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Kiss banners stir controversy

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley to perform March 11, but that’s not him in the promotional banner.

SUSAN THURSTON | Times

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley to perform March 11, but that’s not him in the promotional banner.

TAMPA — To the average person, it's not a big deal. Behind all that makeup, don't all members of Kiss look the same?

But to fans of the legendary rock band, it's sacrilegious — so wrong that some are calling for lawsuits and the firings of those responsible.

Here's what happened: The Tampa Bay Lightning, as part of this season's outdoor concert series, signed former Kiss lead guitarist Ace Frehley to perform March 11 after the Ottawa Senators game. To promote the show, the marketing team hung banners of Frehley around the St. Pete Times Forum.

What they didn't realize was that the person on the banner wasn't Frehley but Tommy Thayer, his Kiss replacement. Frehley was an original band member who left to start a solo career, then came back for a reunion tour in the mid '90s.

Thayer joined the band in 2002 as the new Frehley, complete with Frehley's "Spaceman" nickname, performance antics and signature makeup of big stars around his eyes.

Not everyone approved. Two camps formed: fans of the old Kiss and fans of the new Kiss.

So imagine the horror when Thayer appeared on a poster advertising Frehley's solo concert. Unofficial Kiss websites lit up. Old wounds reopened.

"It's kind of gone viral among Kiss fans," said Peter Arquette, owner of the Kiss Asylum website. "The fact that it's Tommy Thayer is just ridiculous."

The news hit the virtual world over the weekend when a fan posted a photo of the poster online. Reaction was swift, with many fans hissing.

"I'd be so p----ed off," wrote one fan on blabbermouth.net, a site devoted to hard rock news and reviews. "There's only one Spaceman!!"

"This is sad," said another. "Ace deserves more respect then that."

Other Frehley fans had nasty words for the Lightning's marketing team.

"(Ace) should sue the Tampa Bay Lightning and NHL for defamation of character."

"Marketing dept for this should be fired!"

On Monday, Lightning officials acknowledged the error. After discovering it last week, they immediately ordered 15 new banners.

"We regret the mistake, and proper banners will be in place soon," said Lightning spokesman Bill Wickett.

The error happened when the in-house creative services department pulled a photo from a past Kiss concert without verifying it was of Frehley, Wickett said. They hung the banners Feb. 12 as part of a new "All In" campaign, not knowing Frehley was no longer with the band.

The explanation did little to douse tempers.

Mistaking Frehley for Thayer shouldn't happen, said Arquette, whose Kiss website gets 7,000 hits a day. Frehley has facial hair now and doesn't wear makeup when he performs solo.

Arquette compared Kiss fans to fans of Star Trek, a show with several incarnations. Some prefer one version, others another.

"They are people who like the old Kiss and people who like the new Kiss," he said. "Sometimes there's friction. They all fight about it."

Kiss banners stir controversy 02/28/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 7:06am]
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