Saturday, March 21, 2015

2002, Bang Your Head by David Konow, KISS section

In this section of "Bang Your Head" by David Konow
they talk about KISS. 


Pg 65
(includes pic of KISS back in 1974)



Pg 48 - 64

Right as the Alice Cooper band was peaking, out of New York came a
band called Kiss. Kiss was heavily influenced by Alice Cooper, so much
so that in their early days they reportedly played as an Alice Cooper
tribute band. What Michael Bruce saw in Kiss was a band that was more
together than Alice Cooper had ever been. “They got four guys with
makeup, four Alices,” he said. “We couldn’t even control the one Alice
we had!”

Kiss was inspired by the success of Alice Cooper as well as that of the
New York Dolls. Kiss wanted to be like the Dolls because of the quality
and quantity of the women they attracted. The Dolls, headed by lead
singer David Johansen and guitarist Johnny Thunders, were a short-lived
but extremely influential band. Their provocative look—high heels,
high hair, lipstick, and leather—was backed by a raw, sloppy, powerful
sound. Along with being a major influence on the punk movement in
New York, the Dolls also influenced a lot of late-1980s L.A. bands like
Guns N’ Roses.
The Dolls’ self-titled album was produced by Todd Rundgren and
recorded in a week, and it almost drove him to a nervous breakdown. I
Said Johansen, “In the end, Todd got so fed up with everyone saying,

“Turn me up,’ that he just turned everybody up.” Despite the Dolls’ early
promise, they fell apart in 1974, from alcohol and heroin abuse, just
after releasing their aptly titled second album, Too Much Too Soon. The
entire glam/ glitter scene was laid to rest on October 11, 1974, at a con-
cert called the Hollywood Street Revival and Dance, held at the Hollywood
Palladium. The Dolls headlined the show, and a mock funeral was held
for glitter and glam onstage.

With the Dolls self-destructing and Alice Cooper’s original lineup
falling apart, the four members of Kiss—Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley,
Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss—saw an opening they could crash through
like a semi. According to photographer Bob Gruen, “they figured there
was no point in trying to be beautiful, because they couldn’t compete
with the Dolls, so they decided to be monsters.”

Simmons was born Chaim Witz in Israel in 1949, and his father left
the family when he was six. Like many children abandoned by a parent,
Simmons learned to fend for himself at an early age and never let any-
one stand in the way of what he wanted. If someone didn’t live up to
his standards, he’d move on without them without a second thought.
“Anybody who held me back was gone in a second, and that includes
women,” he said. It was a pattern that would repeat itself throughout
Simmons’s life and career.

Simmons embraced his Israeli upbringing. “In Israel, religion takes a
back seat to survival,” he said. “There’s a real difference between Israelis
and American Jews. The latter strike me as being weak and spineless.
Israelis, because they have no choice, come off much closer to Puerto
Ricans and the Mafia than to anybody else. You have to have that back-
bone or you’re dead, it’s over. Being Jewish really gives you a sense of
identity more than anything else. To be Jewish is to have a sense that
your mind is your strongest feature. And therein lies real power.” When
Simmons was nine, he and his mother moved to New York, and his
name was legally changed to Gene Klein.

Simmons met Paul Stanley through a mutual friend, Steve Coronel.
Simmons was teaching grade school, but he clearly wasn’t cut out for a
life in the classroom. “I wanted to kill those little pricks,” he once re-
called. Stanley, born Paul Stanley Eisen, was from upstate New York
and, like Simmons, was a middle-class kid. At their first meeting, Stan-
ley was put off by Simmons’s condescending arrogance. Eventually
Coronel convinced them to play together, in spite of their initial dislike
of each other, and they found that they clicked musically.

In 1970, Simmons and Stanley, along with Coronel, formed the
band Wicked Lester. The next year, they were offered a deal with Epic
Records, on the condition that they fire Coronel as their guitar player. 
Even though he had brought Simmons and Stanley together. Coronel
was immediately dismissed. “There was no reason for the whole band to

sink because of one guy,” said Simmons, and this would be his M.O. ‘
throughout the history of Kiss.

