Gene Simmons: KISS’s Iconic Rock and Roll Demon
When it comes to legendary rock bands, KISS stands tall among the legends. And at the heart of their thunderous sound and electrifying stage presence is none other than Gene Simmons, the legendary bassist known for his outrageous persona and menacing stage makeup.
Gene has not only written and performed some of the band’s most signature tracks, but his kabuki style make-up and recognizable face has become synonymous with rock and roll. Whether it be ascending to the rafters of a multitude of stadiums and arenas, all the while spewing blood from his thundering maw in a pulverizing bloodlust, or collaborating in-studio with his musical kin, KISS frontman Paul Stanley, Simmons has without a doubt left an indelible mark on the history of rock.
But before Simmons became the Demon of KISS, there were intriguing tales of his journey from humble beginnings to worldwide fame. We are going to delve into the lesser known aspects of Gene‘s life, uncovering 13 surprising facts you may not know about the man behind the iconic demon makeup.
The Birth of a Demon:
Gene was born Chaim Witz in Haifa, Israel, on August 25, 1949. At the age of eight, he relocated to the United States with his mother, settling in New York City. Little did the world know that this immigrant child would eventually become a rock ‘n’ roll icon.
Prior to his forming KISS with Paul Stanley, Simmons held various jobs that helped shape his path to becoming a rockstar. After graduating college, Gene worked as a sixth-grade teacher in New York City, dedicating his time to educating young minds while nurturing his passion for music on the side.
Gene also utilized his language skills as a translator for Yaffe, Irons & Associates, a prominent New York advertising agency. This job allowed him to put his multilingual abilities to use and gain valuable experience in the world of advertising and marketing. Simmons would also briefly work as a salesman for a wig company and even had a stint at Vogue magazine as an editor in New York City. Although he primarily worked on menial tasks, such as fetching coffee and organizing files, this experience exposed him to the world of media and entertainment.
Gene would also dabble in music by recording and releasing some own solo material. He even performed under the name Gene Klein and experimented with various musical styles. These early recordings helped him refine his musical skills and gain insights into the music industry.
It was through a series of these diverse jobs that Simmons honed his talents, developed his entrepreneurial mindset, and ultimately laid the groundwork for his future success as the iconic bassist of KISS.
A Twist of Fate:
Simmons‘ life took a significant turn when he met Paul Stanley, another aspiring musician, in 1971. Both musicians shared a passion for music and a vision of creating a groundbreaking band. Together, they formed WICKED LESTER, a rock band that laid the foundation for their future success.
KISS Rises from the Ashes:
WICKED LESTER faced numerous setbacks, but the duo’s determination remained unyielding. They recruited drummer Peter Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley, and in 1973, the band transformed into the iconic quartet known as KISS. With their distinctive makeup, fiery stage shows, and anthemic tunes, KISS captured the hearts of millions worldwide.
13 surprising facts about Gene Simmons:
Here are 13 facts you may not have known about the KISS bassist/vocalist, from his stints as an actor, to his love of comics and even that still persistent rumor that he had his tongue altered to give him that demonic presence that we all know today. Here are 13 facts you may not have known about Rock and Roll’s iconic demon.
13 – Simmons is fluent in several languages, including English, Hebrew, Hungarian, and German. His multilingual prowess has undoubtedly helped him connect with fans around the globe.
Having been born in Haifa, Israel, and growing up in a multilingual environment, these things certainly laid the base for Gene’s foray into multilingualism. His mother, Flóra Klein, was Hungarian, and his father, Feri Witz, was from Israel. This diverse cultural background exposed Simmons to different languages from an early age, fostering a natural inclination toward language acquisition.
At the age of eight, Simmons immigrated to the United States with his mother. The transition to a new country necessitated learning English, which he quickly picked up through immersion and interaction with his peers and teachers.
Gene attended schools in the United States, where he continued to enhance his language skills. He further developed his English proficiency through formal education, reading extensively, and engaging in social interactions with classmates.
Simmons‘ passion for languages and communication played a significant role in his language learning journey. He demonstrated a keen interest in understanding and connecting with people from different cultures, which fueled his drive to learn additional languages beyond English.
As a rock musician, Gene has toured extensively worldwide, performing in various countries and engaging with diverse audiences. These international experiences provided him with opportunities to immerse himself in different cultures and languages, enabling him to expand his linguistic repertoire. He is also known for his curiosity and thirst for knowledge. He has often mentioned engaging in self-study and independent learning to acquire additional languages. Through books, audio materials, and personal dedication, he has continued to refine his language skills over the years.
