When Kiss Took Over an Aircraft Carrier to Announce Their Reunion
Holding a news conference to announce a reunion tour featuring Kiss' original lineup aboard a decommissioned World War II-era Navy aircraft carrier set a certain tone: “We’re gonna show every new band how the big boys do it,” Gene Simmons said on April 16, 1996 from the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York City.
At that point, Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley and Simmons hadn't played together as a foursome in some 17 years. But anticipation erupted after they made a surprise appearance at the 1996 Grammy Awards six weeks prior, taking the stage in full makeup and Love Gun-era costumes.
The idea to hold the press conference on the Intrepid was a brilliant one from a publicity standpoint. Just who came up with it, however, remains a point of contention: The band’s then-PR person Danny Goldberg said it was the brainchild of legendary publicist Ken Sunshine. But Simmons claimed ownership in his 2001 book Kiss and Make-Up. He said he got the idea from his former flame Diana Ross, who had used the ship for a small press conference a decade and a half before.
Either way, it drew attention to what already promised to be one of the biggest summer tours that year – and surely the most grandiose.
The proceedings were kicked off by Conan O‘Brien, then still a struggling late-night host. He opened the event with the goofy line: “Last week when they asked me to introduce Kiss, I had just two questions; what time, and what aircraft carrier?”
Watch Kiss' 1996 Press Conference
The four then strode out to the strains of “Take Me” from Rock and Roll Over, appearing through a haze of smoke in front of massive steel letters that lit up and spelled “KISS.” Stanley and Simmons carried a typically confident air about them, but for Criss and Frehley, there was more of a wow-factor that was visible even under the greasepaint.
Simmons boasted that the upcoming jaunt meant a “world tour” in the truest sense: “We’re going to visit every country that’s formed or is about to be formed.” Dubbed the Alive/Worldwide Tour, they visited around 25 countries on a dozen legs over the period of just over a year and nearly 200 shows. It remains the most profitable Kiss tour in their history.
The setlists dug back into the past, using the 1977 Alive II show as a blueprint and updating it with the technology that had become more prominent in the ensuing years. They didn't veer out of the make-up era, but did include some nuggets like “King of the Night Time World” and “Rock Bottom” for the die-hards. "We’re gonna give the fans exactly what they want," Simmons added. "We’re here for the fans."
Stone Temple Pilots was also confirmed as their opening act at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium at the end of June, the first official gig of the tour. Unfortunately, Alice in Chains had to step into the slot at the last minute because of STP frontman Scott Weiland’s drug problems. Alice in Chains handled those duties for the tour’s first four shows.