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C.K. Lendt's "Kiss and Sell."

By Michael Henningsen

NOVEMBER 24, 1997:  If you were to read between the lines in C.K. Lendt's wholly uninspiring "behind the scenes" account of the making of KISS, you'd likely find the following phrase repeated throughout in true Nixonian glory: "I am not a dork." Chris Lendt, KISS' financial manager from the early '70s until 1984, is, of course, a dork--- perhaps even the world's biggest. But one question comes to mind when I think back on the laborious process of reading KISS and Sell: How can someone who spent so much time with the most pretentious, relentless and outrageous rock band in history know so little about the music industry beyond the narrow scope of his piddly job and be so out of touch with said band, worldwide audiences, pop culture and the great rock and roll machine in general? It is a question that persists.

The most annoying thing about KISS and Sell isn't that it was written as an attempt to capitalize on the unholy reunion of the original KISS or that it's so full of boring details (what everyone at any given event was wearing, for instance, as if Lendt or anyone else, for that matter, could possibly recall the attire of 10 people down to the color of their socks in a business meeting that happened some 20 years ago). The most annoying thing about the book is the decidedly juvenile manner in which Lendt--reportedly a lecturer and faculty member at several universities and pseudo-universities--writes. For Christ's sake, when KISS couldn't come up with a decent song, they brought in professional songwriter Desmond Child. Lendt may want to consider doing the same for his next book.

Aside from benign information about the inner-workings of KISS' management company and the individual interior design preferences of the band's members, Lendt tells us that Gene Simmons liked to fuck; Ace Frehely and Peter Criss liked to drink, snort coke and trash hotel rooms, and Paul was the most grounded of the bunch. Well no shit, asshole! But, with annoying frequency, Lendt attempts to prove his literary mastery with the inclusion of many French and Latin words in all their italic glory and rambles through paragraphs that, if one didn't know better, would appear to have been written by a sixth grader--painfully true to five-sentence, thesis-statement, body-conclusion form.

KISS fans will be bored to tears, and anyone hoping to learn the "dirt" about one of the most simultaneously beloved and ridiculed bands ever to have walked the earth will be sorely disappointed. KISS and Sell contains nothing you don't know already. The entire text could be applied to any '70s cock-rock band, and the very good possibility exists that you'll hate yourself for reading it only slightly less than you'll hate Lendt for writing it. My only salvation came from having read the entire book in sessions, seated on the toilet, producing better work than Lendt's shitty book.

His asinine descriptions of KISS' members, their behavior and various hijinks cause one to wonder if he really knew them at all. In the time it takes him to discuss KISS' ill-conceived and ultimately failed tour of Mexico in the early 1980s, KISS have played another show somewhere in the world and raked in another three quarters of a million dollars. So who gives a shit about Lendt's diary entries explaining what Gene Simmons ordered for dinner at some posh Hollywood Italian restaurant back in '79?

Throughout the book, Lendt's cluelessness is colossal enough to outweigh his inferiority complex, driving him to write passages that make himself out to be a complete shithead. When writing about a groupie's desire for backstage passes, for instance: "'Do you want to fuck me between my tits,' she asked. I declined." So are we supposed to admire him for rejecting sexual favors, respect him for keeping his self-respect or just roll our eyes at him for recounting such a meaningless tidbit in the first place? The last, I would venture. KISS and Sell is 350 pages of your life you'll never get back. Just say no! (Watson-Guptill Press, paper, $18.95)


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