At the risk of starting an article involving two members of KISS on a shaky note, I’ve never quite “gotten” KISS. There’s just something about the band’s combination of blood-spitting spectacle and streamlined music that doesn’t land for me. It clearly lands for a lot of people, however, so I’m fine chalking it up to “it’s not you, KISS, it’s me.” Maybe I’m just not a fan of glam-y shock rock? (Alice Cooper is another artist I respect but don’t quite “get.”) Maybe I just missed out on the whole KISS thing? I’m old, but not “owned a KISS lunchbox” old, know what I mean?

Anyway, rock on, KISS, and rock on, KISS fans. If you think KISS is great, I agree with you. If you think KISS blows, I agree with you. Let’s not argue! Instead, let’s enjoy my thrilling minute-by-minute report of the time two members of KISS (that would be Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons) opened a new Rock & Brews restaurant at Milwaukee’s Potawatomi Casino Hotel. You wanted the best coverage of this big event, you got…this.

Tuesday, August 1, 9:40 a.m. — I arrive at Potawatomi and survey the recently renovated second level. There’s the new Rock & Brews, of course—complete with a guitar “throne” and some KISS statues outside it—but there are also new slot machines, new sports betting terminals, and a new Cream City Coffee Co. It’s really slick! Folks clad in KISS T-shirts crane their necks to catch a glimpse of Stanley and Simmons in the roped-off restaurant. (It won’t open to the public until 3 p.m.) I freshen up and enjoy Foo Fighters’ “My Hero” emanating from the bathroom speakers.

9:48 a.m. — I’ve received multiple media emails about today’s star-studded grand opening, though none of them mentioned anything about RSVPing. I should have known better: My name isn’t on the list, and as I try to enter the restaurant I cause a minor kerfuffle as the (helpful, patient) folks from Potawatomi try to determine A.) who I am, B.) what Milwaukee Record is, and C.) how I intend to cover the event. I eventually produce a business card—but not before spilling the entire contents of my wallet on the floor—and the (helpful, patient) woman working the media entrance lets me in. I can sense her keeping an eye on me throughout the morning, though, and I can’t say I blame her.

9:50 a.m. — Okay, so what am I doing here? I’m not a big KISS fan, and, unless they involve 50 Cent and signed bottles of vodka, I tend to avoid celebrity press events like this. Well, my interest has mostly been piqued by the finale of today’s shindig: a performance from an all-female L.A.-based KISS tribute band, PRISS. I dunno, something about a tribute band playing an event that features members of the actual band strikes me as just funny enough to warrant my time. Plus, I used to know two women who played in another all-female KISS tribute band, Slutter, and I want to see how PRISS stacks up.

9:52 a.m. — Stanley and Simmons appear! They look like, well, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. Both are in their early 70s, both have improbably full heads of hair, and both have done more crazy/great/dicey things in their lives than me, you, and 100 other random people combined. Simmons is rocking sunglasses and steel-toed boots. Stanley is rocking a vest and sneakers. Reporters, TV camerapeople, security, assistants, and assorted bigwigs scurry about the room.

9:54 a.m. — Stanley chats with the Shepherd Express. Simmons sits down for a radio interview with 102.9 The Hog. I scan the crowd for Art Kumbalek and/or Bob and Brian, but come up empty.

9:56 a.m. — The media wranglers are working overtime. “Who’s next for Paul? Come on, let’s go!” “Gene, this is Archer. Archer, you have one minute with Gene.” “Sir, there’s a line for interviews!” “Okay, Milwaukee Magazine, you’re up next!”

10:04 a.m. — Simmons playfully grabs the microphone from WISN reporter Gabriella Garza and does a quick bit. “Live! From Milwaukee! But you already knew that!” Over the PA, more Foo Fighters, this time a live version of “Everlong.”

