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Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss

Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss

4.1 30
by Peter Criss, Larry Sloman (With)

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Founding KISS drummer Peter “Catman” Criss delivers a riveting and candid account of his incredible life in music, from the streets of Brooklyn to the social clubs of New York City to the ultimate heights of rock ‘n roll success and excess.

LEGENDARY founding KISS drummer Peter “Catman” Criss has lived an incredible life


Founding KISS drummer Peter “Catman” Criss delivers a riveting and candid account of his incredible life in music, from the streets of Brooklyn to the social clubs of New York City to the ultimate heights of rock ‘n roll success and excess.

LEGENDARY founding KISS drummer Peter “Catman” Criss has lived an incredible life in music, from the streets of Brooklyn to the social clubs of New York City to the ultimate heights of rock ’n’ roll success and excess.

KISS formed in 1973 and broke new ground with their elaborate makeup, live theatrics, and powerful sound. The band emerged as one of the most iconic hard rock acts in music history. Peter Criss, the Catman, was the heartbeat of the group. From an elevated perch on his pyrotechnic drum riser, he had a unique vantage point on the greatest rock show of all time, with the KISS Army looking back at him night after night.

Peter Criscuola had come a long way from the homemade drum set he pounded on nonstop as a kid growing up in Brooklyn in the fifties. He endured lean years, street violence, and the rollercoaster music scene of the sixties, but he always knew he’d make it. Makeup to Breakup is Peter Criss’s eye-opening journey from the pledge to his ma that he’d one day play Madison Square Garden to doing just that. He conquered the rock world—composing and singing his band’s all-time biggest hit, “Beth” (1976)—but he also faced the perils of stardom and his own mortality, including drug abuse, treatment in 1982, near-suicides, two broken marriages, and a hard-won battle with breast cancer.

Criss opens up with a level of honesty and emotion previously unseen in any musician’s memoir. Makeup to Breakup is the definitive and heartfelt account of one of rock’s most iconic figures, and the importance of faith and family. Rock ’n’ roll has been chronicled many times, but never quite like this.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Criss, the original drummer of Kiss and the third member of the band to pen a memoir, delivers an entertaining autobiography written with Sloman, who coauthored Scar Tissue, the memoir by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis. But while bass player Gene Simmons (KISS and Make Up) focused on the sex and lead guitarist Ace Frehley (No Regrets) detailed the drugs, the appealing part of Criss’s account is that he keeps the focus on the rock and roll, which results in the best—and most honest—account of Kiss craziness during the band’s heyday in the 1970s. Criss recounts the various tactics used by Simmons and guitarist Paul Stanley to manipulate him and Frehley to achieve “the power that Gene and Paul always seemed to want to wield”—and which led to Criss’s 1979 departure from the band. But the book’s most interesting section explores Criss’s early life as a street punk turned hardcore jazz fan in the 1960s; this may be the first time the name Thelonious Monk has appeared in a book on Kiss. Agent: Michael Harriot. (Oct.)
Rolling Stone
“KISS fans will love every word.”
“Makeup To Breakup” is the best KISS book to come from a band member and much of that is due to the emotional undercurrent omnipresent in Peter’s story. You feel his excitement, you feel his pain and it’s so easy to read it’s almost cinematic….As it stands, it’s easily a four star effort. Well done, Catman.
From the Publisher
“[A]n entertaining autobiography….[Criss] keeps the focus on the rock and roll, which results in the best—and most honest—account of Kiss craziness during the band’s heyday in the 1970s.”

"A must read for all past andpresent KISS fans and fans of no-holds-barred rock ‘n’ roll tell-alls.”

“KISS fans will love every word.”

“Makeup To Breakup” is the best KISS book to come from a band member and much of that is due to the emotional undercurrent omnipresent in Peter’s story. You feel his excitement, you feel his pain and it’s so easy to read it’s almost cinematic….As it stands, it’s easily a four star effort. Well done, Catman.


“Criss’ book is wonderfully sleazy and graphic even for a rock-star memoir…A nasty fun read.”

