Macomb County man is 'alive' with Kiss memorabilia

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that the Kiss concert in Detroit that was recorded for the band’s "Alive!" album occurred in May 1975.

During Kiss's iconic May 1975 concert at Cobo Hall that became the material for the band's "Alive!" album, bassist Gene Simmons threw a towel into the audience, and 16-year-old Terry Pakulski, who was in the front row, snagged the souvenir.

Since then, the Macomb County resident has added thousands of other pieces of Kiss memorabilia, including guitar picks, casino chips, plates, golf balls, mugs, nutcrackers — and a Kiss telephone that plays "Rock and Roll All Nite" when it rings.

Pakulski plans to see the band Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena — which will mark the 69th time he's attended a Kiss concert. The band announced the tour, dubbed the "End of the World Tour," would be its last.

Pakulski said he became a fan of the band before they hit it big.

"The first time I saw them was in 1973, when I went to a concert at the Fraser Hockey Arena," he said. "I was 13 ... I was standing right in front of them; I was tapping on Gene (Simmons') boot. They warmed up for Savoy Brown."

KISS memorabilia collector and fan Terry Pakulski, 58, poses among thousands of KISS items in 14 showcases in his Macomb County basement, Tuesday, March 12, 2019. He's been collecting memorabilia since he was 16. He will attend his 69th KISS concert at Little Caesars Arena, Wednesday night, as they play their KISS: End of the Road World Tour.

Pakulski said when he told Kiss lead singer Paul Stanley in 2005 about that first concert, he said the vocalist remembered the gig.

"I told him, 'I saw you guys at the Fraser Hockey Arena,' and he said, 'that's when we opened for Savoy Brown," Pakulski said. "It's amazing that he knew exactly who they played with."

Pakulski said he became enamored with the band the first time he saw them when they unleashed their signature pyrotechnics show.

"The songs they did were from their first album, which wasn't out yet," he said. "I had worked for bands around town doing pyrotechnics, and I fell in love with these guys then and there."

Since then, Pakulski said he hasn't missed a chance to see the band. He's been on Kiss cruises, and has met all the band members.

This is one of Terry's most prized possessions: rocks with the band members' faces painted on them that he bought from another Michigan Kiss collector.

At first, before Kiss made it big, Pakulski said his classmates teased him for being a fan of a band that wore strange outfits and makeup.

"When I went to school, people liked Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath," he said. "I got picked on because Kiss wore makeup. But something attracted me to them ... it's been 45 years with these guys."

Pakulski said he's not the only Kiss fan in his family.

"My son has seen them 30-something times," he said. "I took my mom to a show in Windsor; she said 'any time you want to go again, I want to go.' Kiss is one of those bands that's family-oriented. It's a band you need to see once in your life."

Pakulski said he lucked into front-row tickets to the May 16, 1975 concert at Cobo Hall, which was recorded as part of the "Alive!" album.

This is an image of Terry Pakulski dressed up like Kiss bassist Gene Simmons in 1976. Pakulski, 58, has been on two Kiss cruises and seen the band 68 times since 1973, including a concert Saturday in Grand Rapids.

"I had a friend who got us tickets," he said. 

A famous photo that was printed on the back of the "Alive!" album showed two fans holding up a Kiss banner, along with dozens of other fans — although Pakulski didn't make the cut.

"I was just cut out of the picture," he lamented. 

Pakulski said he tries to get front-row seats for every Kiss concert. "You have to sit in the first couple rows," he said. "You're part of the experience: They interact with you, and throw picks to you."

Pakulski estimated his collection of Kiss memorabilia is worth about $100,000, "but you never know," he said. "I have stuff I thought was worth a lot of money that wasn't; and stuff I didn’t think was worth much — and that’s the stuff that’s worth more."

Pakulski said his favorite Kiss artifacts in his collection are four rocks with the band members' faces painted on them.

"I bought a guy's collection, and his girlfriend made these rocks," he said. "They're on a little round wood platform, and they have fur for hair. She did their faces on the rocks."

Also part of his collection of about 5,000 pieces: Kiss wallpaper, Christmas lights, a pinball machine, and more than 50 T-shirts.

"Gene (Simmons) merchandises everything he can get his hands on," he said. "I'm a collector, but I don't like to spend a lot of money. People always try to bring me stuff that I don't have. That's the neat thing about collecting."
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