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Raspberries admirers


Paul Sidoti

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After reading Billy's post regarding meeting Paul McCartney and how cool the story is, I thought maybe some of the board members would enjoy these as well.

In the fall of 1998, I was fortunate to work for my favorite band, KISS, on the Psycho Circus tour doing merchandise. A very simple job that didn't entail a whole lot of work. For all of you out there, pick your favorite band and imagine all your wildest dreams coming true and then some.

Having grown up idolizing these super comic book heroes as a little child and learning to play guitar to their records, receiving all sorts of memorablilia for birthdays, Christmas, etc.. to be touring with them was surreal. They never seemed human to me, even to this day. They will always be those cartoon characters with a great, rocking soundtrack with the most amazing theatrical show ever presented.

So.. the first day I go to work, I get to sit with them for 3 hours in Boston, sans makeup then later in the tour another 3 hours in a suite at the Ritz Carlton in Chicago, while they sign these limited edition pieces we were selling. Paul Stanley standing in front of me, Peter to my right, Gene to my left, and Ace a few feet away trading funny stories, Jerky Boys quotes and all kinds of shenanigans going on.

After the guys signed all the stuff, the next day I presented them with a pile of items I brought with me in case they would sign them. My lunchbox I had when I was 6 years old, posters, all kinds of stuff. I also had something else. I had 8x10 promo photos of me when I was a member of Gary Lewis and The Playboys. Gary had personalized each photo to Gene, Peter, Paul and Ace. Gene was the first one down the hallway. He sees me and without saying a word, takes my Sharpie and signed everything. Then I said, "Gene, my boss wanted me to give this to you". He looks at the photo and smiled and goes, "WOW, you play with Gary? I've got every one of his records at home". He then proceeded to sing not the obvious "This Diamond Ring", but "Save Your Heart For Me". Hearing the Demon singing, "Walk along the lake with someone new" nearly floored me. He said, "come back and say hi to everyone". Paul came out next to sign the items. I gave him the photo and he said, "Wow, I just read about you guys in Mojo Magazine last month". I was like, "What's Mojo?" He said, "It's like a British Rolling Stone. They said you were one of the top bands touring on the 60's circuit." They both remember vividly when Gary appeared on Ed Sullivan. Peter and Ace came out next and were just as grateful and signed everything. According to the wardrobe girl when Gene was putting on his makeup he had Gary's picture in front of his mirror and pointed to it, winked at her and gave a thumbs up.

After a few days, I was able to get my picture with the group in makeup. When then-tour manager Tommy Thayer said, "Ok, let's get a picture with Paul in merchandise, Gene said, "No, no, no, Paul plays with Gary Lewis and the Playboys". Gene smiled and pointed to me and that's the photo I have to this day. Pretty wild that I was being accepted as a real musician alongside my heroes.

The next day, Gene and I had dinner. He said, "Paul, Gary knows you're out with us?" I said, "Yeah, he's a big fan of yours". He said, "Great, welcome aboard". I then told him that Jay Siegel said "Hello". When I was with Gary, we backed up many artists, one being The Tokens who Jay sang lead for ("Lion Sleeps Tonight"). Gene said, "How do you know Jay?" I told him and then he told me what Jay had told me when I saw him right before I left for the tour. Jay knew Gene when he was a school teacher in Spanish Harlem. Gene asked me if I knew what the flip side to "Lion Sleeps Tonight" was. I didn't. He told me some African chant song that I can't remember. Then he asked this... "Name the group.. " I said, "See You in September by The Happenings". He nearly spit his food out and smiled and shook his head. He said, "HOW did you know that is what I was going to ask you?" I said, "Well, they do a part of their show based on songs they wrote and produced for other artists". He couldn't believe it.

The guys were so nice to me. I was able to watch the show from the front row every night. Paul, Ace and Gene would toss picks at me. Towels, microphone windscreens, all kinds of stuff. The coolest was when Paul saw me standing in the front row during "Rock and Roll All Nite". This was right before Christmas break. He sees me and smashes the guitar at the end of the song. Instead of tossing it out randomly like he usually does, he grabs the bridge and what's left of the strings and wraps them around the guitar neck. He waves people off so that I don't get mobbed and hands me the guitar neck, smiled and gave me a thumbs up.

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As I think I mentioned before, during soundcheck one time I heard this guitar ripping through the descending chords of "Go All The Way". The end of the song where it breaks down. I couldn't believe it! I was in the catering line and immediately ran to the stage to see who was playing it. It was Paul Stanley. How freakin' cool was that? You all should get to experience that at some point. A 20,000 seat arena sound system blaringly filled with Raspberries music!

1999 was the year I first met Jim Bonfanti. We started playing together locally. There were plans in place for a Raspberries reunion. The first time they played together publicly was at Jane Scott's birthday party. I played bass on a couple tunes (as did Billy) filling in for Dave while he was in Phoenix. Afterwards, I took some pictures with Eric, Wally, and Jim.

2000 was the year that I played with Eric at the Rock Hall. Just prior to that, KISS was opening their Farewell tour in Phoenix. I wanted to see opening night as I had on all their tour since they reunited so I flew to Phoenix. Having worked for them, they took care of me for tickets and passes. I went alone so I could pretty much hang anywhere. I ran into my buddy, Ed Kanon, Peter's drum tech. We sat on Peter's drum riser, he took photos of me sitting behind the kit. We were coloring his red drum triggers black so they would blend in with his kit.

