More KISS memories with Lydia Criss

Former wife of Peter Criss releases expanded, revised version of “Sealed with a KISS,” readies auction items

By Peter Lindblad

1977 was the best year of Lydia Criss’s life. KISS was riding high, and she was there to witness it all, experiencing some of the greatest moments in the band’s history as the wife of drummer Peter Criss. And
Lydia and Peter Criss
then came 1978 and things began to unravel.

Trouble was brewing within her marriage. Peter’s infidelity, drug abuse and increasing paranoia began to take its toll. Eventually, they divorced.

All of the good and bad times are captured in Lydia’s book “Sealed with a KISS,” now in its second printing (visit for more information). The new expanded and revised version includes more photos and memorabilia, as well as Lydia’s engaging insider’s view of the KISS story and the rock ‘n’ roll industry of the 1970s and her acclaimed work as a music photographer. In addition, she is planning to auction off KISS-related items that appear in the book through Backstage Auctions.

Part I of our interview with Lydia appeared last week. Here is the rest of our chat with a woman who was instrumental in helping KISS become “the hottest band in the land.”

You met Alice Cooper at the Casablanca Records bash celebrating the creation of the label. What was he like at that point?
LC: Very quiet and very shy. At that point, he was like … it’s funny because [KISS] took whatever he was doing and made it five times bigger. But he was very gracious, very sweet. I met him years later, and he was the same way.

At that time, was he still struggling with alcoholism?
LC: I’m sure he was the first time, maybe not the second. We … I say “we” because I considered myself a part of KISS. Anyway, KISS had the same manager at one point, Frankie Scinlaro. He was a character, and he used to manage – well, not manage, but road manage – Alice and he used to tell stories about Alice, about his alcoholism. You know, those were the days when you could drink and it wasn’t looked down upon as much as it is now. Not that it’s looked down upon, but in those days, you weren’t an alcoholic. Now, you’re an alcoholic.

Take us back to 1977. That was a big year for KISS.
LC: That was one of the best years of my life. Okay, first I did the People’s Choice Awards. Then I did an interview for Rock Scene I think it was. It was just myself. It was just me and I didn’t have time to because I was on my way to Japan.

That was the one Gene got so mad at.
Peter Criss - May 1977
Mercedes to be Sold at Auction
LC: Yeah. He didn’t like the photo I took. He said, “We were going to do a photo session for you.” It was Liz Derringer. She actually became my neighbor. Where I live right now, she used to live right down the block with Rick [Derringer], but then they got divorced and they moved out. But, yeah, he said he didn’t like the photo that I used, but I used something that I already had. I had just sent it to her. It was a snapshot and I mailed it to her to put it in the magazine. And then I went to Japan and when I got back, the management company said you better look for a home outside of New York.

Lydia and Peter Criss' House 1977

So, we started looking [and] not only did we find a house, but we found a sheepdog that we bought along with [it]. It was born in the house. So we
bought [the dog] from the owners, and then we bought a Mercedes. ’77, yeah, they played the Garden. I mean, it was the best year of my life. It was all uphill. We bought a house in Greenwich, Conn. We moved in, [and] I had a big, big birthday on the same day we had a big housewarming party. And then everything in ’78 went downhill.

Amazing what can happen in one year.
LC: Not even a year. You know, it was like maybe it was the first quarter of ’78. We went to Japan and the whole thing. In the book, you know, Peter and I had the fight where he threw the book, the chair, and all I said to him was, “You know, you went through the garbage and then you weren’t going to take me to
Lydia Criss (second from left) Japan 1978
Japan.” He actually had a limo come up to the house in Greenwich from Manhattan, which is an hour away, just to turn around and go back, because we made up by the time the limo got there. You know, we wasted like a hundred bucks just to run him off or whatever. And then I wound up going to Japan, but then after that, everything went downhill when I came home, because that’s when he went and met Debbie [Svensk, Peter Criss’s second wife]. He went to a Rod Stewart party and met Debbie there. And everything after that was … I felt like we got this house for nothing. We ended keeping the house for eight years, which I loved, I loved. I moved out of it. I rented it for two years or a year and a half and then I moved back into it. 

It looks beautiful from the photos in the book.
LC: It was.