12 – Beyond his musical endeavors, Simmons explored acting and appeared in various films and TV shows. Notably, he portrayed the character of “Luther” in the cult classic “Runaway” (1984), which starred Tom Selleck and showcased Simmons‘ acting abilities outside the realm of music.
In the horror film “Trick or Treat” (1986), Gene made a cameo appearance, playing the role of a radio DJ named “Nuke”. The movie revolves around a teenager who harnesses demonic powers through listening to heavy metal music.
Simmons took on the role of the villainous character, Velvet Von Ragner, in the action-comedy film “Never Too Young to Die” (1986), which starred John Stamos and featured a memorable performance from Gene as the baddy.
He has also made appearances in such television shows as “Miami Vice“, playing the character of “Newton Blade”, a drug dealer, in the episode titled “Rock and a Hard Place“. In the series “Millennium” Gene portrayed a character named “The Detainee” in the episode titled “Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me“. And then of course the “reality show” “Gene Simmons Family Jewels“, which aired from 2006-2012 and followed the personal and professional life of Gene, showcasing his family dynamics and daily experiences.
11 – Gene is renowned for his iconic tongue wagging during KISS performances. Contrary to popular belief, his tongue isn’t naturally elongated. Instead, he mastered the technique through regular exercise and practicing tongue extensions to create his signature move.
His iconic tongue has become his trademark. In fact, it measures a staggering 7.5 inches in length.
Despite rumors that the KISS bassist had his tongue surgically elongated or replaced with the tongue of a cow, that’s all Gene. It’s no wonder his tongue-wagging antics have become legendary, leaving fans awestruck at every concert.
10 – Simmons‘ business acumen is as legendary as his music career. He invested wisely in various ventures, including a stake in the Arena Football League team, the Los Angeles KISS, which he co-owned from 2013 to 2016.
In addition to that, Simmons founded his own record label, Simmons Records. The label allowed him to release his solo material and explore opportunities for emerging artists.
Simmons has also invested in the restaurant industry, notably in the Rock & Brews chain. Rock & Brews is a family-friendly restaurant concept that combines classic American cuisine with a rock ‘n’ roll theme. The chain has multiple locations across the United States and beyond.
In 2016, Gene launched a soda brand called MoneyBag Soda. The line features various flavors, including cola, diet cola, and root beer. The brand aims to provide quality beverages with a touch of Simmons‘ rockstar persona.
These are just a few examples of Gene‘s ventures in the business world. His entrepreneurial endeavors span diverse industries, showcasing his ability to translate his success in music into various business opportunities. Simmons‘ knack for branding and marketing has been instrumental in his ability to expand his business portfolio and make a mark beyond the realm of rock music.
9 – Comic books have always held a special place in Simmons‘ heart. In 2007, he launched his own comic book imprint, Simmons Comics Group, releasing titles such as “House of Horrors” and “Zipper.”
Gene has expressed a fondness for various titles and genres within the medium. While his preferences may evolve over time, Simmons has been known to enjoy such titles as “Spawn“, praising the dark and gritty storytelling, intricate artwork, and the complex anti-hero protagonist, Marvel Comics characters like Spider-Man, X-Men, and the Avengers and even classic comic strips like the works of creators like Will Eisner (“The Spirit“) and Harvey Kurtzman (“Mad Magazine“).
It’s important to note that Simmons‘ comic book preferences may vary, and he may have discovered new titles since his previous statements. As a lifelong comic book enthusiast, Simmons‘ reading choices likely encompass a wide range of genres, art styles, and storytelling approaches. His love for the medium is a testament to the enduring appeal and artistic richness of comic books.
8 – Simmons is well-known for his fiery stage persona, which includes his ability to breathe fire during KISS performances. Gene learned to breathe fire as part of KISS‘ stage theatrics and visual spectacle. He acquired this skill early in the band’s career, specifically during the 1970s when KISS rose to fame.
Gene learned the art of fire breathing from a magician named “Amaze-O” (or “Presto“, depending on who you believe. Gene claimed in KISStory that it was “Amaze-O” who taught him, however other reports have claimed it was a performer named “Presto” (real name Everett Earl Johnson).
Gene has been performing his fire breathing stunt for over 40 years – not without setting his hair on fire a few times along the way.
His ability to breathe fire has become one of his iconic stage acts and a highlight of KISS‘ live performances. It has contributed to the band’s reputation for delivering unforgettable and visually stunning shows.
It’s worth noting that fire breathing, while visually impressive, is a dangerous and potentially hazardous skill. Simmons has always taken safety precautions and worked closely with professionals to ensure the proper techniques and protocols are followed during his fire-breathing performances.
