Stanley, Paul-Backstage Pass (Book Review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed: July 2021
Released: 2019, HarperOne
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: JP

When it was first published I reviewed Paul Stanley’s 2014 autobiography, FACE THE MUSIC.  In that review, I made a comparison to the other three previously published autobiographies by the original members of Kiss (Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss) that was perhaps inevitable.  In that same review I suggested that I felt that Paul Stanley’s version of the Kiss story was perhaps closest to the truth, or my perception of the truth anyway.  With this in mind I was very glad when I acquired a copy of Stanley’s follow-up autobiography/memoir, BACKSTAGE PASS.

This paperback is 225 pages long and has about 20 photos on glossy plates in the middle.  A couple of them are black and white, never before seen photos of early Kiss which is pretty cool.  One is a photo of Stanley with his entire family, it’s a great shot and he looks genuinely happy.

The back quarter of Stanley’s first autobiography talked quite a bit about his family.  This is essentially a continuation of that. When he wrote the first one in 2014 his family was still pretty young, his kids were basically toddlers.  Now seven years on he has a busy house-hold with three kids under the age of 13 and he spends a lot of time talking about parenting. At a few times it is almost amusing how he seems surprised at the obvious things in life. He discusses the simple pleasures of cooking a meal or painting/hobbies or spending time with his kids.

It is almost like a re-awakening, he has existed on a higher plane of a rock god for so long he is now experiencing the simple things most of us mere mortals have known all along. He says, (paraphrased) “you can cook you own healthy, tasty meals”, as if this is some sort of revelation. Well, most of us don’t eat in restaurants everyday because we can’t afford it, we can cook our own healthy, tasty meals at home with our families every day. At one point he tells a story of how his kids baked a pie and he seemed to think this is some sort of amazing event. When he wrote this book he was (or still is) in his gushing Dad phase, which is really sweet and charming to see. I shouldn’t tease Stanley, he is a proud parent, happy and in an exciting new phase of his life and he deserves it after decades of hard work and sacrificing things, like a stable family life and learning how to cook.

There is some good Kiss related material in here but it is set in the background.  Much of this book is about ideas for success, attitudes, events and things that shaped him.  He talks about repairing the broken relationship with his father now 99 years old. He looks at why his first marriage failed and why his second one works. He talks about his parents raised him and how he was determined to not make those same mistakes.  All of this is framed with ideas on how to be happier, healthier and more successful.  Work hard, don’t be afraid to try, eat well, exercise often and stop and smell the roses once in a while.   It is not rocket science.  That is a central point of his book, he says (paraphrased) I want you (the reader) to be happy and if I can do it, you can too.  BACKSTAGE PASS is really quite inspirational and had me pause on a few occasions to evaluate how I could be a better parent/husband, be a more successful person and at times reinforced the things I’m doing seem work for him.  The chapter on getting rid of the concept of a bucket list had me nodding in agreement. Stanley is probably much wiser than people give him credit for.

It is no secret to Kiss fans that Stanley was the glue that held the band together on many occasions and it is fitting that he should be the first to write a follow-up. Of all the members in the original band this was the one I was most excited to read and own.  Aptly titled and well-presented, BACKSTAGE PASS is an less an invaluable piece of Kisstory and more of a self-help book combined with an exploration of his philosophies and strategies for life, happiness and success.