Friday, November 15, 2013

KISS Wishes Cadillac High Good Luck In Football Playoffs

Gene Simmons and the boys gave a shoutout to the Cadillac football team on the band’s Facebook page today. Along with a picture of Kiss with Cadillac football players in 1975, the post read: “Good luck to our friends, the Cadillac HS Football team as they play their 3rd playoff game tonight. They are 12-0 so far this year! We go way back!”

(The Vikings actually are only 11-0 heading into tonight’s 7 p.m. Division 4 regional final at Comstock Park. And if Son of Swami is right, 12-0 isn’t in the offing. But still, pretty cool.)

A little background on the Kiss-Cadillac connection:

Back in 1974, when the powerhouse Cadillac Vikings started the season with two losses, assistant football coach Jeff Neff had the idea of playing Kiss music in the locker room as a motivational tool. After all, the music was fast and loud, and, in football, as he explains, Kiss stands for "Keep it simple, stupid.”

Once the Kiss songs started flowing, the Vikings won the last seven games of the season.

In the midst of those victories, Neff got in touch with Kiss and eventually heard directly from its members. "My chair is located in the same place where Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons called me," Neff told the Free Press in 2012.

That started a connection between the band and the school that, in 1975, led to a famous visit. Kiss, scheduled to play around that time at a Michigan college, accepted Neff's invitation to come to Cadillac High for homecoming.

What happened next exceeded his and everyone's expectations. During two days in October — just a month after Kiss' landmark "Alive!" album was released — band members Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, in full Kiss regalia, visited the high school, posed for photos on the football field and performed a show at the Cadillac High School gym attended by about 2,000 people. "To be part of that was surreal, to say the least," remembered Stanley, who said Michigan has long had a place in the band's heart. "Let's face it, we're blue-collar. We didn't grow up with a silver spoon. We were embraced and taken in by Detroit and Michigan. But Cadillac was unique."

Stanley says it was mind-boggling to see the enthusiasm of the town where the football team went "from worst to first" with help from its songs. Kiss even attended a civic breakfast in Cadillac, where Neff, coach Dave Brines, Mayor Raymond Wagner and other dignitaries wore Kiss makeup and gave Kiss a key to the city.

"To see the mayor and everybody doing it, and doing it willingly, it was a testament to a small miracle, " Stanley said. Later that day, Kiss made a dramatic exit when a helicopter landed on the football field. As it flew away, thousands of flyers fluttered onto the field that read, "Cadillac — Kiss loves you!"

In the decades since, not a week has gone by that someone hasn't contacted Neff about the visit. "Your 15 minutes of fame, if it can last 36 years, that's cool," said Neff, who retired from teaching after 31 years.