Kiss Crew Members Blame Guitar Tech Death on Lax COVID Protocols
Francis Stueber, who had worked with Paul Stanley since 2002, died of COVID-19 on Oct. 17 at the age of 52. He had recently tested positive and was quarantining in a Detroit hotel room at the time of his death.
“My family loved him as did I,” Stanley tweeted later that day. “He was so proud of his wife and 3 boys, as they were of him. I’m numb.”
Three workers from the ongoing End of the Road farewell tour are now telling Rolling Stone that insufficient safety measures led to several workers getting sick and may have ultimately claimed the guitar tech’s life. “Every day during the shows, we weren’t tested – and there are so many unknowns,” one anonymous crew member said. “Did we super-spread this? Did we spread this thing from city to city?”
A production executive refuted the allegations, telling Rolling Stone that all crew members were required to present vaccination cards and wear masks backstage. Catering was separated between local employees and touring crew members, and workers who tested positive for COVID were sent to hotels to quarantine. Their bus mates reportedly received subsequent tests, as well.
Despite these precautions, crew members said masks were not always properly worn and tests were not administered regularly enough. The production executive added that Kiss’ team chose to only test workers for COVID if they exhibited symptoms. Band management reportedly got rid of its designated COVID-19 compliance officer one day before the trek began, leaving those duties to the production team.
Some crew members accused the team of actively discouraging COVID testing, which production manager Robert Long vehemently denied.
“If you wanted a test, we’d supply it,” he told Rolling Stone. “If you wanted to get tested, if you felt symptoms, if you think someone might be sick, please raise your hand. We had thermometers on every bus, sheets to write down temperatures every morning, mask boxes, and sanitizers everywhere. People were getting tested every other day; we ordered tests regularly. I’m not going to not test people; I take this shit seriously.”
Kiss issued a statement that paid tribute to Stueber, while also refuting the crew members' allegations. “Our End of the Road World Tour absolutely had COVID safety protocols in place that met, but most often exceeded, federal, state, and local guidelines,” they said. “But ultimately this is still a global pandemic and there is simply no foolproof way to tour without some element of risk.”
Stanley and bandmate Gene Simmons both tested positive in late August and early September, respectively, forcing Kiss to postpone some of their tour dates. But crew members said the band did not take similar precautions when workers got sick.
They claimed that approximately 13 members of the band’s 70-person team have battled COVID since they returned to the road, but those cases did not cause any tour postponements until Stueber died. Crew members said they saw Stueber coughing and struggling to breathe in the days before his death, but he reportedly did not receive a test until just a couple days before succumbing.
That's because tour management has made it a point to “avoid the complications of a positive test,” the crew members argue, adding that they rarely received notice when a fellow worker tested positive and had to quarantine. Kiss countered that “people were sent into mandatory quarantine paid for by the band and denied their efforts to travel while potentially infected. … Medical care was offered at every step of the way.”
Kiss added that it was “impossible to police the crew minute by minute of their lives,” and that “if certain crew chose to go out to dinner on a day off, or have beers at a local bar after the show, and did so without a mask or without following protocols, there is little that anyone can do to stop that.”
Crew members also took aim at concert promoter Live Nation, who requires its own employees to be vaccinated and concertgoers to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, but allows artists to determine their own tour protocols.
“We are profoundly heartbroken at the loss of Francis,” Kiss said in their statement. “He was a friend and colleague of 20 years. There is no way to replace him. Millions of people have lost someone special to this horrific virus, and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Please protect yourself and your loved ones.”
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