I didn’t pay an arm and a leg to get Ace Frehley’s autograph, but I still nearly lost a limb.
The gig was at Fitzgerald’s in San Antonio on Feb. 27, 2016. My pal “Ginchy” offered to drive, so we hit the road to see the legendary KISS guitarist play the songs of my youth in a club.
Ginchy also happens to play guitar for punk-rock legend Cheetah Chrome of Dead Boys fame who happens to know Ace Frehley guitarist Richie Scarlet. It’s classic “I know a guy who knows a guy,” so we clung to a sliver of hope that we may get to meet Ace. Maybe. As in, probably not.
We get to the venue (we’d never been before) and see cars parked for blocks on every side. We decide to leave our KISS albums in the car while we get a sense of the venue’s layout and figure out what credentials may be waiting at the door for Ginchy. No sooner do we cross the street and approach the venue when an SUV rolls up and deposits Ace on the steps of a waiting tour bus. Damn! He. Was. Right. There! And we were empty-handed. Ugh!
Next comes Richie Scarlet. Ginchy walks up and introduces himself as Cheetah Chrome’s guitarist and thanks Scarlet for the guest list spot (Scarlet tells me I look like Bobby Steele from the Misfits. Um, OK). Ginchy asks if there is ANY mathematical possibility we might get Ace to autograph some albums. “Man, Ace does these meet-and-greets, and people pay hundreds of dollars to meet him,” Scarlet says. “I’m sorry, dude, but …” We get it. No hard feelings. Just thought we’d ask.
Resigned to the fact we won’t meet Ace, we decide to abort the mission. We then learn Ace is doing the paid meet-and-greet before his set rather than after, which tells me he’ll be “free” (and racing to escape) when he leaves the stage. Hmmm. Plan B starts to percolate.
Now familiar with the venue and Ace’s pick-up/drop-off point, I decide I’ll skip the last two or three songs of his set, run back to the car, get the albums and try to position myself between him and his getaway car when he exits the building. As I return, the security goons start eyeing me and getting into position. An SUV pulls up and tries to strategically park in such a way that Ace can immediately jump in the vehicle before being accosted. The driver is getting it all wrong so a security guy is barking at him until he gets the SUV squeezed in without an inch to allow for intruders. Except me.
Ace exits the building hiding beneath a towel and sunglasses. He jumps into the SUV and slams the door before I get to him. I stand there motioning through the window holding his 1978 solo album and a silver Sharpie. The towel is obscuring his vision (more likely, he’s blowing me off?). Meanwhile, the back door on the opposite side of the SUV is open and a guy is leaning in with a poster. Ace leans toward him and signs it. Frantically hopeful, I run around to the other side of the vehicle as “poster boy” backs out of the open door. Before I can take his place, a security dude jumps in the SUV between me and Ace and starts trying to close the door. “HE’S DONE! HE’S DONE!” the guy screams in my face. “ACE!” I yell, ignoring the scowling monster. “HE’S DONE!!!!”
Suddenly, Ace reaches for my album. “DUDE, HE’S REACHING FOR IT!” I plead. “HE’S DONE!”/”HE’S REACHING FOR IT!” Ace grabs my album and marker, signs it, hands it back and I barely escape with my arm as the goon slams the door and the SUV peels out. Sure, it wasn’t the most personable autograph, but Ace was cool enough to do it, which started me shouting out loud.
If my persistence sounds extreme, you have to realize I’m pushing 50 years old and still have KISS posters hanging in my house. KISS is the band that turned me into a rock-n-roller. KISS has been in my life since I was 12 years old. KISS was not a phase.
Unless the security goon threatened violence (and he was probably close), I wasn’t going away quietly when Ace was sitting five feet away from me. Not a chance. I’ve waited my whole life for this opportunity and it will NEVER present itself again (unless I bring along an extra $300-$500). I did what I had to do and shamelessly persisted. As Ace himself would say, “No Regrets.”