NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS, #2 OF 5: Ace Frehley

Ace Frehley (Guitar)
Birth name: Paul Daniel Frehley
Birthday: April 27, 1951
Heritage: German/Dutch/Native American

Probably I’m not wrong to say the combination of Ace Frehley’s melodious guitar play and the catchy songwriting skill of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons sparked KISS magic. Frehley produced a lot of wonderful guitar riffs to remember. His play style is orthodox with a warm human touch, not mechanical. Also, his spontaneous rock style contributed unique chemistry to KISS, though it was clear that the band chemistry wasn’t always smooth with more organized Paul and Gene.
Today, Ace is the most active member of KISS, his cover album “Origins, Vol. 1” was just released on last April. His brilliant guitar works, as well as songwriting skill, have never faded.
He lived in the Bronx for entire his youth, and I currently live in the Bronx not far from his memorial places. As a Bronx residence, his autobiography, “No Regrets” was pretty interesting for me, not only I am his fan and he was funny in his book.

AN ORIGINAL BOOGIE DOWN BRONX ROCK BOY
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The corner of Webster Avenue and Mosholu Parkway, the Bronx, northern part of New York City and only the borough in the continent (other boroughs are in islands). Ace Frehley, KISS’s original lead guitarist and still an active musician, was born in the Bronx and lived in this area called Bedford Park for not only his entire childhood but also the time he started his career with KISS. He was a real Bronx boy.

The area Ace grew up has a lot of parks. New York Botanical Garden is at a few blocks away from his old neighborhood, and adjoining to the Botanical Garden is Bronx Park along Bronx River, where local people enjoy baseball and cycling. Mosholu Parkway is a wide street mixed with park characteristic on the both sides. Trees and green fields are on the both sides of the wide road, and the parkway has a bike path to Van Cortlandt Park on the border with Yonkers, NY. The area is considerably a comfortable environment for living in the Bronx.

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New York Botanical Garden on Southern Boulevard and Bedford Avenue.
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Bronx Park
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Mosholu Parkway and bike path

The area is a middle-class neighborhood both back in Ace’s youth era and today. The difference is the ethnic demographic like Paul’s old neighborhood, Inwood. Back the time Ace grew up, “mixed ethnic backgrounds, consisting of mostly German, Irish, Jewish, and Italian families” (Frehley, Layden, & Ostrosky, 2011, p. 16). The area is still mixed but the majority is Latino then White follows today.

His book, “No Regrets” doesn’t write about the street he lived unlike Paul, but Wikipedia page about him does. If Wikipedia is right, he grew up on Marion Avenue and 201st Street, shown in the photo below. If Wikipedia is wrong, I think you can still see the comfortable environment of his old neighborhood today.

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Four corners of Marion Avenue and 201st Street. A quiet and laid back environment with nice classic condominiums.
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Classic small houses around the corner.

The area Ace grew up is very laid back and peaceful neighborhood with nice classic apartments/condominiums and small wooden houses. That is a hidden area comparing with the majority of the Bronx.

  • The video of current environment where Ace grew up in the Bronx.

Ace grew up in a loving and musical family, and all members played instrumentals. Ace’s interest was electric guitar after hearing the Beatles and Rolling Stones, his biggest influences. He played his friend’s electric guitar at 12 years old, and his father gave him the first electric guitar as a Christmas gift in the same year. He formed his first band at 13, including his older brother who later became a professional classical guitarist. Young Ace Frehley was influenced by British musicians like Paul Stanley, especially the Beatles and Rolling Stones.

His brother and sister pursued on their professional ways, but his lucky family environment didn’t stop him from going wild on the Bronx streets, even though he “was a fun-loving kid who liked music and sports” (Frehely et al., 2011, p.22). Girls, beers, and rock n’ roll since 11 years old. When he was 12 or 13 years old, he even joined a gang named the Ducky Boys, that had a territory around Duck Pond (Twin Lakes) in Botanical Garden and Bronx Park, to hang around with more attractive older girls because many pretty girls were dominated by the gang.

