Why did Bronx author James Hannon make a cosplay of KISS member and famous Ducky Boy Ace Frehley, when he wasn’t a fan of KISS? Read on…
In case you didn’t know, I premiered a new cosplay on New Years Day 2019. This new one was Ace Frehley the Spaceman from the original lineup of KISS – or at least it was supposed to be. After all was said and done, I looked more like Tommy Thayer who is the current KISS guitarist who is wearing the Spaceman makeup. But more on that later.
So, this was a big surprise to my friends who know me and know that I was never really a big KISS fan. Sure I knew their music and gimmick and it wasn’t bad. My sister owned the KISS Alive II LP until I stole it from her. And I also bought the KISS Platinum 8-track tape (still have both of them).
But the real reason I did not want to be a fan is that when I was a kid, the biggest KISS fan in my circle of acquaintances was a pariah in the neighborhood because he was the “smelly kid”. Its not that he was unclean, but whatever detergent his mom used had a horrible stench that was just unbearable to be around. I realize that isn’t PC in today’s world, but this was the 1970s and most in my group hadn’t even turned 13 yet. The bottom line is that we didn’t want to be associated with him – and liking KISS was a sure fire way to do that. So KISS fandom was always downplayed.
When I got to senior year of college in 1989, I got into Ace Frehley a little bit. He was out of KISS for a while by this time and performing solo. Gordon G. G. Gebert was a friend of a friend of mine, and Gordon was good friends with Ace at the time. I was part of a software sharing group and Ace was looking for a particular piece of software which I had. So I shared it with Gordon to give to Ace, hoping to meet the big man eventually. But it never happened as Ace and Gordon had a big falling out shortly after. But I did learn more about Ace’s music during the time. And realized it was ok to like Ace’s music again since the smelly kid was long out of the picture.
Flash-forward to 2005, and I was starting to do research into a documentary I was planning on the real life gangs of the Wanderers movie. This video project would eventually become my book Lost Boys of the Bronx: The Oral History of the Ducky Boys Gang. In my initial round of research, I found out that Ace Frehley grew up a couple of blocks away from me (Marion Avenue and 201st Street in the Bronx), and was a member of the infamous Ducky Boys. After all this, I figured Ace Frehley was destined to be a factor in my life “somehow”.
I reached out to his manager, and I had about an hour-long phone conversation with Ace one day. I told him about my project, and what I found in my research about where his old friends in the Ducky Boys ended up. At the end of the call, I asked him if I could film a short interview with him for the documentary, but he shut me down hard asking for a $10,000 appearance fee – which was way more than I could afford, so we parted ways.
When my documentary eventually turned into the book, some doors were opened for me. I received permission from Gordon Gebert to use a section of his KISS AND TELL book where Ace’s buddy Bobby McAdams talked about Ace’s involvement in the Ducky Boys. It wasn’t the optimal choice, but I had no choice but to cover Ace’s involvement. For months after going public with my project, I was getting dozens of emails a week from people telling me that Ace Frehley was a Ducky Boy. I still get occasional emails from people telling me this – LIKE I DON’T ALREADY KNOW BY NOW! LOL
In late 2008, shortly before the Lost Boys of the Bronx was released, I finally got to meet Ace at a local Chiller convention. I was even wearing a Ducky Boys shirt which one of his friends/handlers LOVED, but Ace didn’t even seem to recognize it or remember the conversation we had. Supposedly this was during his sober days, but he really seemed out of it. Not just to me, but everyone in the line. All he did was grunt and put his thumb up when taking the picture with me and my friend Jeff Hornlien. I was bummed for me, but even more so for Jeff (and all the other people there) who grew up idolizing this guy. Jeff is an extremely talented guitarist who learned to play because he was inspired by Ace and KISS. It was sad.
Figuring the Ace connection was completely dead at this point, I moved on and did other stuff – like write the book Anatomy of a Cosplayer: Tales from Behind the Mask. I met a lot of other cosplayers in my travels, and this one particular Batman costumer named Ed Universo lived in my town, and we became good friends. At one convention, he showed up in a full Gene Simmons Demon costume – and it was amazing. He asked if Jeff and I were willing to do a Halloween appearance with him in his personal KISS costumes. We couldn’t make Halloween but the thought was planted in my head.
And not just my head…. Jeff Hornlien completely wanted to costume as Paul Stanley at a convention… And he wouldn’t let it go. He kept bugging me so I had to do “something” to shut him up.
The big objection for me was “Dude, theres no way I’ll be able to walk in those heels!” Well Ed, brought over his personal Ace boots for me to walk around in, and you know what? They weren’t that hard to walk in! And I kinda liked being 6-7 inches taller…. So I started thinking about it more and more…
And then Ed sent me a link to someone selling an Ace Frehley Destroyer era costume. And well that was all I needed to know. The die was cast and my fate as the Spaceman was sealed!
While waiting for the costume to arrive, I attempted the Ace Frehley makeup. I got the specifics from a YouTube video, and gave it a shot.
And it didn’t come out too bad. Sure, there were some issues, but I spoke to Ed and he suggested different makeup to try for next time.
Which leads us to New Years Day 2019. With the new costume in hand, and the right makeup, I decided that I couldn’t wait for the next convention to premiere this costume and posted on social media….
So far the response has been great. I realized that I don’t look that much like Ace Frehley with my facial structure, but I can definitely see a strong resemblance to Tommy Thayer – so making lemonade out of lemons, we’re going with that!
Now for the second part of my plan…. Not going to give it away here, but there will be others involved…. And all I can say is you shouldn’t have let me start this mission…. There is only one way to finish it…
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