Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lydia Criss Comes Sealed With A KISS

Sealed With A Kiss by Lydia CrossThere have been dozens of books written about KISS. Some of them were even written by associates or former associates of the band.

But Sealed With A Kiss paints a picture from the perspective of someone who was so much more. Lydia Criss was once married to drummer Peter Criss.

The book even has a story. The author decided to self-publish Sealed With a Kiss after being turned down by several big name publishing companies. It's their loss. Lydia Criss has an interesting story to tell and a unique way of doing so. It's especially true because her book reads more like a family photo album than a tell-all (which it is not).

This story — her story — starts with life prior to KISS, including her early relationship/marriage to Peter Criss. She follows this early glimpse by covering the band’s rise to stardom … and then megastardom … and the end of her marriage.

Love and heartbreak but no regret fill her triumphant story.

Lydia Di Leonardo could be best described as an outgoing New York teenager when she met aspiring drummer Peter Criscoula. He played in a variety of bands and as a fill-in drummer to earn a living.

The two married in 1970, and Lydia helped to support their household as her husband continued to struggle in the music industry. But all that was destined to change as Peter Criss formed a band with ambitious singer/rhythm guitarist Stanley Eisen (Paul Stanley) and uber ambitious bassist Gene Klein (Gene Simmons). They would be joined by lead guitarist Paul Frehley (Ace Frehley).

From Wicked Lester (clip below) to KISS, Lydia recounts the band’s lean years when virtually nobody showed up to hear them play except for Lydia herself and a few close friends. As hard as it is to imagine, the original KISS Army was nothing more than a family affair.

It was hard work that eventually paid off for KISS when their stage makeup and electrifying live performances attracted as much attention as their music. Something was happening and it was the right time for it to happen. And it wasn't very long before Criscoula, a.k.a. Peter Criss, was on a meteoric rise to super stardom.

Lydia attended most of their shows, helped to make their costumes, and even handcrafted what were probably the first KISS T-shirts to feature the band’s name in glitter. But amazingly enough, she doesn't plow through many dirty secrets.

Sealed With A Kiss is like owning Lydia's scrapbook.

She shares her experiences by showing thousands of never before seen unpublished photos (most she took herself) and scraps of memorabilia (plane tickets, show tickets, correspondence). Some of these items may never be seen again. But I did find a few KISS collector finds, mostly backstage passes and old tickets, at Wolfgang's Vault.

Highlights of the book also include some excellent photos of the band showing how their makeup and costumes evolved from primitive to polished as well as behind-the-scenes photos of the band at rest and at play. But in between some of it, you will get glimpses into Peter Criss’ nagging depression and insecurity. Lydia shares it all with class and only because it's part of her story — and it is her story — not a true KISS biography.

Most diehard KISS fans already know how her story turns out so it's hardly a spoiler. At the pinnacle of stardom, Peter Criss leaves Lydia for a Playboy model, who ends up dumping him for someone else anyway. Sadly, Lydia is left with a pile of bills and understandable anger before eventually rising above it to find success as a photographer. You can find out what she is doing on her Website at Lydia Criss.

Sealed With A Kiss by Lydia Criss Rocks In With An 8.1 On the Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The book is pricy, with various resellers offering it up around $50 per copy. But this isn't your ordinary book. It measures 10”x12” in size and weighs in at just under 5 pounds. There are 360+ pages and the memorabilia tucked inside will feel like uncovering a lost treasure of the real KISS, at least seen through her eyes.

As a longtime KISS fan, it has quickly become one of the most fascinating reads I've ever stumbled across. There are only a few places to find Sealed With A Kiss, including Amazon. You don't even have to be a member of the KISS Army to appreciate it either. Lydia's story offers an intriguing look at the lifestyle that comes with being married to a rock star.
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