Sunday July 2, 2006

(Photo by Al Soluri /

And who's that lurking over the shoulder of Paul Stanley as he poses with Coffeehouse contest winner Anthony Johnson?


I'm feeling a bit better about everything today. I spoke to Frank for awhile about our future. It seems secure (if fragile). It's just a matter of figuring out the best way to proceed.

Fittingly (after all these pics from their site this week), I heard from KISS Online today. Gene Simmons apparently emailed them my pictures proofs that I sent him so they asked if they could use some of 'em. I told 'em sure but I don't expect they will as they've already covered the thing to death. It'll be cool if they do but hey, I'm already all over that site, ain't I?

The funny thing is with all these KISS Coffeehouse pics this week, I haven't posted a single one I took. What shall I do to remedy that? Maybe I'll figure it out next week.

If you wanna play Where's Waldo, you can also click here for the KISS Coffeehouse site and look for me, Amanda and Benji!




Saturday July 1, 2006

(Photo by Al Soluri /

That's me over on the right freaking out about the people trying to push through the window last Tuesday! See more here.







Today was just plain depressing. I spent the day dwelling on the attitudes surrounding me, the fruits of our labor, the possible futures, the definite pasts and all aspects of what this thing is worth.

Negativity breeds negativity. We were surrounded by positive energy and this was the most fun project I've ever been in. Now we've got negative influences and it's becoming a bit of a drag. It's a simple fix but certain factions don't even wanna seem to try. It's killing us slowly. I don't look forward to shows anymore because rehearsals and shows seem like they cause so many problems. That's natural when people are having to drive in hundreds of miles for each. That's also why I made a personal rule to only work with people in the same place as me. I've had to break it against my will lately and all I can think about it is how right I was about that rule.

Even on a good night, the exhaustion and sickness of the other members affects me. This is not on the right course. I will keep going but I don't know how.

Right now, the "Critical Darlings" have the same limping, lumbering feeling that Star Zero and Q-Sign did in the months before their splits. Of course, I will keep the name alive and I will keep moving. We've stopped evolving (temporarily). I haven't but the band as a unit has. If we're not evolving, we're not a band. I just have to tell myself to stay the course. This is a normal cycle of events.

We all know what changes need to be made. I know some of us are making the necessary personal changes. If we all can, we'll be fine. If not, it's time for another rebirth.

Perhaps it's symbolic but Jerry Boyd and I had another conversation today. He wants to personally compile a CD from a lot of my "lost" solo tracks for his record company. I told him I'd make a disc of a bunch of 'em and let him choose to his heart's content. We'll see what happens from there. His belief and confidence in my music is really helping to keep my enthusiasm afloat.

Amanda and I went to Ryan's tonight to gorge the blues away. It helped a little but it changed nothing.

Today was just plain depressing.





Friday June 30, 2006

(Photo by Amanda)

Why can't we be happy here and now?

The Darlings return to the Georgia Theatre.

If we could, I guess we should...


Well, I forced myself to get that concert round up done. It took the better part of the day. I never could get it down to the recommended word count and I didn't even do an intro. I just sent it in the best way I could and hoped Mr. Editor can do his magic on it. All I can do is hope for the best now.

The weird thing about today is that it's a show day and everything is working. Everything has gone right and has been fine. And guess what, that got me worried.

Too bad we're not playing in Eugene, Oregon tonight. We're still being spun there!

Amanda had a wedding of a friend to go to tonight. Carla has worked with her forever and she's finally getting married. I couldn't make it due to sound check but I wish her the best. Amanda went on and took pics there and made it to the Theatre in time for our show.

As for our performance, you can see if I had reason to be worried by clicking here for the full show report and pics.

Oh - and here's yer bonus KISS Online pic of us for today. In the 2nd picture, you can see the back of Amanda's and my head in the front row - doesn't that make your day?)




Thursday June 29, 2006

(Photo by Al Soluri /

In the background, you can see me and Warren Lapine, the publisher of the official KISS Magazine leaning on the glass with our arms up.




Ack! And I had to get back to work in earnest today. It wasn't easy. I have to get that massive concert round up thing turned in by tomorrow at the latest. I wish I had more time to work on it but it's going to have to be whatever it winds up being. At least it'll help that alleged Concert Shots update to have a lot more content if I can ever get back to that!

