NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS, #4 OF 5: Peter Criss

Williamsburg, Brooklyn where Peter Criss was born and grew up. Today is an ultra-hip neighborhood with a beautiful river park like this, but when Peter grew up…

Peter Criss (Drum)
Birth name: George Peter John Criscuola
Birthday: December 20, 1945
Heritage: Italian/Irish

KISS’s ethnical background is like New York City’s major white demographic. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are both Jewish, Ace Frehley is German/Dutch/Native Amercian, and now Peter Criss is Italian and Irish.

Peter Criss was truly a Brooklyn boy. Like Ace Frehley, he didn’t get out of Brooklyn until he joined KISS.
Ace Frehley was like Peter’s brother in KISS. They had good chemistry and many similarities. Their lifestyle was more rock n’ roller than organized Paul and Gene. They were more street oriented than managerial Paul and Gene. They were party type, unlike Paul and Gene who were loner type. They joined gangs when they were teenagers. They were the members addicted to alcohol and drugs. Though the differences between two combinations brought many issues, all members created a unique magic like no others and a huge success.
Peter also had differences with Ace. Peter could sing and hold an anthem “Beth” as its vocalist a songwriter. And Peter was the oldest KISS member.

Peter Criss’s autobiography, Makeup to Breakup, didn’t have much information about his memorial places in Brooklyn, unfortunately. So probably it is the best to refer this website’s photo page, “SPRING SHORT WALK IN WILLIAMSBURG” to see his old neighborhood, Williamsburg, as well.

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The streets of Williamsburg. This neighborhood still keeps good old Brooklyn atmosphere while having many trendy places.

Peter Criss was born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn by an Italian father and an Irish mother in 1945, 4 months after World War II. He grew up in a working-class family, that his father changed his job frequently. His family lived in a small apartment there.

Williamsburg is the area where the environment has been changed a lot. According to Peter’s autobiography, Williamsburg was “a true melting pot of Irish and Italians and Jewish” (Criss & Sloman, 2012, p. 22) when he grew up in 1950’s. Puerto Ricans and Black added on the demographic after 1950’s
Today’s Williamsburg is one of the hottest areas in New York City and gets a lot of attention with popular restaurants, clubs, and bars. However, until late 1990’s, nobody paid attention in the area located just across Manhattan over East River. Peter recalled his old neighborhood was poor and rough. And the time he grew up in 1950’s and 60’s was the era Williamsburg was getting dangerous with more gang-related activities. Gene Simmons, who also partially grew up in Williamsburg, wrote in his autobiography, Kiss and Make-Up, about the difference of Williamsburg between Gene’s side and Peter’s side. “I was shielded from the neighborhood by the yeshiva, but Peter would run through the streets and go up to the kids and demand their pocket change” (Simmons, 2001, p.66).
My friend lived in a warehouse apartment around N. 6th Street in 1992. The area was scary even at that time. Night time was completely dark. Streets were empty even on daytime. Many of the area’s buildings were abandoned or rough. Williamsburg was totally opposite with today, and couldn’t use the geographical advantage that the area was only one station away from Manhattan by L train.

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This is the Williamsburg similar with early 1990, even though cars weren’t fresh like those.
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Today’s Williamsburg is full of people. This is Bedford Avenue and N. 7th Street, the center of Williamsburg.

Peter crossed the Broadway line to Jewish neighborhood for his schools. First, he went to Transfiguration School on 263 Marcy Street but the strict catholic school wasn’t matched with Peter. So he transferred to PS 122 on Harrison Avenue and Heyward Street, very close from his previous school, but PS 122 was the school of hard knocks for him beaten by larger Black and Puerto Rican classmates many times. Eventually, Peter joined a gang named Young Lords of self-protection. PS 122 had 14 gangs. Peter and his gang did the thing what Gene previously explained as well beating down Hasid Jewish kids.

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Transfiguration Church on 263 Marcy Street. This church is located in a heavily Jewish neighborhood like Gene’s old neighborhood.
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The former PS 122 on Harrison Avenue and Heyward Street, 5 blocks away from Transfiguration. The building is now a Jewish school. “PS 122” is still visible on the school emblem (bottom).
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The view of good old Williamsburg with J train and Williamsburg Bridge from Marcy Avenue Station.
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Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (Top) Jewish side from Hewes Street Station of J, M, Z trains. (Lower left) A fashionable cafe in front of Hewes Street Station. (Lower right) Brooklyn-ish apartment with graffiti.