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Duck Pond is on the northern end of the New York Botanical Garden. Was it freely accessible to the pond from outside without admission back in 1960’s? Today, it’s impossible to access without the garden’s admission because of tall fences border with Southern Boulevard.
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Bronx River Parkway runs above Southern Boulevard in the Bronx Park, the eastern border line of Ducky Boys. If someone crossed the line toward the Parkway, they would come for fighting. Now it’s a peaceful bike path along Southern Boulevard. This place is close from my place, sometimes I take this path to Yonkers and beyond with my bike.
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The overpass of Mosholu Parkway above Webster Avenue. Sometimes Ace had to show his guts to the follow gang members on weekend daytimes and “hang from a beam with my feet dangling over the highway” (Frehley et al., 2011, p. 26). Oh, lord…
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NYPD 52nd Precinct next to the overpass, the police department sometimes caught Ace when he was young. The building should be same.
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Webster Street with NYPD 52nd Precinct and Mosholu Parkway bridge next each other…

Ace changed high school three times. First, he went to Our Saviour Lutheran High School on Williamsbridge Road in Morris Park section (my neighborhood!), the opposite side of the Bronx across the Bronx Park from his home.

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Our Saviour Lutheran High School in Morris Park

Morris Park has been Italian neighborhood (even today, although today is more mixed with Albanians, Latino, Black, and Asians). So that high school is a catholic private school. Probably strict catholic environment wasn’t a match with wild Ace, plus the high school wasn’t close from his home, would take about 45 minutes by changing buses. He kept skipping classes and was eventually kicked out by the school.

Ace’s second high school was DeWitt Clinton, a large high school near his home. Again he was kicked out by his school just because of his long hair.

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DeWitt Clinton High School
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DeWitt Clinton High School has a large school playground, which is rare in the Bronx. Many Bronx schools have the playgrounds in the top of the buildings or small concrete area.

His third high school was Roosevelt High School on Fordham Road, a busy road runs east-west on the central Bronx. He almost dropped out of the high school again but his girlfriend who was also his future wife strongly suggested him to stay in the school, Ace could complete his high school education.
The school was famous as a notorious high school in 1980-90’s. The high school was closed in 2006. The building is now used by Fordham University, its main campus is across Fordham Road.

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*Photo copyright: Mapio.net. The former Roosevelt High School building on Fordham Road. The building is now a part of Fordham University, a large university in the central Bronx. The building still exists but is completely covered for extensive renovation. Surround area is one of the busiest areas in the Bronx with the university, shopping areas, and a transit hub with Metro-North train station and new city bus transit center.

Ace’s parents concerned about his wild grown up, and once his father asked him to fix his lifestyle or leave home. Ace’s decision was to leave his home and briefly moved into his friend’s place on Burnside Avenue, not far from his home.
This area along 4 subway line is the typical Bronx compared with his Bedford Park neighborhood. More blue collar and unpolished atmosphere.

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Burnside Avenue

The one month stay with his musician friend named Duke was another wild spree with more girls, beer, and weed. And sometimes Frehley and Duke played music together at James J Peters Veterans Hospital in University Heights, overlooking Paul Stanley’s childhood neighborhood of Inwood, for injured veterans at Vietnam War. Frehley was a guitarist and Duke was a singer.
Teenage Ace moved back to his home after a month.

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James J Peters Veterans Hospital. The hospital is clearly visible from Univesity Heights Bridge mentioned on Paul Stanley’s chapter.

Orchard Beach in the northeastern edge of Bronx. This is one of a few swimmable beaches in New York City and only one in The Bronx and Long Island Sound side. Ace Frehley sometimes visited the beach on summertime when he was a kid. Once he listened to a song of the Blue Magoos including a member named Peppy Magoo (Emil Thielhelm) who was a neighbor of Frehley over the radio at the beach and got excited.

Orchard Beach is still filled with music a lot, especially salsa and merengue among local Puerto Ricans and Dominican beach goers. The beach is like another latino country within New York City.

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Orchard Beach
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Orchard Beach. Across the beach is City Island

Across the Orchard Beach is City Island, a small island known for many seafood restaurants, especially crabs. Ace went to the City Island for fishing and visiting his friend sometimes, and he had an unforgettable memory of tasting the first beer at his friend’s cabin when he was 11 years old (!!) .
City Island is filled with laid back atmosphere except its main street. City Island Road, the only major road on the tiny island, and popular seafood restaurants are always busy, but it is like time is stopped elsewhere. Tourists without information probably would be surprised this island is still the Bronx, the borough many people has negative images.

