Wednesday, 9 December 2015


KISS today: Paul Stanley, Eric Singer, Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer

Bugs' interview with Roman Fernandez about Bill Aucoin and KISS originally ran in the June 2014 issue of Fugues magazine.
The four original members of KISS – Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley and Peter Criss – put aside their personal differences at the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, at least long enough to say kind words about one another. 
Bill Aucoin and Roman Fernandez 
on Broadway (Photo courtesy 
Roman Fernandez)
But for KISS fans, as well as Roman Fernandez – longtime life partner of Bill Aucoin, the legendary rock’n’roll manager who discovered KISS – it would have been nice to see the fueding stop before the band hit the stage. In fact, it would have been nice to see the original KISS perform onstage at the ceremony.
Like former Rage Against the Machine guitarist and KISS fan Tom Morello concluded in his induction speech, “Tonight, this isn’t the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this is the Rock And Roll All Night And Party Every Day Hall Of Fame!”
For Roman Fernandez, the night was bittersweet: his life partner Bill Aucoin, who died of surgical complications from prostate cancer in 2010 at the age of 66, was not there to see the band he raised, nurtured and turned into global superstars inducted into the rock hall.

“When I first found out KISS was going to be inducted, it was very bittersweet for me,” Fernandez told me. “I was happy, but on the other hand I was upset because it was like a practical joke on Bill, [to induct] a band that was never supposed to get in the hall of fame. Bill and I had talked about that and he was at peace with that. Then three years after he dies, they get inducted. And Bill isn’t here to see it. That still eats away at me. So the induction is a happy occasion but it also rubs salt in the wound. To see [the original KISS members] fueding – those four guys who are lucky enough to have this argument because they are alive. Bill doesn’t have that luxury.”
Still, Fernandez is a loved member of the KISS family, and he attended the April 2014 induction ceremony to “represent.”
“It’s what Bill would have wanted,” Fernandez says.
A former rock musician, Fernandez met Aucoin in the early-mid 1990s. “He wanted to manage my band [but] when I first met Bill I just didn’t like him, period. I was very guarded. I expected someone who was a serious, buttoned-up Wall Street broker. Instead he was very boisterous, loud and very kid-like. He was like McCauley Culkin running and screaming through the house in Home Alone. To have someone like this show up took me aback. So it took some months before we started hanging out. In the end, one of the things that attracted me was Bill was a dreamer.”
Forty years after Bill Aucoin discovered
KISS, the band finally made the cover
of Rolling Stone.
These were also the ingredients Aucoin brought to the mix in his relationship with KISS, whom he discovered in 1973 and managed until 1982 (Aucoin quit citing creative differences).
“It’s no accident that Bill managed KISS,” Fernandez says. “It wasn’t a coincidental match. KISS is a product of Bill’s personality, his flamboyant nature. Certainly there were other people involved, like [producer, road manager and songwriter] Sean Delaney and [Casablanca Records founder] Neil Bogart. But Bill came from a TV background and always loved the stage. KISS was always a reflection of Bill’s personality. It was a Never Never Land of sorts.”
What has always intrigued me, however, is how Bill Aucoin was accepted as an out gay man in the macho 1970s music industry.
Shortly after Styx co-founder Chuck Panozzo announced in 2001 that he is gay and living with HIV, he told me that during the heady 1970s he never even whispered the truth, not even to his band mates.
Years later, I asked Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford what it was like to rise to showbiz fame in the closet, and he replied wistfully, “I saw Freddie [Mercury], it must have been in the early 1980s, and I was going to Mykonos with friends from London via Athens.We got to the hotel [in Athens] and did what we all did then – the clubs, the parties. At one club Freddie was holding court at the other end of the bar. We were two ships passing in the night. He waved, I waved. The place was packed and we never got the chance to connect. The next day we all went to Mykonos and I was on a beach when his yacht sailed by.”
So was the rock’n’roll closet also an issue for Bill Aucoin?
Roman Fernandez and Bill Aucoin in Cairo
(Photo courtesy Roman Fernandez)
“I don’t really know how to answer that question because we didn’t talk a whole lot about that,” Fernandez says. “But I can tell you this: Obviously Bill and Sean [Delaney] were together for many years, from the early 70s to the early 80s, and I am pretty certain that everybody knew they were a couple, and as far as I know they never went out of their way to hide it. But then who cares about the manager? The press wants to know about KISS.”
Of course, rumours that Stanley is bisexual continue to circulate, and the 2012 Peter Criss memoir Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss all but confirms that Frehley gave Criss oral sex during a threesome with infamous groupie “Sweet Connie from Little Rock.”
In the end, those rumours are neither here nor there. What is undeniable, however, is the glorious over-the-top camp factor of KISS, especially as their costumes got bigger and wilder in the late 1970s.
“Looking back in retrospect, I know exactly what you’re talking about,” Fernandez says. “And I don’t know where that came from. I don’t know if they were just trying to be more glam during the disco era. I think it’s probably just the times.”
KISS publicity photo, circa 1979
Today, Fernandez is a rock’n’roll manager himself (his bands include Spider Rockets and the Super Fuzz). When I ask him what he would advise a gay rock star to do – come out or stay closeted – Fernandez replies, “Do whatever you want, do whatever makes you comfortable. Today it’s such a lame subject, every time you open a door, somebody else is coming out of the closet. It’s not the 70s. I mean, Elton John, I think pretty much everybody knew he was gay. I think of Freddie Mercury, or Pete Townshend when he released Rough Boys, and they never really suffered a backlash because of it. So it’s a little bit of a conundrum: people stay closeted to protect a rock’n’roll identity, but it’s been proven time and time again that people who are out never really suffer because of it. To some degree, it actually helps them. Adam Lambert is another great example.”
Fernandez reconnected with his KISS family for the rock hall induction ceremony in New York, and while he won’t confirm whether or not a Bill Aucoin rock’n’roll biopic is in the works (“The most I can say is hopefully we’ll see something at some point”), there is no doubt Aucoin’s life would make one helluva film: As far as I am concerned, Aucoin is one of the great pioneering rock managers of all time, up there with Albert Grossman and Peter Grant.
As for KISS, the last word goes to Peter Criss, who told the audience at the rock hall induction ceremony, “I definitely want to thank our first manager, Bill Aucoin. We would not be here if it wasn’t for Bill.”
Roman Fernandez smiles. He is pleased. “At the end of the day, I’m a music fan,” he says. “I think rock’n’roll stills matters.”

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