Wicked Lester recorded an album, but it was never released. (Sim-
mons and Stanley would buy back the rights from Epic when Kiss
started getting popular, mainly to prevent pictures of them without
makeup from being released.) Even with a major-label deal, Simmons 
and Stanley knew they were in the wrong band and were plotting to put
something bigger together. While rehearsing with Wicked Lester, they
were secretly auditioning other musicians. Scanning the want ads in
Rolling Stone and other music magazines, they found an ad from a drum-
mer named George Peter Criscuola who said he would do “anything to
make it.” At the same time, a guitarist named Paul Daniel Frehley ad-
vertised in The Village Voice that he had “flash and balls.”

When Simmons and Stanley first talked to Frehley—who had a
funny mustache and often wore a charcoal gray pinstripe suit, purple
sneakers, and socks that didn’t match—they hyped their new band,
telling him they already had a record deal. The first song he played with
the band was “Deuce,” written by Simmons. Frehley loved it and imme-
diately wanted to join the band, even after he found out there really was
no record deal.
Everyone in the band decided to change their names at once. Gene
Klein became Gene Simmons; Paul Stanley Eisen became Paul Stanley;
Peter Criscuola became Peter Criss; and since the name Paul was already
taken, Frehley took the nickname Ace. They wanted to call the band a
four-letter word, but since Fuck was out of the question, Kiss was the
next best thing. Just as many thought Alice Cooper was a folksinger,
Kiss’s name was deceptive—at first, some thought they were a soft rock
group, like Bread.

Simmons and Stanley were the main songwriters in Kiss. They had
become close friends in spite of their early misgivings, though under-
neath their partnership there was still a rivalry. Simmons had a strong
business mind and was supremely confident. He never tired of promot-
ing himself or the band. Neither Simmons nor Stanley drank or used
drugs. For Simmons especially, women and money would prove far
more intoxicating than any controlled substance.

In many hard rock and heavy metal bands, there are class differences
among members, and Kiss were a perfect example. Ace Frehley and
Peter Criss came from a different world than Simmons and Stanley.
Frehley and Criss had grown up on the streets, running around in gangs
in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Where Simmons and Stanley were the busi-
nessmen of the group, Frehley and Criss were the band’s true rockers.
Criss was also volatile and dangerous. He would often fly into rages
without a moment’s notice and destroyed many a hotel room, often
with his idol, Frank Sinatra, playing in the background. When Criss was
in a good mood, he could be the life of the party, packing a huge en-
tourage in his room. A split second later, he could become moody and
distant, hibernating alone in his room for days. He loved guns too,
which, considering his temper and unpredictability, was a bad idea. One
Christmas, he shot up the tree in a rage. He once greeted Chris Lendt,
Kiss’s business manager, at the door with his gun clearly displayed in a
holster. Criss told him he liked to wear it around the house to scare his
wife. Lendt wasn’t sure if he was kidding or not.

ln their early days, Kiss lived and rehearsed in a giant loft on Man-
hattan’s East 23rd Street, near Fifth Avenue, where they also showcased
for record labels. Simmons and Stanley constantly practiced their stage
moves during rehearsals, while Frehley would just lean against the wall
while playing ripping leads. Simmons and Stanley kept going up to
Frehley and nudging him with their guitars to get him to start moving
along with them. The band first developed their makeup at a Long
Island club called the Daisy, and their famous face designs evolved
over time. At first, Frehley painted his face completely silver; Stanley
painted his face all red. Simmons was supposedly the first to put makeup
around his eyes, and the rest of the band soon followed with designs
that reflected their inner personalities; soon they would lock down their
trademark war paint.

On July 13, 1973, Kiss played a show at the Hotel Diplomat, a run-
down, barely open building located in Times Square that was mostly
frequented by hookers and junkies. In the audience was a television pro-
ducer named Bill Aucoin who was looking to get into the music busi-
ness. Stepping across gaping holes in the ballroom floor to meet the
band after the show, Aucoin introduced himself and said, “Let’s get to-
gether at my office and see whether there’s something we can do.”

Like Shep Gordon, Aucoin was a novice, and along with the band,
would learn as he went along. Aucoin brought Kiss to mogul-to-be Neil
Bogart. Bogart had a deal with Warner Bros to distribute his acts. “Neil
wanted to work with me and my associate at that point, Joyce Biawitz,”
says Aucoin. “She eventually became Joyce Bogart.”