Library Journal
Drummer Peter Criscuola, aka Peter Criss, was a founding member of larger-than-life rock band KISS, along with fellow New Yorkers Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, and Paul Stanley. Unfortunately, addictions and egos wreaked havoc on the band. Citing "creative differences," Criss went solo and got clean but never achieved massive success again until the original KISS reunited with great fanfare in the mid-90s. The reunion wasn't always happy, though, and Criss and KISS went their separate ways again. Criss still plays drums and writes songs, but he seems to be focused on a happy domestic life. Criss, a rock 'n' roll and cancer survivor, uses a "tell it like it is" writing style rife with F-bombs and other colorful language as he writes frankly about his humble Brooklyn upbringing, his rise and fall in the music world, personal and professional betrayals, addictions, sexual exploits, marriages, divorces, near-death experiences, health problems, and rather poignantly, his faith. A highlight is his recollection of recording the classic song "Beth," which he sang and cowrote. VERDICT A must read for all past and present KISS fans and fans of no-holds-barred rock 'n' roll tell-alls. (Photos not seen.)—Samantha J. Gust, Niagara Univ. Lib., NY
The A.V. Club
“Criss’ book is wonderfully sleazy and graphic even for a rock-star memoir…A nasty fun read.”

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Read an Excerpt

Makeup to Breakup


Have you ever tasted the barrel of a .357 Magnum that’s halfway down your throat? It’s a really unforgettable sensation, like a piece of iron dipped in oil, with sort of a coppery aftertaste. I got my first and (hopefully) last taste of one on January 17, 1994, sitting on the floor of my debris-strewn bedroom in Los Angeles.

Just twelve hours earlier I had been lying in bed, watching TV. It was around three A.M. and I was cozy under the covers when I feel a little tremor. I’d been through quite a few “shakers” in California. Chandeliers rattling, traffic lights swaying. But this was different. The tremors started getting more frequent and I started to hear a rumbling noise, so I sat up in the bed and all of a sudden the whole place shook big-time and the TV flew off the dresser, tumbled down, and blew up. I was like, “Motherfucker!” Then the lamps fell over and I was like, “Holy shit!” Turned out this was the beginning of the Northridge earthquake, a massive catastrophe that killed thirty-three people and injured more than eighty-seven hundred.

I’m a Brooklyn boy: I knew about cockroaches and rats and zip guns, not earthquakes. So I started to panic. I heard glass shattering in the bathroom. I was hearing all this devastation, and just then another big jolt came, and my bed collapsed and the huge wooden armoire started dancing across the bedroom and then tipped over. Behind the armoire, on a nail, I had hung a bag that was filled with $100,000 cash. That was all the money I had to my name. I wasn’t going to put it in a bank—didn’t trust them—and I was in trouble with the IRS then, so I figured I’d keep the cash nearby and if someone was going to rob it, that’s a big piece of motherfucking shit to move. But now the huge armoire was lying on the floor and the bag was hanging from the nail, exposed.

My fear of death set in. Lamps were flying through the air. I got up and ran into the living room and I saw all my KISS gold albums falling off the walls and shattering. I also had a full cabinet of Steuben crystal that I had managed to pry from my ex-wife’s hands, and all that precious crystal busted up. All of a sudden, the couch flew through the air, the armchair went over, and I got thrown into the bathroom wall. I was thinking, “Jesus, I’m going to fucking die in some shithole apartment in Hollywood. I just don’t believe you’re going to take me this way.”

So I found my .357 Magnum, tucked it under the waistband of my sweatpants, threw my bathrobe on, pulled on some sneakers, grabbed my bag with the cash, and ran. I knew enough not to take the elevator, so I rushed down the steps. It was still dark out and people were screaming, running half naked out of their apartments into the street. Outside, it looked like a war zone. Cars were overturned; a water hydrant had blown up and there was water gushing out into the street. People were running around screaming that it was the end of the world. Then, like in a movie, I heard a rumbling sound and I saw the tar separate and the street crack open. Everybody was panicking, but suddenly I got strangely calm. I was scared, but once I had my footing and my money and my gun, I knew no one was going to take them from me.

