The story of KISS guitarist Paul Stanley's missing ear, and the doctor who reconstructed it
Michele Amabile Angermiller
LOS ANGELES — KISS frontman Paul Stanley is mourning the death of a man who played a pivotal part in shaping the sound of his band and ensuring a long career for the guitarist. New Hampshire's Dr. Frederic Rueckert, who died on May 4, treated the rocker for a congenital ear deformity called Grade 3 Microtia back in 1982. Stanley was born with the condition, which left the external ear underdeveloped and essentially deaf.
"My dear friend Dr. Frederic Rueckert has died at 95," Stanley tweeted. "He truly changed my life when he constructed my right ear from my rib. God Bless You."
In a series of five surgical procedures, Rueckert removed pieces of cartilage from the rock star's rib cage and carved them into the framework of an ear, which was then "implanted with a series of skin grafts."
Stanley chronicled his ear struggles in his 2014 book, "Face the Music: A Life Exposed."
"I had nothing more than a stump on the right side of my head, and my ear canal was also closed, so I was deaf," the 65-year old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer wrote. "That left me unable to tell the direction of sound, and more importantly, made it incredibly difficult for me to understand people when there was any kind of background noise or conversation. These problems would lead me to instinctively avoid social situations."
Stanley hid the deformity by growing his hair long, and worked through insecurities with a therapist, Dr. Jesse Hilsen, as KISS rose to rock prominence. It was Hilsen who suggested Rueckert after reading an article on the New Hampshire surgeon. At the time, the surgery was relatively new and mainly used on kids.
"I always tried to express to Dr. Reuckert the life-changing role he was playing for me," wrote Stanley, who was 30 when he underwent the procedure. "He was a humble man who helped countless children avoid the experience and turmoil and endlessly compounded problems I faced as a kid. He helped give me a new lease on life; I gave him a Rolex watch when he retired. I could never figure out a way to truly show him how much he meant to me."