‘4th and Loud’ shows how Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley rock arena football

Rick Bentley
Fresno Bee

Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley — two founding members of the legendary rock band KISS — are seated in the small coffee shop on the ground floor of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. They’ve sold millions of albums, played around the world to legions of fans and were recently inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

So naturally, the discussion turns to football.

Driven by the merchandising wizardry of Simmons, KISS has lent its name to the Arena Football League team located in Los Angeles. The exploits of the band during their first season as Simmons and Stanley take on the roles of football moguls will be played out on the new AMC reality series “4th and Loud.”

“We are championing the Arena Football League because, honestly, the challenge of bringing football back to Los Angeles has the disadvantage of people saying, ‘What’s arena football?’ And arena football seems to get pegged as second-rate or third-rate players. And the fact is they are the upper 1 percent of players available,” Stanley says. “There are only so many places in the roster of the NFL, and then, you have other great players. So, for us, the AFL really is the black sheep of football so to speak, misunderstood.

“What we are proud to be is the black sheep of the AFL.”

Simmons says they bring an even wilder renegade approach, much like the band has done in the music world with their stage makeup, costumes and pyrotechnics. Except for the makeup, that approach has transferred to the team. Stanley designed the costumes. They made sure the dancers weren’t just pretty faces, but could rock the house. And, games are as loud and full of explosions as a KISS concert.

“When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to buy was Cracker Jacks because of the toy prize inside,” Simmons says. “It was the idea of buying something and getting something extra. KISS has always been about giving more and that’s what we are doing with the team.”

If the idea of rock musicians and sports coming together seems odd, Stanley explains that research the band did in the ‘70s showed the most read magazine by KISS fans was Sports Illustrated.

“I think there’s a commonality between the quest for greatness between musicians and athletes. Both have the desire to accomplish something against all odds regardless if you are wearing eight-inch heels or cleats,” Stanley says.

The idea to get into the business of football came right after KISS performed at the halftime of the league’s championship game. That’s when the band members learned there was an opportunity to bring football back to Los Angeles through the league.

“When we were asked if we were interested in an expansion team in Los Angeles, our response was ‘Try to stop us.’ There was a love affair that happened very quickly. It didn’t take a genius to figure out, ‘Hey, if there’s a KISS branded football team that comes out of Los Angeles, maybe we can get some traction’,” Simmons says.

To help with that traction, the team offers season tickets for $99, which includes a KISS concert. It’s that kind of promotional guidance that Simmons brings to the organization.

Both Simmons and Stanley played sports briefly when they were growing up but decided quickly that being in a band was cooler and less painful. Neither claims to be that knowledgable when it comes to the athletic part of the team.

“I remember playing football for a very short time when I was in my early teens. I was always a fairly strong kid and used to being fairly invincible. I was playing football, and somebody tackled me,” Stanley says. “When I finally ceased to be airborne and landed on my stomach and had the wind knocked out of me I suddenly had this epiphany that the guitar was better.”

Simmons worked as a lifeguard, played shortstop on the high school baseball team and won archery championships, but he says he didn’t spend a lot of time playing sports because he was to busy “chasing girls.”

Both musicians are certain their involvement is good for the league.

“We are the Tiger Woods of golf, baby. Before Tiger, you didn’t care about golf. Now, everybody is going to pay attention to this new thing which, by the way, is great for family entertainment,” Simmons says.

‘4th and Loud’

9 p.m. Tuesdays