I walked backstage and saw Paul Stanley. He did a double take and said, "Paul from Gary Lewis, right?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "come on back". I had the photos with me from Jane Scott's party with the 'Berries. I showed Paul the photos. He's like, "Oh my gosh! It's the Raspberries! Gene, come here!!" Gene came over and looked at them and nodded his head. "Great band.." Paul asked where the photos were taken, etc.. I told him about the tentative reunion. He said, "How's Dave Smalley doing these days?" I said, "Good, he lives right here in Phoenix." Peter then said, "They had that great record 'Please... Go All The Way..' and he sang it. Gene said, "you know they were on tour with us. New Year's Eve 1974 Evansville, Indiana Roberts Stadium and we stayed at the Holiday Inn right across the street". Unbelievable memory on that guy. He said, "They had that song 'Hit Record'". I said, "close, "Overnight Sensation". He said, "Yeah, Overnight Sensation in parentheses "Hit Record". Very cool stuff.

When they played Cleveland, I was dressed up like Gene for a meet and greet at the Rock Hall. I walked up the stairs and Gene is staring me down. I'm in my full KISS tribute outfit in Love Gun era style, the whole nine yards. He's smiling and nodding his head and I go, "Gene, it's Paul Sidoti from Gary Lewis" and he starts cracking up and going "Oh my God! I don't believe it! You look terrific!! How long did it take to do your costume?" I said, "Couple months". Then Paul goes, "I know who this guy is, this is Paul, he plays with everybody! Gary Lewis, Raspberries, Eric Carmen!". The photo of Gene and I ended up in the front page of the newspaper the next day.

And you all know the rest. Paul's well-documented admiration of the band and song references in KISS' music. His attending of the HOB show in L.A. It's cool to know that there are heroes who live up to everything they are and then some.

Paul

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Hey, great stuff, Paul! Those are unforgettable times....

Maybe you could get Bernie to post that photo of yourself with the group in makeup. (There I go, making more work for our overworked EC.com leader....) It would be fun to see....

--LC

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Awesome stories Paul!...It's great to hear someone else's close encounters with the stars...But what's really cool is to find out that they are nice people too...And in Gene Simmon's case...a man with a phenomenal memory!

btw...I enjoyed listening to your music on your MySpace.

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Great stories Paul! It must have been great fun watching these guys play and know that they have heroes too! I saw the pictures on myspace. How cool is that? I really couldn't tell much difference between the two of you. Now, could you pull off looking like Eric or Dave? hahahaha

Look forward to when you and Tequila Sunrise will be in KC again.

HT

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Hi, yes, Tequila Sunrise will be in Bensalem, PA next month.

Tony you got that right. Paul and Gene are so intune with what goes on in the music business. Gene had the smarts even back in the 70's to read every contract he signed.

A classic story is that at the age of 27 when KISS toured Japan for the first time, there was a film and mobile recording unit that was going to record the concert. When presented with the contract, Gene noticed that it said "X company has the rights to air this concert 3 times within the course of the first year and after that retains ownership." Right away, he realized that he wasn't going to let anyone else 'own' KISS. He crossed out that verbage and said, "KISS grants permission of said concert for duration of first 2 years after that KISS retains full ownership of said concert". That particular concert, KISS at Budokan 1977, was the very first televised of it's kind on a brand-new cable channel called, HBO. He also copywrited their images in the mid-70's and owns the designs. Thus, anything that is ever presented as KISS merchandise with their likeness goes directly through him.

Here's a very funny letter that recently appeared on Gene's website. It's a great forum where he will personally answer letters on the site.

Hi Gene,

Question: If Sophie's (Gene's daughter) high school graduation fell on the exact date and time as an important business meeting that, if you attended, guaranteed $10 million in your pocket, net, and there was absolutely no possible way the meeting could be changed or moved, AND if you didn't show up at that exact date and time the deal would be off and could not be made up, which would you attend - the graduation or the meeting?

- Sara

Response from Gene:

Easy answer. First, I would make sure I had the 10 million deal and that the money is in escrow (before I committed to it). Then, I would offer the school one million in cash to move the graduation date ONE DAY. Simple.

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Hi Ted, we're at Commerce Bank Amphitheater in Bensalem, PA on June 20th.

Gene, definitely see you in July in Cleveland. Could be an amazing night if ya catch my drift..

Any west-coasters out there, Tequila Sunrise will be at House Of Blues Dallas tomorrow night and the Sahara in Las Vegas May 29-June 3rd.

Paul

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Gene is known as an excellent business man. In the meantime...my wife and I flew up to NYC (our old hometown) and caught the Raspberries Sunday night show at BB King's. We sat directly in front of Paul. He is an awesome guitarist, very entertaining and engaging. He also resides third on Bonnie's list of hotties now directly behind George Clooney and Patrick Dempsey. (I'm holding down 37th place grumpy )

Also my daughter is now a proud owner of two of the picks paul threw table side. Paul seems like a real genuine guy!

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Paul,

Great to hear those stories. Nice to be able to meet your guitar heroes. The internet and these forums are a great connection for the rest of us to meet our heros.

Looking forward to seeing your band, Tequila Sunrise, at the Rams Head in Annapolis, Md, June 21st. I've heard good things about your band. cool

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LOL...we're a couple (Bonnie & John)....a couple of people who are too lazy or ignorant to change our screen name. (Angelina is actually a name of a county in TX.....not a Jolie reference) laugh .

And Kathy.....I know Sayreville well.....one of our offices is right down the road in Old Bridge. Hooray Jersey (Maybe we should change the screen name to Middlesex?) wink

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