By Brad Dison
Stanley Bert Eisen was born on January 20, 1952 in New York City. On that day, doctors and nurses immediately realized Stanley had been born with a congenital deformity known as Microtia. The deformity prevented his ear from forming properly and left him deaf in his right ear. Rather than being deaf in his right ear, it would be better stated that he was deaf on his right side because there was no right ear. Stanley was born with a stump where his right ear should have been.
Stanley recalled that he had a “less than optimal childhood.” His parents refused to acknowledge that Stanley had a deformity. Rather than explaining his deformity and that he was half-deaf, his parents simply ignored the issue altogether. Stanley recognized his deformity at an early age when people would stare at the right side of his face. Stanley looked into mirrors and compared his left ear and the stump on the opposite side. He knew he was different. Stanley had trouble hearing on his right side but his family never spoke of his half-deafness. Stanly recalled, “I was an angry, dysfunctional kid with a real image problem and a hearing problem that put me under constant scrutiny. My family’s way was, ‘Everything’s OK. Forward, march.’ But the idea that you make someone stronger by ignoring their pain shouldn’t be called ‘tough love.’ It should just be called ‘no love.’”
Stanley also struggled to fit in at school. Being deaf on his right side, Stanley found it hard to tell from which direction sounds originated. When everyone else responded to a sound by looking in a certain direction, Stanley usually looked the other way. In a crowded room, he had a hard time differentiating people’s voices. All of the voices sounded like jumbled up gibberish. Because of his deformity the other students at his school treated him cruelly. They teased and bullied him endlessly. Stanley struggled with depression and social isolation. He became a loner as his distrust of people grew.
Stanley found solace in music. His parents listened to classical music, which Stanley loved. Stanley aimed his good toward the speakers and eagerly absorbed everything from Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach, to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and Stephen Sondheim. On February 9, 1964, the Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show in what were the early years of the British Invasion. Twelve-year-old Stanley watched in awe. The Beatles wore their hair long, which quickly became fashionable. Stanley realized that wearing his hair long would hide his deformed ear and it was in style. Once his hair grew long enough, strangers stopped staring at his deformity. “What I found over the years,” Stanley said, “was that what you deny and cover up doesn’t cease to exist, and even if you can hide something from the public, you can’t hide it from yourself.”
Stanley became an artist. Through the years, he has earned millions of dollars off of his artwork which includes portraits, abstracts, and logos. Art collectors around the world proudly display his work among their collections. The prestigious Wentworth Gallery still sells his original artwork in their galleries. Stanley’s work in the arts afforded him the required surgeries to rebuild his disfigured ear. In 1982, 30-year-old Stanley had five surgeries in which doctors removed cartilage from one of his ribs and constructed a new right ear. Still self-conscious, Stanley kept his hair long, which was in style in the 1980s.
In 1988, Stanley saw the London company perform Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. He claimed that that show changed his life. Stanley said “I had this momentary revelation, an epiphany where I went, ‘Wow, I can do that.” For ten long years, Stanley dreamed of playing the part of the Phantom, a disfigured musical genius who was in love with a young protégé whom he had trained. Finally, in 1998, Stanley got an audition to play the Phantom in the Toronto, Canada, production of The Phantom of the Opera. In its ten-year run at the Pantages Theatre, the play had sold more than seven million tickets at $135 each for decent seats. Stanley felt a personal connection to the Phantom. He explained, “Here’s somebody who has a disfigurement that they’re covering and they’re trying to reach out to a woman, and, as much as they want to do it, they don’t know how. Well, that pretty much summed up my life…”
To play the part of the Phantom required multiple auditions for singing, movement, and acting. Stanley realized that this audition process was probably his only shot to play the Phantom. Stanley prepared as best he could. He had seen the play numerous times and knew the songs by heart. There was no need for Stanley to worry. Stanley passed the audition and got his coveted role. For the first time since the 1960s, Stanley cut his long hair. He had a month of rehearsals and voice lessons six days a week to prepare for the production. Stanley told a reporter that playing the part was “the hardest work [he had] ever done.” The critics, doubtful at first, thought he brought something special and new to the character. Once his stint with the Toronto company ended, Stanley returned to his artwork.
His most recognizable piece of art is well known around the world. He was the artist who created the logo for the band KISS with its lightning bolt s’s. He created the artwork for several of their album covers as well. He was also one of the four artists who created KISS. Stanley adopted the first name of one of the Beatles, the band he watched on the Ed Sullivan Show so long ago. For the last half century, the world has known Stanley Bert Eisen as Paul Stanley.
1. The National Post (Toronto, Canada) March 12, 1999, p.4.
2. The Windsor Star, March 12, 1999, p.16.
3. The Star-Phoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada), May 26, 1999, p.29.
4. Calgary Herald, May 27, 1999, p.48.
5. Lansing State Journal, June 27, 1999, p.40.
6. The Leader-Post (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada) January 3, 2001, p.20.
7. New York Daily News, April 7, 2014, p.34.
8. The Daily Item (Sunbury, Pennsylvania), April 13, 2014, p.B2.
9. The Vancouver Sun, April 25, 2014, p.42.
10. WentworthGallery.com. “Paul Stanley.” Accessed June 14, 2020.