One of Peter’s childhood fun was Coney Island, NYC’s recreational beach located at the southern end of Brooklyn. His uncle sometimes took Peter to Coney Island by subway in summer. There he enjoyed swimming, amusement park, and swimming.

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Today’s Coney Island on a summer evening
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100 years old Nathan’s and their popular Chili and Cheese Dog with Lemonade. Peter wrote he loved their hot dog on his book.

Peter was a drummer from beginning. He was attracted on hitting things like cooking wares when he was little. His parents, who loved different type of music each other, gave him a toy drum set when he was 7 years old. Then his father assembled a drumset for him (what an amazing father, I never heard of a father who assembled instrumental for their children). And Peter’s early influences were his father’s side, who loved big bands and jazz artists such as Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman. Peter recalled that even though he liked Paul and Gene’s songs when he first listened, their music was a little heavy for him.
When he was 15 years old, he bought used Slingerlands drum set for $200 from his friend. He used to practice drum with John Nolan, who was Criss’s neighborhood friend and the deceased drummer of New York Dolls. His practice days helped him to stay away from gangs. Peter formed a band called The Barracudas and started playing around bars and lounges in Brooklyn. He was also influenced by Rolling Stones rather than the Beatles.

Peter got a big closer step up to his dream when he was 18 years old, still in a high school. He visited his friend who was going to play at a jazz club called Metropole Cafe on 7th Avenue between 48th and 49th Streets. Metropole Cafe was famous as Gene Krupa regularly played at. The drummer of his friend’s band was injured and asked Peter to play for replacement. After his first performance at Metropole was finished, his friend’s band offered Peter to join the band for the replacement with $125 a week during the summer. Peter dropped out from his high school and accepted the offer, not only because of a big salary of $125 a week but also Metropole was the place Gene Krupa regularly played and Peter could have a chance to get closer to him. Peter was right. He was eventually met with Krupa at Metropole, and Krupa lectured him the drum play.
Metropole Cafe is now a strip club called Lace, which is a quite a while on business in the quick circuit of Times Square.

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Lace is in the former Metropole Cafe, located at 725 7th Avenue between 48 and 49 Streets. Girls, girls, girls now.

Peter then returned to play with The Barracudas. While he was based at The King’s Lounge in Williamsburg (I couldn’t find the address how hard I searched. Sorry!), where Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons later watched his show before Peter joined KISS, he played around Manhattan clubs such as “Trudy Hellers, the Night Owl, Cafe Wha?, the Purple Onion” (Criss & Sloman, 2012, p. 47). Only the club still exists is Cafe Wha? on 115 MacDougal Street in West Village.

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Cafe Wha? on busy MacDougle Street. Many legends such as Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan played here.
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West Village. (Top) Washington Square Park is near Cafe Wha? Though the park is cleaner than before, the park still has the bohemian atmosphere in a good way. The park is surrounded by New York University. (Lower left) 6th Avenue and Carmine Street (Lower right) An alley of Minetta Lane connecting 6th Avenue and MacDougal Street.

He later formed a band named Chelsea and released an album on Decca Records in 1970, 2 years before joining KISS. Ron Johnson of Electric Lady Records, who later had a connection with KISS, was coincidently the engineer of Chelsea’s debut album. Unfortunately, Chelsea couldn’t achieve the success they hoped. 2 years later, Peter had a destiny moment meeting with Paul and Gene at Electric Lady Studios.

{ROCK N’ VISIT & EAT N’ ROLL! #1:  EAST RIVER STATE PARK & SMORGASBURG, WILLIAMSBURG}
East River State Park is a relatively new park located on Kent Avenue between N. 7th and 10th Streets.
The park has two significant things. One is the magnificent view of Manhattan from the park. The cover photo was also taken at the park.

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Another is a weekly street food festival called Smorgasburg (came from Smorgasbord in Swedish) held on every Saturday. It’s not like a buffet style dining at one restaurant like original Smorgasbord, but you can enjoy the small bites at a variety of original street foods at many participated vendors.

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Clockwise from top: (Top) One of the most popular vendor, Excell’s Kingston Eatery, cut fresh coconut with a big knife in front of people. (Lower right) Van Pakistan served delicious Pakistan style slider. Spice was good! (Lower left) Red Hook Lobster looked yummy.

