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New Year – New Cosplay – Why I made an Ace Frehley Costume

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

James and Jeff Hornlien meeting a un-enthusiastic Ace Frehley in 2008

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.

First attempt at Ace Frehley makeup

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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James Hannon, Jeff Hornlien, Jackie Hannon and Ed Universo
James Hannon, Jeff Hornlien, Jackie Hannon and Ed Universo
James Hannon as Kiss Spaceman and Bronx Ducky Boys member Ace Frehley on New Years Day 2019

News

James Hannon, Winner 2014 Cosplayer of the Year at AmberUnmasked.com

COSPLAYER OF THE YEAR! JAMES HANNON
AMBER LOVE 18-DEC-2014

I sent out a single tweet declaring JAMES HANNON my favorite cosplayer of the year but that didn’t feel like enough. He’s too amazing for a single tweet! Here are some James facts that you should know:

He’s the PR liaison for the 501st NER which is the garrison that covers New Jersey. The 501st is the volunteer costume group of STAR WARS fans that have strict guidelines about the quality and accuracy of their costumes. They do a ton of charity work including helping me and the group out every year at Comic Fusion’s Superhero Weekend. Plus he formed a DC super villains group if you want to ask him about that!

James is also a published author, screenwriter and director. He took his premise for a documentary about the Ducky Boys gang of the Bronx and turned his work into a book. He does signings on a fairly regular basis and is always happy to talk about the Ducky Boys and other NY gangs.

There were a time I was able to get James on the air for Vodka O’Clock. He and several other volunteer cosplayers and artists were interviewed at this year’s Superhero Weekend at Comic Fusion.

James also shares his writing and game designing talents right here at AmberUnmasked. He went to GenCon and blogged all about his experiences there. He’s taken his game design for Chopper to conventions like Dreamation.

Year after year, people who enjoy the hobby of dressing up in costume causes more drama. It’s that drama which has made plenty of us back out and all but give up because the fun got sucked out of something we loved. Cosplay is not about being a sexy girl on television despite what this year has turned it into. There are people of all ages, all genders, all classes that get into it for their own reasons. James is a stellar example of the patience and kindness that a great cosplayer should have. Don’t let the drama and cameras dictate your fandom or how you choose to participate in a subculture that is now mainstream.

From http://www.amberunmasked.com/cosplayer-jameshannon/

TAP Into Scotch Plains article on James Hannon, storyteller July, 2013

A Storyteller All His Own: James Hannon
By BRYAN C. KURIAWA
July 6, 2013 at 4:16 PM


Every writer and storyteller has their own creative processes and their own manner of telling to readers and audiences, a tale to entertain and inform. Whether it is through articles in news and media publications, books for a wider audience or a short film or documentary, the individual themselves possess a key insight into whatever subject or field they are covering. For James Hannon, whatever option is available will prove more than sufficient to tell a magnificent and fascinating tale
Born in the Bronx, New York City in 1967, Hannon had what was termed as a “typical Irish Catholic childhood,” growing up around the neighborhoods of Fordham and Bedford Park. For most of his childhood, he was primarily interested in the world of computer programming and pursued this interest into his college years. Despite eventually securing a position with a local Board of Education, his interest in this field extended elsewhere.
“After becoming a computer programming consultant, at one point I was bored,” Hannon said. “I wanted to design websites, but I ended up back as a programmer.”
A subsequent meeting with musician Shelly Riff to design a website for his new band caught his interest. The band, Richard and the Young Lions, had been well known for a late 60’s cult hit entitled, “Open Up Your door,” and had been gearing for a series of revival concerts. After completing his work on the website, Hannon saw a key opportunity in the possibility of a documentary.
“I said, let’s do it and began filming their revival concerts, interviews and rehearsals,” Hannon said. “It was tough putting it together, yet I learned a lot with everything involved.”
After previewing the film to lead singer Richard Tepp, who passed on following a battle with leukemia, the documentary had a brief run as a tribute to Tepp’s life and the band, who regularly tours to this day. While Hannon had enjoyed his time working with the band, he turned his attentions to another documentary project he had been interested in for some time.
Fascinated with story of the Bronx gang, The Ducky Boys, whom he had learned of from the 1979 film, “The Wanderers,” Hannon began gathering interviews for his planned film, only to rechange his focus, from film to the written word.
“My former brother in law talked up “The Wanderers,” yet I didn’t see it until the early 80’s,” said Hannon. “Over time (while researching), I realized it was more about the Bronx in a certain time, than about the Ducky Boys Gang.”
Through his various interviews and collaborating evidence, Hannon learned the Ducky Boys were less the vicious antagonists of the above-mentioned film and were much less threatening in reality.
“It was a vendetta (by the other gangs) and the Ducky Boys were made to be worse than they were,” Hannon said. “It was 120 kids who wanted to hang out in the park and drink.”
The book, “Lost Boys of the Bronx: The Oral History of the Ducky Boys Gang” made its debut in August of 2010 and Hannon was quite pleased with its release. Yet once more seeking a potential project and interested in writing a book, Hannon turned to the interesting world of fandom costuming, in which individuals dress in the costumes of their favorite characters from television, film and literary franchises.
“It was for different reasons, I needed a project,” Hannon said. “I didn’t want to do the same book again.”
Spotlighting his own interest and love of fandom costuming, his book will be a look into this subject through his own experiences, along with interviews, both in-person and on various occasions, through e-mail questionnaires. He stated he originally intended to finish the book last year, but has a planned completion date of September, 2013 presently. In addition to his current writing task, Hannon has kept a close eye on a Facebook page he created, spotlighting local occurrences around Scotch Plains.
“It originally started on Yahoo Group as a site to get local recommendations for Scotch Plains residents on any company or group,” Hannon said. “Yet it has recently proved successful in reporting local news events.”
While his project still has several further months before an intended release, Hannon is quite optimistic about its outcome and had some friendly advice regarding individuals who wish to embark into the world of his latest book.
“They (fandom costumers) know what genre they like,” Hannon remarked. “You want to make sure you know why you are doing it.”
For Hannon, his statement rings quite true. In any field, whether it is writing or an individual who dresses up in costumes, it is possible for someone to lose oneself in that part. Yet the way someone feels in that role is often what truly matters most.

A Storyteller All His Own: James Hannon
By BRYAN C. KURIAWA
July 6, 2013 at 4:16 PM