An electric guitar version of the national anthem cuts through the air at the Honda Center in Anaheim like the jagged edges of black makeup slash through the white-paint on the face of Kiss star Gene Simmons onstage. Except here, Simmons' makeup is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the Kiss logo is plastered everywhere: on the arena football field, on the end zone and on the flame-emblazoned jerseys in the stands. This is an LA Kiss arena football game.
The team, in its inaugural season in the Arena Football League, is owned by a group that includes Simmons and fellow Kiss frontman Paul Stanley. It is indoor football with a rock-and-roll theme, even including the national anthem.
"I love it,” said Denise Chavez, a season ticket holder. “I love football and I think this is great." She said the team brings together her two favorite things: football and Kiss. "I like everything about the atmosphere,” she says.
During breaks between plays, entertainment ranges from an '80s cover band on a stage at the end of the field to the Kiss Girls dance- squad in black leather. It's not all adult themed. During some breaks in play, a dog catches flying discs and a kids' dance squad goes into action. Through the entire game, scantily clad women dance around poles in cages hanging over the end zones.
"I think it's fine, but other people think it's a little overboard," said season ticket holder Raymond Mackey. He holds a Kiss doll that he bought for use as a mascot.
"I had somebody, one of my friends, sit in my seats and (he) turned around and said he was waiting for the kitchen sink to come out," Mackey said with a chuckle.
Mackey said it's like going to a concert and a football game at the same time -- there's always something going on.
L.A. KISS season ticket holder Raymond Mackey holds a KISS doll that he purchased as a mascot for games.
A few rows up, Barbara Rollinson and her friend yell at the players. They are football fans and couldn't care less about the girls dancing or the music, which they joke about.
"Oh God, and that one band, what was it?” Rollinson said as she kept an eye on the game. “Rock Your Pelvis? Or Give Me Your Pelvis? I'm looking at her saying, 'Did I hear that?'"
But Rollinson said this is the only place she can come watch live football when the colleges are in the off-season. There is no NFL team in LA. The Arena Football League plays during the spring and summer.
"We wanted to see football when it was available, and it happened to become available with the Kiss, so it's fun. It's interesting," Rollinson said. "It's not quite geared for a 71-year-old! The football part's good."
Rollinson and her friend bring earplugs to the games to deal with the loud pyrotechnics and music. And they shake their heads at the pole dancers.
"Some of these girls, I wonder what their poor moms say,” Rollinson said with a laugh. "You know it's not geared for me. Gene Simmons doesn't believe I should probably be out of the old-age home, so I don't think he was looking for me to become a season ticket holder."
But she did anyway. Still, Rollinson says she understands the Kiss branding and why it's needed to attract younger fans.
About an hour up the freeway, Jeff Fellenzer is a professor of sports, business and media at the University of Southern California. He said the LA Kiss have entered a crowded marketplace and need to set themselves apart.
An electric guitarist cranks out some tunes during a break in play at an L.A. KISS arena football game in Anaheim. The team, owned by KISS frontmen Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, is rock-and-roll themed. Even the national anthem is played on an electric guitar.
"You don't sell winning today when you market sports teams, because you can't be guaranteed of winning. So you sell the fan experience. You sell entertainment. You sell fun."
Fellenzer said the team isn't just competing against other sports like pro baseball and basketball. It's competing against movie theaters, concerts, even high-definition TVs.
"You just have so many options," Fellenzer said. "Mark Cuban addressed this when he bought the Dallas Mavericks in 2000, that we're not competing with the other sports teams in Dallas, like the Rangers, the Cowboys or the Stars. We're competing with other forms of entertainment. And that was 14 years ago. So you look now and that's just ratcheted up even more."
Fellenzer said there's no longer a line between sports and entertainment - they're one and the same. He said the LA Kiss, being in a less popular sport, have blasted through the entertainment wall by branding its games as a wild and crazy time.
Back at the Honda Center in Anaheim, the LA Kiss have a losing record. But during a 70-25 blowout, fan Jeff McClure said that's okay.
"Let's be honest. This is not a close game. But you know, there's girls in cages to watch. There's always something going on in between the plays, with the cheerleaders and the stunt team. So even if we lose, which is sad, you still don't walk away going, 'I don't feel like I got my money's worth.'"
McClure pointed to a Van Halen cover band onstage by the field.
"Just like right now, we've got a band playing, at a football game. Where else does that happen?" he asked.
The LA Kiss are not the first arena football team in the LA market. The LA Avengers played for a few years at Staples Center and then folded. But the LA Kiss have something the Avengers did not: the pull of a rock band.