Obviously, I had a lot of emails and thank you's to send out too. KISS Online and the official KISS mag had asked me to send 'em some stuff. I even had to send some stuff to Gene as per his request. I was especially glad to be able to send pics of Tommy Flowers' minute with the band to him!

I'm showing up a lot on KISS Online, too. It's kind of cool. If you click here, you can see a couple of 'em and read the story. In the top picture (1)- look over the albums and see me zooming in on Paul and Gene.

In the bottom picture (5)- look in the background to see me hanging out with Warren Lapine who's the publisher of the Official KISS Magazine (or just look to your upper left).



Wednesday June 28, 2006

I screen grabbed this image from the AP News Slide show. That's me in the front row with the camera. Amanda's camera is just under mine. Benji's friend Ben is the guy with the cap and beard behind me. Benji was behind me too. I had to crop it down to fit in this space, though. Watch the slide show to see the whole thing.


I am so...very...exhausted. The weird thing is that (for a change) Amanda seems even more tired. It's so hard to make that long drive back when I feel this way. Still, I feel like it was worth it. Yesterday was a blast. If the images sell, it'll just be like very tasty icing.

We had our usual LHOP lunch with Amanda's mom, ran by Grandma's to take care of some little things for her, then hit the highway.

Of course, it rained most of the way back. I've had enough of it. I know we've been in a drought but c'mon!

By dusk, I was editing photos. I had them uploaded to Retna by 11.

After that, I fell into bed and didn't get up 'til I had to!

When I was checking the news this morning, I came across the Associated Press video montage of still images from yesterday. There's even an appearance by moi. My brother Benji, his friend Ben and Amanda are also lurking around in the image to your left (I grabbed it with screen capture). Click here to check it out for yourself.

I think it's especially cool that they got Ben's "How do take your coffee?" question in there. Watch the above clip to hear Paul Stanley's amusing response.

If you're using Internet Explorer, you can also watch a full video news clip of the opening by clicking here.




Tuesday June 27, 2006

(Photo by Amanda The Spinner)

Gene Simmons and me at the KISS Coffeehouse in Myrtle Beach, SC.





God, I don't even know where to start on this day. It was crazy, long, fun, ridiculous, over-the-top, surreal and caffeinated. I had a blast.

The day started like every South Carolina day. I swung by the cemetery to visit with my Dad, then headed on over to Grandma's to check on her.

Then Amanda and I were off to Myrtle Beach for the opening of the first KISS Coffeehouse. It poured down rain most of the way. I couldn't help but think of the people lined up to meet Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. I wondered if this would "dampen" their enthusiasm and thin out the crowd. I wondered if anyone would come. We got to Broadway At The Beach at about 3:30. I began calling my onsite contact Roberta but I couldn't get through. There was already a line a couple of blocks long and the thing wasn't supposed to start for 5 hours.

Apparently the family in the front came all the way from Colorado and got here about 6 am! And they didn't even come close to the furthest travelled prize!

We were lucky. We didn't have to wait in line. We went on in and introduced ourselves. Before long, Skippy (I believe he was the owner's father-in-law) took us in the back and gave us these amazing "frozen hot chocolates". The whole staff was in makeup and in great spirits. Everyone was so, so cool to us that I can't thank them enough. There were only about 5 tables in the place and Skippy cleared one of them just for us. As we started chatting with some of the others, we felt even more special. At the table next to us was Al Soluri (KISS' official photographer) and Keith Leroux ( publisher). Warren Lapine from the official KISS Magazine came in later. We all chatted but I spent the most time hanging out with Al. We talked cameras and past experiences. Other people we chatted with included the guy that designed the building (the giant boots are made of styrofoam???), the members of Christine Sixteen (who flew in from Canada and didn't speak English all that well), Rebecca from Signatures Network (the company that licenses KISS' merch) and of course, the coffeehouse staff. When Rebecca (the publicist) got there, she and Brian (the owner) made it clear that Amanda and I were the only "media" allowed to hang around. I was humbled and honored. At one point, they even escorted out the guy who designed the place, a 20-year old named Adrian who MOVED from Poland to Myrtle Beach to "be close to KISS" and an American soldier who got leave from Iraq to attend the evening. But they let us stay. Wow!

