Monday, Jan. 30, 2012 | 6 p.m.
At one side of the room, a guy dressed as Gene Simmons adjusted his studded codpiece. At another, a would-be Paul Stanley was plopped on a leather sofa, munching on a handful of tortilla chips.
Everywhere you turned there were guys dressed as members of Kiss, and it was no happy coincidence. A quartet of Kiss tribute bands, totaling 16 costumed musicians, competed in the first Kiss Off at Body English at the Hard Rock Hotel. The bands were the survivors of a worldwide search for the best Kiss tribute act to perform at the opening of Kiss By Monster Mini Golf, the attraction set to open March 15 on Harmon Avenue, just east of Rumor and across the street from the Hard Rock.
The bands each performed four songs at a piercingly high volume at an event co-emceed by Kiss By Monster Mini Golf spokesmodel Brian “Lowercase g” Thomas (dressed as a smallish version of Simmons), “Kats With the Dish” co-host Tricia McCrone and myself.
Also selected was the champion of the Lady Demon competition. Lady Demon will strut the black carpet and represent the attraction at its opening.
Judging the four-hour competition was Kiss’ current lead guitarist and Spaceman character, Tommy Thayer, along with business founders Christina and Patrick Vitagliano, R-J columnist Doug Elfman, Las Vegas photographer Erik Kabik and KOMP 92.3-FM personality Steph MacKenzie.
The event made for a rowdy good time for the 300 or so Kiss fans who turned out, proving that the 2 p.m. Sunday start time was ideal for those who do, in fact, want to rock and roll all night and party every day. The bands traveled from as far away as Sydney, Australia (Kissteria making its Vegas debut) and even Budapest, Hungary (Kiss Forever, whose lead singer does not speak English and phonetically memorized lyrics and between-song banter). Rock and Roll Over traveled from Dallas, and Mr. Speed made its way from the rock ’n’ roll hotbed of Cleveland.
Las Vegas Kiss warmed up the crowd and performed again as the judges sorted out the winner — Mr. Speed, which will open the attraction in Kiss’ inimitable, high-horsepower fashion.
The Lady Demon winner was a highly unlikely candidate: Arizona Superior Court Commissioner Christine Mulleneaux. The criminally shapely court official had not even planned on entering the contest until a Kiss By Monster Mini Golf rep spotted her walking through the Hard Rock on Jan. 13, the day of the competition’s open casting call. She entered, made it to the finals, and sealed the victory with an articulate and well-researched response to a question about the band in which she dovetailed to a detailed recitation of Thayer’s philanthropic work.
Winner! And with that, court is in recess.