Last night in Portland, OR, guitarist Tommy Thayer, a.k.a., the Spaceman, along with Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Eric Singer, all of the rock band KISS, gave a surprise performance at the close of a gala fundraiser event, where legendary rockers such as Alice Cooper, Robby Krieger of the Doors, Danny Seraphine from the band, Chicago, and Will Lee from The Late Show with David Letterman, among others, also performed. The exclusive “All-Star Salute to the Oregon Military” event raised $1.4 million toward completing the construction of the $20 million Oregon Military Museum named after Tommy’s father, Brigadier General James B. Thayer. To help raise funds, Tommy Thayer joined forces with Zenith real swiss replica watches brand to create a special commemorative watch and a small, limited edition collection.
“Obviously, this is important to me on a personal level because my father is involved,” said Tommy Thayer in a private interview yesterday, “but it is important, too, for people to remember and commemorate the amazing people and their stories of heroism. The things they did for our country are inspirational and help us understand where we came from, what helped make us, as a country.”
Thayer’s father, the 94-year-old retired Brigadier General James B. Thayer, is a decorated hero who served in World War II. In 1945, Thayer led his platoon forward in Europe, engaging in hand-to-hand combat with SS soldiers, and eventually entered Austria. “My dad’s platoon discovered and liberated an Austrian death camp for Hungarian Jews,” explains Tommy Thayer. “It was a horrific experience, but they saved the lives of 15,000 refugees in that camp.”
In fact, James B. Thayer received both a Bronze and Silver Star for his acts of heroism and was also honored decades later by the Austrian government. For his bravery, the Oregon Military Museum has been named after the Brigadier General, and rock star Tommy Thayer jumped in to help support the cause.
Similarly, Kiss rocker Gene Simmons also has a personal connection, in that his mother and her family were held in a concentration camp believed to have been a part of the network of camps that Thayer infiltrated. You can read more about that story here.
“Gene’s mother’s life was spared at the age of 14, but what she went through makes this effort even more personal for all of us in the band,” says Tommy Thayer. “The band as it is today, all of us are very close and very supportive of each other’s charitable and philanthropic efforts, and especially this one. We have supported the military and the veterans throughout our tours in various ways.”
In fact, Thayer says that fellow band member, Eric Singer was instrumental in putting Thayer in touch with Zenith and in helping to design the zenith replica watches that honors his father. Singer is a known watch collector and enthusiast who frequently visits Swiss watch factories.
“Eric is the one who initially suggested we reach out to Jean-Claude Biver, who was very excited about the cause,” says Thayer. “Eric also helped steer me in the right direction about which watch style to choose and worked with me and Zenith throughout the project.”
Once Singer and Thayer talked with Biver, CEO of the watch division of LVMH (which includes brands Zenith, TAG Heuer and Hublot, among others), it was decided the World War II story most closely aligned with Zenith, and steps were quickly underway to create a commemorative watch for Tommy’s father, and a second one to be auctioned at last night’s event.
That watch, the Replica Zenith Pilot Extra Special Thayer Edition, is created in 18-karat rose gold and titanium, and features an engraving on the case back of James B. Thayer in uniform during World War II, with the Oregon Military Museum name on it. The commemorative pieces feature an alligator strap and are offered in a special presentation box with a 48-star flag and a signed letter from ret. BG James B. Thayer about his experiences.
Additionally, a limited edition of 25 pieces of the watch is being created in bronze. This piece features a very special strap that, according to Tommy Thayer, was Eric Singer’s idea: a strap made of leather from actual World War II ammunition bags.
At last night’s event, one of the commemorative watches was presented to GB Thayer, while the other watch was auctioned. The watch, which holds a retail value of approximately $14,000, sold for $40,000. All proceeds go to the museum efforts.
“We have been working on raising funds for the museum for some time now,” says Tommy Thayer. “It is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The private fundraising, which I am focusing on, takes a lot of time and effort. It is a matter of building the story and having people commit to it.”
Last night’s event emulated one that was held several years ago, wherein the Kiss members also performed. That event raised $1.2 million. The museum is approximately 70 percent complete and the fundraising in more than half way fulfilled. The Brigadier General James B. Thayer Oregon Military Museum, hopefully to be opened by the end of this year, is a 32,000-square-foot museum that will house not only the story of Oregon military men, but also planes, tanks and other educational war materials that trace centuries of military (from Native Americans to today’s Global War on Terrorism) in its state-of-the-art facilities.