You mentioned Liz. Were you friends with any other rock-star wives outside of KISS?
LC: Um, not really. I would have liked to have been. Oh, the only one I was a little friendly with was Penny McCall, who was Peter Frampton’s girlfriend. I mentioned her in the book. I really didn’t get the opportunity to meet a lot of the wives, and when you do … you know, I was close to [Ace Frehley’s wife] Jeanette, and whoever Gene was with at the time or whoever Paul was with at the time. But, no I wasn’t and it’s sad. It’s really sad because I wanted to. I mean, I’ve met famous wives like Bianca Jagger and Angela Bowie, but I wasn’t friends with them.

Was there a favorite show of yours from the early days that was special to you for some reason? Maybe it was wilder than others.
LC: Well, I do remember one show in Evansville, Indiana, and I used to always sit by the sound board … not the sound board, but the monitors, the monitor mixer, which was onstage. But there was a time when the truss that holds the lights fell on me. And I thought somebody was playing with my hair. I’m going, “What the hell? Leave my hair alone. Don’t touch my hair. I’m at a concert, please.” And then all of a sudden, I realized something was falling on me. And I had to go to the hospital. They made me go. I didn’t feel like I needed to, but they made me go. And whoever was on the truck at the time … because the truck was tall and somebody sat on top of it, so whoever was on there went to the hospital with me. But they released me. I should have sued, but I didn’t (laughs).

Did it come close to doing some real damage?
LC: Not with me. Well, it could have. It really could have. They had to stop the show, because the truss fell right onto the middle of the stage, with Paul dancing. But luckily, I was okay. I kept saying, “I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay.” They kept saying, “You’ve got to go to the hospital. Go to the hospital.” And they checked me out and I was fine.

When it came to assembling all the graphic material – the memorabilia, the photos, etc. – did you do that yourself?
LC: Yes, and it was a horror (laughs). It was a horror. It was so much work I told my family and friends, “You will not see me or hear from me for one year. Don’t even invite me to anything for the next year.” And basically, that’s what happened. It was one year. They would call me, but they were only allowed to talk with me for 10 minutes, because I have girlfriends you can be on the phone with for two hours. You’re only allowed 10 minutes and that’s it – just to see that I’m okay. But I would stay up until the sun came up, which would be about 7 a.m. And then I would go to sleep and wake up at 2 p.m. and start all over again. I lived and breathed this book for one entire year. And pulling all that stuff out, I did it with the first publisher. I pulled all the stuff out and it was already scanned, and so it was already done, but I did pull a lot more. Once I started doing the book, I want certain photos. There was a lot more stuff that I wanted that I had, that I had acquired, since like five years earlier when it was originally started. I mean, I had acquired the dolls … you know, the big KISS dolls, the big ones. I had acquired those. I acquired certain things that I wanted in the book, and then there were certain things that I had sold but yet a friend had them. You know, like maybe the Victrola … you know, the record player. I had sold that years before, so I used his. So, you know, there were certain things, like the guitar that I sold, and he had the KISS guitar. So I wanted a lot more photos in there, and the guy that scanned everything came up from Maryland and took photos. Do you know Dave Snowden? He worked on the book with me – one of the guys, yeah.

One of the things I like about books like this one is that you get to see what it was like in the early days and the small places they played, and things that didn’t go so well. I’m looking at a photo of Peter playing and the perspiration has washed his makeup completely off.
LC: Oh yeah. It happened a lot in the early days.

How did they fix that?
LC: I think they might have changed their makeup. 

I suppose, being guys, they didn’t know what makeup to use for it.
LC: Yeah, well the thing was, they didn’t have a lot of money, so they bought the cheap stuff in the beginning. And then eventually, you get to the better stuff when you have the money. You know, people research it for you.

I think there was a photo where Peter had split his pants.
Peter Criss split pants
Too Big for his Britches?
LC: Oh yeah. I actually sold those pants (laughs). For five hundred dollars, I think. I don’t know. I made those pants, but my mother sewed them after he split them. My mother was able to repair them, but still, you could see the repair. But I still sold them for $500 in one of Jacques’s auctions [for Backstage Auctions].

One of the things I was going to ask you about was you actually had tickets to Woodstock, but you couldn’t go.
LC: Yeah, we didn’t go, because Peter booked something else in Maine.

