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When Kiss Commandeered an Aircraft Carrier For a News Conference

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“We’re gonna show every new band how the big boys do it,” said Gene Simmons during the Kiss press conference on April 16, 1996 to announce a reunion tour featuring the outfit’s original lineup, and holding it a decommissioned World War II United States Navy aircraft carrier certainly set that tone.

Simmons, Peter Criss, Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley, who had last played together as a foursome 17 years prior, finally announced a long-awaited reunion tour on the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York City. It had been even more eagerly anticipated as just six weeks prior, they made a surprise appearance at the 1996 Grammy Awards as presenters in full makeup and Love Gun-era costumes.

The idea to hold the press conference on the Intrepid was a brilliant move from a publicity standpoint, one that was the brainchild of legendary public relations man Ken Sunshine, according to the band’s then-PR person Danny Goldberg. However, Simmons claimed in his 2001 book Kiss and Make-Up that he came up with the stunt, saying that he got the idea from his former flame Diana Ross, who had used the carrier for a small press conference a decade and a half before. Either way, it drew attention to what already promised to be one of the biggest summer tours that year and surely the most grandiose.

The proceedings were kicked off by Conan O‘Brien, who then was still a struggling late night host and opened the event with the goofy, “Last week when they asked me to introduce Kiss, I had just two questions; what time, and what aircraft carrier?”

To the strains of “Take Me” from Rock and Roll Over, the four strode out through a haze of smoke in front of massive steel letters that lit up and spelled “KISS.” Typically, Stanley and Simmons carried a confident air about them, but for Criss and Frehley, there was more of a wow-factor that was visible even under the greasepaint.

Simmons boasted that the upcoming jaunt meant a “world tour” in the truest sense, and, “We’re going to visit every country that’s formed or is about to be formed.” Dubbed the Alive/Worldwide Tour, it would go on to visit around 25 countries on a dozen legs over the period of just over a year and nearly 200 shows. It remains the most profitable Kiss tour in their history.

“We’re gonna give the fans exactly what they want…we’re here for the fans,” added Simmons. They would be digging back into the past, using the 1977 Alive II show as a blueprint and updating it with the technology that had become more prominent in the ensuing 20 years. The setlist wouldn’t veer out of the make-up era, but did include some nuggets for the die-hards like “King of the Night Time World” and “Rock Bottom.”

It was also announced at the press conference that Stone Temple Pilots would be the opening act at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium at the end of June, the first official gig of the tour. Unfortunately, STP frontman Scott Weiland’s drug problems would lead to Alice in Chains having to step into the slot at the very last minute and would handle the duties for the tour’s first four shows.

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