The Peter Criss KISS Imposter That Fooled The World

It's surprisingly easy to perpetrate a hoax, especially these days when, thanks to the internet, the most outrageous lie can spread to the farthest reaches of the globe in seconds, thanks to internet users repeating the lie without actually looking up whether it was true. Back in the early 1990s, pulling off a hoax was similarly easy, albeit for different reasons. Tabloid newspapers and magazines were (as they are today) always on the lookout for the juiciest and most salacious gossip, and when they had a story, they often ran with it without first checking it out. This was especially true when it came to stories that seemed plausible and were difficult to confirm or deny. Say, for example, a homeless man on the street tells a tabloid that he's actually a famous rock star who's fallen on hard times. It makes sense: more than one rock star has burned through all of their money while at the same time succumbing to substance abuse issues. Further, when the rock star has been out of the public eye for a while, it's easy to jump to conclusions.

This actually happened to KISS drummer Peter Criss, according to Freedom Rock Radio. What's more, in a case in which the truth is stranger than fiction, Criss and his impostor both appeared on TV to talk things out, in what may go down in one of the strangest moments in rock history.

a homeless alcoholic makes $500 for a fake story

By the early 1990s, Peter Criss hadn't been a part of KISS for more than a decade and had largely left the public eye. However, as Ultimate Classic Rock reports, he spent those years working on solo projects, doing the odd guest appearance, and spending time with his family. Meanwhile, a homeless man named Christopher Dickinson was telling anyone who would listen that he was Peter Criss, having gone broke, suffering severely from alcoholism, and sleeping in public restrooms around Santa Monica. Dickinson sold his story to a Star reporter, reportedly for $500 and a night in a hotel.

Meanwhile, the real Peter Criss was quite surprised to learn that he was homeless and an alcoholic, considering that he was neither. When the news had broken that "he" was bumming spare change and sleeping in bathrooms, he had to field quite a few calls from loved ones concerned about his well-being. "There was a photo of some bum who was claiming to be me lying in the toilets in Santa Monica, and next to it was a photo of me in my Kiss makeup. I was furious," Criss said.

"Why couldn't you impersonate the Lone Ranger or Tonto, something like that?"

While the world of popular culture was digesting the news that Peter Criss was homeless, and Criss himself was trying valiantly to set the record straight, the producers of "The Phil Donahue Show," one of the biggest talk shows of the day, saw an opportunity for some compelling TV and decided to invite Criss to the show to talk things over with his impostor. As Criss said, via Ultimate Classic Rock, he wasn't feeling it. "I just wanted it to go away, I was so hurt," he said.

Nevertheless, Criss agreed to be on the show, and what may be one of the most awkward exchanges in the history of tabloid TV took place. In the episode, clips of which can be seen in this YouTube video, Criss asked his impostor, "Why couldn't you impersonate the Lone Ranger, or Tonto, something like that," he asked, noting that Dickinson had given Criss "a rocky time."

Dickinson, for his part, was apologetic, claiming that he spent most of his waking hours hammered out of his mind and "walking around in a haze."

Though the two men were more or less civil to each other on-stage, backstage Criss reportedly called Dickinson "you f***." Criss also sued Star magazine, and the two parties later settled out of court.