park first aired on October 28, 1978, you could watch parts of a live KISS concert on TV. That was huge at the time! So, although the movie itself may not have been one of the great moments in cinema history, it was (at least for me) a great moment in KISS history! Once VCRs became more common and a lot of movies were getting released on VHS, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park could be purchased and KISS could now be seen performing live in your living room any time you wanted to watch…and I watched a lot! So if you enjoy cheesy movies and you love KISS, I personally think KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park is well worth viewing!

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1978 KISS Bubblegum Cards Series 1 and 2…and 3?

KISS Bubble Gum Trading Cards

KISS Bubble Gum Cards

By 1978 the band KISS was at the top of their game.  Their album ALIVE had a successful single with a live version of the song Detroit Rock City.  Their album Destroyer included their biggest hit ever in the song Beth.  By 1978, promotion for their Love Gun album was in full swing and their merchandise was everywhere.  The KISS machine seemed to have changed their target audience to the younger generation and the response was incredible.  Kids ate it up.  From KISS Lunchboxes to KISS Notebooks, from KISS Comic Books to KISS Belt Buckles, from KISS face-painting kits and KISS Halloween costumes to KISS Puzzles and Board Games and even 12″ KISS dolls, KISS had their trademark faces on everything…and it was AWESOME!  Amid all the KISS craziness, someone had the idea of printing up KISS Bubblegum Cards and one of my favorite KISS items was born!

Now that we have the internet and can look up anything we can think of in seconds.  It’s difficult to imagine that there was a time when information was much more limited.  Despite the fact that KISS had so much merchandise, the number of images on all of those items was relatively limited and most of the photos came from one or two photo shoots.  KISS was featured in many magazines, but most of them only had a few photos.  With the 1978 release of the KISS Bubblegum Cards by Aucoin Mgt. and the Donruss Company, kids had the opportunity to collect 66 different photos of the greatest band in the land!   Later the same year, a second series of KISS Trading Cards was released with another 66 cards!

From what I could tell, most of the photos used on their Bubble Gum Cards had never been released before. If they had, I hadn’t seen them. Most of the pictures were of KISS performing live, but there were also a few studio session photos as well. If you flipped the cards over, the card backs were each a puzzle piece that when put together formed a giant picture of KISS. The second series of Trading Cards included some of the exact same photos as the first set (and one photo was included twice within the second set on cards #84 and #86), which was a little disappointing. Knowing now that thousands of photos were taken of the band around that time, it’s a mystery to me why they wouldn’t use all new pictures.   Also, the quality of the print job wasn’t great and, on the first series of cards, they seem to have been cut very poorly, so the borders were often rough right out of the package. Despite these complaints, I really do love these cards! Thanks to ebay, I was finally able to get complete sets of both series 1 and 2 as an adult and they are some of my favorite KISS collectables!

While browsing around looking at the cards online, I came across something interesting: a card with replacement drummer Eric Carr! That was strange. Eric Carr didn’t replace Peter Criss in the band until 1980, but the copyright date on the card was 1978. It turns out that a third series of KISS Bubblegum cards was released in Australia in 1980. Well, it was sort of a third series. They took the first series and replaced all but one of the Peter Criss cards. They even used the same photo with Peter Criss on the box. For some reason, there is still one card with a picture of Peter Criss singing Beth in the new set. They also replaced the puzzle backs on all of the cards with a new puzzle featuring Eric Carr and the new costumes. Cards from the third series (or series one re-release) are much more difficult to find here in the USA than cards from the other series and cards with Eric sell for considerably more than cards from the sets released here in the USA. I hope to someday complete a set of the Eric Carr variation cards. I’m very glad to have been able to put together complete series one and two sets. Every time I look through these cards, it’s like a trip back in time to the height of KISS mania. That was such a great time for me and I’m sure that’s part of the reason that I love these cards so much!

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My thoughts about the album Destroyer by the band KISS


It was the album cover that made me choose to buy the Destroyer album. I’d had an awareness of KISS since long before I was familiar with any of their music. I’d seen the KISS dolls on the shelf at the toy store. I’d seen the KISS notebooks with the school supplies. I’d seen the KISS trading cards at the convenience store and I’m pretty sure that someone in my class had a KISS lunchbox. I was young enough that I never questioned why four grown men would put on makeup and costumes to create a band image. It got my attention and I was interested, but at the time I just wasn’t a big music fan yet.

