KISS And Tell: KISS’s Makeup Artist
Keaton Patti is a rock and roll writer currently interviewing lesser-known figures in music history for a yet unnamed and uncreated magazine. This article is a part of that project. If you’d like to be interviewed for the project, that’s nice.
I don’t normally wear makeup. It’s because they test that stuff on animals, which I think is terrible. Terrible of those animals stealing good makeup testing jobs away from humans. Today, I make an exception because Jan Carlisle, KISS’s former makeup artist, wants to personally show me how she turned four New York City boys into Insane Clown Posse lookalikes.
I sit in a chair in Jan’s Long Island home, staring at myself in the mirror. A layer of white makeup coats my face, allowing me to feel what it would be like to be twice as white as I normally am. I feel invincible. Like I could walk around swinging a medieval mace in a crowded public space and a police officer would just say, “Nice mace” and walk off. That’s how white.
“Whose idea in the band was the makeup?” I ask Jan as she sips her “Long Island Coors Light,” which isn’t just a Coors Light that happens to be in Long Island. It’s a Coors Light mixed with Bud Light and heavy cream. It’s the color of death.
“Oh,” she says. “It was Gene’s. He wanted them to stand out from the other bands. Not musically or due to talent, but with makeup. He knew me because I did his grandma’s makeup at her funeral. I like doing dead people’s makeup. That way I don’t need to worry about possibly killing them.” Jan jabs me in the eye with a brush when she says that, nearly killing me.
KISS originally consisted of four members: Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Gene Simmons’ really long tongue. They had hit songs like “Detroit Rock City” and “Chicago Rock City” and “Pittsburgh Rock City,” before audiences caught on that it was the same song with one lyric changed. Now I almost look just like one of them. Jan’s added black circles around my eye, black squiggles on my cheek, and a black Nike swoosh on my forehead, something Charles Manson would have, if he liked sports instead of swastikas.
“So you’d do this to the guys before every show?”
“Every show. It’d take hours. They’d normally miss sound check because of it, so I’d say 70% of their shows were inaudible.”
“Would you watch every show?” Jan is now mixing herself what she calls a “Long Island Glass of Water.” It appears to be ice, coffee grounds, rum, lettuce, and a shredded up page from a Bible.
“Hell no! After I was done, I’d go back to the tour bus and do cocaine. Jeez, I did so much cocaine back then. One time I mixed up the white face paint with pure, uncut cocaine. Put it all over the guys’ faces, so they were breathing it in the whole show!”
“How’d that show turned out?”
“I heard it was 4 minutes long and they played 31 songs. 16 they didn’t even know. But that was just how the seventies were.” Jan’s adding a few more details to my face. Her brush again slips and smacks my nose, and I die for a few seconds. When I come to, Jan is showing me pictures of her with the band.
“Wow, you were beautiful.”
“Yeah, look at that figure!” I point at Jan in the photo.
“That’s Gene Simmons, not me.”
“Oh, yeah. Well, your legs look amazing!” I point at what has to be Jan in the photo.
“That’s a bass guitar.”
“Of course. You still have that sexy stare of yours though.” I point at what I’m now 100% positive is Jan in the photo.
“You’re pointing at yourself.”
“Sorry,” I say. “I’m no good with photos. You know those ‘Find the Differences’ photo games?”
“Sure you do. It’s two photos side-by-side except there are a few differences in them. Like one photo will have a guy holding a football, but in the other one he’s holding like 6 footballs.”
“Never heard of them.”
“Jan, stop fucking around. You know what I’m talking about. They’re in like newspapers and magazines.”
“You mean articles?”
I slam my palm against my forehead, completely ruining the KISS makeup Jan has spent 2 hours doing. “No. Not articles.”
“I’m too messed up to fix that.” Jan is now drinking a “Long Island Mountain Dew: Code Red.” It’s a normal Mountain Dew: Code Red, but she’s smoking crack between sips. I get out of the chair and collect my belongings.
“One final question, Jan.”
“Let me guess,” she says. “You want to know if I slept with anyone in the band?”
“No, I want to know if you have a bathroom so I can clean my face.”
“Oh.” Two minutes pass.
“…well do you?”
“Your house doesn’t have a single bathroom? I don’t even think that’s legal.”
“You a cop?”
“If I was a cop, I would’ve arrested you when you said you didn’t know what ‘Find the Differences’ photos were. I’d probably then be fired for abusing my power, but I’d find another job, probably become a private eye, like Sherlock Holmes, but I’d have a robot sidekick with a name like Robort, kinda like Robert, but also indicating he was a robot, ya know, and we’d clean up the streets alright, and I’m not talking about litter, I’m talking about crime, though I would stop to pick up litter, and Robort would make some wisecrack like, “You humans are the real litter,” and I’m say something like, “You’re one step removed from a trashcan yourself, kid,” and I’d carry 7 guns, one for each day of the week that I planned to kill, yeah I’d kill Tuesday first because, Jan, you listening to this?”
Jan is slouched over on the floor, dead as KISS’s terrible career. It was either the crack or the Mountain Dew, but I’ll never know. “Detroit Dead City,” I mutter under my breath.
I start to call the cops, but stop when I remember my cell is running low on minutes.