Being Gene Simmons
page 2 of 2
KISS members (FROM LEFT) Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss on stage in LA in 1983
What I do isn't taught. I had to create myself, from top to bottom. I gave myself the name Gene Simmons. I decided I didn’t have to keep my given name. It didn’t work. Your name is your brand. And brands need to have something that makes people respond. Archibald Leach isn’t as good as Cary Grant. Bernard Schwartz isn’t as good as Tony Curtis. And Chaim Witz isn’t as good as Gene Simmons.
I wanted to be in a rock band. But I also knew the world was filled with failed rock bands. So the first thing I had to do was find bandmates that shared my vision. Not an easy task. Then, I had to find our position in the marketplace (what kind of band we were, who our potential audience was) and fund it myself. (Don’t use investors because they will own you.) If you do these things, nothing should stand in the way of you becoming the world’s next superstar. Good luck with that, by the way. You will run into the word “no” a lot, but that’s only as solid a wall as you decide it is.
While the band was starting up, I taught sixth-grade Spanish in Harlem and worked as an assistant at the InterAgency Council, a governmentfunded research and demonstration project. I was man Friday for Vogue editor Kate Lloyd, and while the band was rehearsing, I worked as a checkout guy at a deli so I could earn money and eat for free.
When the band became a success, I tried producing and managing other acts, including Liza Minnelli. I also started acting in movies (Runaway, Wanted: Dead or Alive) and television series such as Miami Vice.
I even started my own production company, Man of a Thousand Faces, and signed Van Halen as my first act. I flew them to New York and produced a 15-song album at Electric Lady Studios in hopes of getting them a deal. It was slow going. At the same time I had to go on tour with KISS, so I tore up my contract with Van Halen and told them we would resume deal shopping when I got back. In the meantime, if they found a deal, they were free and clear. They signed a deal with Warner Brothers within a month.
In the ’80s I started Simmons Records at RCA/BMG (now Universal Music Canada) and Simmons Comics Group, which publishes three comics along with IDW (Idea and Design Works) Publishing. I own all the trademarks and created all the titles. Simmons Books, along with Phoenix Books, recently published my third best seller, Ladies of the Night: A Historical and Personal Perspective on the Oldest Profession in the World.
I am the chairman of NGTV.com (No Good Television). My A&E reality-television show, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, is seen in 34 countries around the world. Season four kicked off in June.
The above may come off as self-serving. And you’re damn right it is. Some of you might think, Who the hell does he think he is? Precisely the point. Who do you think you are? Are you special? Do you have the goods to stand in front of strangers and convince them you’re what they need in their lives? That’s always been my goal. You buy the vacuum-cleaner salesman, not the vacuum cleaner. And most importantly, the world doesn’t need what you have to offer unless you are a farmer, policeman or teacher. What you and I do—what we have to offer—the world could do without. And yet, with success, you can make more money, have more power and get better seats in restaurants than heads of state.
photograph by Chris Walter/WireImage.com
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.