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City Island
  • The video of City Island.

Well, negative images. They are the unfortunate things the Bronx keeps having. I live in Morris Park section of the Bronx for more than 3 years and I feel comfortable. The Bronx made a lot of changes in this 10 years but the majority of parts are in fact still not easy. Ace explained about his home ground with perfect sense in his book, “No Regrets”. This seems still same after 55 years.

  “You couldn’t help but notice, even back in the late 1960’s, that the Bronx was not a destination. It was a place people generally tried to escape. As a teenager I saw it time and again: if you made enough money, you got the hell out of there. You moved north into Westchester, bought a little house with some land, maybe raised a family. Or if you really had cash, you moved south into Manhattan. And the reason for this, of course, was that the Bronx was slowly deteriorating. It was becoming poorer, tougher and more dangerous.” (Frehley et al., 2011, p. 44)

In fact, Westchester County right across the border with the Bronx waits with those big houses. There are no houses like those in the Bronx.

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Big houses with large front yards in Pelham Manor, Westchester County. The border with the Bronx runs right side of this property.

Let’s see three more places in the Bronx related with Ace Frehley in adulthood before shifting to Manhattan.

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This is Bronen’s Music, a historic instrumental store located on Webster Avenue and 188th Street near Fordham Plaza. Ace Frehley once worked at this store before joining KISS. Read the award the Borough of The Bronx presented to the store.

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Citation of Merit which the Borough of The Bronx awarded Bronen’s Music in 2015. In the center, you can read that Ace Frehley worked at that store before joining KISS.
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The inside of Bronen’s Music. Many great musical instruments!

Bronen’s Music celebrated 100th years anniversary in 2015. They sell not only amazing guitars but also a wide range of great music instruments. You should stop by if you need a fine instrument.

*I’d like to thank Bronx Historical Tours for this information. Please visit their website http://www.bronxhistoricaltours.com to join their wonderful Bronx tours. Also, thanks to Daniel at Bronen’s Music who kindly showed me the inside of the store.

BRONEN’S MUSIC: http://www.bronensmusic.com
ADDRESS: 2462 Webster Avenue, Bronx, NY 10458 (map)
TEL: 718-364-3350.

Gaelic Park in Riverdale section, the northwestern edge of the Bronx. Ace watched Grateful Dead concert at this park in August 1971, two years before joining KISS. He had a lot of drinks and weed and sneaked into the backstage and even chatter with Jerry Garcia there. Frehley also had a memory he passed out in the field during the show and left alone in the park at night.
Gaelic Park is a small glass field park used as a sports field. Unfortunately, the park is surrounded by the tall fences.
Riverdale is the one of a very few upper-middle-class neighborhood in the Bronx and north of the neighborhood is the City of Yonkers.

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Gaelic Park surrounded by the wire fences. This was the best shot as possible. Did Grateful Dead play at this park in a quiet and upscale neighborhood?

The intersection of Fordham Road and Grand Concourse, the Bronx’s two big main streets, makes this corner very busy all the time. There is a large building with a sign of P.C. Richard and Son, a large electric store chain in Northeast U.S., and Marshall’s, a discount store chain, on the top of the building in the intersection. That building used to be Alexander’s, a defunct department store. Frehley bought KISS’s self-titled debut album by his own money with the excitement his dream finally came true.

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P.C. Richard and Son, Marshalls and other small stores on the intersection of Grand Concourse and Fordham Road. I was lucky not many cars passed when I took this photo but within a few seconds, massive traffic occurred as usual.

Yes, his big dream did come true and still written in history for a big time.

{ROCK N’ VISIT!: THE BRONX}
The Bronx has many tourist places other than Orchard Beach and City Island.

