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Kiss And Sell:The Making Of A Supergroup (Book Review)
Released: 1997, Billboard Books
I stumbled across this gem in a used bookstore and grabbed it quickly. You can never have too many books about Kiss! This is one of the more unique books about Kiss that I have seen. The reason being KISS AND SELL was written by one of the business mangers for Kiss and it covers a lot of info that has never been revealed before.
The book itself is a nice soft cover, slightly oversized and published by the Billboard group. It has a few black and white photos what look like they are from the authors private collection. It is a bit of a dense read at times as there is a ton of information that might not interest all Kiss fans, but I found it fascinating.
KISS AND SELL was written by C.K. Lendt, a business manger for Kiss from about 1976 to 1988 and this is an incredible insiders perspective, and in professional terms, almost no one was closer to the band during these times. Hired fresh out off school and armed with an MBA he was assigned to tour with Kiss and handle the money. Literally. Briefcases of it. He joined just before they became multi-million dollar superstars and stayed with the organization until Kiss fired the firm of Glickman/Marks in 1988. It was a roller coaster.
Lendt has a keen eye for detail and numbers and because he was not polluted by drugs and alcohol, he is able to recall detailed information quite easily…almost too easily in some cases. It seems like some of the showmanship of Kiss rubbed off on Lendt after traveling with them for years as I’m sure some of the stories are elaborated. Not in a bad way but I’m skeptical that Lendt could remember exactly what people were wearing to certain business meetings almost 20 years in the past. Mind you he talks a lot about nice restaurants, clothes and food, (I suspect he enjoys some of the finer things in life), so perhaps these things are his memory trigger but it seems odd what kind of suit a guy was wearing in 1977.
I’m curious what the band thinks of this account. Lendt is not really rude, but not altogether flattering either of his former employers, but who is, especially after getting fired!? His account of the personalities of Kiss is in line with almost every other account. He has some really great stories. Even the stories that don’t involve Kiss at all such as his trip to Brazil to talk to semi-shady promoters to try to set-up a Brazilian tour. The work involved to pull off just four concerts (in what he calls a third-world country) was monumental with corruption, bribery and lies and illegal seizure of goods and merchandise being commonplace. The most common story being everyone is all smiles until they loose money. The book is littered with tales of dirty promoters who try to rip off Kiss when they don’t sell enough tickets to cover their expenses. The time and money wasted on lawsuits is incredible of the band trying to recover what is rightfully theirs. I felt for Kiss , bored out other minds, as they were stuck in various boardrooms with armies of lawyers and accountants trying to figure stuff out to help keep them afloat. It's not all glitz and glamour!
Lendt has an eye for the ladies as well, talking at length about the romantic relationships between the members of Kiss and various starlets and the obscene amounts of money the members would spend chasing girls. As stated earlier Lendt is a numbers guy by occupation and he brings the figures to the table. It was quite refreshing because many of these books won’t bring hard numbers into the picture. It is mindboggling the waste, utter waste, is the only way to describe the spending of the organization and the complete lack of understanding or willingness to compromise even when the Kiss organization was deeply in debt and sinking fast. There is a bit of a sense of airing some (minor) dirty laundry how the band managed it’s salaries, finances, investments, debts etc. Many (most?) rockers might not care about this stuff but I found it absorbing.
KISS AND SELL is one of the most revealing and exciting books about the Kiss machine that I have ever read. I wonder what Gene thinks about all this?
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