In the 1970’s the members of KISS were under strict orders by contract to not be seen without their stage make-up on. At the time, the press was desperate to get a photo of any of the band members without makeup. Some photographers were bribed to not take photos and if they did, to not publish them. Peter Criss who used the “Catman” character for his KISS persona grew tired of his hidden identity and of not being recognized in public.
The tension in the band led Criss to leave KISS in December of 1979 although the official announcement came in May of 1980. Before he left KISS, as a big “Fuck You” to Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, Criss was photographed without his make-up on as “Ming the Merciless,” on the cover of Lenny and the Squigtones 1979 debut album.
Criss did not play drums on the album and even though it is clearly him in the photo Criss denied it. Check out these photos of Criss around the same era with without his make-up.
His second solo album “Let Me Rock You” was released in 1982. The album cover featured Criss without his KISS make-up, but it was not released in the U.S. at the time.
Seems all kinda ridiculous now but KISS officially appeared in public without makeup for the first time on a September 18, 1983 appearance on MTV, which coincided with the release of the band’s new album, “Lick It Up”.