  • Yankee Stadium: The home base of New York Yankees.
    4, B, D subways to 161st Street-Yankee Stadium.
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  • New York Botanical Garden: Established in 1891, New York Botanical Garden has more than 1 million plants in themed gardens over 250-acre site.
    Metro-North Harlem Line to Botanical Garden, or #2 subway line to Pelham Parkway.
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  • Bronx Zoo: The animal oasis in Bronx Park established in 1899.
    #2 subway line to Pelham Parkway.
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  • Woodlawn Cemetery: Located at the most northern part of the Bronx, the cemetery is famous for many big characteristic shaped memorials, monuments, and tombs of notable people.
    #4 subway line to Woodlawn.
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{EAT N’ ROLL!:  MORRIS PARK, THE BRONX}
Morris Park neighborhood in the eastern Bronx is an unknown place for nice Italian restaurants. Arthur Avenue in the central Bronx near Fordham University is popular for Italian foods, but my opinion is Morris Park is better than Arthur Avenue. Morris Park is still dominantly Italian neighborhood, though has mixed backgrounds, while Arthur Avenue is much less Italian today.
Morris Park Avenue and Williamsbridge Road are Morris Park’s main streets with many local restaurants and business. It’s a good laid back area and nice to walk around.

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Morris Park Avenue is one of two main streets in Morris Park neighborhood.
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Above: The beautiful neighborhood of Morris Park. Below: Morris Park Station of 5 subway line. One of the NYC subway’s smallest station, but one of the oldest subway station building in NYC, built in 1912. This Spanish mission style architecture is among U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

My suggestion is Patricia’s. Try “Spaghetti Alla Frank Sinatra” with a lot of seafood such as shrimp and clams. And their al dente is just perfect and unforgettable. Their Mussels Possillipo was also delicious.

PATRICIA’S (No website)
ADDRESS: 1082 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461 (map)
PHONE: 718-409-9069

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Patricia’s
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Mussels Possillipo (left) and the restaurant interior

The area also has local’s favorite, Enzo’s (1998 Williamsbridge Road/map, Tel: 718-409-3828. http://www.enzosbronxrestaurant.com).

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Enzo’s Restaurant

If you’re a pizza lover, try Emilio’s of Morris Park  (1051 Morris Park Avenue/map, Tel: 718-822-6758. http://www.emiliosofmorrispark.com). Their original specialty pizzas are delicious, especially Chicken Vodka, Chicken Pesto, and Chicken Marsala Pizzas are my favorites.

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Emilio’s of Morris Park
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Emilio’s Chicken Pesto Pizza. Yummy!

(PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FROM MIDTOWN MANHATTAN)
#5 subway line to Morris Park or Pelham Parkway. Not to be confused with #2 train’s Pelham Parkway. They’re different stations. Also, make sure to take Eastchester-Dyre Ave bound #5 train. Some #5 trains go to Nereid Ave of #2 train on weekday evening rush hour.

MUSIC LIFE IN MANHATTAN
Like Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley experienced music in Manhattan and dreamed of being a rock star for himself. The big opportunity to be dreaming of a big rock star was when he was 16 years old. He saw a concert lined up with Wilson Pickett, The Who, Simon and Garfunkel, Cream and much more at the RKO 58th Street Theater in 1967. There he dreamed of being another guitar icon such as Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton. Especially The Who became his idol at that night.
RKO 58th Street Theater was long gone and now the site has an office building complex.

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The place where RKO 58th Street was located.

Across the former theater is the ultra-modern Bloomberg headquarters with a high-end restaurant, Le Cirque. Bloomingdale, the popular department store, is located on 59th Street.

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Very modern glass surfaced architecture of Bloomberg’s headquarters across the site RKO 58th Street was located. Le Cirque, a gorgeous French restaurant, is also in the building.
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Bloomingdale and Lexington Avenue

When Frehley was 19, he experienced a bigger concert at Downing Stadium in Randall’s Island, a part of Manhattan borough just across East Harlem. That was New York Pop Festival. The name was “pop” but the festival line-up was nothing pop but heavy, such as “Mountain, Steppenwolf, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, Richie Havens, Sly and the Family Stones, Dr. John, Van Morrison, and Eric Clapton” and Jimi Hendrix, one of the Frehley’s biggest guitar hero. There he learned to sneak into backstage as acting roadie and succeeded to watch Hendrix’s show real close on the stage. He used the method at the Festival of Peace at the Shea Stadium (now Citifield, the home of New York Mets) and previous Grateful Dead show in the Bronx.
Downing Stadium was demolished and Icahn Stadium was built on site for replacement. You can see Icahn Stadium close from Target in E. 117th Street as shown in the photo.

