Catman Criss recounts his nine lives of decadence, depravity and dissolution in and out of the rock band KISS.
At the outset of this sleaze-fueled memoir, we see the author half-zonked on the floor following an earthquake with the barrel of a gun stuck halfway down his throat. And then things started getting ugly. KISS’ larger than life comic-book personas and hook-laden anthems may have dazzled teenagers in the ’70s, but behind the garish face paint and superhero costumes loomed a lot of deeply disturbing darkness. Criss’ own life growing up hard on the streets of Brooklyn was no cakewalk. As the drummer describes it here, those times were often both violent and depressing. Struggling hard to shake off the streets, the increasingly desperate-to-make-it musician eventually fell in with a couple of other New York City knuckleheads with the idea of becoming superstars. To say that Criss still maintains huge reservoirs of hatred toward former band mates Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley is a colossal understatement. Simmons and Stanley—who, according to the author, cheated, degraded and maligned him in the most remarkable ways even years after he left the group—are portrayed as two of the most repugnant, self-absorbed characters to ever step onto a concert stage. Sadly, it’s hard to generate too much sympathy for Criss himself, due to his own well-documented deficiencies. By his own account, he’s been a belligerent, self-centered misogynist addicted to clichéd rock excess for most of his life. But the larger, and more moving, story is one of redemption and of a deeply flawed individual endeavoring to become a better man. Astonishingly, by the end of this sordid tale, Criss largely succeeds.
A sobering look at the ugly side of rockin’ and rollin’ all night.