I just kept walking around in circles; I didn’t know where to go. By then the sun was coming up and there was an aftershock and everybody screamed again. I had circled back to the front of my building, where hundreds of people had congregated. All the windows of the health-food store on the ground floor had shattered, and the food was all over the ground. Our underground garage had collapsed and lots of cars got totaled.

By late afternoon, they let us back into the building. I walked into my apartment and I couldn’t believe it. Everything I had of value was leveled. I had no bed. The rod in the walk-in closet had collapsed and my clothes were on the floor. The refrigerator had toppled over and all the food was going rancid. The kitchen cabinets broke open and there was sugar everywhere. In the living room, all my records were shattered on the floor. The top of my People’s Choice Award, which I had won for “Beth,” had broken off. My daughter’s pictures had fallen off the wall and smashed into a million pieces. Everything that I used to look at and cherish was destroyed.

I didn’t have electricity yet, so I lit a few candles. I was filthy, covered with the dirt and grime of the streets, but I couldn’t shower because the whole shower had fallen apart. Even if it hadn’t, there was no water. I couldn’t even run the sink and wash my hands. I walked back into the bedroom and sat down on the mattress on the floor. I had to brush away the soil from my flowerpots, which had all broken. It was dusk and a huge wave of depression rolled over me and I almost threw up. I felt like there was a hot poker plunged into the pit of my stomach. I thought I was taking a stroke. I couldn’t even breathe right: The air felt thin from the dust and the dirt in the apartment and the rotting food. The whole room stank from death.

I thought to myself, Why should I keep going? I was in the middle of recording a new album, but fucking whoop-de-do; I was on TNT, a clown label. Then I started talking to myself, like in that Peggy Lee song “Is That All There Is”: “What do you really have to live for? Your two marriages have gone to shit. You hardly see your daughter. You got a hundred grand, but you were worth twelve-some-odd million at one point in your life. If this had happened when you were in KISS, your manager Bill Aucoin would have been there with fifty cop cars, twenty ambulances, and a helicopter. When you’re on top and you’re making everyone rich, they all love you, babe. Life is wonderful. But now you’re really just a has-been. No one cares about you, especially in Hollywood.”

I looked around the room. I once had money to burn. I’d fly to Barbados for the weekend. I lived in a twenty-two-room mansion and had my pick of four luxury cars. And now I was sitting on the floor in the middle of the debris of my former exalted life. It was then that I realized that I didn’t want to live. Life had been just a fucking nightmare, nothing but ups and downs and drugs and fighting, and I was sick of it all.

So I pulled out the .357 Magnum and put it in my mouth. The barrel is about six inches long, and I easily put three inches in. The gun is an inch in diameter, so I began to gag a little. When I hammered the gun back with my finger on the trigger, I started shaking. I knew if I slipped, it was all over. I also knew that I had straight flat-head bullets in the gun, so if I pulled the trigger, my brains would wind up somewhere across the street. I was a lucky bastard: I had cheated death a few times, but that wasn’t going to happen with a .357 Magnum in my mouth. That gun would literally take a man’s head off. If you shot an elephant in the head, it would go down. That’s why Clint Eastwood loved it. It’s the most powerful handgun in the world.

They say that in situations like this, your mind just starts racing, and you see your whole life before you. But for me, everything seemed to be in slow motion. I had cried wolf many times in my life, especially with KISS. I was known for quitting the band a million times. But this was different. This was far from a bluff, because there was nobody there that I was bluffing. Just me and the rubble.

Then I thought about my mother. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t bless myself with holy water and then get in my car and rub the medal of the Virgin Mary that she gave me and say a Hail Mary for my mother. And then I kiss her Mass card that’s right there on the dashboard.

