Kiss Kruise: Three Ultimate Kiss Army/Navy Fan Experiences
|Photo by Ian Witlen|
|Kiss superfans Jamie Ross and Jackie Ram.|
One young Kiss Army member put it best when he said, "All other music fans are measured against Kiss fans." With about 2,000 diehards aboard the Carnival Destiny -- many of whom never considered taking a cruise previously -- a weekend voyage dubbed the Kiss Kruise proved to be the ultimate test of this fan base's dedication.
It was surprising that pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman was nowhere to be found on the very first Kiss Kruise. Few people -- save official biographers Ken Sharp and David Leaf, and prolific author/bassist Gene Simmons -- have published such passionately written accounts of the band over the years.
Klosterman devotes much of a chapter of his 2005 book Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story to a road trip through Montana in which he excitedly listened to all four "unloved" 1978 Kiss solo records -- each titled after an individual member of the band -- back-to-back. He writes: "I love Kiss because the world makes sense when I think about them." And a large percentage of Kiss Kruisers feel exactly the same way.
When every person filling their plates in a buffet line, each vacationer dipping their toes in the cerulean waters surrounding Half Moon Cay, and, most of all, an entire fist-pumping crowd attending a trio of intimate Kiss shows is a member of the Kiss Army, it can be intimidating -- at first.
The hope is the Kiss Army is not be as hostile to "outsiders" as the face-painted fans of Insane Clown Posse, known as Juggalos. As a reference: at the 2010 Gathering of the Juggalos in Cave-in-Rock, Illinois, social media starlet Tila Tequila's face was bloodied, and Wu-Tang Clan rapper Method Man got a flying bottle to the forehead. Not that the Kiss Army was expected to be a violent bunch, but would a reporter and photographer who love the undeniably sappy Kiss song featured in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey be a welcome addition?
After taking a wrong turn on the way to our cabin, we end up at the door of Long Island's Jamie Ross, who shares a balcony suite with female companion Jackie Ram, and it's immediately impressive. The Kiss Kruise urged attendees to decorate their cabin entrances, and many created custom banners with full-costume photos, the Kiss Navy logo, or a "Gone Drinking" poster. Ross is affixing a collection of vintage magazine clippings featuring members of Kiss to his door, and he calls it a recreation of his childhood bedroom.
|Photo by Ian Witlen|
"You guys aren't wearing anything with Kiss on it," Ross notes after looking us up and down. It's the first afternoon of the cruise, the boat is barely out of the Port of Miami, and we're already busted. He walks into his room and grabs a pack of Kiss dog tags for each of us. "Put these on." And that Spaceman Tommy Thayer tag stayed around my neck for the rest of the week.
As the Kiss Kruise continued, it was impossible not to run into Ross and Ram, and the pair welcomed a wealth of their fellow passengers into their room -- which was stocked with vinyl and a Kiss throw, and had an iPod blasting deep cuts from the band's catalog -- to hang out.
"Kiss woke me up," Ross says, while he and Ram apply makeup to go along with their military-inspired "Secret Police for Paul Stanley" outfits before Kiss' Saturday performance at the ship's Palladium Lounge. "It's like the story in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Even if you might not wind up being a member of Kiss, you're now into the next area of life where you've accepted the idea of life that nothing's acceptable. That was the jump in my life. Even if I was broke, with one pair of shoes, sleeping in the park..."