Meeting a childhood hero, Peter Criss.
By: Russ Rollins
WTKS Real Radio 104.1
Orando - April 16, 2022 3:05 PM
I’d been telling people for a couple of days that I’d been asked to help someone and it was a big deal to me. The crazy part about it was, I’d been asked not to say anything on the radio until after it happened. Anyone who knows me, knows that is practically impossible for me. I’ve made a career out of telling my “real life” stories on the radio. Something THIS juicy had to be shouted from the mountain tops! No, I could not disappoint the parties involved. Now, I can tell you only part of the story.
I’m a huge KISS fan and Peter Criss, the drummer that has the alter ego of the Catman on stage, was the first member of KISS I idolized. He also sang one of the bands biggest hits, “Beth”. Why did I idolize Peter Criss as a kid? Let me explain.
When I was 12 years old I had a friend that moved in two blocks over that was a loaner. He didn’t really talk to any of the other kids on our street. He was two years older than me and he didn’t seem to have any friends his age. People thought he was weird, most people at school made fun of him. I liked him. I thought he was a nice guy. I didn’t understand why nobody liked him. Tracy seemed cool to me, so I invited him over to my house to hang out with me and my buddies.
The first day Tracy come over to my house to hang out, he brought one album with him. It was a vinyl record called “KISS Alive”. A double album, with a picture of the band KISS on the cover.
It didn’t look like an album my mother and father would ever let me listen to. I remember asking Tracy “why did you bring that, you going to get me in trouble.”
Tracy went on to explain that he wanted me to hear the drum solo on this album. He told me that when the drummer is performing his drum solo, they use a radar gun and point it at his arms. He told us, “Peter Criss plays the drums so fast, his arms have been clocked at over 100 miles per hour! If the crowd cheers really load, he can go even faster!!”
I listened to the album, and Tracy was telling the truth! During the song “100,000 Years” Peter Criss does a five minute drum solo. You can hear his arms going at least 108 miles per hour. From that point I was hooked and I told anyone that would listen about the Catman in the rock band KISS. Then I would inform them how fast his arms would go. Turns out, not many other kids at Lockhart Jr. High school knew anything about music, arm speed or drumming. Nobody believed me. I told that story, and believed that story, until I was about 22 years old.
Fast forward to last week. I got a call from a great friend ( Dale Torborg) who told me he knew Peter Criss and his wife Gigi and they needed some help with something. He wanted to know if I knew anyone that could help him. I told him I would be glad to help Peter Criss!
Then my buddy said, “part of helping him would mean you can’t say anything on the show Russ until after it happens on Friday night.” I promised to not break his trust and the secret mission was a “go”.
Out of love and respect for Peter & his very sweet wife Gigi, I’m still going to leave why they needed my help between us. It’s really nothing that is a big deal but I don’t want to ruin their trust in me. I was given the okay to say we met.
By the time Friday at 2:30 pm came around, I’d already been awake since 2:30 am, performed a five hour radio show throwing axes in a “Monster Hatchet” competition and found out our 20 year old dog had cancer and had to be put to sleep. Not to mention on the way to meet up with Peter Criss (fastest drummer in the world) and his wife Gigi it was pouring rain on I-4. My excitement to help Peter Criss had been derailed by lack of sleep and the emotional rollercoaster of losing a pet that I truly loved.
I had to meet them at a specific time and I always freak out about being late. The last thing I wanted to do was to be late to see Peter Criss! I got to the meeting place with 15 minutes to spare.
When Peter Criss got out of the car, he looked like a rock star. Gold rings, sunglasses, bracelets and a beautiful gold and leather watch. As soon as he started talking, I know it was him! Peter Criss the drummer with the fastest arms in the world!
We talked about a bunch of different things. About his new band, about how he was going to be reunited with Ace Frehley in Nashville in a few months at an event called “Creature fest”. He told me he couldn’t wait to get home to see his animals. He also told me “I should have listened to my father and learned to play the trombone , it would be easier at this age!”
I had the chance to thank him for all the happiness he’s brought to my life since I was a 12 year old boy. He sincerely thanked me and said “Stories like yours makes being a rock star for 60 years all worth it, thank you for telling me that Russ.”
We spoke a little bit longer and Gigi asked if I wanted to take a picture with Peter. She snapped this photo for me, and texted to me when I was driving home. She also sent me a very kind text when they got home in New Jersey. Here's the text she sent me with the picture she took….
I have had opportunities to meet several famous people I’ve looked up to as a kid. A few times it was a big let down. That was not the case with Peter Criss and his wife. She was over the top sweet and Peter Criss is still the one and ONLY Catman, the dummer with the fastest arms in the world!
He exceeded my expectations.
Thanks Peter & Gigi Criss.