My mother had died three years earlier, on New Year’s Day, 1991, and I still hadn’t gotten over it. I had been very close to my mother; we had a very strange, deep relationship. We were more than mother and son: She was my closest friend. I was still hurt and grieving her. I had been concerned my whole life about letting her down. I always realized how hard she had worked for me to be something, how much it meant to her that I became something. And if I offed myself, how could I ever meet her again in heaven?

And what about my father? He was still alive; he’d be devastated. And I thought of the KISS fans, the greatest fans in the world. And then my eyes wandered a bit and I looked over at the fallen armoire, and next to it was a picture of my daughter. It was my favorite picture of her: Jenilee was about ten when it was taken, and she looked like a saint. And, miraculously, the glass wasn’t cracked, it wasn’t broken—the frame was standing up defiantly in the midst of all the rubble. That’s when it just clicked. I had been going through some real bullshit, but no matter what, I still had my kid, man.

Suddenly there was an immense feeling of faith in that room. I began to believe that God didn’t want to take me in the midst of this massive lunacy—that he had more in store for me. But the depression was so dark and so deep and the pain so acute; I was in the middle of a tug of war, almost like a battle for my soul. I could feel the force of the power I had holding back the trigger with the gun in my mouth. I had the power of life and death, right there and then. And I was in full control of me dying or living. It was very, very heavy.

But how could I do this to my little angel in the picture? So I pulled the barrel of the gun out of my mouth, put it back in its holster, and then locked it back up. And I resolved to go and finish the album and take my young band on the road and see what the future would bring. I cheered myself up and took my pillows and made a bed out of the mattress on the floor and slept right through the night. And then I woke up the next morning and got on with my life.

Meet the Author

Peter Criss co-founded KISS in 1973 along with Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and Ace Frehley. He left the band in 1979, embarking on a solo career. In 1995, he reunited with KISS, resulting in a phenomenally successful world tour before he left the band again in 2004. Criss appeared in the HBO series Oz in 2002, and he continues to write and record music. His most recent solo album, 2007’s One for All, reached #36 on the Billboard Top Independent Album list. Larry “Ratso” Sloman is best known as Howard Stern’s collaborator on what were then the two fastest selling books in publishing history, Private Parts and Miss America. Sloman’s recent collaborations include Mysterious Stranger, with magician David Blaine, and Scar Tissue, the memoir of Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis—both books were New York Times bestsellers.

