Fortieth installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.
Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.
Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.
As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.
If you’re gonna list 65 people, surely that’ll be some who won’t please everybody and will attract some kind of criticism and polemic. However, it is your job to stick to your guns and argue why in spite of all backlash you might suffer, those people deserve to be in your list.
That’s the case with our inductee today. He’s often accused of thinking only about money regardless of art and being a capitalist pig (and he kind of is), but I will never lessen his importance in my life because of that. We’re talking about Kiss founder and main entrepreneur, Gene Simmons.
Gene Simmons was actually born Chaim Witz in Haifa, Israel on August 25, 1949. He is the only son of a Hungarian Jew mother who survived a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War. His father left his mother when he was still a child and when he was eight and a half he moved to New York (to Queens, specifically) with his mom to live in his uncle small apartment.
The first years were tough. He was subjected to bullying in school due to his difficulty with the language, but according to Gene “all those people ended up working for me”.
When he was still a teenager, two things changed his life completely: he changed his name to the more American Gene coupled with his mother maiden name, Klein. And he saw The Beatles at The Ed Sullivan Show. That’s when he decided to pursue a career in music.
He was always a hard worker and that’s something you can’t take away from him: his insistence in glorifying hard work and condemning drug use of any kind (probably along Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider they are the only successful Rock musicians that NEVER even drank, smoked cigarettes or pot) is rather admirable indeed.
He is also very outspoken and cocky which gets him in trouble. One good example is when he met Paul Stanley and asked him to show him some of his songs, completely sure that it would be rubbish. How surprised he was when he himself noticed that Paul’s songs were better than his. And continue to be to this day. When I inducted Paul to the hall I said that he made Gene a millionaire and I stand by what I wrote. However, Gene had the merit of not boycotting Paul and he was the mastermind behind all brilliant Kiss publicity ideas.
Paul thought of taking off the make-up very early on, but Gene was adamant that they shouldn’t because he knew how powerful the mystic of not revealing their faces were. And it worked great. Gene always said he wanted to be millionaire by the time he was 30 and that’s exactly what happened.
Nowadays, Gene owns the brand Kiss and seeks to perpetuate it like the Disney brand. Something he also said he always wanted to do. And he is succeeding. Nowadays Kiss has an Arena Football team, Visa cards, Canon cameras, a Golf Course in Vegas and a Coffe House in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I, myself, have a Kiss pajama, puzzle, mug, glass and coasters.
But most important than all that are his songwriting merits. Gene may not be the greatest bass player in the world (as everybody in Kiss were not exactly star musicians) but let’s list some of his songs: “Deuce”, “Goin’ Blind”, “I Love It Loud”, “Sweet Pain”, “Ladies Room” “Calling Dr. Love” “Rock and Roll Hell”, “Unholy”, “Domino”, his killer interpretation of Paul Stanley’s “God Of Thunder” and many others. That’s one hell of a good catalogue isn’t it?
And to finish it, there’s something Gene says on the Xtreme Close-Up video that served me as an incentive to always be myself regardless of the situation. When talking about people who mock other people because they are different he says: “Don’t care about any of that. You wanna go to school with your black nail polish, you should. Because you know something, you believe in something before they do.”
Therefore, Mr. Simmons, you’re worth a deuce and an induction to the Hall of Idols.
Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal” winner of the NABE Pinnacle Awards 2014 Fall edition.
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