An Eric Carr Halloween
Like a majority of KISS fans, my favorite holiday when I was growing up was Halloween. A holiday where you can dress up in crazy make-up and costumes and have a party? The description sounds like the definition of KISS itself.
My best friend Dino and I had a yearly ritual to dress like KISS every Halloween. He was always Peter Criss and I was always Gene Simmons. We would recruit from a number of friends to fill the Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley spots. We took our KISS seriously. Halloween was a big deal to us - we didn't just dress like KISS, we would put together a replica of the latest KISS tour stage setup. Well, we did our best for 13 and 14-year old boys with what we had in our parents' basements. We would lip sync to a recorded concert with the exact set list KISS was using that year. The Halloween of 1980 was going to be our biggest production yet.
In July of 1980 I went to see KISS at the Palladium in New York City. It was the debut of KISS's new drummer, Eric Carr. The next day I told Dino that Eric Carr was the character of the Fox and he was a solid drummer and fit the KISS music very well. Dino decided that day to retire his Peter Criss costume (like the real Peter did) and be Eric Carr for that year's Halloween concert.
We had to do a lot of research and start building the set that summer if we were going to be ready for Halloween. First I went to the camera store to develop my 110-camera film of the pictures I took at the Palladium. But 110 pictures taken by a 14 year old from the mezzanine section of the theater with the flash on didn't turn out to be much help. We could tell from the pictures that Eric Carr had black make-up over his eyes, but not much more. But in August relief came in the form of a cover story that KISS did for People Weekly. There on the cover we could see Eric Carr's make-up and costume perfectly. Eric's make-up had a bandit-type fox mask of black over his eyes, a red jacket with brown fur around the collar, silver sequins at the end of the sleeves, a fox head belt buckle and towering black platform boots.
Dino asked his Aunt Bonnie, who knew her way around a sewing machine, if she could make a replica of the jacket Eric was wearing on the cover of People. She was a busy mom of three young boys, but she knew what KISS meant to us and agreed to make the jacket. She even had enough red material after she was done with Eric's jacket to give my recycled 1979 costume the new long red cape that Gene had added for KISS's 1980 tour. Aunt Bonnie spent all her free time that summer on the jacket and cape.
Once the costumes were finished we had to take care of the make-up. Our friend Toni always applied our make-up for us and was as involved in the annual KISS creations as we were. That summer we showed her the People magazine and told her to practice the Eric Carr make-up as much as she could. She drew and painted Eric's face on paper, rocks, the playground she even handled a small crisis when KISS appeared on the kids' TV show Kids Are People Too and we discovered that Eric had changed his make-up from what he was wearing on the People magazine cover to a new design. We scrambled to our local magazine store and bought a copy of Circus magazine showing Eric Carr in his new make-up so Toni could practice the updated design.
Dino and I spent hours in my parents' basement putting together our new stage set-up and by Halloween the stage, the make-up, and the costumes were ready, including one great Eric Carr red jacket trimmed with Dino's late grandmother's fox stole.
Getting through the school day that Halloween felt like an eternity. Three o'clock finally came and we headed for Dino's aunt's backyard where the concert would be performed. Toni showed up on time and we got to work on the make-up. In one hour Dino was transformed into Eric Carr and I became Gene Simmons. Manny, who was our Paul Stanley, and Steve, who was one of our regular Aces, were on time and ready to go. Just as dusk set over the backyard on Halloween eve, "Detroit Rock City" blasted out of the tape deck and our ritual was underway. All the kids from the block were crammed in the yard to watch us perform. People took pictures and my brother, Louis, filmed the show with his 8mm camera.
The soundtrack to our lives blared from the radio speakers as we all took on the personas of our designated heroes. Manny pouted his lips, Steve stumbled around in a spaced out way, and I stuck out my tongue and walked around like a monster. Dino had not seen Eric play live yet (although that would soon change), so he just channeled Peter Criss. Cheering us on from that very first number was a Halloween crowd filled with clowns, ninjas, Indians, soldiers and a few house wives.
After "Detroit Rock City," we ran through the full set list from the 1980 Unmasked tour, including KISS classics such as "Calling Dr. Love"; "Strutter"; "God of Thunder", complete with blood-spitting and drum solo; "Shock Me", featuring a smoking guitar; "I Was Made for Loving You"; and "Shout It Out Loud."
Ninety minutes later the last of the smoke bombs had faded in to the crisp autumn night as "Black Diamond," lip synced by Dino as Eric Carr, came to a close. We had made it through another Halloween, keeping our ritual alive.
EricCarr.com Contributing Writer