December 8, 1980, was the day I experienced the first loss of a hero of mine. Mark David Chapman was waiting for John Lennon outside the Dakota building in New York and shot him. Back then, he was more a hero because he had been a member of The Beatles - but I still remember it well. As I grew older, I was drawn to his idealism. Often written off as naïve, but everything I read and see about him makes me believe he was genuine. Of course, he was a complex individual with flaws that often were masked - or maybe simply overlooked - by those of us who were unadulterated fans; for instance, it is easy to give him credit for retreating from music to be a father to Sean Ono Lennon, while at the same time forgetting that he had a very complex (to put it mildly) relationship to his first wife, Cynthia, and his son from that marriage, Julian.
And today, this sentiment of flawed heroes is getting incredibly relevant again. It was easy for me to condemn Donald Trump and Roy Moore based on allegations of sexual misconduct, but it was very difficult for me to do the same for Al Franken, who is someone I have followed for a long time after finding him on SNL reruns. As a matter of fact, on the day my oldest daughter, Emma, was born, I was reading Rush Limbaugh Is A Big, Fat, Idiot by Al Franken. So when Franken was elected senator from Minnesota in 2008, the same year Barack Obama was elected president, I was excited - but not as excited as I have been following his career in the Senate. I have found him to be a most excellent voice for more progressive values, values that I share with him. Except that he now has a tail of women accusing him of inappropriate behavior. And I cannot overlook it.
Of course, I could hide behind the fact that all he is accused of while in the Senate are simply allegations, the number of women telling similar stories is too big to ignore - it does point to a trend. I do believe in the tenet of "trust, but verify" - and to me, the volume of complaints along with an acknowledgment on his behalf of what he did prior to becoming a senator, serves as a verification of a core of veracity in their allegations. And finally, I cannot separate between what he did prior to becoming a senator and after becoming a senator, simply because I don't apply that standard to others (the aforementioned Trump and Moore). And I try to avoid double standards as much as I can.
So I was relieved to hear that Al Franken is resigning from the Senate. I will miss the Al Franken I had grown incredibly fond of as a Senator and political voice. The one who in public stood up for us all. But I am glad that he is resigning. Integrity is to me the most important asset of an elected representative, and Al Franken has lost the sheen of integrity with me. I could say the same about another political hero of mine, John Conyers, who also is stepping down for similar reasons. And so I understand how difficult it is to give up on someone you otherwise believe in because of what can be considered a moral flaw. But I am doing it.
I do agree with Al Franken, though, that it is ironic that he is stepping down while an admitted sexual predator is occupying the White House and an alleged pedophile is supported by his party to ascend to the Senate. It does seem like sexual misconduct is a prerequisite for office representing the Republican Party these days - and it really sickens me. To me it is pretty simple: If you cannot respect the people you work with or women in general (never mind laws like age of consent - or even the simple principle of consent), how can we expect you to respect the people you represent?
And then we have Kiss. Talk about fallen heroes. From 1980 to about 1984, the only band I listened to was Kiss. And the first LP I ever got that I picked out myself (I wish I could say that I bought it myself as well, but I asked my parents to buy it for me), was (Music From) The Elder by Kiss. I found it in a discount bin at KBS, a grocery/department store with a formidable deli right across the street from my elementary school. I worshipped Kiss. My walls were covered by pictures and posters, all of Kiss, and I had build a stage with a drum set and drum riser in Lego for Playmobil figures serving as the members of Kiss. But it was always about the music for me. My first real big concert was seeing Kiss in Skedsmohallen in 1988 on the Crazy Nights tour. I loved it. They put on a great show and played really well.
And I thought they were in it for the money as well. But then MTV Unplugged happened. The Unplugged show was great, showing six former and current members playing together, but Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley started to see dollar signs reappearing after commercial decline. A reunion tour with full makeup and Ace Frehley and Peter Criss back in the fold was planned, while Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick, who had kept Kiss alive were discarded. My illusions started shattering, then they were completely shattered by the autobiographies of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Their narcissism shows no end, and their stories shows how much Kiss always was a business venture more than anything for them. Now, don't get me wrong - there is nothing wrong in seeing business in your music, but I believe in music as art first and commodity second - and not just a commodity. And if you want to tie sexual misconduct and misogyny to Kiss, seek out a written transcript of Terry Gross of Fresh Air on NPR (she is by far the best interviewer on the planet) interviewing Gene Simmons. Talk about your fallen heroes. Yet we do need them - and so, bridging my first Kiss album with MTV Unplugged, which is where it started going south for me, here is A World Without Heroes, originally found on (Music From) The Elder, as it was performed on MTV Unplugged.