Once I was a little older and started asking my father to take me to the music store instead of the toy store on weekends, it was often the album covers that determined my purchases.   The local radio stations were playing a lot of pop music and bands like KISS weren’t really on the air all that much.   When I saw the cover for Destroyer, I thought it was cool…really cool! I was a comic book fan and these guys were comic book characters making rock music. They looked like superheroes or maybe super villains. What more could I ask for from an album!

The album opens with the song Detroit Rock City and that song is preceded by the sounds of someone making breakfast while listening to the news then getting in a car, driving fast and getting into a terrible wreck. I hadn’t expected anything like that, but I guess when the band is a bunch of comic book characters, their album should tell a story. Once the song itself kicked in, it rocked!   Detroit Rock City was probably about what I had expected from KISS, so I was glad the album was living up to the cover.   The second song, King of the Night Time World, also lived up to my expectations from the album. However, it was the third song on the album that really captured my imagination and sold me on KISS. The song was God of Thunder and it was monstrous! The song was so big and dark. It was bigger than life in the way that I think KISS was bigger than life at the time. Other bands could have written Detroit Rock City or King of the Night Time World, but God of Thunder was just so KISS. I was hooked. The rest of the album had some unexpected turns. Song four, Great Expectations, had an orchestra. That was strange to me, but the lyrics made it feel like it worked for KISS. Most of the rest of the album was filled with rockers: Flaming Youth, Sweet Pain, Shout It Out Loud and Do You Love Me, but there was also the ballad; Beth. I didn’t mind the song Beth. In fact, I liked it, but it did stand out as being different.

The Destroyer album was an instant winner for me. I listened to it a lot. I liked it so much that I wanted to pick up the other albums by KISS. Although I’ve grown to really like many of their albums, none were as instantly appealing to me as Destroyer. I’m glad that it was the first one I picked up because I’m not sure any of the others would have sold me on the band the way this one did.

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3 3/4″ Action Figures


In all the history of the world, I was a kid at the absolute PERFECT time!  Why?  Because I was a kid during the reign of the 3 3/4″ Action Figure!  Star Wars figures came out in the late 1970s and I learned the meaning of the word “Covet!”  Just like most boys at the time, I had to have them!  But Star Wars figures weren’t the first 3 3/4″ figures on the market.  The Mego Company had already released Micronauts and Comic Action Heroes in that scale.  However, it was the release of the Star Wars figures that seemed to solidify the 3 3/4″ scale as the new standard for action figures for about the next decade.  Also during this time, toy manufacturers were grabbing up every movie and TV show licence they could get there hands on trying to find the next big hit!  3 3/4″ figures were released for just about everything:  got in on the action!  In the early 1980s, GI Joe returned to the toy stores in the new 3 3/4″ format which allowed for a whole new world of possibilities in the form of vehicles and playsets that couldn’t have been made in his original 12″ format of the 60s and 70s.  As kids, we had it made!

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Summer Nostalgia


As a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s, summer meant so many things to me.  Most importantly, of course, was no school for about three months!  When I think about childhood summers now, I remember the feeling of freedom more than anything else.  It seemed like the world held limitless possibilities.  I remember specific things like riding my bike on the dirt bike trails that the neighborhood kids had made on the vacant lots in the subdivision.  I remember walking up to the Majik Market to buy comic books, trading cards and candy.  I remember my mother ringing a particularly loud bell when it was dinnertime.  I could hear that bell from anywhere I might have been.  I remember being a little older and wandering the neighborhood after dark with a girl who lived a few streets over…wondering if she’d ever want to hold my hand.

And I remember the music!  There were such amazing bands like KISS, Aerosmith, Queen, Motley Crue, The Police, Def Leppard, Pink Floyd and so many more!  Even the bands that I didn’t like at the time sound so much better to me now than most of what I hear on the radio today.  Great songs blared from the lifeguard’s boom box at the local swimming pool.  Hanging out in the parking lot at the little strip shopping center, someone usually had a radio blasting.  We would sit on the curb in the parking lot and buy sodas when we had some money.  We would talk about bands and girls and how life was going to get so much better when we were finally finished with school.  Little did we know that those were the best years most of us would ever experience.  I don’t know that life really gets much better than goofing around in a parking lot with other kids from the neighborhood on a 1980s summer afternoon.

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