Saturday May 14, 2011 marked the return of the annual KISS CONVENTION to the NJ/NY area after over three years. Many were skeptical and didn't know what to expect since the New Jersey / New York area convention has been dormant for so long, but since we were actually there we can let you know first hand! The dealer's set up time was 7am but we rolled in somewhere 9am. Fans that bought special tickets got advance entry which was 11am and all that attended got a special laminated pass which was pretty cool. There were gold, standard, dealer and possibly others. A standard pass was for fans that were coming in at the posted entry time which was twelve noon.
Myself, I was really excited to attend and thanks to Ross Koondel, he made it possible. This will be my first time returning to a KISS Convention in maybe twenty years. What really made it a special day was that for the first time, I was able to take my daughter Ashley and as an added plus, had a chance to hang out with my personal friends Bill DeMild, Bill Hriczko, RockEyez staffer David Felix who I’ve know for thirty years plus and have attended KISS conventions with before. It was so nice to see so many old time friends and friends I worked with on projects with through out the years like Bill Baker (Ace’s Guitar Tech and author of Ace Frehley “The Ultimate Fan Scrapbook.” I really had a great time! Other friends I haven’t seen in years who were also in attendance included Al Rizzolo, Marc Scallatino, Joe Marshall, and I even met up with sculptor Danny Farrow Anniello who had an amazing collection of Simmons dolls with a removable tongue! I also met up with C.C. Banana who, by the way, is a relative of our senior staffer Mark Balogh. C.C. really made an impression and treated my daughter Ashley phenomenally as he did with all the kids, by making jokes, giving out balloons and doing face paintings.
Anyway... back to the convention!
When the doors first opened at 11am it was kind of slow and I’m sure many dealers were thinking, "This is not good," but don’t forget... 11am was for advance admission. Regular time was 12pm and when the clock hit 12 people started flowing in. My first thoughts were, "This is going to be a fair KISS Convention after all." but it turned out even better than I really expected. Naturally you can’t make everyone happy but as a dealer, I did pretty well for myself and others I know did very well also. Some dealers might have had some "over inflated" prices but that’s there call. But you can’t say the fans didn’t come out in full force. Even with a falling economy and people not having a lot of funds there was plenty that attended, even more than I expected, and everyone seemed to just have an incredible time.
You had plenty of special guests and a tribute band. I know Ross and Peter who ran the convection did try to get a past or present KISS members but that wasn’t possible at the time of the show. I applaud both Ross and Peter for not only attempting this comeback for the NJ/NY KISS Convention but succeeding in just about every way. They really did a Hell of a job... great turn out guys!
Now on to the dealer tables... I walked around the two hall areas; there was one huge hall and a smaller hall with plenty of KISS merchandise to be had. I saw everything you can think of... dolls, games, autographs, guitar picks, drumsticks, photos, and even cups that Gene used for spitting blood. It was extremely overwhelming seeing all those items. You had a special table filled with Eric Carr collectibles and even had his newly released comic book Rockheads. Behind those tables were none other than members of the great New Jersey band PHAROAH Karl DeKira and Richard Fabio plus there was an Eric Carr look-a-like played by Eric Toddorocks Carr. Funny thing, only minutes after visiting the Eric Carr table, I got a call from Loretta (Eric Carr’s sister) and we talked for a short period. Minutes after that, I got a package delivered personally by PHAROAH’s Richard Fabio with the new Eric Carr comic, drumsticks, guitar picks and the collector's card that has a 1" x 1" piece of the original bass drum skin from the "Crazy Nights" tour. Much thanks Loretta!
As the hours ticked away and the convention slowed down, with less than 30 minutes left till closing at 8pm. all the dealers starting to pack up as the fans were still trying to buy those last minute items. I would say the return of the NJ/NY KISS Convention was a great success for all. Thanks again to Ross and Peter for making this all possible, Loretta, Eric, Richard, Karl and everyone else at the Eric Carr booth, all my friends and all the fans who attended and finally, my beautiful daughter Ashley whom I got to share this experience for her first time and hopefully not for the last.
The guests (and there were plenty) that answered questions and talked about their experience in the "KISS camp" were as follows:
Lisa Jane Persky: KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park Cast Member "Dirty Dee"
J.R. Smalling: Voice of “KISS Alive” / First KISS Tour Manager
Eddie Balandas: Voice of KISS “”Alive II” / '70's KISS Security Guard
Victor Stabin: KISS “Unmasked” Album Artist
Lydia Criss: Author - Sealed With a KISS
Ron Johnsen: Wicked Lester Producer - The Man Who Found Paul and Gene
Mick Campise: '74 - '76 KISS Roadie
Bill Baker: Author - Ace Frehley - The Ultimate Fan Scrapbook Ace Guitar Tech
KISS Tribute Band ALMOST HUMAN