10:08 a.m. — About Potawatomi’s new Rock & Brews restaurant: it’s nice! From a press release:

The 6,000 square-foot restaurant will seat up to 200 guests with private dining capabilities, offer 48 taps pouring the best domestic and import beers, as well as Sprecher Root Beer, and a stage for live entertainment. Executive Chef Ben Jones predicts Rock’n Hot Chick Wings, Alice Cooper Poison Burger and Demon Chicken Sandwich (an homage to Gene Simmons) will quickly become favorites from the American cuisine menu.

The Stanley/Simmons-affiliated concept has been around since 2010, and it currently has more than 20 locations across the country. The decor of the Milwaukee Rock & Brews is Hard Rock Cafe chic, with nods to everyone from The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith to Joan Jett and AC/DC. And KISS, of course. Is a rock-themed restaurant inside a casino really rock and roll? Sure, why not.

10:15 a.m. — Simmons is led away from the media scrum and is handed a phone. He chats for a few minutes. Who’s he talking to? Another radio station? A fan who won a chance to talk to Gene Simmons? Shannon Tweed? I slowly realize I’m one of at least three people taking pictures of Gene Simmons talking on the phone. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid…

10:26 a.m. — Stanley and Simmons move to a nearby VIP area and pose for photos with folks from Potawatomi. I snap a picture of them taking pictures. “Sir, put your phone down,” an imposing gentleman says to me. Yikes! I quickly oblige and wander over to the bar and talk to the guy from the Shepherd about Milwaukee music. Nice to finally meet you, Allen!

10:43 a.m. — More Potawatomi VIPs are flooding in. The rubbernecking crowd outside the restaurant is growing. Members of PRISS are busying themselves on the stage behind the bar. The (helpful, patient) woman who hesitantly let me in earlier suggests a good spot to stand for the big ribbon cutting ceremony at 11. I suddenly feel better about this whole thing. I wonder if I should sink some money into a slot machine before I leave.

10:48 a.m. — More Foo Fighters. I think it’s “Times Like These”?

10:54 a.m. — A photographer behind me: “I’m leaving as soon as they cut that fucking ribbon!”

11 a.m. — And here we go! Members of the Forest County Potawatomi Community kick things off with a procession. I squeeze myself against the bar as they file past.

11:03 a.m. — Stanley, Simmons, and various Potawatomi Casino Hotel leaders take the stage. “You wanted the best and we brought you the best!” says CEO Dominic Ortiz. Following some thank you’s from Ortiz, Forest County Potawatomi Community Chairman James A. Crawford produces a giant pair of shears made to look like a double-neck guitar. Stanley and Simmons hold both ends of a ribbon and Crawford cuts it. Everyone claps! Everyone cheers! Everyone shuffles off stage as PRISS gets ready to rock!

11:08 a.m. — In case you’re looking for the official joint statement from Stanley and Simmons, here it is: “We are excited about our new partnership with the Potawatomi team to open a Rock & Brews restaurant in their Milwaukee casino hotel. We’ve all worked hard together to create a Rock & Brews destination we could be proud to share with the community and that is without a doubt what we’ve done.”

11:11 a.m. — PRISS! The group’s first song escapes me (sorry!) but the second is definitely “Detroit Rock City.” It sounds great!

11:13 a.m. — Not that the press notices—it’s time for free food! Rock & Brews servers snake their way through the ravenous media crowd with plates of sandwiches, pizza, and other goodies. Everything is gone in about four seconds. Seriously, there’s nothing funnier to me than watching local reporters, publishers, and tourism bigwigs gobble down free chicken bites.

11:30 a.m. — PRISS is doing “Shout It Out Loud.” Stanley and Simmons are back in the VIP area. It’s time for me to go. But before I do I stop by some of the new slot machines. I can’t find a KISS machine—and the giant, creepy Willy Wonka machine is currently occupied—so I settle for an “Amazing Money Machine” with an illustration of a guy who looks like Gambler-era Kenny Rogers. I feed the machine $50. I spin a few times. I quickly hit a $75 jackpot. I cash out for $116.75. Is immediately leaving a casino after winning a whopping $66.75 really rock and roll? Sure, why not.

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About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.