I'm not stupid. Even though I didn't necessarily feel we deserved such special treatment, I wasn't about to turn it down. Especially when I could look out the window at the crowd trying to get in as they stood there in the steaming, pouring rain.

When the rain quit for a bit, I went outside to get some atmosphere shots of the building. I've gotta say, for something so tacky, it's pretty cool. The demon boot alone should become a tourist attraction. I got interesting shots because it was so steamy. The overcast filtered the light in this otherworldly way. Good stuff.

I then walked on down the line of people trying to get photos. Who should I run into but my brother Benji and his friend Ben? Ah, if only he'd have hooked up with us for the ride down. We could've not only minimized our environmental damage but we could've all gotten in good early. Since Benji got there when he did, he was stuck waiting outside with the masses.

I also ran into a friend I knew before I moved away from home (a lifetime ago). Tommy Flowers played guitar in some of my earliest attempts at bands (Fair Warning, anyone?). He's apparently a married man with a kid now. He introduced me to 'em and I gave him a CD. It was good catching up a bit but it didn't last long because a huge, white stretch Hummer pulled up behind us (so much for the environment). People were screaming and jumping out of line to get closer. Super manager Doc McGhee got out first. Then Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons followed. Police surrounded 'em but not all that well. Amanda jumped right into the procession and I got a couple of pictures of her with them (as well as the more professional arrival shots). I seemed to be the only photog who got these shots, too, as Benji was wandering at that time.

By the time we got back to the front of the coffeehouse, a radio station was broadcasting live, they had blacked the windows out and hundreds (maybe thousands of people) were gathered in front. They wound up blacking out the windows to help with the inside lighting as Paul and Gene did interviews with AP, CNN, Entertainment Tonight and all the other big outlets.

I went out and picked up my highly coveted VIP badge and started a frenzy of other people trying to claim theirs. Then I went to the "other" entrance to hang out with some of the other journalists. I was getting overheated, had nothing to drink and was starting to feel the pre-dinner fatigue hitting me. It didn't matter. I had work to do first.

Before long, we were all herded into this tiny, tiny room. Totally by chance (not angling), I wound up in the front row with several dozen reporters jammed in behind me. Amanda disagrees but I swear the temperature must've been 90 or more degrees in there. And it was humid from all of the storms all day. I started to feel very sick. I thought I was going to pass out. I was about to give up my prime spot to get some water when the dog and pony show began. Following testimonials from the staff, the soldier and the Polish guy, Gene and Paul came out for the big press conference. Once I started working, I forgot about my own troubles.

Paul and Gene both posed for me during the press conference with their Coffeehouse merchandise (being in the front row helps) but I never did feel the need to ask a question. Benji's friend Ben got the best (and most simple) question out. He asked Paul, "How do you take your coffee?" Paul paused for an instant, smiled and said "Orally!". Everyone laughed and interviewers made notes to include the quote in their broadcast (but you know that it's a scoop delivered to you by Music Live Wire).

Then they started herding all of the media out. When they came to Amanda and me, they stopped and said "They're good." So we were allowed to stay. Then Gene and Paul did more interviews for local media while I snapped and hung out. It was interesting to hear Gene talk "off the record" about his political feelings. "On the record", he's a Bush supporter. "Off the record", it's not that simple. To him, it' seems to be all about supporting the troops. I can agree with that but I do take issue with ANYONE that supports Bush. Still, he laid out a strong argument for his side that I couldn't help but respect. After that, Paul was trying to get things organized a little better...and he did.

During the down time before the VIP and contest winners meet and greet (which we were also allowed to hang out for), we couldn't resist getting our pictures taken with Gene and Paul and getting a couple of my photos autographed.

I've got to say, it really made an impact on me seeing the interaction between those two guys and their fans. It seemed so real and sincere. I was duly impressed. You can see how they've survived 30 + years just on fan devotion. But then, this was the VIP meet and greet. I figured surely there'd be a change when the flood of "real people" began. All those people that had been in line in the heat and rain had been told that Paul and Gene would not sign autographs or pose for pictures because they didn't have the time. Paul (and his son Evan) had a flight to catch and there were simply too many people. By now, the line was in the thousands and went as far as the eye could see. The police were estimating 5,000 people out there.