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Icahn Stadium, formerly Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island.

Frehley was in a professional band with a record contract with RCA, Molimo, before joining KISS (though the record contract was terminated before the first album was released). Molimo played at Fillmore East, the club Paul Stanley sometimes watched shows. Maybe they might be in the same space before KISS.

*The videos are recorded by TRIPMUZE.COM.

READ MORE EPISODES OF “NEW YORK MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS” SERIES!

  1. NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS: Prelude
  2. NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS, PART 1: Paul Stanley
  3. NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS, PART 3: Gene Simmons
  4. NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS, PART 4: Peter Criss
  5. NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS, PART 5: From The Birth of KISS to Their Golden Era in NYC

ACE FREHLEY’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY, “NO REGRETS”. ACE FREHLEY IS A FUNNY MAN! (Apple/Amazon)

REFERENCE
Frehley, A., Layden, J., & Ostrosky, J., (2011). No Regrets. New York, NY: Gallery Books

Leaf, D. & Sharp, K. (2003). Kiss: Behind the Mask. New York, NY: Hachette Book Group

KISS (band). (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 15, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiss_(band)

Ace Frehley. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 15, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inwood,_Manhattan

Theodore Roosevelt Highschool. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 15, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt_High_School_(New_York_City)

Morris Park Station (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 29, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Park_(IRT_Dyre_Avenue_Line)

Strom, S (1992, May 16). Alexsander Shuts All Its 11 Stores; Plans Liquidation. In New York Times. Retrieved June 16, 2016, from
http://www.nytimes.com/1993/01/04/nyregion/strictly-business-how-the-music-stopped-for-the-record-hunter.html

Walsh, K. Grand Concourse Part 2. In Forgotten New York. Retrieved June 16, 2016, from http://forgotten-ny.com/2011/10/grand-concourse-part-2/

RKO Proctor’s 58th Street Theatre. In The New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Retrieved June 16, 2016, from http://www.nycago.org/Organs/NYC/html/RKOProctors58thStTheatre.html

No Comments

  1. KISS…As In The Rockers With The Painted Faces…? As A Kid, Enjoyed The Music But Those “Masks” Scared The Hell Out Of Me! Lol…Thanks For The Scenic Tour Of The Best Of The Bronx…Made Me Consider Heading Uptown! Yes, The Bronx Was Like A War Torn City Back Then. Can definitely Appreciate The Facelift, If Not The Gentrification Itself..

    1. Lol, were you scared by the face paint? Thanks for the warm comment, my friend. Yap, the Bronx has been changing although still needs more improvement… Hope many people find the positive sides of the Bronx.

  2. Tripmuze thanks for putting this together! I think it’s very well done. Kiss were my absolute heroes growing up in Texas and New Orleans. It so cool seeing where my favorite member of Kiss grew up. Can’t wait to check out the Paul Stanley chapter. I hope you have one on Peter Criss as well. Iv’e read that the Brooklyn neighborhood Peter grew up in was pretty tough. Thanks again bro, rock on!

    1. Dear Chris,

      Thank you very much for reading the series and your warm comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the episode about Ace. The Bronx isn’t exactly the tourist destination but there are actually plenty places to see, especially by following Ace’s root! KISS’s footsteps in NYC will give fans a good opportunity to enjoy NYC deeper and more unique ways than just visiting regular tourists sites, as much as knowing KISS’s history, because they are real New Yorkers and had real life here.
      All five chapters about each original member and KISS between 1973 and 1977 are completed. Paul is on part 1 and Pete is on part 4. And regarding the Pete’s old neighborhood, that was indeed a very rough area before but one of the hottest area in NYC today. I think you will enjoy to see how NYC has evolved in his chapter.
      TRIPMUZE will continue to post interesting music-trip themes. Please stay tuned. Thank you, again.

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