Detroit Rock City: Hollywood Comes to Hamilton

Detroit Rock City: Hollywood Comes to Hamilton
The year is 1978. The KISS Army is growing, and legions of kids are defying their parents and breaking into their piggy banks. This month, Detroit Rock City, starring Edward Furlong and Natasha Lyonne play a couple of teenagers who will do anything to get to the show.

The real thing happened last November, when KISS came to Hamilton's Copps Coliseum to shoot the film's climactic concert footage. It's not every day you get a chance to take part in a real rock and roll movie, particularly one sure to be the coolest thing since the band met the phantom of the park. In many ways, the location is ideal. Detroit and Hamilton are both decidedly blue-collar, working class, industrial towns that were much more prosperous earlier in the century and have become mere shells of what they once were.

Places Everyone

Our entourage entered the arena around two p.m. We figured actual shooting would begin in about 30 minutes. It was close to three hours of cola and cheese sandwiches before we were let into the concert bowl, along with the gathered KISS freaks in full regalia. The whole band was represented, but there were Genes everywhere in different sizes and shapes - from little, fat rotund ones to tall, frail ones. Of course, the kid who showed up in a Tricky Woo T-shirt was told to stay away from the front, along with those dressed in KISS memorabilia from later eras.

Props were handed out at random, mostly Alive II concert pendants, along with a few KISS posters. A huge crane rig stood off-centre at stage left, whose running track spanned the entire floor area from the stage mouth to the back of the arena floor. There were two mounted cameras in the grandstands (for wide angle stage and crowd shots) and a number of hand-helds running around the stage.

Director Adam Rifkin thanked the crowd for coming and explained the action of the next eight hours, then a warm up band was brought out to run through "Detroit Rock City" for the film crew and the audience. Why? They were totally incompetent, and KISS themselves would only be lip-synching anyway, so why bother?

Hitting Their Mark

Dressed to the hilt in their Kabuki makeup and futuristic space garb the band finally arrived, and while Simmons was the fan favourite, guitarist Ace Frehley stole the show. If anything went wrong during the filming, it was almost always Ace's fault. The stage set consisted of two hydraulic boxes to the left and the right of an elevated drum riser. The filming starts with the band perched high in the risers (Gene at stage right, Paul Stanley and Ace at stage left). They had to get on the boxes, then be lifted into the air, and it was apparent from the get go that the obviously intoxicated Frehley was going to have problems with this. Take one. They had to stop because Ace was nearly falling out of it, swaying back and forth like wheat on a prairie farm. He also a lot of difficult staying out of the way when the boxes were being lowered back down - Paul managed to pull him from harms way just seconds before getting squashed like a bug.

Attempt number three. Since the crowd had been so loyal and energetic, the band was doing their best to give autographs and handshakes. Ace decided to spray water out on the crowd. The only problem was, he wasn't paying attention to where he was spraying it - all over the back of guitarist Stanley, who clearly was not amused. Stanley pulled Frehley aside in front of the whole audience and laid into him! Hilarious.

Not that everyone else was perfect. Paul Stanley lovingly referred to the city as Toronto, something you just do not want to do in Hamilton. He tried to cover his tracks by making a joke and promised that KISS would be playing Hamilton in the not-too-distant future. I am not holding my breath.

The cast of the movie involved in the shoot, namely Edward Furlong and his gang of friends who disobey their right wing parents and go see KISS anyway, were located right up in the front of the audience. Joining the actors in this area were a few selected extras (who apparently looked the part more than the rest of us) and Ace Frehley's teenaged daughter, who was lifted out of the audience between film takes to go backstage with her father.

By midnight the crowd was getting thin. After all, nearly 12 hours of hearing that same song over and over again, I needed to get the hell outta there.