This tattered poster is among the many treasures in Dean Swann's collection.
KISS, a band with a massive worldwide following, will play Wright State’s Nutter Center on August 22. But the Dayton area holds a special place in Kiss lore.
So I went looking for some of the biggest fans in the KISS Army. It was here, on January 31, 1976, that singer and guitarist Paul Stanley looked out and saw a sold out Hara Arena with his band headlining. In that moment, according to multiple interviews, he believed his band had arrived.
It was around that same time that Dayton resident Dean Swann and members of his family became members of the KISS Army. While still living in Kentucky, his cousins would come over for summer visits where they would all become basement rock stars.
“I would rope them into doing Kiss concerts. We would try to do our own makeup. All of a sudden, all of the aluminum foil in the house and Christmas lights were gone,” Swann says.
Swann went on to make a living performing in theatres and playhouses both near and far for 14 years. The Kentucky transplant has been a part of productions in New York City, Miami, Dayton and as far away as Japan…and he credits KISS for planting the seed.
“I got into theater because I wanted to be in a rock band,” Swann remembers. “I wanted to have the effect on an audience that KISS had on me.”
His dedication to the theater paid off when he was asked to play the title role in an off-Broadway production of the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
“That was probably the closest I got in my professional theater career to being in a band. They taught me to do the (Hedwig) makeup. Just like KISS!” Swann laughs.
Since then, he’s has added “lead singer” to his long list of roles, having formed a real rock band that plays locally.
As a child, his cousins joined him for his first Kiss show in Lexington. Even a snow storm couldn’t damper his excitement of seeing “The Hottest Band in the World”.
“When you’re that age and you’ve seen these pictures of these guys, and then you see them live, it’s Star Wars on stage,” he says. “They looked 7 feet tall and they looked like superheroes.”
Swann says he’s been to 21 other KISS concerts since that first experience, but has never met any of the band members. When asked if he’d like to, he initially answers with an emphatic yes. But then he thinks more about it.
“You know, people say you should never meet your heroes because you might get disappointed. So maybe not. It’s just the mystique,” he says.
“I think it’s better to leave them as those superheroes that I identified as a kid.”