Plaster casters

KISS tribute band Hotter Than Hell just might be more real than the real thing

"There are a lot of garage bands trying to do it," he says of other KISS copycats. "Half-assed bands, where one guy's short, one guy's fat, and they don't look anything like the band. Everyone in this band is the exact height and weight of KISS, within an inch or a couple of pounds."

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that the members of Hotter Than Hell are within a couple of pounds of KISS, circa 1976. These days, with the expanding middles of Paul Stanley and Gene putting a strain on the most elastic of waistbands, Hotter Than Hell actually looks more like the KISS that we remember than the real band does.

Who knows, maybe one day Simmons and Stanley, like the savvy franchise owners that they are, will simply hand the car keys over to McClusky and tell him to keep the KISS machine going while they toddle off to play shuffleboard in Florida. In any event, McClusky has already lived out his childhood fantasies, albeit without the attendant fame, wealth, and bacchanalian groupie feasts. Come to think of it, that doesn't leave much, does it?

"I was 9, in fourth grade when I first saw KISS," he recalls. "I wanted to be Ace Frehley. Actually, I wanted to be an astronaut. Then I realized Ace Frehley was a spaceman, and I really wanted to play guitar, so I put those two things together." A boy couldn't ask for anything more.

Hotter Than Hell performs March 11 at the Gypsy Tea Room.

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