Book Review: Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss / Peter Criss
I have read most if not all of the KISS related biographies that have been published over the past few years. I thought “KISS: Behind The Mask” The Official Authorized Biography was very much how Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley viewed the events of the band over time. Ace Frehley’s published bio last year “No Regrets” was okay but gave no real details about his relationship with Peter Criss, his “partner in crime” as he referred to him and focused mainly upon what a control freak Gene was over the years. It was not really what I would call profound revelations. In fact you got very little in terms of any dirt or untold stories involving the rest of the band or any real details about his departure from KISS in 1982 right up to 1995 just prior to the reunion tour.
Lydia Criss gave us the best insight into Peter Criss, the man and musician in her book from 2006 “Sealed With A KISS” and was the most honest and factual account of the band I had ever read. Thankfully you get all that and more in “Makeup to Breakup”. Peter lets it all hang out – the drugs, the guns, the sex, and most of all points the finger at himself and is in fact his most ardent critic of past indiscretions and reckless behavior. What you didn’t get with “No Regrets” is more than made up for in “Makeup To Breakup”. Details run amuck in this book, from fights, crazy interactions with celebrities to hurt feelings and on more than one occasion thoughts of suicide. Although he admits it’s something he continues to battle with each and every day, forgiveness seems to be Peter’s biggest attribute as he has grown older. When you read the way he was treated by his former bandmates, yes even Space Ace himself during the reunion tour, you wonder how Peter survived it at all initially and was able to return and then have to deal with it all over again.
The book opens with Peter holding a 357 Magnum to his mouth in 1994 after the failure of his second marriage to model Debra Jensen, a horrible earthquake in Los Angeles where he was living at the time and also issues he was having with the IRS over some past tax problems. He said in that moment his entire life passed before his eyes. Needless to say he didn’t pull the trigger but it was a very unique way to start any book.
You get details of Peter’s family life growing up in Brooklyn, NY and how really close he was to his mom throughout her entire life. His life in gangs and his sometimes overly violent nature which he admits later when he became addicted to cocaine in the 1970’s almost cost him his life, his freedom and his family. One thing I knew about Peter was his devout Catholic upbringing but what I didn’t know was that he remained a very spiritual guy even through the craziness of the KISS years. That is something that is detailed throughout this story.
I don’t want to give away too much here in terms of the details of the many revelations concerning Ace, Gene and Paul but let’s just say it’s nice to see Peter’s side to these many stories and events that have become almost mythical in nature and seem to have taken on a life of their own.
Peter goes into great detail about the forming of KISS giving much credit to the management of Bill Aucoin, and the dedication of Sean Delaney not only as an early manager but he became a mentor of sorts even getting songwriting credits and helping with stage moves and costumes. We get details about the rise of KISS and the success of “Beth” which was a blessing and a curse and how he struggled with that over time.
For KISS fans, you will hear from Peter what went on after the solo albums and his departure from the band and what he thought about Eric Carr. He also talks about what he did trying to get his solo records in the early 80’s off the ground, trying to start a band with ex-KISS guitarist Mark St. John and eventually his own act CRISS and what that experience was like.
I was hoping to get a lot of questions answered after reading this book about certain events, songs and tours and I did. I did not realize the extent of Peter’s drug usage, car accidents, and a carjacking episode that left him severely injured and disfigured. Again I will point to my original point about forgiveness, he seems to have forgiven his former bandmates, ex-wives and even some managers and lawyers and blames none of the them for what he became. He seems happy with his third wife Gigi and even survived breast cancer in 2007 into 2008.
I don’t think Peter is satisfied musically since his last departure from KISS in 2003. He goes into detail about how disappointed his last album “One for All “did in 2007 so I don’t think the final chapter in his musical life has been written yet. If cats really have nine lives I think after you read “Makeup to Breakup” Peter still maybe has one or two left to use. Let’s hope so because one more final show with KISS might be just what Peter needs to get that musical satisfaction he desires and what KISS fans want him to have.