Neil Bogart loved over-the-top stage shows and personalities. Three
of his biggest acts—Parliament, the Village People, and Kiss—would
share that connective tissue even though none of them sounded re-
motely alike. Bogart himself was a larger-than-life character, a P.T. Bar-
num of rock and roll who knew how to hype and present everything in
an outsized way. But according to Simmons, Bogart initially had cold
feet about Kiss’s makeup. As he recalled, when Bogart first came to see
the band live, he told them, “1 think this kind of garish stuff is over. For-
get the makeup, and do it my way.” But Simmons was adamant about
keeping the makeup, telling Bogart, “We’ve got to do what we believe.”

If the band couldn’t wear the makeup, he told him, they’d walk. Bogart
finally relented. “Okay, if you guys really believe in it, I believe in your
belief.”
As Aucoin recalls, everyone had second thoughts about the makeup
at first, but it was Warner Bros, not Neil Bogart, who wanted the band
to ditch it. “Wamer Bros never really liked Kiss,” says Aucoin. “And they
asked Neil to either get rid of this makeup band or certainly their
makeup.”
Kiss were rehearsing, getting ready to leave on their first tour, when
Aucoin received a call from Bogart saying he was having a problem with
Warner Bros., who had strong misgivings about the band wearing
makeup. “Would you please ask them if they would consider taking it
off?”
“Look, Neil. we’ve gone too far with this, and I really don’t think the
band’s going to go along with it,” said Aucoin. “I’ll ask them as a cour-
tesy to you, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.” When he asked the
band if they would consider taking off their makeup, they became wor-
ried. If they didn’t, would they lose their record deal? “No, I don’t think
that’s the case,” Aucoin assured them. “We gotta stick to our guns. We
can’t be wishy-washy about it.”

This did not sit well with Warner Bros. Soon a secret memo was dis-
tributed through the company that basically said the company liked
Neil Bogart but was going to let Kiss slip through the cracks. They were
certain Bogart would come up with another act that would be tremen-
dously successful. The memo was leaked to Bogart, and he went crazy.
He went to Mo Ostin and Joe Smith, then the co-presidents of Warner,
and read them the riot act. “How could you do this to one of my first
acts?” he screamed. “You’re already working against me! This is not the
kind of relationship I want to have!” Warner Bros. released Bogart from
his contract, and he had to start over from scratch.
Bogart called his new label Casablanca Records. He had to mortgage
his home to keep it afloat, and Bogart was forced to ask his friends and
independent record distributors for loans. “That’s how Casablanca kept
going,” says Aucoin. “Neil wouldn’t give up. It’s not like today, where if
it doesn’t work in a couple of weeks, next.”

Bogart would not have been in this position if he had just let Kiss get
dropped from Warner Bros or if he had forced them drop the makeup,
but he stuck with the band. “Neil didn’t give in, and he fought” says
Aucoin. “If he shook your hand and said we were gonna do it, you knew
you were gonna do it.”
The band knew from the beginning that the makeup was a big risk.
“They could have been laughed right off the stage and were sometimes”
says Fritz Postlethwaite, Kiss’s tour manager from 1976 to 1979. “But
they had the courage of their convictions to make it work.”
Early on in Kiss’s career, Aucoin told them if they were going to make
a big deal of the fact that they wore makeup and not have it looked at
with ridicule, it was important they not be seen without it. Everyone
agreed, although, as Aucoin now says, “I don’t think they realized at the
time how much effort it was going to take to do that. At first when peo-
ple tried to catch them without their makeup on, it was a lot of fun to
hide.” Sometimes magazines would get photos of the band without the
makeup and have polls asking the fans if they wanted to see them. The
fans usually voted no When Kiss was at its peak, their fans loved
the fact that they had no idea what the members really looked like.
“To tell you the truth, most magazines really didn’t want to print
pictures of us without makeup” Ace Frehley told Guitar World maga-
zine. “They knew the band’s mystique was selling a lot of magazines for
them, and they didn’t want to ruin that.”
Kiss started wearing zinc oxide for the whiteface, then went to
“clown white” by Stein’s and Max Factor. For their lipstick and makeup,
they’d use the cheapest they could find, with trashy names like Broadway
Red (the song “Black Diamond,” which is about hookers, was reputedly
named after a cheap brand of makeup). At first the makeup took some
getting used to Criss would sweat profusely when he played the drums,
and forgetting he was wearing greasepaint, would smush and smear the
makeup when he wiped his face.

