When onetime rock stars move Nashville-way, it's usually to launch a second career as a songwriter, get a gig as a sideman, do sessions, or reclaim their fame in an industry town where having a youthful appearance and cutting-edge relevance aren't always make-or-break requirements. Take Darius Rucker, who — once mocked and maligned as lead singer for Hootie & the Blowfish — has recently celebrated a meteoric rise to the riches of pop-country Babylon after spending a decade as a pop-culture punch line.
When former KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent moved to Middle Tennessee in the mid-1990s, he might've imagined himself making headlines in guitar magazines by remarketing his trademarked Vinnie Vincent Double V ax, or penning hits that would chart as high for a country star like Garth Brooks as "Lick It Up" and "I Love It Loud" did for KISS, or using his renowned chops as a shredder in the studio. Vinnie Vincent — aka Vincent Cusano; aka "The Ankh Warrior" — accomplished none of these things.
Instead, the first story involving the painstakingly reclusive Cusano to make worldwide headlines was a May 23 post on celebrity gossip site TMZ that read, "Ex-KISS Guitarist — Blood, Cuts, and 4 Dead Dogs."
What happened was every bit as sordid as that headline suggested. According to a memo provided to the Scene by the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office, the department sent a tactical team to Cusano's Smyrna residence to arrest him, after his wife Diane showed up at the sheriff's office "covered in blood and possibly intoxicated."
The 44-year-old Mrs. Cusano alleged to Sheriff Robert F. Arnold that her husband — a man who'd once basked in the limelight of Brazilian football stadiums brimming 200,000-strong with fans screaming for "the hottest band in the world" — had smacked her in the face, grabbed her by the hair, threw her to the floor (four times) and dragged her through a pile of broken glass following an argument over his conversing with another woman.
Cusano was arrested and charged with aggravated domestic assault. A subsequent search of the home — secluded at the dead end of a wooded, suburban Middle Tennessee road and confined by a high privacy fence — revealed the bodies of four dead dogs entombed in above-ground containers. This detail ignited a knee-jerk firestorm of public outrage, or perhaps just creeped people out, painting a picture of the Cusano home as a heart of hair-metal-has-been darkness.
Diane told Rutherford County Pet Adoption Welfare Services that one of the couple's "aggressive" dogs killed the entombed canines. PAWS' decision not to pursue an investigation, as well as memorials reportedly inscribed on the unfortunate tail-waggers' makeshift tombs serve to substantiate that claim, which Vincent later underscored in a posting on his YouTube page.
Vincent's other claims about the incident, however, aren't quite as credible. In a follow-up YouTube posting, Cusano said he was "happy to announce that all charges alleged against me were dropped and the case dismissed." He also claimed he'd been exonerated, saying he'd been "falsely charged."
That isn't true. According to a pretrial agreement filed June 13, a Rutherford County judge "retired" Mr. Cusano's case for a year under the condition that he complete eight hours of anger management counseling before a Dec. 5, 2011, scheduled court appearance. According to the agreement, Cusano can eventually petition the court to have the case dismissed.
This isn't the first time Cusano has cried foul and then played victim. Given the history of petty disputes he's waged and lost over almost 30 years, it's not hard to see Vinnie Vincent as a victim — a victim of Vincent Cusano, whom Gene Simmons once described as, "about the most self-destructive person I've ever met. This guy would hang himself as somebody's offering him the keys to the kingdom."