By BOB WIRE
“Hot hot, hotter than hell, you know she’s gonna leave you well done. Hot hot, hotter than hell, she’ll burn you like the midday sun!”
“Sir? Do you mind? I’m putting for birdie here.”
I turned my back on the animatronic demon bass player and drilled my glowing yellow ball 15 feet into the fluorescent orange cup. My daughter Speaker snapped photos while I celebrated, twirling my club and wagging my tongue. I threw the devil horns at Gene Simmons and we moved on to Hole 12.
This is not your father’s mini-golf.
KISS by Monster Mini Golf opened up in Las Vegas, across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel, March 15. The entire band was on hand at the grand opening, and guitarist Tommy Thayer’s first shot to inaugurate the course was a hole-in-one.
As is befitting the more-is-more aesthetic of Las Vegas, this course is loaded with outsized KISS art, memorabilia, and just full-on rock and roll excess.
There’s a DJ station in the corner, where “station K.I.S.S.” blasts nonstop rock from the 40-year-old hard rock band. The entire indoor course is lit with black lights and everything from the balls and putters to the painted characters on the walls is vibrant fluorescent.
By about the third hole I was tasting cheap Mexican pot on my breath, and I felt an overwhelming urge to eat a box of Screaming Yellow Zonkers and watch the Three Stooges. Major high school flashback.
Speaker and I had walked in beneath the full-sized models of the band members above the door, which was inset in a giant orange golf ball. The characters were posed like the cover of “Destroyer,” their best album. I’d worn out my copy of that LP after it came out in 1976.
That pose is practically an icon among KISS fans, and I knew we were in for a great time. As a student of rock and roll history, I have a lot of appreciation for detail and period accuracy. Even when it comes to a band as cartoonish as KISS.
“Hi,” I said to the girl who took my credit card. “I’m John Daly. I’ll need a pack of smokes and a half-rack of Bud Light. And where do you keep the whores?”
The girl was probably still rockin’ the Huggies when Daly won the PGA Championship in ’91, so she didn’t get the joke. As Speaker rolled her eyes in embarrassment, we were directed to the counter where we received our putters, balls, and score card. All Dayglo.
“Welcome to KISS by Monster Golf,” said another waif-like employee, hands folded politely in front of her. “We only ask that you follow three simple rules. Don’t swing your club higher than your knees, make sure the golfers in front of you have finished the hole before you start, and have fun!”
Speaker and I looked out across the garish, laser-strafed course. We were the only people there. The facility is just a few blocks from the heart of the Strip, so at 5:00 on this Wednesday afternoon, I assumed most of the tourist hordes must have been gambling away their kids’ college funds and sucking king crab from the shells at a buffet somewhere.
Not us, baby. We were rockin’ and golfin’.
My camera doesn’t have a setting for “Indoor Blacklight Fluorescent Sports” so it took a few minutes to find a combination of shutter speeds and F-stops that would yield decent photos. We set our balls down on the first tee and shot around the house-high platform boot, and set off on our 18-hole adventure.
I was straddling the fourth hole with my head thrown back, playing along to an Ace Frehley solo on my putter, when the girl in the DJ booth announced that “whoever is rocking out will win a prize!” Speaker was also a winner, since she moves through life in time with the music, even when the rest of us can’t hear it. The DJ walked over and adorned us, lei-style, with long strings of skee-ball tickets. You know, the kind where if you amass 1800 of them you can exchange them at the prize counter for a whistle ring that will stop working before you even get out to the minivan.
Ten minutes later: “Whoever is using a yellow or white ball wins a prize!” We looked down. Two winners. Still no other golfers on the course. More tickets.
You REALLY have to be into the band’s music and folklore to fully get off on this place, but the golf itself isn’t too bad. Speaker is a mini-golf aficionado, having played courses across the country from Florida to Washington to North Carolina. As far as pure mini-golf, she gives the KISS course about a six out of ten. With a devil horns for two more for a total of eight.
One of my favorite elements of the course was the collection of characters painted on the black walls. Celebrities from Marilyn to Elvis to the entire Rat Pack were depicted in gaudy carnival funhouse style, and they were all decked out in KISS makeup and platform boots. Many characters, including Bugsy Siegel, the Father of Las Vegas, were throwing the devil horns. Righteous.
Each band member is represented by a giant head popping out of a jack-in-the-box. The motion is a little jerky, so it’s more of an ooze than a pop, but still just surreal enough to be impressive. The whole band, in the form of animatronic mannequins, lurches and twitches onstage to music from the band’s entire catalog. Even the crappy songs from “The Elder.”
The course is flat, except for a couple of ramps leading into a large decorative obstruction like a swinging guitar grandfather clock, or a 16-foot Les Paul complete with coaxial cable-sized strings. This is not a course that’s designed to test your putting skills (I did score two holes-in-one), but it is packed to the Fillmore roof with funny, outrageous, creepy, impressive, and goofy KISS-related geegaws.
The final hole featured a ten-foot-high Gene Simmons head, and of course, you had to putt your ball up an eight-foot long, glossy red tongue. Smoke poured out of the cavernous mouth every few minutes, and Speaker scored a hole-in-one. I was rattled enough to need two shots. As Shannon Tweed and ten thousand groupies will tell you, that tongue is steeper than it looks.
We finished our round (I shot a 38) and walked past the wall of rare photos to the KISS gift shop (“The World’s Largest!”). They offered costumes for $400, an axe bass signed by Gene Simmons for $2500, and three-packs of KISS Kondoms for $9.95. (Like most condoms, they came in three sizes: Large, Extra-Large, and Humongous.) I bought a couple of items for my KISS-loving buddy Paul, and a bandana that will let me blow my nose in Gene’s face.
All in all, a ton of entertainment for this old KISS fan, and the golf was only $11.95 a round. The photos on the wall were packed with KISStory, and they even had framed sketches of the golf course’s design ideas, initialed by the band members.
If you’re in Las Vegas, even if you’re not a huge KISS fan, the place is worth a look. It helps put the band’s legacy in perspective, and the whole over-the-top feel reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from the eminently quotable Gene Simmons:
“When you really think about it, I’m not delusional enough to think that what I do is important to life as we know it on this planet. No. But neither is what you do.”
Wanna laugh ’til your sides hurt? These ought to do the trick: Make a Living Playing Music. Or Not., Growing Up Is Hard to Do (When You’re Already Over 40), and The Guitar That Saved My Soul.
Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.
Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.
Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.
You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers.