Weekly Wire
Salt Lake City Weekly Celebrating Americana

By Christopher Smart

FEBRUARY 8, 1999:  It's finally come to this: The rock group KISS is a mainstream symbol of our culture--that is if the organizers of the Super Bowl have their fingers on the pulse of America. And we're pretty sure they do.

KISS, the guys with black-and-white face paint, big, ratty hair and tight black leather outfits, sang "Rock 'n' Roll All Night," or whatever that was, to open the Super Bowl--the celebration of everything American.

Forget July 4 as our official holiday. It's been overtaken not just by football, but by million dollar TV commercials, the Budweiser frogs, KISS and enough hype to fill a squadron of Goodyear blimps--oh yeah, and don't forget the game itself.

It's quite a contrast to picnics and fireworks, baseball, three-legged races, apple pie--all lacking commerce. That's what America was in a different time. If it isn't all but gone, it's an aging phantom of its former self. America is now a fast-paced urban experience based on big business, and pushed along by electronic communication.

That is what the Super Bowl is all about.

Of course, there is the underlying football game and its heroes. This time around it's John Elway, who has capped off an exciting career with back-to-back Super Bowl wins. Elway, of course, makes millions of dollars and pulls fans to huge stadiums and into TV audiences. TV, the medium of electronic commercialism, is the real name of the game.

This year--Super Bowl XXXIII if you're keeping track--the TV commercials got as much pregame hype as the running-back contest between Denver's Terrell Davis and Atlanta's Jamal Anderson. In bars and clubs from New York to San Diego, where Americans gathered in front of big-screen TVs to cheer and swill beer and celebrate this great country of ours, a hush fell as sideline time-outs cut to those much-anticipated advertisements. You can always catch the instant replay of a T.D. pass, but when it comes to the Super Bowl ad sweepstakes there is no slowmo.

There we sat as a nation, transfixed by which goods and services could be more cleverly shoved down our collective throat. Among the big winners--outside of perennial advertising monster Budweiser--were Yahoo, the Internet search engine, and Monster.com, an Internet job service.

Clearly, we're a nation that likes its beer and the web. But what else does it mean?

It could mean we are a nation swept up in commercialism that loves a good spectacle. If that's the case, then who better than KISS to take the place of motherhood and apple pie as the symbol of Americana?

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