Two guys in black walk into a Lake Minnetonka mansion.
These 60-something guys with giant puffs of hair aren’t your ordinary men in black. It’s Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley from Kiss, the band that made makeup, pyro and wanting to rock ‘n’ roll all night and party every day famous.
This isn’t your ordinary Lake Minnetonka mansion. This is chez Muffy MacMillan, the philanthropist and Cargill heir.
Ms. Cargill met Mssrs. Kiss on Tuesday night in the name of hunger, charity and rock ’n’ roll.
MacMillan was the host to nearly 900 people — who shelled out anywhere from $500 to $50,000 — at a benefit concert for two global charities, Opportunity International and Matter.
The tanned, tony and very blond people dined on surf ‘n’ turf tacos and watermelon-and-feta salad in white tents on the vast MacMillan lawn. It was hard to spot Kiss T-shirts, though one woman in a stylish black dress proudly had her face painted a la Stanley’s “Starman” makeup. However, most everyone was carrying a Kiss on a stick hand-fan decorated with Simmons’ famously made-up face.
When Simmons, Stanley, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer hit the stage without makeup, everyone put down their fans, got off their white padded folding chairs and partied.
“For old farts, they’re kicking butt,” said Dan Heiland, 60, of Excelsior, said of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers who have been rocking since 1973.
“It’s the event of the summer,” declared his wife, Heidi Heiland, who did the flowers for the fundraiser that raised more than $1 million.
Before Kiss hit the stage at what the band called “Muffypalooza,” there were the obligatory speeches from MacMillan and others.
“More people from Minnesota give to Opportunity International than any other state,” said Vicki Escarra, CEO of the 45-year-old, Chicago-based organization that fights global poverty. MacMillan is a board member.
“Charity is not an option, it’s an obligation,” Stanley said in an interview before the concert and he repeated the sentiment onstage.
Always prone to pontificate, Simmons said in an interview in MacMillan’s game room that charity “shouldn’t be limited to the rich and famous. Giving begins at home.” And he walked the walk, donating $100,000 to Matter, a 16-year-old, Twin Cities-based nonprofit that fights poverty with food and medical supplies to 32 developing countries. He holds the title of ambassador for Matter.
Thayer said Kiss performs 99 percent of its concerts in makeup but Tuesday was the first exception since a backyard benefit last summer.
Matt Svendsen, 32, of White Bear Lake, didn’t care if Kiss wasn’t in arena-stage mode. He was singing along to every song at his first-ever Kiss concert, hoisting a can of Surly beer to the beat for emphasis.
“It’s minus makeup but stripped down is amazing,” he said of the no-frills performance. “Anytime I can mix music and doing something better for the community and the world is fantastic.”
He and his wife also mixed in the celebration of their second wedding anniversary. Their first anniversary was observed at a Brandi Carlile concert.
Among the boldface partygoers were business mogul Irwin Jacobs, Olga Viso of Walker Art Center, restaurateurs Josh Toma and Kam Talebi and Paula Goldberg of PACER Center.
Someone bid $15,000 for Stanley’s guitar, another donated $14,000 for Simmons’ signature axe bass, and one fan paid $27,000 to travel on Kiss’ private plane and hang backstage at a future concert.
Several people ponied up $5,000 to join Kiss onstage Tuesday to sing “Rock and Roll All Nite” as fireworks exploded in the sky.
Kiss in concert in a Minnetonka mansion sounds like a baby-boomer’s dream evening. But these kind of events aren’t totally uncommon. Just last month Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler performed a private show for juvenile arthritis at the Lake Minnetonka home of Marty Davis, owner of Cambria and Sun Country airlines.
During Tuesday’s 45-minute performance, Stanley was presented with an award from Matter in recognition for Kiss’ current Freedom to Rock Tour for employing veterans of the Armed Services.
Kiss’ Freedom to Rock Tour visited Mankato on Monday and will rock Duluth on Wednesday. For those shows, Kiss members will don their trademark makeup.
Not so on Lake Minnetonka. This one was in the flesh. But at least there were fireworks afterward. A full 15 minutes of fireworks. You don’t get that at every Kiss show.
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719