Call it revisionist KISStory.

On this month in 1991 an episode of The Phil Donahue show aired which remains one of the most bizarre and surreal moments in rock history. Unfortunately for Peter Criss it was all at his expense.

Sometime in the late 80s an urban legend began. It was a story that alleged Criss, the original drummer of KISS, was now a homeless alcoholic living on the streets of Santa Monica, CA. In January of 1991 STAR Magazine ran an article with the headline "KISS STAR HITS THE SKIDS" claiming Criss had become a homeless alcoholic, panhandling for nickels and sleeping on the floor of the men’s room at the Santa Monica Pier. To solidify this sad story of a rich and famous rock star gone broke were quotes from Criss himself. Or so we thought. Instead of the former rock star, the man who had been photographed and interviewed by the tabloid was actually a guy by the name of Christopher Dickinson. Dickinson was a homeless Evanston, Ill., native who had been passing himself off as Peter Criss for years.

"It just got to be well-known around Santa Monica that that’s who I was,” Dickinson later told People magazine. “I had gotten my real ID stolen. Why I said it, I don’t really know…. I was just very confused, very mixed up from alcohol.”

Peter Criss on The Phil Donahue Show 1991/Filmcode via YouTube
Peter Criss on The Phil Donahue Show 1991/Filmcode via YouTube

Enter Phil Donahue and Tom Arnold. Yes, Tom Arnold.

In February of 1991 Donahue was not only able to get Dickinson on the show to confess to the well-publicized lie but Criss himself. As if watching Criss confronting his imposter in front of a live studio audience wasn't compelling enough there were some other interesting guests - A wannabe actress Cheryl Ann Thompson who claimed to have had an affair with Criss, her mother and via satellite Tom Arnold. Both Thompson and Arnold appeared on the show to tell their stories of how they offered to help the homeless Criss only to find he wasn't the real Peter Criss.

After this episode aired Criss filed a lawsuit against STAR Magazine and settled for an undisclosed amount in 1993. In 1996 he re-joined his former band-mates in KISS for a huge reunion tour. He remained with the band until 2004 and is now happily retired and by all accounts not homeless. Arnold went on to a very successful career in Hollywood while Dickinson disappeared into obscurity soon after and his whereabouts remains a mystery. As for that wannabe actress Cheryl Ann Thompson, she's probably still trying to become an actress but my guess is still not a very good one.

Here is the entire episode of The Phil Donahue Show:

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