Any regrets about that?
LC: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Who knew? But you know what? Peter said, “There’s no way I would have wanted to be there,” because Peter hates camping. And this was all camping. So he said there’s no way I would have wanted to be there with the rain. My mother thought I was at Woodstock. These were the days when you had to lie to your parents (laughs). She thought we were going to Woodstock, and she saw it on the news, and she’s going, “Oh my God, my little girl (laughs),” even though I really wasn’t. And I wasn’t wet. I was dry.

And that was when Peter was playing with Nautilus, I believe.
LC: Yes. Yes, he was with Nautilus. So I actually took the bus up there with my girlfriend, Carol, who was going out with the lead guitar player.

They did covers, too, then.
LC: Yeah, they were nice guys. The lead guitarist, he was adorable, but they weren’t songwriters and they weren’t creative.

Looking back, what was your favorite part of being involved with the whole KISS phenomenon?
LC: That’s a hard one. I just think it was the pride that I had. And I still have it. I still have it. I’m so proud that they’re still famous all these years. I just remember one day standing on a corner waiting for the light to turn, and I just said, “I feel like we just won the lottery.” You really feel like you won the lottery. I’m very proud of them – Gene and Paul and me (laughs), the whole band, that they’ve kept it alive all these years.

You also had a friendship with Peter Frampton that was very interesting.
LC: Yeah, yeah. I was friends with Peter Frampton. He was a sweetheart. I haven’t seen him in years, but I was friends with him at two different points in my life. And he was a great guy.

You were a big fan of his before you met him.
LC: Oh yeah. Yeah, the first time … yeah.

That was after Frampton Comes Alive!
LC: Well, I actually saw him in Humble Pie.

Oh, you did?
LC: Yeah, I saw him in Humble Pie. And then, I saw him at the Fillmore, I believe. It was either the Fillmore or the Academy of Music. Both get me very confused. I don’t know which one, but I saw him as Frampton, and then I saw him at the Garden, but I also saw him between them as a person.

You’ve seen hundreds of bands over the years. I know Queen was your favorite. And you saw Led Zeppelin, too. What was that experience like?
LC: I saw Led Zeppelin a couple of times, but the best thing was … I mean, I met Jimmy Page twice, two different times. Once at the A.R.M.S. concert, and there was a party afterwards, and then I also met him at my girlfriend’s home. But anyway, Zeppelin’s great.

Peter met him, too, and they were going to go back to your place, but [Led Zeppelin manager] Peter Grant stopped it.
LC: Oh yeah. He was going to come back to my place. We were at TRAX, and he was going to come back, but Peter Grant wouldn’t let him come. He had just had an OD. He’d Od’ed from heroin I guess. And [Grant] said, “How do you know that’s Peter Criss?” And [Page] said, “Oh, he has a limo.” And [Grant] goes, “That doesn’t mean anything.” So he wouldn’t let him come. But, I was kind of afraid, ‘cause I was saying, “Don’t tell me Jimmy Page is going to wreck my apartment.”

They did have quite the reputation back then.
LC: I was afraid. You didn’t ask me who my favorite solo artist was, did you?

I don’t remember.
LC: You didn’t ask me that. My favorite solo artist is Rod Stewart.

Did you meet him?
LC: Oh, of course – many times. 

What is he like?
LC: He’s nice, but he stays distant. He stays away. I’ve seen him a lot backstage and that type of stuff, but I’ve seen him where I could actually talk to him at CD signings, where he’s selling something. Yeah, he was supposed to come to this party, and I go, “Rod, you were supposed to come to this party. What the hell happened to you? You didn’t call me and I went to sleep.” I went to sleep, because I was friends with Carmine Rojas’s cousin. Carmine Rojas was his musical director in those days, and it was Rojas’s birthday. He was supposed to show up at the China Club, and I said, “I fell asleep.” But I met Rod a few times, yeah.

You guys got kicked out of a few places. Was there one time that was a little crazier than the rest?
LC: I don’t remember … I wasn’t with them, maybe. Did I mention getting kicked out of some places in the book?