Simmons‘ ability to breathe fire is recognized as a unique talent and a testament to his showmanship as a rock musician. He is known as one of the world’s best in the art of fire breathing and it has become an integral part of his stage persona and contributes to the electrifying atmosphere of KISS‘ live shows.
7 – Despite popular belief, Gene did not actually discover VAN HALEN. The credit for discovering VAN HALEN is commonly attributed to musician and producer Ted Templeman. However, Gene did play a role in providing VAN HALEN with an early opportunity to showcase their talent.
In the mid-1970s, VAN HALEN was building a reputation for their electrifying live performances in the Los Angeles music scene. During this time, they caught the attention of Simmons, who was a well established member of KISS. Gene saw VAN HALEN perform at the Starwood Club in Hollywood and was impressed by their energy and musicianship.
Recognizing their potential, Gene took it upon himself to help the young band by offering to produce their demo tape and introduce them to KISS‘s management. However, due to KISS‘s busy schedule and other commitments, Simmons was unable to fully follow through on his offer to produce their demo.
Ultimately, it was Ted Templeman, a producer at Warner Bros. Records, who signed VAN HALEN to a record deal after witnessing their live performance. Templeman produced their debut album, self-titled “Van Halen,” which was released in 1978 and propelled the band to fame.
Although Gene didn’t officially discover VAN HALEN, his early interest and recognition of their talent helped expose them to opportunities within the music industry.
6 – Gene has been vocal about his decision to abstain from alcohol and drugs throughout his life. Several factors have influenced his choice, including personal beliefs, career goals, and a desire for self-control.
Simmons has often emphasized the importance of discipline and control in his life. He believes that avoiding alcohol and drugs allows him to maintain a clear mind, make rational decisions, and stay focused on his goals. For him, maintaining self-discipline is crucial for success in both his personal and professional life.
As a member of KISS, Simmons recognizes the demands and responsibilities that come with being a rockstar. He acknowledges the importance of being in top form physically and mentally to deliver high-energy performances, engage with fans, and handle the demands of a rigorous touring schedule. Avoiding alcohol and drugs helps him maintain his professional commitments and provide the best experience for KISS fans.
Gene‘s upbringing and family background have also played a role in his decision. He has mentioned that his mother, a Holocaust survivor, instilled in him the values of responsibility and making the most out of life. Simmons‘ commitment to his family and his desire to be a positive role model for his children have influenced his choices regarding substance use.
Gene places a strong emphasis on his health and well-being. He recognizes the potential negative effects that substance abuse can have on physical and mental health. By abstaining from alcohol and drugs, he aims to maintain his vitality and longevity, enabling him to continue his career and enjoy life to the fullest.
It’s important to note that Simmons‘ choice to avoid alcohol and drugs is a personal one, and he respects the decisions of others regarding their own lifestyle choices. He has spoken out about the importance of personal freedom and making informed decisions that align with individual values and aspirations.
5 – Despite being an accomplished musician, Simmons is primarily self-taught. He learned to play bass by listening to records and studying the techniques of his favorite bassists. These include the likes of Paul McCartney (THE BEATLES), who’s melodic bass lines and songwriting prowess had a significant influence on Simmons, Jack Bruce (CREAM), who was known to showcase a dynamic and expressive style along with intricate bass lines and improvisational skills and John Entwistle (THE WHO), with his technical proficiency and innovative bass playing making a strong impression on Gene, among many others.
Some other notable names that influenced Gene‘s playing include John Paul Jones (LED ZEPPELIN) and Geezer Butler (BLACK SABBATH) among countless others.
Gene‘s dedication and natural talent propelled him to become one of the most influential and recognizable bass players in rock history.
4 – Simmons is widely recognized for his marketing genius. He understood the power of branding early on and played a pivotal role in shaping KISS‘ image and merchandise empire. From action figures to comic books, KISS became a merchandising phenomenon under Simmons‘ strategic guidance.
For example, the KISS coffin, also known as the KISS Kasket, is one of the most notable items in the band’s merchandise collection. It was introduced in 2001 and features the iconic KISS logo and images of the band members. Although initially considered controversial, the KISS coffin became a popular collector’s item among die-hard fans.
KISS has released numerous action figures over the years, featuring detailed representations of each band member in their iconic stage outfits. These action figures often include accessories like musical instruments and are highly sought after by collectors.
KISS also has had its own comic book series, where the band members are transformed into superheroes fighting evil forces. These comic books often feature elaborate artwork and storylines that combine the band’s music with a superhero narrative.
KISS-themed pinball machines have also been produced, allowing fans to play pinball with a KISS twist. These machines feature artwork and sound effects inspired by the band’s music and performances.