Kiss dyed their hair darker so there wouldn’t be any highlights on-
stage. No facial hair was allowed either, even in most of their post-
makeup years, and they didn’t have a blonde member until 1992. Later,
other heavy metal bands started adopting height, hair, and look re-
quirements when auditioning potential players. Often the wrong look
could cost you a gig. Ozzy Osbourne wouldn’t even consider hiring
bassist Greg Chaisson because he showed up to the audition in sweat-
pants and a baseball cap.
From the beginning, Kiss knew how to hype themselves. They made
sure to play New York City only once a month even though they usu-
ally needed the money. They wanted to give the impression that they
were off playing somewhere else on tour. Their first big show was on
December 31, 1973, with Iggy Pop and Blue Oyster Cult. The first Kiss
tours were one-truck and one-tour-bus affairs, but the burn rate on
money was still high. The joke in the Kiss camp was that they lost a lit-
tle bit on each show but made up for it with volume.

The first time Fritz Postlethwaite ever saw Kiss play, “the opening
chords were punctuated with bombs, and the pressure of the concus-
sions was like standing in the dark and being hit in the chest with a
medicine ball. It literally knocked the wind out of you.” And in the
small auditoriums and theaters they were playing in at the time, where
the audience was much closer to the band, the effects were frightening.
The pyrotechnician told Postlethwaite that his goal was to ensure there
was not a dry seat in the first several rows.
Aucoin financed Kiss’s first tour with his American Express card,
which ran him $30,000 in debt. (Surprisingly, American Express never
canceled his card.) It was a difficult tour to get through. For one show
the band performed in a high school cafeteria with a bunch of lunch
benches pushed together for a stage. Simmons was still practicing his
fire tricks and was nervous when handling flash paper. Once he acci-
dentally threw a burning piece of it into the audience, scorching off a
fan’s facial hair. Frehley would shoot bottle rockets off his guitar. One
night a rocket flew in the direction of the road crew, and they had to
scramble in all directions to get out of its path.

Kiss’s self-titled debut album came out in 1974 with middling suc-
cess. According to Aucoin, the album sold decently in the black com-
munity because it was thought the band was a black group done up in
whiteface. Their second album that year, Hotter Than Hell, didn’t fare
much better commercially. Aucoin and the band went through many ups
and downs before they made it, but Kiss wanted success more than any-
thing, and all involved were willing to tough it out.
Kiss released six records over the next three years. Because albums that
didn’t sell could be returned to the label within six months, Casablanca
wanted to make sure they always had fresh product in the stores. The
label made sure the next Kiss album was already in stores before the last
one started to come back.
Kiss’s albums weren’t selling well, but on the road it was a different
story. The band was blowing away practically every band they opened
for in concert. When they opened for Queen and Blue Oyster Cult in
1974, the promoter wouldn’t let the band use the lighting rig because
he feared their show would upstage the main acts. Kiss was forced to
play with the house lights up. The audience kept chanting the band’s
name through most of Queen’s set and continued well into Blue Oyster
Cult’s performance. Most bands they opened for wanted them kicked off
their tours, but with Kiss on the bill, sold-out shows were guaranteed,
which meant the headliners would get a percentage of the gate. Many of
the headliners weren’t doing well on tour and needed a strong opening
act to save them, so they had to keep Kiss aboard whether they liked it
or not.
Album sales improved slightly for Kiss with 1975’s Dressed to Kill,
which reached the Top Forty. The album had a bonafide hit with the
anthem “Rock and Roll All Nite” which Simmons and Stanley wrote on
tour in Eugene, Oregon. But it was still not enough. The band was at the
make-or-break point in its career. With Casablanca Records teetering on
the brink of financial ruin because of Bogart’s manic overspending, the
next album had to be a hit or it might mean the end of the band—and
the label.

