Kiss ... and makeup

One of the world’s great rock over­lords talks with Allison Ste­wart about meet­ing pres­i­dents, vom­it­ing blood and life as a tabloid sta­ple.

Sunday News - - ETC -

Gene Sim­mons is the cofront­man of fabled, fire-breath­ing rock over­lords Kiss, and does a thriv­ing side business as an en­tre­pre­neur.

Kiss made rock mer­chan­dis­ing an art form, and Sim­mons (born Chaim Witz in Is­rael 68 years ago) is its finest brand ex­ten­sion. He has au­thored books, starred in a re­al­ity show, made it to week three of The Celebrity Ap­pren­tice in 2008, en­dorsed Mitt Rom­ney and launched his own cola. He will pa­tiently, elo­quently an­swer any ques­tion, and is un­fail­ingly se­ri­ous, even when he’s prob­a­bly kid­ding.

He has an easy com­mand of Kiss-re­lated statis­tics, from the num­ber of Gene Sim­mons Fam­ily Jew­els episodes that have aired (156) to the num­ber of Kis­saf­fil­i­ated Rock & Brews restau­rants set to open across the US (15).

‘‘Our reach is far and wide,’’ says Sim­mons, whose new book, On Power, ar­rives in Novem­ber.

Your new book is partly a med­i­ta­tion on power, and partly a self-help book.

The book grabs you by the shoul­ders and shakes you and says, ‘‘OK, are you se­ri­ous about life? Do you want to reach for the stars? Here’s some things you can do to make more money, and be­come more pow­er­ful’’.

What do you make of Pres­i­dent Trump, how he uses power? Is he wield­ing it ef­fec­tively?

Po­lit­i­cally, you can make a good ar­gu­ment that it’s not the way peo­ple are used to politi­cians act­ing. I know Pres­i­dent Trump well enough, I sup­pose. I’ve cer­tainly met Pres­i­dent Clin­ton and Pres­i­dent Bush, and ev­ery­one’s dif­fer­ent when they get in there.

Was run­ning for pres­i­dent some­thing you would have been in­ter­ested in, if you’d been born here?

Democ­racy is very messy, al­though it’s the best sys­tem we have, so I wouldn’t be in­ter­ested in that. I like the fact that the pres­i­dent is ac­cept­ing no salary, he’s do­ing it for one dol­lar. I like that. I think it should be pub­lic ser­vice. ... I like cap­tains of in­dus­try be­com­ing politi­cians. I don’t re­call your ques­tion, but I like my an­swer.

You strike me as be­ing very prac­ti­cal and un­sen­ti­men­tal, which are great qual­i­ties for a busi­ness­man, but not so much for an artist. Do those qual­i­ties come into con­flict in your mind, ever?

How did you ever think any­one who plays elec­tric gui­tar is an artist? They can’t even read or write mu­sic.

You don’t think of your­self as an artist?

No. An artist is some­body who went to school, who learned mu­sic the­ory, can read and write mu­sic, like clas­si­cal mu­si­cians or jazz mu­si­cians. None of us – Madonna, I don’t care who you’re talk­ing about – none of us learned to read and write mu­sic, we just sort of did it. It’s pretty much on the same level as cave­men who came out of the caves and started to beat on the drums, and howl at the moon.

I think of some­body like Bruce Spring­steen as an artist. I don’t know if he can read mu­sic.

Yeah, but you’re buy­ing into the cul­ture. I don’t think he’d stand up and say, ‘I’m an artist’. And I’ve met Bruce. Re­mem­ber, he wears torn jeans, be­cause he wants to con­nect to the com­mon man. We both know he can buy a fleet of Rolls Royces. ... Ev­ery­body puts on af­fec­ta­tions, in­clud­ing my­self. I wear shades in the dark, be­cause the sun never sets on Planet Cool, does it? Are they pre­scrip­tion? Cer­tainly not. You used to be in the tabloids with­out your makeup, and you al­ways looked so un­happy to be seen. Could you walk around and have a nor­mal life, be­fore you un­masked your­self?

As soon as Kiss started, we had to hide our faces, be­cause there was a re­ward: What did they look like with­out the makeup? So when I was go­ing out with Cher and Diana Ross, we had to sneak around and cover our faces. Then,

‘ Ev­ery­body puts on af­fec­ta­tions, in­clud­ing my­self.’ GENE SIM­MONS

even­tu­ally, you grow up and you don’t care.

Was that a fun time in the band’s his­tory?

I have to say in all hon­esty, every day is fun. I’ve never had a bad day in my life. When you’re rich and fa­mous and you have the life of Ri­ley – I would un­der­stand if very poor peo­ple liv­ing in squalor or in the Third World are de­pressed and feel bad and grim. I get it. But when you’re rich and fa­mous, un­less you have a chem­i­cal im­bal­ance, it’s all non­sense. It’s all an at­ten­tionget­ting de­vice.

Kiss does ev­ery­thing from con­doms to cas­kets. Do you talk to a lot of peo­ple who bury loved ones in Kiss cas­kets, or is that a loss leader?

Well, it hap­pens once in your life, right, but the mar­ket­place is pretty large. There are bars that get them be­cause they’re mois­ture-proof, and they use them for cool­ers.

Does per­form­ing in makeup and cos­tumes give you more longevity? You could go out there at 80.

It’s fair to say Kiss is the hard­est-work­ing band in show business. Even just the weight of the stuff we carry around. We’re not go­ing to do it any­where as long as the Stones or McCart­ney, be­cause we can’t. I mean, we don’t step on­stage in jeans and a T-shirt, be­cause that you can do into your late 70s. I’m on 7-inch plat­form heels, I spit fire and fly through the air. It’s ex­haust­ing.

Have you ever come close to pack­ing it in – you, per­son­ally?

No. Why would you, when you’re hav­ing so much fun? I’ve never done drugs or al­co­hol, never smoked cig­a­rettes, so my soul is in­tact.

When you would vomit blood, what was in it? Was it a squib?

There was eggs, yo­ghurt, rot­ten milk, food colour­ing. I mean, it was pu­trid, it smelled bad. If it looked like I was throw­ing up, some­times I did.

So you would run to the side of the stage and put it into your mouth, then spit it out?

There would be a blackout, and some­one would run on­stage and put it in my mouth.

What­ever they were pay­ing you, it wasn’t enough.

I like you. I like the way you put that. – TNS

Gene Sim­mons says every day is fun and he’s never had a bad day in his life.

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