A divorce case that started in 1984 in New York moved to an Illinois stage Friday night when two members of the band Kiss were served with subpoenas before their performance at the Tweeter Center.
Band members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were served subpoenas by private investigator Steven Rambam, who had been authorized as a special process server by Cook County Circuit Judge James G. Donegan.
The case involves Jesse M. Hilsen, 63, who was Kiss' business manager during the late '80s and early '90s and is now a fugitive living in South Africa. There have been warrants out for his arrest since 1994, and a federal grand jury re-indicted him in July. Hilsen, who reportedly owes his former wife Rita at least $2 million, has been on the run since 1994.
The purpose of the subpoenas is to determine what, if any, financial ties exist between Hilsen and the band, as well as whether any band members have been in touch with him since he became a fugitive. Hilsen had been guitarist Stanley's psychiatrist for several years before becoming the band's business manager. He and the band split in 1992.
"We have reason to believe they have some assets belonging to Jesse," said Chicago attorney Jonathan Clark Green, who is representing Rita Hilsen and who was present for the serving of the subpoena.
The subpoena, called a citation to discover assets to a third party, seizes the assets of a debtor that may be in possession of a third party.
Rambam and Green, followed by a Tribune reporter and photographer and a film crew from CBS' "48 Hours," which is documenting the case, arrived at the Tinley Park concert venue shortly after 5 p.m. and met with security personnel. Rambam and Green eventually were ushered backstage, where they met with Stanley and Simmons and served them with the papers.
"They kept bumping us up the food chain," said Rambam, who works out of New York and Texas, "higher and higher through levels of Tweeter Center security. Eventually they realized the documents were legitimate and let us meet with the band."
Simmons and Stanley, he said, "were incredibly gracious and they wanted to know more about the case. I wished them both a Shana Tova, a happy [Jewish] new year, and they wished me a Shana Tova back."
The band did not issue a statement. "They said they'd prepare some sort of press release later," Rambam said.
Jesse and Rita Hilsen were married in 1965; divorce proceedings were started in 1984 and the divorce was granted in 1988. Jesse Hilsen, then a well-known Manhattan psychiatrist, was ordered to pay $750 a week spousal maintenance plus $200 a week for the couple's two minor children. Marital assets, worth more than $2 million at the time of the divorce, according to court papers, were also to be divided evenly.
Jesse Hilsen, however, failed to make the court-ordered payments and in 1993 filed for bankruptcy. Rita Hilsen, who is on disability, ended up losing her home and has been living in homeless shelters for more than 10 years. Still, she pursued her case against her ex-husband in New York's Family Court. In 1994, Debra Weiss-Otterpol, a former bookkeeper for Kiss, testified that the band had paid Jesse Hilsen more than $700,000 from 1988 to 1992, including more than $500,000 in 1992 alone. She also testified that band members often gave Hilsen large sums of cash.
Started in 1972, Kiss first hit the charts with "Kissin' Time" in 1974 and had hits with "Rock And Roll All Nite" (1975) and "Beth" (1976). Early on, the band became known for its garish face makeup and stage pyrotechnics. Over the years it has become a lucrative franchise, and not just because of its music. Although it has sold 80 million albums and its 2000-01 tour grossed about $60 million, in recent years it has cashed in offstage as well. It has licensed its trademark logo and face makeup designs to more than 2,000 companies, everything from comic books, action figures and lunchboxes to toilet paper, trading cards and condoms. According to an August article in Billboard magazine, band co-founder Simmons puts the value of the Kiss logo and face designs at more than $500 million.