The decision to put out a live album at this point made little sense.
None of the band’s three studio albums had sold well enough to war-
rant a live album. Who was going to shell out for a double live LP when
no one was buying the band’s studio albums? At that time, live albums
were also considered decclasse. “They were what the record company put
out if you had nothing else, scraping the bottom of the barrel,” said
Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover.
But Kiss’s concert tickets outsold their records by a substantial mar-
gin. If they were able to capture their live energy and excitement on
vinyl, it was clear they had potential for a hit record. Kiss had built a
hardcore following in Detroit, as had other artists like Alice Cooper and
Aerosmith, and they decided to record their live album during several
nights at Cobo Hall. (Kiss were so revered in Detroit that one local high
school’s marching band would play the band’s songs during its football
games)
Kiss also put out a live album because they couldn’t afford to record
another studio album. Once the live recording was in the can, Bogart
didn’t have Kiss’s advance money. Aucoin held up the master tapes until
Bogart paid up, and Kiss’s fourth album, Alive, was released in Septem-
ber 1975. The album was a huge success, breaking the Top Ten in No-
vember and saving Casablanca from bankruptcy. After several years of
hard struggle, Aucoin got a huge check delivered to his office. When he
saw it was for $2 million, he couldn’t believe it. Aucoin had never seen
so many zeros in his life; he counted them over and over. Alive became
a blueprint for the gatefold-sleeve, double live albums that would flour-
ish in the years to follow. Peter Frampton would release Frampton Comes
Alive! in 1976. Like Kiss, his previous studio albums hadn’t sold well,
but Frampton Comes Alive! would sell more than 12 million copies and
was No 1 on the charts for ten weeks.

As for how live Alive really was, accounts are contradictory. “I do re-
member going back and redoing some of the vocal things, but I think by
and large what you heard is what you got,” said Gene Simmons “It’s any-
thing but flawless,” said Paul Stanley. “If we wanted a really flawless
record, we would have doctored it up, but it’s as close to live as it needs to
be.” But when asked about how live the album really was, producer Eddie
Kramer said, “Only the drums were kept; everything else was replaced.”
The not-so-well-kept secret about most live albums is they usually
aren’t live at all. There was a famous joke that the Who’s Live at Leeds
album was neither. Bands have always complained that they can’t get
their “live” sound in a studio album, yet most live albums are heavily
patched up in the studio.
Without question, heavy metal and hard rock bands have always had
to deliver in the live arena or there is no chance they will ever become
successful. Building something out of nothing, like MTV could do with
Milli Vanilli, was impossible then. Bands built their fan base on the ap-
peal of their live shows. Even when albums weren’t selling, bands could
stay alive long enough for a commercial breakthrough if, like Kiss, they
delivered onstage.
The money came, and went, fast. “As far as the live show was con-
cerned, it was impossible to control the amounts spent,” says Postle-
thwaite. “The best the business and accounting people could do was to
simply document it.” Limos and room service ran twenty-four hours a
day. Ace Frehley always had at least $5,000 in his pockets and would
sometimes spend thousands of dollars at toy stores, buying what he
couldn’t afford as a child.
The only thing that kept Kiss from drowning in red ink was the
band’s merchandising sales. During Kiss’s biggest period, 1977 and 1978,
they grossed $119 million, and according to Bill Aucoin, $52 million
of it was made through merchandising. Gene Simmons once pulled
aside Jefferson Starship singer Grace Slick and said, “Why don’t you
guys put out belt buckles and comic books? You could make $3 million
a year just on the junk!”

Aucoin had each member’s makeup design copyrighted so no one
could reproduce them without permission. With their superhero per-
sonas, Kiss was the perfect band for merchandising overkill. The band
was approached with countless offers and didn’t turn many down. Even-
tually there would be Kiss radios, lunch boxes, makeup kits for kids,
sleeping bags, dolls, and two comic books from Marvel. Much of the
merchandise was geared toward younger fans. This would hurt Kiss later
because they were sometimes perceived as a “kiddie band.”
Kiss ultimately revolutionized merchandising in rock and roll. The
concert tour shirts, which the kids bought in droves, would save count-
less bands when their stage shows became so unwieldy and expensive
that the only way they could make a profit was through merchandising
sales.
“The merchandising was the most profitable part of the tours,” says
Chris Lendt, the band’s business manager for over ten years “Concert
tickets [then] were $5, $6, later $10­—they didn’t go up into the stratos-
phere like they do today. There were a lot of commissions that Kiss paid
off the top to business managers, agents, then they split the money four
ways after tour expenses were covered. So there wasn’t a great deal left
after those tours. If it wasn’t for the merchandising, none of the Kiss
tours would have been very profitable, if at all.”
Aucoin controlled all the merchandising and licensing rights and had
a separate company to make their deals. The merchandising profit was
split 50/ 50 between him and the band at first; later, the four band
members readjusted it to 60/40 in their favor.
Kiss was also one of the first bands to advertise its albums and con-
certs on TV and radio, do in-store appearances, and offer promotional
materials with albums and through its fan club “All this is taken for
granted today,” continues Lendt. “But in the ‘70s, what Kiss did with the
record company, their management and the ad agencies was really quite
revolutionary.”
Others looked at the marketing of Kiss differently “I think it was the
mentality of let’s make as much money as we can while we can,” says

