Saturday, March 12, 2005

KISS Flipped the Tiny Switch

My sister and I were 8 and 11 and in the habit of using our imaginations and creativity for complex projects.
Spring was just about to wake up and after too many winter months of building hide-outs and working on our coal bin basement clubhouse, it was time to get some fresh air and take our ideas outside.
We knew what we wanted to our next project to be, all we needed were some warmer temperatures. We could sense they were right around the corner so we got to work right away.

The first step of our project took days of indoor preparation.
Being that our family rarely ever just had the radio on for no reason, we actually had to sit down with the intent of making a cassette tape to suit our needs. As we waited patiently for specific songs to come on the radio, we drew up some general plans to get organized. Keeping the tape recorder right next to the stereo speaker ensured we could catch the beginning of the songs sufficiently while we got down to business.
This was the hardest most technical step in our project.

Secondly, we needed to choose our costumes.
Careful consideration was given to this project because the costumes we would wear were slightly more important than the music we would be pretending to play. Our 'grubbby' jeans, snow boots, and matching Kentucky jackets with the white leather sleeves seemed to fit the tough rock image we were trying to project.

Next, we practiced applying our make up. We spent hours on end at a tiny dressing table opening tubes and examining colors. Experimentation proved that Mom's Avon blue-green frosty shadow was a suitable substitute for silver. We also discovered that if you used the tip of the mascara wand you could get a pretty good black outline. It was more theatrical, thicker and darker than the liquid eyeliner we originally used in our earlier tests.

There was also the very important consideration of set design.
By using both sets of picnic tables from the back patio, we found we could build a dual-level stage. Picnic benches made great ramps. We arranged one on either side of the stage and also extended one straight out into the audience for crucial crowd interaction and air guitar solos.
We arranged our platform halfway back on the natural incline of the lawn to get maximum stage presence.

Instruments were then chosen and practiced.
I had a small, yet complete, drum set Santa had delivered only a couple of months earlier, and my sister had an electronic guitar shaped Superstar 2000. I would take the back stage, she would be the front man.
I practiced twirling my drum sticks in the air and she perfected the lead guitar stance.

Finally, all that was left to arrange was an audience.
If the neighborhood kids couldn't make it, Mom and Dad would always fill in, and we could imagine the rest of the screaming fans pretty easily. It was easy to imagine the screaming fans everywhere, even in the balcony.
The balcony being the tree house, to the left of the stage, of course.

So were were all set to go, it was now show time.
Our imaginations were plugging along full steam as we climbed up onto the stage made from picnic tables and pressed "play" on the little tape recorder.

Our imaginations told us we were no longer two little girls from Georgetown, Kentucky.
We imagined we were rough and tough, in our leather sleeves, up on those tables.
The moment our feet left the grass and stepped onto the stained redwood planks, we became someone else.
We took our positions, and when the music kicked in, we became rock 'n roll.
We became KISS.

Imaginations can be quite powerful. Even with my long blonde hair, football jacket, and frosty eye shadow all over my face, I was convinced I was doing a great Peter Chris. I can remember the feeling so well, even as I sit here typing this many, many years later.
In my mind, we weren't in my backyard in Smalltown, USA jumping around on outdoor patio furniture.
We were dodging pryotechnics in a huge arena, with the KISS Army cheering us on.
We were rockin'.
Absolutely rockin' our grade school hearts out.

There was something about the band KISS that made us, and tons of other kids, want to emulate them.
Now, looking back, I think it was their masterful use of imagination that spoke to the kids.

When KISS came on the scene, suddenly hundreds of thousands of kids, all began wearing crazy make-up and using their imaginations to the fullest extent.
Some kids had real instruments. Some were completely air band style. It didn't matter.
In our pre-adolescent minds, we were all monsters of rock.

You might be happy to know that while KISS has long since removed their make-up for public outings, they are still inspiring the youth of today. And, while many of us have grown-up and hung-up the Superstar 2000s, KISS is still performing, most of the time in their costumes and makeup.
Still transforming themselves through the power of imagination from middle aged men to otherworldly beings.
Still using those same powerful imaginations that we used when we were children.
They didn't hang their imaginations up with their childhood plastic guitars.
No, they kept right on.

In fact, on a reunion tour about 6 years ago, I got the incredible opportunity to work as a caterer backstage.
My food table was located very close to the band's dressing room and I got to witness, first hand, some of the most powerful and influential imaginations of my time, up close and personal.

The men that walked out of that dressing room, were not the same ones that had entered a few hours earlier.
The transformation that took place was wildly amazing and I must admit, it was one of the defining moments of my life.
They went in as men. Cool men, but men nonetheless.
When they came out,however, they were transformed. Not even closely resembling the humans that I had smiled at earlier.
The came out as the stuff legends are made of.

I decided, pretty much at that moment, that I needed to exercise my own imagination a little more. It made me sad that I was 29 years old and had already succumbed to wearing blazers and having a blonde bob. I had quit dreaming of being and artist, or a rock star and I was working at the mall.
I had hung up my imagination.
I didn't mean to.
It just kind of happened.
And with that revelation I decided to change.
I started my change that night as the band stepped onto the stage.
I let my death grip on practicality loosen a little and I let myself enjoy the show with the wonderment of a child.
I recalled the picnic tables and the tiny tape recorder. I played a little air guitar that night and I twirled imaginary sticks.
The more I stretched my imagination, the happier I became.
A tiny little switch was turned back on inside my soul and I was better for it.

I guess I'm sharing my story with you in hopes that you might do the same.
The next time you find yourself wanting to wail on some air guitar, I would like to encourage you to do so.
Even if you are alone, or in your car, or in the shower. I don't think it really matters if anyone sees you.
It only matters if you do it or not.
So go a ahead,
I'll bet you have a sweet solo buried right below the surface,
and you never know... it just might be good for your soul, too.


Blogger Lori-Lyn said...

That Kiss art is rockin.

Wednesday, 16 March, 2005  

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