Yeah, I thought there were some in the book – either restaurants or hotels.
LC: Huh. Well, there was one time in Sweden. We were in Sweden and oh, the hotel they took our passports … yeah. We didn’t get kicked out, but yeah, they took our passports because they were fighting in the lobby. That was the roadies. They were fighting. Not the band, it was the roadies, but they took our passports. And then there was also … we were in Sweden and we were at a restaurant, and it was called the Shrimp Bar or something, or the Shrimp Boat. You had to remote your shrimp … the shrimp were on a boat, and you had to remote them to you. There was like a pool in the middle of the restaurant and then tables all around, and they would send your food out, and you had to remote it with a remote control to your table. And Ace got so annoyed with it that he just walked in the pool, and they said, “You can’t walk in the pool!” And it was because the bottom wasn’t walk-able. It was just something you could swim in. And they said, “You’re going to wreck the bottom of the pool.” So they threw us out (laughs).

There were so many characters within and surrounding KISS. What was Bill Aucoin like?
LC: Bill Aucoin was a character. He loved doing everything … at that same restaurant we tried throwing him
Peter & Lydia with Bill Aucoin
in the pool. But he caught us right before. He knew what we were up to. We were getting him really drunk and then we were going to throw him in the pool (laughs). He realized what we were doing.

He really was one of those managers in rock history that you really remember. What was he like as a professional?
LC: He was very, very professional. He used to love to have fun. That was the thing you loved about Bill. I love him. I miss him to this day. Me and Richie … Richie was closer to him at one point. (Laughs) Richie and him have stories. Richie could tell you those.

How did you meet Richie?
LC: Well, Richie was managed by Bill Aucoin. He was in Piper. And actually, me and Jeanette were on our way to see KISS. I think we went down to Georgia. And then right after that, it was supposed to be New Year’s Eve. So, [we were going to spend] New Year’s Eve like in [this] North Carolina town, but we wanted to go to Georgia, to Atlanta, because it was a big gig. We went and we were waiting for our limo to pick us up at the airport and we were standing outside, and all of a sudden, there’s Richie. And there were the other guys in his band waiting to be picked up also. So, I said, “Wow, he’s cute, but I’m married, so I can look but I can’t touch.” That was it. But then years later … many, many years later, actually 10 years ago … let’s see, that was back in the ‘70s, and then I saw him in the ‘90s at one of the KISS parties at Studio 54, but he thought I was still married to Peter, so he didn’t approach me. We said, “Hello,” and we kissed, but that was it. Then, back around 2001, Sean Delaney was staying at my apartment, and he invited somebody over named Richie. And I thought it was Richie Ranno from Starz. I’m going, “Who did you invite to my apartment on New Year’s Eve?” And he said, “Richie Fontana.” And I said, “I love Richie Fontana.” And then about a month later, we were talking on the phone, and he’s calling me and e-mailing … well, within the month, we were talking right away. So within the month, we had a date, we made a date. And we’ve been together ever since. I actually invited him over. I said, “Come over and have some spaghetti,” but he was working on his CD. And he says, “I’ll have to take a rain check.” That was some time later.

Were you apprehensive about getting involved with a musician again?
LC: No way. That’s what I’m attracted to. Well, now I am. Years ago, I wasn’t, but now I am. I’m always attracted to musicians, and I’m always attracted to drummers and bass players. That’s what I usually go out with – drummers and bass players, the rhythm section.

You mentioned the creativity of Sean Delaney, that he was integral to the band’s success.
LC: Absolutely. He was very, very responsible for a lot of their choreography, a lot of their theatrics, and he
Sean Delaney, Jeanette Frehley,
Bill Aucoin, Lydia Criss 
didn’t get the appreciation he was due. Gene and Paul sometimes ignore Sean Delaney … they’re really very, business-wise, it’s like, “Okay, you did this for me. We paid you, on to the next thing.” That’s how they are.

