"Tiny Gods of Thunder"
Meet Mini-Kiss, the World's Smallest Tribute Band.
by Dan Kapelovitz
Kiss has most likely spawned more tribute bands than any other group on the planet, but Mini-Kiss literally dwarfs the competition. All of the band members are little people ("I hate the M word," says the group's mastermind, Mini-Gene, a/k/a Joey) and, while the New York-based act may be short in stature, their reputation is growing by leaps and bounds. The group, which started five years ago as a Halloween-party novelty act, has since performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live and even played before the real Gene Simmons at an event he held at Studio 54.
Intrigued by the prospect of such a spectacle, I decide to attend one of their performances at Los Angeles's Viper Room. I'm standing outside with a sizable crowd, all of us excited to experience Kiss in miniature, when a car pulls up, and the members of Mini Kiss emerge. I introduce myself to Mini-Gene, who is smoking a cigarette, talking on a cell phone and acknowledging his fans simultaneously. He leads me to the front of the line, and we are quickly whisked into a crowded office that serves as the backstage area. Since Mini-Kiss's drummer is on his way back to New York, Viper Room general manager Sal Jenco, who, luckily, is not much taller than the rest of the band, will fill in on drums. Instead of Kiss makeup, he wears a Peter Criss Halloween mask.
While the group sets up behind a curtain, the emcee asks the audience members in the first four rows to sit on their knees so that people behind them can see the band. The curtain opens, revealing the diminutive rockers in a heavy smoke-machine haze. But wait a minute: The band isn't really playing their instruments. In fact, their guitars are made out of wood, and they're singing "karaoke-style" over a Kiss CD. Making matters worse, the opening song, "Calling Dr. Love," is skipping. The band is visibly annoyed, but continues bravely. Even with these shortcomings, the crowd is loving it. After the first number, the CD player is working properly, and the band "plays" a number of Kiss classics. Mini-Gene spits blood and lasciviously wags his disproportionally large tongue. One eager female fan jumps onstage and sings, "I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day." After the show, a Hollywood hipster gushes, "This is the greatest thing I have ever seen."
Hyperbole? Perhaps. But considering that two of the most entertaining things on Earth are Kiss and little people, how can they go wrong?
Or, as Mini-Gene explains it, "You wanted the littlest; you got the littlest."
(This article first appeared in the May 2004 issue of Hustler Magazine)
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