Right now, Paul Stanley is a football boss, with a team (the Los Angeles Kiss) named after his rock group.
Decades ago, however, he was just another teen, playing sandlot ball.
“I was always a fairly sturdy, strong kid,” he recalled. “And I was playing football and somebody tackled me. And when I finally ceased to be airborne and landed on my stomach and knocked the air out of me, I decided that a guitar was much safer.”
Good choice. He and Gene Simmons — backed by cascades of showmanship, make-up and music — propelled Kiss to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That fame helped them start this Arena Football League expansion team and now “4th and Loud,” a reality show that profiles the team’s first year.
The team itself is legitimate (if not yet a winner), in a legitimate league. “You want to make sure that it’s real football for real football fans,” Simmons said.
But surrounding that is the Kiss touch. “The band has always been about bang for buck,” Stanley said. “The band has always been about giving people spectacle.”
So the goal, he said, was to add spectacle around the games. “We wanted BMX bike-riders. We want pyro. We want to envelop you and pummel you.” That ranges from the uniforms (suggesting Marvel superheroes, he said) to the women on the sidelines.
“I think a lot of the cheerleaders … have become rather sexless,” Stanley said. “We wanted … to have not the girl next door; we wanted to have the girl we wish was next door.”
Still, Stanley admits, the Kiss guys had “a certain naivety. We came in believing we would win the championship.” They won 3, lost 15 and finished 12 games out of first place.
The showmanship, however, worked. This is a league that once teetered near bankruptcy; it canceled its season in 2009, the year the previous Los Angeles franchise folded. With an expansion team that followed a five-year void, Kiss averaged 10,945 fans per game, second only to Tampa Bay. “We are trying to … open the league’s eyes to what’s possible,” Stanley said.
At least, what’s possible with help from rock stars. Season-ticket holders ($99 for eight games) got a free Kiss concert; now there’s the reality show. “We are the Tiger Woods of (arena football),” Simmons said. “Before Tiger, you didn’t care about golf; now everybody is going to pay attention to this new thing.”
Well … maybe not everybody. “I tend to hype,” Simmons said. “So believe half of what I say.”
A few minutes earlier, he also admitted “I love the sound of my own voice.” That may qualify him perfectly for reality TV.