What do you remember about meeting Sean for the first time?
LC: Well, I’ve always been attracted to gay guys. I guess I’m a fag hag, or whatever. I had cousins that were gay when I was little, and also at my first job, at school, there was a guy named Raymond that we loved. And he was one of the first gay friends I ever had. And then I worked in Abercrombie & Fitch and there was a guy named Rudy. Oh, he was so flamboyant it was unbelievable. He’d come off the elevator and we could hear him on the other end of the floor. He’d come up and we’d go, “Oh, Rudy’s here.” But I was always attracted to gay people because they’re so creative and funny, and they just love women. Gay guys love women. You know, maybe a guy might be apprehensive, but women aren’t. We just loved them, and then years later, we were friends with Frank Dugan, who gave us that million dollar check
Frank Dugan's Million $$ Check
[described in Lydia’s book]. He was gay, and we’ve just always had gay friends all of our lives. Since I was a little girl, I’ve had gays in my life, even though at times I didn’t know what gay was. I had gay relatives. I didn’t know they were gay. I didn’t know what that was. I just thought they were funny and they were great to hang out with. And then when you grow up, you realize what it is. Even when I was in school, I didn’t know Raymond was gay. I just thought he was a character. You know, we just loved him. I used to play games with him, like “What songs can you sing?” We’d listen to the radio, and we’d get all the words to every song. And it was, “Okay, what song did you get last night?” And I’d sit at the radio in my mother’s bedroom and just write all the lyrics to all the songs.

How did your family get along with Peter? Did they like Peter from the start?
LC: No, at the beginning, no. But, you know, they eventually got to love him, even before he made it. You know, once we got married, they loved him. At one point, I said, “I might elope,” and my mother said, “If you elope, you’ll be disowned.” It was [my parents’] initial meeting [with] him with the long hair, ‘caused I lived in projects. I grew up with blacks and Puerto Ricans in a neighborhood that was lower class. And Peter was from an even lower-class neighborhood. The thing is, he had long hair, and my mother never knew what that was. They never had that. Peter was the first long-haired guy I brought home. Actually, he was the first guy I brought home. Oh yeah. I only had two boyfriends before him, so they never met them. They saw me walking with my first boyfriend when I was living with the projects. But Peter, we had already moved out of the projects when I met Peter. We had just moved out of the projects when I met Peter, within 40 days of moving out of the projects. And I didn’t bring him home right away. I brought him home eventually, and they weren’t too happy, because of – like I said – the long hair, but they liked him, like I said at the beginning of the interview, because of his personality.

What were Peter’s parents like?
LC: Peter’s family was great. They were sweethearts. I’m telling you, you could say anything to his mother … not like my mother. [You could say] anything to his mother and his mother was the greatest. I mean, I’ve actually even smoked pot with his mother.

Is there anybody from the old days you hang out with and if so, have they read the book? What do they think of it?
LC: Well, I don’t hang out with anybody from the old days, but I just talk to them. I talk to Elvera [Capetta], who was one of my bridesmaids. I talk to Joey Lucenti. He was in Peter’s band before KISS. I talk to Pepe Gennarelli. He was in Peter’s band. I’m trying to think … there’s not many left. A lot of the people are just gone. We can’t reach them.

We should talk about what you’re doing now.
LC: Well, my book is in the second printing.

And you’ve expanded it, right?
LC: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. It’s revised and expanded. What I’ve done is I’ve corrected a few errors, changed a few things, I’ve made some pictures bigger, changed colors and stuff … not many, but a few. And then I also expanded it by 16 pages, with 22 more photos, and that’s it. It’s in its second printing. And the other thing is I’m working on an auction … I’m going to sell stuff that’s in the book, but more stuff, more personal stuff – like if Paul Stanley gave me a gift, it might be in the auction. A lot of the clothes I’m wearing might be in the auction. Certain things, like if Gene gave me a gift … Gene gave me a clock, Paul gave me a clock, they might both be in the auction.

I remember seeing that in the book, that they both gave you the same clock.
LC: Not the same, but they both gave me clocks. But, anyway, there will be a lot of things that are in the book, personal things, like if you see … like my crazy bathroom in Brooklyn, with the Mickey Mouse. I still have those towels and stuff, so that’s going to be in the auction (laughs). I can’t really say exactly what’s going to be in the auction, but there’s going to be a lot of personal stuff.

Well, it would cool to see those platform boots of yours from the old days (laughs). Those are cool.
LC: Yep, those big platform boots. Oh, definitely … (laughs). I found two pairs already. There might be a third. I’m not sure. I’ll find the other pair.


Lydia has completed the last and final selection of her treasures and will be doing one more final auction with Backstage Auctions. There will be plenty of KISS memorabilia including the Mercedes as well as other music related relics. Register for your VIP All Access to receive auction notifications.

To purchase Lydia's second printing and expanded version of Sealed With A KISS, you can buy it directly from Lydia by visiting her website:

Sealed with a KISS by Lydia Criss

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