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Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First, let me say that I read "Nothing to Lose", which is Gene Simmons' and Paul Stanley's account of the first 5 years or so of the band, Kiss. After purchasing "Makeup to Breakup" by Peter Criss, the full story became apparent. Peter was actually the band member who had nothing to lose. He put his heart and soul into making this a great band. Yes, he had problems with alcohol and drug addiction, but after reading this book, it is clear to me that this was the norm back in those days, and it is also my opinion that the aforementioned band members contributed to his addictions, and were happy with his performance, as long as he "played the game" according to their rules. This is a heartbreaking story, but in the end, you will come to love Peter Criss in spite of his rough past. I g highly recommend that you read this book as you will come to learn the whole story of the Band.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have known since 1976, when I first got into KISS, that Peter and Ace were the true talent in the band. If Peter Criss whines it is because he has a reason to. Simmons and Stanley did screw the others over, especially after the reunion tour. KISS would not have made as much money touring without the return of Ace and Pete, yet they still cheated them out of money. Just know this Pete: Your contributions to the band were great, and we do love you for just being yourself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great story! Peter Criss is painfully honest in his account of what happened with his life and the band.  He has an interesting story that has some of the typical sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but also gives good details about the band 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A friend told me about this book , i wasn't disappointed.Not kiss fan ,but enjoy it.
NoKindleForMe More than 1 year ago
This is the best of the KISS individual band members bios, by far. After reading Ace Frehley's autobio and how disappointing that was, I really had low expectations for this one and some trepidation about buying it. I always heard Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley talk about how wasted Ace and Peter were all the time, and just assumed Peter's memory would be as bad as Ace's, and that his bio would be just as devoid of interesting content that hasn't already been written about. I was really surprised at how well Peter seemed to remember events, and really gives good detail about his life growing up as well as his time in KISS and life after. Another surprise was at how funny this book is. I couldn't believe how much I laughed. I'm sure it helps to have a good co-writer, but nonetheless this is an honest, explicit, humorous account of a fascinating life in music. A must read for KISS fans and a worthwhile book for rock or pop music fans in general. Definitely not for the squeamish, though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I think it was the best one, aside from Aces', written by a KISS member. Peter basically had the guts to say what most of us KISS fans have known all along - Gene is a complete money hound and Paul is an egotistical hag. I was a KISS fan from the time I was 10 years old. Over they years, I really came to loathe having to hear anything Gene Simmons had to say, as it was always all about money. I mean really, how much money does this guy need? Did you ever see KISS do anything for charity? Ummm...that would be a "NO". The egotistically old Paul Stanley isnt' any better. I had the (dis)pleasure of actually seeing him doing one of his "art" shows at Riverdale Mall last year. He is ridiculous. How much plastic surgery has this guy had??? His eyebrows were halfway up his forehead. He looked utterly ridiculous. Of course, being the egotistical kind of guy that he his, no one could meet him unless they purchased a piece of his "art". Gene and Paul will be whoring until the day they die. I'm glad Peter made it out, soul intact. He also shed alot of awareness of mens' breast cancer, which was an awesome thing of him to do. Welcome to NJ, Peter. We're glad to have you .
Ironmeden More than 1 year ago
As a kid I was a big Peter Criss fan. Over the years though that had been tarnished by interviews done by Gene and Paul who would run Peter's and as well as Ace's name through the mud. After reading Ace's Auto and now this one, they probably deserved the bad PR. After reading Ace's Auto I was ready to check into rehab, I was only halfway through Peter's book when I was ready to be hauled away. I really can't believe people can do that much drugs and still be a functioning human as well as play drums and guitar. Its really do bad that Peter seemed to have a chip on his shoulder and a few Yes Men, he mentions periodically through the book that would boost his ego. Combined with the drug use, it would of been great to see what KISS could of been with both Peter and Ace into the 80's. It really didn't seem Paul and Gene knew what direction to go without two of their founding members. But then I don't blame Peter for the way he acted with the constant belittling that Paul and Gene put him through. We all knew both of them are shrewd businessmen when it comes to the band, but to go out of your way to treat Peter and Ace the way they did sometimes was very small of them. Peter's book goes into a lot more detail about the relationship he had with Paul and Gene then Ace did in his book. There are a lot of WOW moments in the book where you can't believe Peter just put that in print. This book surely runs with emotion where Peter can be a sweetheart and the next page be a down right bastard. But he lays his heart out on the line with this book and in the end you do root for him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great read if you are a longtime Kiss fan. I loved Ace's book as well. Peter is honest and adds some great info about the band that I didn't know.
Shu_la More than 1 year ago
More like catching up with an old friend than reading a book.  Obviously truthful, written with blood and tears, filled with love.  Every KISS fan should read this book.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the story. Well done...
typhoon More than 1 year ago
Over all good , I expected a little more of the band issues as opposed to his private life. Of all the Kiss books of late, in my opinion, read it, but read the others first.
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Cylix More than 1 year ago
Peter Criss comes off a bit whiny and delusional but still I found it entertaining.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I grew up in the KISS army, so I was compelled to read their books. Peter's is the second I've read (after Ace). I liked it better than Ace's, which just wandered too much for me, but I was taken by how weak Peter comes across in the book. Gene was mean, Paul hated me, Ace screwed me, blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile he continued to agree to tour with them and trust them, only to burst into tears when they treated him exactly like they always had. Peter had to have cried more than any drummer in the history of rock and roll. He landed on his feet and seems like a good guy, but he never seemed to get the fact that much of what happened to him he allowed to happen because he was too drunk by fame and money and too weak to stand on his own two feet and learn from his experiences.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not bad. Some strange stories about ace and paul.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrible writing, terrible grammar. Just stop.