photographer Neal Preston, who also worked with the band. But the at-
titude of “take the money and run” was not isolated to Kiss alone. As
Cameron Crowe recalled about the music business in the ‘70s, “It all felt
very fleeting. A lot of bands felt like we got to go out there and make as
much money [as we can] now, because two years from now, nobody’s
gonna want to listen to this music, not knowing that this very music
would be selling cars and presidential campaigns now.”

Casablanca Records, now out from behind the financial eight ball, was
thriving. By 1977, PolyGram had acquired half of the label. Not only
would Casablanca have tremendous success with Kiss, the Village Peo-
ple, and Donna Summer, but that same year, RSO, also owned by Poly-
Gram, would release the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, which
topped the charts for six months and became the biggest-selling album
in history at the time.
Outside the window of Bogart’s office on the Sunset Strip was a
giant billboard announcing that Kiss had sold out three nights at the
Forum for their Love Gun tour. Having a billboard on Sunset Boulevard
was a huge status symbol. Some artists had provisions put into their
record contracts that upon the release of a new album, they had to have
a billboard up on Sunset. At one point the billboards on Sunset featured
so many bands that the movie studios had no room to advertise their up-
coming films.
Even though the label featured mostly disco acts, Casablanca was
as rock and roll a company as you could get. Walk into a record com-
pany today, and you won’t hear any music playing, a telling detail
about today’s music business. At the Casablanca offices, they played
their artists loud. “You walked into Casablanca, and the size of the
speakers just assaulted your senses,” recalled Jeff Wald, who managed
Donna Summer. “And there was cocaine on people’s desks and people
getting loaded. By the time we got down to business, it was almost ir-
relevant.” In the ‘70s, cocaine was so prevalent in the music business that
some went to record labels to score.

Bogart was now wearing the L.A. uniform of prestige in the disco era:
open silk shirts, gold chains, and a tall, frizzy head of hair that was
popular among agents and show-biz execs. Brimming with success,
Casablanca’s parking lot was filled with Mercedes-Benzes.
There is some debate as to who was the real genius behind the suc-
cess of Kiss. Certainly Simmons and Stanley deserve, and take, a lot of
credit for being the driving forces behind the band. As far as Frehley
was concerned, “When it came to orchestrating our career, setting up
promotions, making sure we were in the right place at the right time,
Bill and Neil Bogart were real geniuses. Paul and Gene are real smart
guys—sometimes too smart for their own britches—and they wrote
some tremendous songs, but l think it was really the management that
was responsible for making the band happen.”
“As far as what took place when I was around, the driving force be-
hind Kiss was Kiss,” counters Fritz Postlethwaite. “I truly believe the
band came up with the concept and made it work.” Postlethwaite con-
cedes that Aucoin did a lot behind the scenes. “He was the fifth Beatle,”
he admits, and that Aucoin had strong opinions about the ideas Kiss
came up with, always wanting to take the ones he liked even further.
One reason why Kiss was so successful was that Simmons was and is
a workaholic. Says Bruce Kulick, who would become the band’s lead
guitarist in 1984, “That”s Gene’s oxygen. He doesn’t like vacations; he
hates Sundays” Simmons was so driven that Kulick once found himself
working in the snidio for three weeks straight without a day off. “Gene
is pretty much a banker in disguise,” said photographer Barry Levine,
who shot Kiss throughout the 1970s “If he wasn’t playing bass, he’d be
wearing a yarmulke and trading diamonds on 47th Street in Manhattan.”
Besides money, one of Simmons’s strongest driving forces has always
been sex. Even though he’s been with his girlfriend, 1982 Playmate of
the Year Shannon Tweed, for eighteen years, and they have two children
together, he disdains marriage and still brags about his ongoing sexual
conquests.

