KISS Finally Showed Their Bare Faces 40 Years Ago

Kiss, group portrait, without make up, London, August 1983, L-R Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Vinnie Vincent, Eric Carr.
Michael Putland/Getty Images

KISS is known for their rock and roll music and their wacky personas, complete with tons of makeup specific to each bandmate. The original members included Paul Stanley as the Starchild, Gene Simmons as the Demon, Ace Frehley as the Spaceman (or Space Ace), and Peter Criss as the Catman. The band rose to fame in the ’70s with their incredible live performances and it was unlike anything the world had ever seen. It wasn’t just a concert or performance, it was a full-on show complete with fire-breathing, pyrotechnics, and other bizarre details.

After almost a decade of performing in full makeup, fans had never really seen the bandmates’ bare faces. So, on Sept. 18, 1983, the band, now featuring Simmons, Stanley, Vinnie Vincent, and Eric Carr decided to go makeup-free for an MTV press conference. They had hoped the stunt would revitalize their career and it worked. The press conference got a ton of coverage and their latest album at the time, Lick It Up, did quite well and almost immediately became a platinum album.

Stanely shared about the event, “I very much wanted to do it; as a matter of fact, I was hoping we would’ve done it with [1982’s] ‘Creatures of the Night’ album. But understandably, it was a much, much bigger step for Gene, because Gene’s persona is so strong, and was so strong, that to give that up was a big, big, big, big commitment and sacrifice. So, he was a little reluctant, and we waited. But when ‘Creatures,’ although it was arguably one of the top albums we did, didn’t sell through the way we hoped it would, I think Gene saw the writing on the wall. [The press MTV conference] got a lot of coverage, and lo and behold, ‘Lick It Up’ came out and was almost immediately a platinum album. So, I think I was right.”

10th May 1976: American rock group Kiss arrive at London airport for their first European tour, already sporting black and silver make up and costumes. From left to right they are guitarist Ace Frehley, lead singer Gene Simmons, guitarist Paul Stanley and drummer Peter Criss

Peter Cade/Central Press/Getty Images

(Left to Right) Guitarist Ace Frehley, lead singer Gene Simmons, guitarist Paul Stanley, and drummer Peter Criss

Even though the band was sharing a whole new side of themselves, Simmons assured fans that they have always been the band they know and love and will continue to be. He said on air, “We’ve always contended from the beginning that the makeup was just sort of a stage manifestation of who we are … the makeup was just an extension of our personalities. [We still have] the same sort of energy and drive and commitment to doing everything, short of killing ourselves, to give people the best show in the world.”

Circa 1983, Portrait of the Rock group Kiss, left to right; Paul Stanley, Vinnie Vincent, Eric Carr (1950 - 1991) and Gene Simmons

Getty Images/Getty Images

(L to R) Paul Stanley, Vinnie Vincent, Eric Carr (1950 – 1991) and Gene Simmons

Years later, Simmons recalls the night and said that he remembers fans hating the makeup removal. He admitted that they were excited to finally see what was underneath all of the flashy makeup and tricks but ultimately, some were disappointed. He added, “They didn’t want the paint to come off. But you know what? Tough. It had to happen. You want your heroes to stay the same forever, but then the consequence of that is you get bored with them.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 01: (L-R) Gene Simmons, Eric Singer, Paul Stanley and Tommy Thayer of KISS visit SiriusXM's 'The Howard Stern Show' at SiriusXM Studios on March 01, 2023 in Los Angeles, California

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Note that the current lineup (pictured above) features Simmons, Stanley, Tommy Thayer (guitar), and Eric Singer (drums). They are supposedly currently on their final tour, The End of the Road World Tour, which is set to conclude in December 2023.

 Oh What A Year: 1980
Want More?

Oh What A Year: 1980

January 2020

Take a look back at our retrospect of the year 1980 where we celebrate the hottest in movies, music and TV.

Buy This Issue