KISS — Interviews, concert reviews and commentaries
by Alan K. Stout
The Lost KISS: 1974 Wilkes-Barre Concert Still Puzzling Authors
(Features/news story, March 2001)
The Times Leader
By Alan K. Stout
WILKES-BARRE — Of the nearly 1,900 concerts the rock group KISS has performed since 1973, almost all are properly documented. The date, the city, the venue and the opening acts are all on record. And next year, all the information will be published in the upcoming book "The Complete Touring History of KISS."
There are, however, three shows in KISS' entire history that are still missing some information.
One was held on Dec. 23, 1974.
The venue was The Paramount Theater.
And the city was Wilkes-Barre, PA.
"We have no clue who opened three shows, and one of them is there in Wilkes-Barre," says Curt Gooch, 28, of Oklahoma City, who is co-authoring the book with his friend Jeff Suhs.
"Hopefully, somebody up there will know."
Gooch says he and Suhs have spent more than five years working on the text, painstakingly researching and documenting KISS' lengthy road jaunts. The concerts — which have been held everywhere from New York's prestigious Madison Square Garden to stadiums and arenas throughout Europe, Australia and Japan — have long been considered among the most entertaining in rock.
The other two shows in which he and Suhs need the names of the opening acts are a Jan. 23, 1976 concert held in Erie and June 2, 1976 performance in Zurich, Switzerland.
Gooch, a KISS fan since 1978, says he wants the comprehensive text to properly document an important piece or rock history.
"Basically, we're doing the best rock book that's ever been done," he says. "It will have more facts and more figures than any book should ever be allowed to have. KISS are American icons. They're larger than life, and — like baseball — they should have their own 'stats' book."
In researching the Dec. 23, 1974 show at The Paramount (now the F.M. Kirby Center on Public Square) and trying to determine the opening act, Gooch took all the traditional avenues. He scoured KISS' past tour itineraries, he called local concert promoters and asked area libraries to look up the show on microfilm.
Making the task even more difficult is the fact that the microfilm from December of 1974 at the Osterhout Free Library and in the Times Leader library is mislabeled and missing. Gooch says he even has a copy of a signed letter from KISS bassist Gene Simmons thanking the promoter for sending him a review of the show, but — with no microfilm available — he cannot locate the review.
Those who were at the concert — including a few Times Leader writers — seem to have only two memories from the concert: KISS came on very late, and they were great. There is, however, one clue as to who the opening act may have been. In the 1994 book "KISSTORY," KISS guitarist Paul Stanley — when reflecting on some of the more humorous episodes of the band's early days — actually mentions the Wilkes-Barre show.
"At one point we played a theater in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania," says Stanley in the book. "And we had no support band — we had a magician. This poor guy was out there riding a unicycle while people in the audience were throwing money into the spokes."
Gooch says information on two other KISS shows held in Wilkes-Barre are complete. On Sept. 16, 1974 the band played The Paramount Theatre in the middle of a bill that featured opening act Rush and headliner Blue Oyster Cult. On Sept. 14, 1975the band headlined a show at King's College with opening act Diamond Rio. And on July 7, 2000, the band came to Montage Mountain in Scranton with Skid Row and Ted Nugent on the bill.
In addition to the dates, venues and a complete list of the bands on bill, Gooch is trying to attain set lists from all of KISS' shows. Not surprisingly, that's been one of the most difficult tasks. "Set lists are something that we take when we can get 'em," he says. "We've got over 1,000, or about 60 percent, so that's not too bad."
"The Complete Touring History of KISS," which is being published by Billboard Books, should be available in 2002. Those with any info about KISS' Wilkes-Barre shows — particularly the missing opening act for the Dec. 23, 1974 show — can contact Gooch at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (570) 829-7131 and we'll forward information.
"Anybody that can tell us anything about that show would be great," says Gooch. "If somebody has a copy of the set-list, or a tape of the show, we'd love to have it. We'd also be interested in any set lists or any other interesting memories of any of KISS' other shows in Wilkes-Barre."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was a fun little story, as it actually helped lead to a big search for the "LOST KISS" in Wilkes-Barre. I got calls at the newspaper from readers trying to help, and after seeing the story, the local radio station 979X-FM also jumped on the search, putting the word out to its listeners and on its website. Ultimately, the authors of the book were able to get the name of the opener — a comedian named Kenny Kramer who supposedly was the inspiration for the "Kramer" character on the TV show "Seinfeld." I don't recall if this story led to them finding their answer, or if they finally got it in some other way, but the guys were kind enough to thank me in the book, which was pretty cool.
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