Yes, “originality” is the key word at this Smorgasburg. There are many street vendors which serve their own unique foods. Uniqueness and originality in Smorgasburg win over the famous food carts in Portland, OR. Also, better street vendors have longer lines. But uniqueness doesn’t mean complication. See, the real fresh coconut juice at Excell’s Kingston Eatery was a simple idea, just cut a big coconut with a big knife in front of people (the sizes of coconut and knife matter in this case), but nobody else at the market did that. This actually succeeded to catch people’s attention and gave them a good impression that they served a fresh coconut in real Jamaican style. They also served efficiently, so I think they deserved to win.

My choice of the best winner goes to Ramen Burger.

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My Brooklyn style lunch! Ramen burger and Coconut juice.

Ramen  Burger used ramen buns instead of bread. This actually tasted good! Ramen bun absorbed their original soy sauce based sauce perfectly and matched with the beef patty. Polk might taste better with ramen buns but the beef was a good combo as well.

Smorgasburg is always crowded but the park has ample “dining space”, either park benches, grasses, or concrete :). And no need to worry about restrooms. There are plenty of restrooms at the park.

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Temporary dining spaces at the park.

Don’t expect foods are cheap because of street foods. They are quite expensive. For example, ramen burger was $10, and coconut juice was $6. Many street foods aren’t cheap dining option anymore, but to enjoy their creativity with taste.

Make sure to bring a lot of cash to Smorgasburg. Many vendors don’t accept credit card. There is an ATM machine at the Smorgasburg, and there are many banks in the neighborhood.

BROOKLYN SMORGASBURG INFO: http://www.smorgasburg.com
EXCELL’S KINGSTON EATERY: http://www.excelleatery.com
RAMEN BURGER: http://www.ramenburger.com

{EAT N’ ROLL! #2:  ANTON’S DUMPLINGS, WEST VILLAGE}
Right in front of the busy West 4th Street subway station and basketball court in the heart of West Village, there is a new yet already popular dumping food cart named Anton’s Dumplings on the sidewalk. Many people might imagine Chinese dumplings, but actually, Anton’s Dumplings sells Russian dumplings. The difference is the skin of Russian dumpling is usually thicker (some write thinner but no, Russian version is thicker) and dumpling itself is flatter than Chinese dumpling.
From the first bite, I am a fan of Anton’s Dumplings. It’s delicious. There are many pieces even with small size for $6 (large is $9). I always choose Siberian, which is the mix of Pork and Beef (though I read an article that the owner is from Belarus…) because their seasoning is a good match for the filling. Plus they’re friendly. No reason not to stop by whenever I go to the area.
Anton’s Dumplings have several sauce options. Last time, I chose their special sour cream. The store said their sour cream is the mixed with lime and something else (I forgot). It was my first time to eat dumplings other than soy sauce, but actually, the sour cream matched with their dumplings. They also have soy sauce and that is my most favorite for any dumplings including theirs.
Anton’s Dumplings has a daily special menu, so you should stop by and try!

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Anton’s Dumpling on 6th Avenue
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Their dumplings with sour cream. This is a small size ($6). There is no seating with the food cart but there are some parks with benches around the food cart.

ANTON’S DUMPLINGS: http://www.antonsdumplings.com
ADDRESS: 324 Avenue of Americas, New York, NY 10014(map)
No Phone

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 2: Ace Frehley
  4. NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS, PART 3: Gene Simmons
  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

PETER CRISS’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY, “MAKEUP TO BREAKUP” (Apple/Amazon)

REFERENCE
Criss, P. & Sloman, L., (2012). Makeup to Breakup. New York, NY: Scribner

Simmons, G. (2001). Kiss and Make-Up. New York, NY: Crown Publishers

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).

Peter Criss. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 7, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Criss

Williamsburg, Brooklyn (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 7 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Williamsburg,_Brooklyn

PS 122. (n.d.). In Brooklyn Visual Heritage Project Chart. Retrieved July 7, 2016. from  http://www.brooklynvisualheritage.org/ps-122

Walsh, K. Williamsburg to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. In Forgotten New York. Retrieved July 7, 2016. from http://forgotten-ny.com/2011/01/williamsburg-to-bedford-stuyvesant-brooklyn/

Metropole Cafe (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 7, 2016. from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropole_Cafe

Gene Krupa @ Metropole NYC Sep 1966 (n.d.). In Drumforum. Retrieved July 7, 2016. from http://www.drumforum.org/index.php?/topic/31879-gene-krupa-metropole-nyc-sep-1966/page-3

Clark, K. Metropole Cafe, NYC 1966. In Flickr. Retrieved July 7, 2016. from https://www.flickr.com/photos/kdavidclark/with/4171464139/

 

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