The group is known for its distinctive makeup designs, and the band has released makeup kits for fans to recreate the iconic looks. These kits often include face paint, stencils, and instructions on how to achieve the signature KISS makeup styles.
These are just a few examples of notable items from the vast KISS merchandise collection. The band has been highly successful in creating a wide range of products that cater to their passionate fanbase and have become iconic symbols of the KISS brand.
3 – Beyond his rockstar persona, Gene is actively involved in philanthropy. He has supported numerous charitable causes, including organizations like Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Wounded Warrior Project, using his platform to make a positive impact on society.
Simmons has been an advocate for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which works to prevent and eliminate pediatric HIV/AIDS. He has participated in fundraising events and campaigns to raise awareness and support for the foundation’s cause.
Gene has been actively involved with Mending Kids International, a nonprofit organization that provides life-changing surgical care to children in need around the world. He has contributed financially and volunteered his time to help raise funds for the organization.
Simmons has also shown support for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services to injured veterans and their families. He has participated in events and donated funds to support their initiatives.
He has also been involved with the Help for Heroes campaign, which raises funds and awareness for British military personnel wounded, injured, or sick in the line of duty. He has participated in events and initiatives to support the campaign’s efforts.
Gene has also frequently donated personal items, memorabilia, and experiences for charity auctions and events. These auctions have benefited various causes, including medical research, education, and children’s charities.
It’s worth noting that while Gene has been involved in philanthropy, the extent and specific activities may vary over time. He has demonstrated a commitment to giving back and using his platform to support charitable causes.
2 – Simmons embarked on a unique endeavor called “The Vault Experience,” where he hand-delivered a limited-edition box set of his solo recordings to fans around the world. This personalized and intimate journey allowed fans to interact with Simmons and gain insights into his music career.
The Gene Simmons Vault Experience was a one-of-a-kind opportunity for fans to immerse themselves in Gene‘s music career and personal life. Simmons compiled a collection of his unreleased solo material, spanning over 50 years, and packaged it in a massive, limited-edition vault. The vault itself was a 38-pound, 17-inch-tall, and 12-inch-wide metal safe, adorned with Gene Simmons‘ signature. Inside the vault, fans could find a variety of exclusive items, including CDs, vinyl records, a book, and a collectible action figure.
What made the Vault Experience truly special was that Gene personally delivered the vault to purchasers who would pay $50,000 for the chance to meet the iconic rock demon. He traveled to different cities around the world and met with fans in private events, where he would share stories, take photos, and sign autographs. This personal interaction made the experience highly intimate and memorable for the fans.
During the Vault Experience events, Gene would engage in a question-and-answer session with the fans, where they could ask him about his music, career, and life in general. Additionally, fans had the opportunity to listen to some of the unreleased tracks from the vault, often accompanied by Simmons‘ commentary and insights.
Those who participated in the Vault Experience received VIP access, which included early entry to the event, priority access to meet Gene, and the chance to spend additional time with him. They could also bring a guest to share in the experience.
The Vault Experience aimed to provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for fans to connect with Simmons on a personal level and explore his extensive musical journey through previously unreleased material. It was a unique and highly sought-after offering that allowed fans to delve deeper into the world of one of rock music’s most iconic figures.
1 – Gene claims to have slept with over 5000 women.
Prior to his long-term relationship and eventual marriage to Shannon Tweed, Gene had various romantic relationships with notable women, as well as more than a handful of KISS groupies. Like…way more than a handful.
Simmons was involved with singer and actress Cher during the late 1970s. Their relationship was relatively brief but garnered media attention at the time.
There were rumors of a romantic involvement between Gene and legendary singer Diana Ross during the late 1970s. However, the details and extent of their relationship remains somewhat unclear.
Simmons was briefly linked to the Swedish actress Liv Ullmann during the 1970s. Ullmann is known for her work in films such as “Persona” and “Cries and Whispers.”
Before her rise to fame as an actress in shows like “Married… with Children” and “Sons of Anarchy,” Katey Sagal reportedly dated Gene. Their relationship occurred during the late 1970s as well.
In conclusion, Gene‘s journey from an immigrant child to becoming the Demon of KISS is filled with remarkable tales and surprising facts. From his multilingual abilities to his entrepreneurial ventures, Simmons has left an indelible mark on both the music industry and popular culture. Beyond the face paint and theatrics, he is a multifaceted artist, philanthropist, and savvy businessman. As KISS continues to captivate audiences worldwide, Simmons remains an enduring symbol of rock ‘n’ roll rebellion and innovation.