After the VIP meet and greet, they removed the blacking curtains from the windows, confetti went firing across the crowd outside, KISS music began blaring and a massive roar went up. As they were about to let the line start coming in, Paul and Gene took up places behind the counter. At some point, Gene got out a pen. Paul reminded him that they were NOT to sign. Gene looked at Paul and Doc in a semi-confused way. He said, "Wait, so we're not supposed to sign anything?" Paul confirmed this firmly, explaining that they didn't have the time and he only had about 2 hours to shake as many hands as possible. There was a long awkward pause. Gene finally sighed and said, "We'll try it but I'm telling you right now that there are going to be a LOT of disappointed fans. They've been waiting all day." They put the pens away. The first fan walked in and got to Paul first. The fan put something in front of him to get signed. Paul took out a pen and signed it. Gene looked over and smiled, saying "So we're not signing anything, eh?"

From there, it becomes a blur. Every person that came in there had stories to tell about their personal connection to KISS. They were all grateful for the opportunity to have stood in line for 12 hours for 5 seconds with Simmons and Stanley. For their part, the two stars were gracious with EVERY SINGLE PERSON who came through. They were just as nice to the people in the front as in the back. I was especially impressed by Simmons. When one family came in, it was clear that the mom was NOT here by choice. She was clearly NOT the fan of the family. She looked irritated, frustrated, exhausted and overheated. She was sweating profusely and looked sick. Gene stopped everything, went back to the sink, wet a wash cloth for her and told her to "cool down". She was so grateful. Gene smiled. Everything about her changed. If she wasn't a fan before, she was now. When a handicapped fan came through, Gene double checked to make sure everyone from top to bottom had been helpful, accommodating and nice to him. When a shy, gawky looking teen girl came up, Gene sweetly asked if she had ever modeled. A huge smile crept across her face and she said, "No, but I've dreamed about it." He encouraged her. "You should. You'd be great at it." Meanwhile, Paul was encouraging 10 year olds who wanted to play guitar ("Maybe you can show me how to play the "Detroit Rock City" solo properly one day.") And that seemed to be the order of the day. It was amazing. During lulls, the fatigue and heat showed up on both of their faces. Gene kept cooling himself and had several people fanning him with boxes (he kept teasing me that I should be doing it since I wasn't "working", I was only taking photos). I watched the two of them go through boxes of Sharpies. Eventually, someone had to be sent out for more.

At one point, Doc came in to tell Paul that it was time for him to leave. Paul didn't even blink. "The KISS Army is here for me and I'm going to be there for them". He then proceeded to stay for an extra several hours. He and Gene signed stuff and posed for pictures with anyone who asked. By the time it was over, about 3000 people had come through that line.

After a jarring fireworks display brought me back to my senses, I decided I'd gotten everything I needed and I needed to eat (since I hadn't since lunch and it was approaching 11 pm). Amanda was more than happy to go by that point. We said our thank you's and goodbyes to everyone.

When I went outside, I found my brother and Ben waiting for Gene and Paul to come back out to the limo. Benji hadn't taken my advice and wound up not getting his photos signed. I felt so bad for him. I've been there and I probably would've made the same decision if I'd been in his shoes. We left but stopped by bathrooms on the way out. That's when it hit me. What if I could do something to help Benji? What if it's in my power? Shouldn't I at least try? I ran back over to him and said "Give me the pictures." Then Amanda and I ran back to the Coffeehouse. I had taken off my pass so Amanda had to go back in for me. She literally walked in, Gene acknowledged her, the pics got signed and within 5 minutes, they were back in Benji's hand autographed. I felt really good that I was able to do that for him.

I felt even better that I didn't let my own exhaustion keep me from doing something that would help family.

We dashed off from Myrtle Beach, swung by Wendy's for a late fast-food dinner and got home to Amanda's parents about 2 am.

We did it!




Monday June 26, 2006



Today was a traveling day. It was kind of strange to have one on a Monday. The drive was pretty miserable. All the way to South Carolina it poured down rain. And I mean it poured. It sucked. I couldn't help but wondering if it would all be worth it.

We got home to Amanda's parents a bit after 10. We hung out for a bit, then crashed.

Tomorrow's going to be a long day.

Before I fell asleep, I thought about my friend Shawn who had unbelievably major surgery today. It was necessary for his survival. I worried about it all day but couldn't help but dwell on it a bit before drifting off. I hope he's okay.

He's got a new life ahead.


Click here for last week with Sketchworks, Skirts and scoops...