The Demon from KISS
“My hero is me. Why? Because I was a poor little kid who was told, ‘Hey stupid, can’t you speak English?’ Now all those people work for me. Despite whatever circumstances I came across, I was always able to rise to the top and there’s only one way to do that - by being selfish, but also by believing in yourself. Belief is self-knowing. Even Yoda out of Star Wars said, ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’” Gene Simmons
An Israeli import performer and entertainment tycoon, Gene Simmons is best known as the fire-breathing, blood-splitting and larger than life co-founder of hard rock super group KISS. He plays bass guitar and sings lead vocals in the band whose original line up including Paul Stanley, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. Since their first album debuted in 1974, KISS have gone on to perform to this present day. They have sold over 80 million albums and played over 2,000 shows worldwide. Also an actor, Simmons scored an auspicious debut with the classic KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978), playing his alter ego, The Demon. Other films he has acted in include Runaway (1984), Never Too Young to Die (1986), Trick or Treat (1986), Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987), Red Surf (1990), At Any Cost (2000, TV), My First Mister (2001), Wish You Were Dead (2002) and The New Guy (2002). He also has been the innovative force behind such television projects as “My Dad the Rock Star” (2003-?), “Gene Simmons Rock School” (2005-2006) and “Gene Simmons Family Jewels” (2006-?).
“The first thing I did when I met Shannon Tweed, or Cher, was say: ‘Here, there are no skeletons in Gene Simmons’s closet.’ I refuse to lead a Dr Jekyll-and-Mr Hyde life. There are DJs who get caught with prostitutes, MPs with stockings on their head. It’s a waste of time. Just say, ‘This is who I am. Take it or leave it.’ Then you sleep well.” Gene Simmons
Personally speaking, Simmons, who claims to have slept with over 4, 600 women, has said that while he admires the rights of those who select to marry, it is not something he ever plans to do. He has dated such celebrities as singer Diana Ross and Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann, and had lived with Cher for several years. Currently, he is romantically involved with model/actress Shannon Tweed, with whom he lived with since 1983. Simmons and Tweed has an 18-year-old son, Nick, and a 15-year-old daughter, Sophie, and they now reside in Beverly Hills, California.
Childhood and Family:
Gene Simmons was born Chaim Witz on August 25, 1949, in Haifa, Israel. At age 8, he immigrated to New York City with his mother, Florence, a Hungarian immigrant and Holocaust survivor. His father, Feri Witz, left the family when Simmons was a child. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Richmond College in Staten Island, New York, and was an elementary school educator before forming KISS.
Simmons has two children, son Nick Simmons (born 1989) and daughter Sophie Simmons (born 1992), with long-term companion model/actress Shannon Tweed. The two have lived together since 1983, but never got married. Commenting about marriage issues, he said, “Marriage is an institution, and you must be fully committed to it. That sounds crazy to me.”
He earned the nickname Gene the Nazarene from an ex-road manager who once worked for KISS. He is also known by his family and close friends as Genie.
Like numerous American teenagers of the 1960s, Gene Simmons was influenced by a charm with monster films, comic book super heroes and rock and roll music, therefore the budding teen make a start of forming what he recognized as the ultimate music super band. The teenage Simmons joined his first group, Lynx, then renamed The Missing Links, and as the time continued he disbanded the group to form the Long Island Sounds. During his tenure in these bands, he carried on odd jobs on the side to earn more money including purchasing second-hand comic books and making fanzines. After attending college, Simmons became involved with a new band, Bullfrog Bheer, with which he made a demo called “Leeta.”
Simmons finally met minded musician/songwriter Paul Stanley (born Stanley Eisen) and the two formed the rock band Wicked Lester in the early 1970s. They also recorded an album, but it was never released. Unhappy with the group’s look and sound, Simmons and Stanley then teamed up with drum player Peter Criss (born Peter Criscuola) and lead guitarist Ace Frehley (born Paul Daniel Frehley), and, after departing their old band and their record deal with Epic Records, Simmons and Stanley created a new band with Criss and Frehley, which they soon called KISS.
The four struggling young musicians practiced persistently in a neglected attic in New York City improving their music and stage performance before finally launching themselves on the New York live music scene in the early 1970s with their bombardment style of hard rock, kabuki stage make up and memorable high energy performances. Their hard work paid off as the newly hired manager Madison Ave executive Bill Aucoin scored KISS a record contract with the fledgling Casablanca Records & Filmworks, and the rest is what they say as KISS history.
KISS released their self-titled debut album in February of 1974, and since then have sold over 80 millions albums and played over 2,000 shows to millions of devoted fans (known as the KISS Army) right around the world, with Simmons as lead performer on stage and the powerful force behind the widespread KISS merchandising franchise. On the height of its success, KISS even released a television film in 1978, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, where the compelling Simmons was cast as his alter ego (The Demon from KISS). The film earned negative reviews from TV critics in the USA, but was loved by KISS fans worldwide, becoming a box office hit in numerous countries when it was released theatrically. KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park has since become a somewhat of a cult film.
In 1983, while KISS’ prominence was drowning, Simmons and his bandmates took off their make up and enjoyed a revival of popularity right through the eighties into the nineties. As for Simmons, he also found time pursuing his acting career. He played a wicked techno-junkie murderer fighting Tom Selleck in the thriller Runaway (1984), and after guest starring in television series “Miami Vice” (1985) and “The Hitchhiker” (1986), he costarred with John Stamos and Vanity in Never Too Young to Die (1986), appeared as Nuke in Trick or Treat (1986) and starred opposite Rutger Hauer in Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987). He also acted in 1990s’ Red Surf, starring George Clooney and Doug Savant.
As the only two consistent members of KISS, Simmons and Stanley reunited with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss in 1996 and went on a reunion tour, which became the year’s most victorious tour. The quartet also released their first album with the original line up entitled Psycho Circus in 1998. Since then, the original line up has once again disbanded with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss being replaced by Tommy Thayer on lead guitar and Eric Singer (who played with KISS from 1992 up through 1996) on drums.
Profound into the second coming of KISS, the new millennium saw Simmons highly active in the KISS industry once again. The band’s changed audience also refueled Simmons’ curiosity in movie acting. He took on a role in the VH1 television rock drama At Any Cost (2000) and had an uncredited part in My First Mister (2001), which starred Christine Lahti and Albert Brooks. He next appeared in the stylized comedy Wish You Were Dead (2002) and offered a funny cameo as a Pastor in The New Guy (2002). The following year, he returned to the small screen, creating and producing the animated series “My Dad the Rock Star” (2003-?) and providing the voice of Jessie in the Fox animated series “King of the Hill” (2003). He played the recurring role of fatal crime lord Donald Mann in “Third Watch” in 2004, and lent his voice to another of Fox’s animated comedies, the popular “Family Guy” in 2005. Simmons also has been the creative force behind such television projects as the reality show “Gene Simmons Rock School” (2005-2006), “Mr. Romance,” a show created and hosted by Simmons on the Oxygen cable television channel, and more recently “Gene Simmons Family Jewels,” another reality show for A&E which debuted on August 7, 2006.