Episode 118- Talking Kiss & the Phantom with author Ron Albanese
There are a lot of things we associate with this time of year that just aren’t happening in 2020. In order to keep our loved ones flirty, thirty, and thriving, we aren’t attending family holiday open houses. Any visits to Santa are strictly from inside the car. And we definitely aren’t having office Christmas parties. (Sorry, Carole, but nobody really likes that homemade chocolate bark you hand out anyway. Cool it with the excessive amounts of peppermint extract!)
Despite everything (and we mean EVERYTHING), there are some holiday traditions that are safe to indulge in, including the time-honored tradition of watching made for television movies. It doesn’t matter if you find them on network TV, cable, or streaming, there are loads of holiday movies out there about people a) realizing small-town life is for them; b) figuring out they work too much and need to spend time with their families; or c) accidentally falling in love with royalty, only to discover the royal family decrees the handsome prince/duke needs to marry someone with a title by New Year’s Eve (a dime a dozen…).
Of course, made for TV movies aren’t just for the December holidays, they are applicable year-round. But has there ever been one of those movies so epic that you’ve thought, “I’m going to research and write an entire book about the creation of this movie”?
Our guest for this week’s episode isn’t all talk — he did exactly that. We had the pleasure of speaking with Ron Albanese, who was so captiavated by the October 1978 made for television movie Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park that he wrote a fascinating new book about it. In Conversations with Phantoms, Ron walks his readers through the creation, production, reception, and reminiscences of this classic TV movie, featuring Kiss, from all angles. (Sorry TV movies featuring Christmas princes — you just can’t compare.)
Ron walked us through his research for the book, including how he was able to get in contact with much of the cast and crew involved in the movie. It helps that he used his journalist background to approach and stay focused on the subject at hand, because there were a lot of outrageous stories that could have pulled him in dozens of different directions. After all, he was researching and writing a book about a TV movie from the 70s about Kiss. Not to mention they have superpowers in the movie. And they battle an evil inventor to save a theme park in California. Oh, and a robotic Gene Simmons wreaks havoc. There also are animatronic monkeys. And the movie was produced by Hanna-Barbera. So… you can image that there was a lot of ground to cover in Ron’s book.
Ron also painted a vivid picture of why he got into Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. If you’ve never had the pleasure of watching TV in a 1970s rec room, Ron will make you feel like you are right there with him. He also talked about how the people working on the movie actually felt about it, how Kiss treated the movie, and how strange it is to have a movie about a band that doesn’t show up until 30 minutes in.
Check out our conversation with Ron if you’d like a nice, healthy dose of nostalgia. (Warning: Side effects include looking up old Sid and Marty Kroftt clips on YouTube.) If you’d like to hear more from Ron — and believe us, you will — check him out on Instagram and Twitter. He also has a Facebook page for Conversations with Phantoms. Heidi’s devoured it already, but it would make a great gift for someone else you want to buy for this holiday season.
So sit back and enjoy this week’s episode. Even if you’re not a member of the Kiss Army, Ron’s words might just inspire you to document a favorite TV movie of your own. In our case, we might have to focus on a miniseries because we’re incapable of narrowing it down to two hours at a time. We’re guessing Luke’s would have to be something like John Adams, because of his obsession with Revolutionary War drum and fife corps. For Heidi, it’s North and South (American, not British). Who wouldn’t be driven to capture the feathered-hair Civil War drama featuring Patrick Swayze, Lesley-Anne Down, and Jean Simmons? You see — it always goes back to Jean/Gene Simmons (and, Anthony Zerbe who was a fab Ulysses S. Grant in North and South Book 2).