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Hotter Than Hell

Between 2001 and 2006, I’d secretly hoped that my friend would drop dead. Well, perhaps “hoped” is a strong word, but my reflexes would have slackened considerably had his frame, say, wandered under a falling piano or against an electrified fence. Although the man claimed relatively sound health, even the heartiest of souls forget to look both ways when crossing the street, especially when nudged nonchalantly into traffic. Normally I’m not an evil man, but these and other scenarios of demise remained wildly vivid like an endless ‘Faces of Death’ montage. Ultimately, should the Reaper have dragged his sickle to Connecticut during that five year window, the chest bumps would have begun seconds after the Cloak of Doom’s Amtrak ticket was punched for his return trip from New Haven to Hell.

You see, my friend was planning to be buried in a Kiss Kasket, or so the rumor mill assumed. Yes, a Kiss Kasket, for the man aiming to piss off generations of his family, living and unborn, by subordinating himself to “putting the X in sex,” female objectification, and chest hair grown amok. After interring four grandparents and a few stray aunts in unadorned steel and fiberglass, the prospect of placing rose sprays over a fully laminated coffin with KISS FOREVER emblazoned across the front and an image of the face-painted band on the lid, seemed an intriguing thumb in the eye to conformity. More importantly, receiving the eucharist to “Beth” during the ensuing mass presented a once in a millennium opportunity.

Within my own rehearsed choreography, I anticipated throwing devil horns – that ubiquitous headbanger hand sign – after concluding the eulogy (and basically everywhere else that day); prosthetic tongue dangling halfway to my nipples while crushing blood capsules in my teeth like I’d just gnashed through a dead horse in the rectory. For those unfamiliar with Christian funerals, the aforesaid events would be construed as “disrespectful” to the sanctity of the church, family, faith, God, and basically anyone in a nursing home on Planet Earth preparing to keel sideways. But at a Kiss-themed funeral, the disrespect would occur from not doing them.

For enthusiasts of Goyim-fronted kitsch and/or male make-up, $4,500 ($5,000 autographed) would have scored a rectangular box proclaiming one’s devotion to “rock and roll all nite,” presumably deep into the inner rings of Hades. In his penchant for shameless promotion, Gene Simmons – demon and marketing genius alike – also presented the container as a dual-use cooler or small refrigerator. In others words, if one were to best the odds of pancreatic cancer or the flesh-eating Ebola virus, the casket could begin a successful barbecue tour, contributing to alcoholism while keeping hamburger meat on ice. And if your ailing grandfather wasn’t a fan of arena rock, himself holding out for the Perry Como estate to introduce their own laminated model, you’d leave your family one less issue with which to concern themselves on your fateful day of reckoning. As for your ball busting friends, well, better Kiss than Winger, I suppose.

The funeral business has made strident inroads since an impoverished Tom Hulce (as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) was unceremoniously dumped into a gaping hole, a perverted and disgraced pauper. In Florida, where humans move to die, warehouse clubs proudly hawk caskets of all styles, alongside their expansive selection of tires, electronics, and mustard six-packs. And creativity abounds freely, as specialty manufacturers have designed coffins to resemble gym bags, guitar cases, cigar humidors, and even yellow dumpster bins(!); assuring your surviving family that if they didn’t consider you an asshole during waking years, this representation would destroy any lingering fondness after your ditch was dug.

On a pleasing note to close an otherwise uncomfortable topic, I no longer wish death upon my friend, not if he’s relegated to the same hexagonal container as everyone else. Where’s the originality in a few refrains of “Amazing Grace” and a procession of black Town Cars? The Kiss Kasket may have been a cheap shot at tasteless publicity, but in this age of inelegant egotism, at least it served a purpose. For all the criticism mounted against him, Mr. Simmons remains a bassist second, but a brilliant salesman first and foremost. His exploits may be derided, but his tagline was marketing gold: “I love livin’, but this makes the alternative seem pretty damn good.” Spoken like a man with a few extra bullets in his love gun.
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