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Valley native relives rocking days



Published: Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Lisa Jackson had a story to tell — and a lot of people wanted to hear it.

The Austintown native had a close relationship with members of the rock band KISS that began in the mid-90s and went on for years. She was backstage before every concert, in the front row during the shows, and at the band’s hotel parties afterward.

It was a time of all-access passes that made her the envy of the fire-spitting band’s diehard legions.

She not only got a taste of the rock-star life but got to befriend her childhood idols.

And people kept asking her for the details.

As a result, Jackson has written “The Accidental Groupie,” an e-novel that relives those days — albeit with thinly veiled pseudonyms for all involved.

“People kept pestering me over the years to tell them about what happened, so I figured, what the hell, let me write this down in a book,” said Jackson in a phone call from Las Vegas, where she now lives. “I was afraid I’d forget everything.”

What’s unique about “The Accidental Groupie” is its female point of view. For a book about a band with a macho-partying image, there sure is a lot of detail about putting together the right outfit and hairstyle.

There are fleeting glances of the salacious details, but the focus is plainly on the giddy fun of hobnobbing with her heroes in the major leagues of rock.

It’s a slice of her life that was lived in segments when the band’s orbit brought it this way. Given the mercurial nature of that world, it’s not surprising that things fizzled out before they ever got old.

Still, “The Accidental Groupie” is a bouncy, breezy read, not a nasty tell-all book. It’s overriding characteristic is a sense of girlie fun and excitement, and a special concern for one band member in particular.

The book can be ordered for the Kindle at amazon.com, or search the e-book section at lulu.com. Jackson uses the pen name Lana Layne because there already is a famed author with her name. She is mounting a kickstarter.com campaign to raise money to get the novel published in soft-cover.

A Fitch High graduate who has a bachelor’s degree and several master’s degrees, Jackson began her career as a reporter for The Vindicator. In fact, her connection to KISS began at the paper when she contacted band guitarist Ace Frehley for a story on Gibson guitars.

It was the day she finally spoke to her childhood idol.

After that phone interview, she became a fax-and-phone pal with Frehley, and then, ultimately, an accidental groupie.

Jackson’s love for the band goes way back — all the way to grade school — and her memory of the precise moment is still strong.

“I went to Woodside Elementary in Austintown,” she said. “In second grade, our teacher allowed us to bring records to school on Friday. One kid, his name was Ron Prater, brought in “KISS Alive.” He put it on the turntable, and as soon as the needle dropped, I lost my mind.”

But it was a fanaticism that many couldn’t accept or understand. As a black girl, she got grief from both white kids and black kids. “But I liked who I liked,” said Jackson, whose bedroom walls were bedecked with KISS posters.

Jackon’s book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the band and conveys the thrill and anticipation that preceded their visits. Her friend Angel Talley of Austintown accompanied her on many nights.

“It was an Alice in Wonderland experience,” she said.

After leaving The Vindicator, Jackson worked for several years as a newspaper reporter in Detroit. She would later move on to the academic world and worked at several colleges. Most recently, after the death of her mother, she moved to Las Vegas for a fresh start. She now works in marketing for a printing company and also as a makeup artist.

“I was kind of lost when I first got to Vegas,” she said. “I said, ‘I like fashion and beauty,’ so I went to makeup school. I started working on videos, but nothing on a grand scale. And I still do some writing ...”

Jackson said she has other novels in her, but first she plans to see how far she can take “The Accidental Groupie.”


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