If you’ve ever wanted to knock a hole in one into Gene Simmons‘ mouth, stock up on KISS merchandise, check out an animatronic KISS band and get married, all in one day, Las Vegas has the mini-golf for you.
All indoors, the KISS: By Monster Mini Golf opened in March, featuring the band’s logo and images spread across the course, a souvenir shop and a big collection of band memorabilia. There’s even a “Hotter Than Hell” wedding chapel.
And just inside the entrance, there’s a 500-gallon fish tank containing an LED-lit KISS logo timed to flash to music.
On Saturday, June 9, Animal Planet’s sophomore reality series “Tanked” chronicles the creation and installation of the KISS-themed tank. Outside the mini-golf, set in a shopping plaza, there’s a concert stage set up for a performance by a KISS tribute band, along with a seating area for a party in the evening.
But at midday, preparations are still frantically underway to get both the tank and the mini-golf ready in time for the arrival of band members Simmons and Paul Stanley. The paint is still wet around the restroom doors, and there are lights to be hung and snacks to be stocked.
Brett Raymer, one of the two brothers-in-law (the other being Wayde King) of Las Vegas-based Aquarium Tank Manufacturing, creators and builders of the custom tank, needs a little extra height to reach over the top of the tank and put in the fish, so he dons a pair of KISS platform boots.
“I like KISS,” he says during a lunch break with King afterward. “I grew up with them.”
The design of the tank was vital to the attraction, since it’s just inside the door.
“They want everybody to stand in front of it and take a picture,” says King, who’s battling some sort of flu. “That’s the picture area, so they wanted it to stand out.”
After much waiting, phone calls and nervous anticipation — and some drama about whether King would feel well enough to make the unveiling (he doesn’t, actually, but he’s there anyway) — Simmons and Stanley arrive.
They do a few takes in front of the tank, and during one, Simmons decides to rub Raymer’s bald head.
“I liked that,” Raymer says. “That was funny. He was trying to get some good luck.”
The duo has chosen different fish to represent the four band members and the characters they play, led by a lionfish — resplendent with poisonous spines — to represent Simmons.
“I am deliriously happy,” says Simmons in the mini-golf’s VIP room later on, where he also meets with TV host Robin Leach and representatives of the Hello Kitty brand (who have brought along a KISS-themed Hello Kitty T-shirt).
“I didn’t eat it,” Simmons continues. “I looked at it; it looked at me. It recognized its own.”
Stanley isn’t quite as sanguine about the clown grouper chosen to represent him.
“I don’t know that I would think of myself as a clown fish,” he says, “but it was fine. Any way we can bring KISS into other areas and other avenues, it’s great.”
As to whether he has a fish tank at home, Simmons says, “Yes, we do. It’s called a refrigerator.” He looks around for approval of the joke. “Come on, that’s good!”
After the big reveal, Raymer and King sit outside to discuss the experience.
“I liked it,” King says. “You meet celebrities … like, KISS has been doing this their whole lives. We haven’t. We’re excited to see them, and we’re excited to show our work to them. We love what we do, and we want to see their expression and what they think.
“But they goof. They’re so used to this. It’s new to us.”
The conversation eventually turns to other musicians and what fish could represent them. For example, there’s Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger.
“A bigmouth bass,” says King.
“Or a lipstick tang,” says Raymer, referring to a colorful fish with bright, Rolling Stones-logo lips.
“A lipstick tang?” says King. “No, that’s Keith Richards.“
David Bowie? “Bowie’s a blond Naso tang,” says King, “or a unicorn tang.”
“Yeah,” says Raymer. “I agree.”
Elvis? “Wow,” says King, “that’s a toughie. A shark. Somewhere in the shark field.”
The Who lead singer Roger Daltrey? “He could definitely be one of the groupers,” says King. “But there are so many beautiful bands and fish, you could pick one for each of them.”
As for themselves, King says, “As a fish in the ocean, I’d pick me as an octopus. Brett picks himself as a clown trigger. He’s always clowning around; I’m always doing eight different things.”
As for King’s red-haired wife – and Raymer’s sister – Heather, King says, “Heather would be a flame angel. She’s a little red flame angel.”