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Duluth quilter, costume designer come to Gene Simmons’ aid

Karen McTavish (left) and Claudia Clark Myers repair a boot owned by KISS bass player and vocalist Gene Simmons at McTavish Quilting Studio Wednesday afternoon. Simmons was in town with KISS to perform at Amsoil Arena Wednesday night. (Submitted photos)

Christa Lawler

Forum News Service

Gene Simmons wears 10-inch black platform boots with 1-inch lifts. They are about half as tall as a preteen boy and are covered in horns. There is Velcro around the base, so that a dragon face can be attached.

"The handle of the zipper was a Rite Aid toenail clipper," said Karen McTavish, who spent 3½ hours repairing a zipper on the KISS frontman's signature boot before the rock 'n' roll band performed Wednesday at Amsoil Arena. "This is the weirdest job I've ever had in my life. Funniest and weirdest."

The boot zipper was going down on its own, said McTavish, the quilter behind McTavish Quilting Studio. She called in help from Claudia Clark Myers — former costume designer for the Minnesota Ballet, the College of St. Scholastica and the Baltimore Opera Company — who came over bearing needles made for leatherwork.

The duo took out the faulty zipper, then used a combination of McTavish's Bernina Sewing Machine, hand-stitching with 100 percent polyester thread and a special adhesive that works on fabric and leather, said Myers, who claims to be too old to be a KISS fan.

"It was difficult," she added. "We just did the best we could and I was happy to see a picture on the front page today that it was on his boot and intact and there wasn't a big headline about Gene Simmons' costume falling apart in the middle of the performance."

McTavish closed up her shop and delivered the boot to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Wednesday evening. She earned just more than $100 and two free 12th row tickets for the work — and realized soon after that she could have charged more. Simmons was in a recreational vehicle, she said, and not available for a photo.

It's unclear whether Simmons wore the newly repaired boots or a backup pair during the concert.

McTavish ended up skipping the show when she couldn't find anyone else who wanted to go.

"I've done band stuff," said McTavish, who was in the post-prog sludge band Grounds for Dismissal. "I do drum cases, but (this) was hysterical. I was working on something that will possibly be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame someday. It's not like I love KISS — I don't. Gene Simmons is a Trump supporter."

Before McTavish got the boot, it was offered to Frost River Trading Company, which specializes in handcrafted bags, gear and outdoor packs, but didn't have a machine to accommodate a platform boot. William Hurst, Frost River's production manager, then solicited help from local shoemaker Candace LaCosse of Hemlocks Leatherworks — who had purposefully made herself unavailable on Wednesday.

"I live up on the Scenic Highway," she said. "I thought 'I'm going to leave my phone at home and I'm going to have an intentionally present day. I came home to a dozen messages at midnight. 'Where are you? Gene Simmons needs his boot fixed.'"