On tour Simmons was especially insatiable, his conquests in the thou-
sands. He admitted he wasn’t picky. “I fuck everything that moves,” he
once said. “And if it doesn’t move, we’ll work something out.” In a rare
display of modesty, he admitted that if he weren’t rich and famous, he
wouldn’t be getting so lucky. “That’s really the biggest kick, that a guy
who looks like me can get laid,” said Simmons. “If there are uglier guys
around, I don’t know where they are.” Barry Levine once walked into
Simmons’s hotel room and saw thirteen women lined up outside the
bathroom, including a pregnant girl and twins, waiting to have sex with
him inside. “It was almost like they had tickets and they were waiting
for their number to be called, like at a deli.”
Aucoin believes that Simmons has such an intense sex drive because
he doesn’t drink. Simmons chronicles his sexual exploits with a huge
Polaroid collection, and, before video cameras were easily portable, he
also made home videos with a huge camera that required two roadies
to set up. With tremendous foresight, in light of the Tommy Lee and
Pamela Anderson video debacle, Aucoin nipped Gene’s videotaping in
the bud, telling him he could get into a lot of trouble if the tapes of his
sexcapades ever wound up in the wrong hands.
In spite of all this, women found Simmons very smooth and charm-
ing. Tweed first met Simmons at a Playboy Mansion party. He had just
come off a movie in which he played a villain, naturally, and Tweed’s
first impression was: “He really looked like some slimy Arab with a
harem somewhere. He had that sort of dark, brooding kind of come-
hither look and I thought, ‘Oh, great, this guy thinks he’s really hot.’
But we started talking, and the more we talked, the more I liked him.”
Of the four members of Kiss, no one got more into his onstage per-
sona than Simmons, who truly loved to play the monster. “To be fair, the
most ridiculous Gene got was when he went into his character,” remem-
bers Postlethwaite. “He completely immersed himself like a Method
actor or a person under hypnosis. Sometimes he used this excuse to
cover bad behavior.”

When he was under the spell of the demon, sometimes he’d mutter to
Postlethwaite, “I want you to kill all living things everywhere for me.”
Often Simmons’s demands were simply to test those working for him to
see if they could deliver or not. He once commanded, “From now on, I
want every dressing room and limousine to be at exactly 75 degrees
when I step into it.” On an airplane, he once told Postlethwaite to
ask the pilot if he could quiet the engines because Kiss was on board.
“Gene would demand a hamburger in the middle of the night, and he
wouldn’t care if you had to take a plane to get it,” says Aucoin.
It was hard to tell whether Simmons really expected people to deliver
the impossible or not, but they did have to consider his requests, be-
cause when things didn’t go his way, his rage and cruelty knew no lim-
its. One night, nothing during the show went right, and Simmons came
over to his roadie on the side of the stage and spit on him between every
song. By the end of the night, the roadie was in tears, covered in spit
from head to toe.
Simmons thrived on control, and Criss, who loved to play practical
jokes, devised a way to rattle Simmons’s cage. Postlethwaite was also a
drummer: He played drums for the hand during soundchecks, and once
when Peter was “ill” during a show, the band even considered putting
him in Criss’s makeup and costume to finish the set. They decided to call
the show off early instead.

This time, Criss had the band’s makeup man put Postlethwaite in
Simmons’s face makeup, an old costume of Simmons’s and a black wig,
without Simmons’s knowledge. The band always ended their concerts at
that time with the song “Black Diamond.” At the end of the song, the
drum riser would go up to the ceiling, and the band would turn to
watch Criss for their cues. This time, though, Postlethwaite was up on
the drum riser dressed as Simmons finishing “Black Diamond,” hitting
the cymbal crashes that were synched with the fireworks Simmons
turned to the drum riser and suddenly saw himself behind the drum set.
He stopped playing in astonishment and began wandering around in a
daze, almost walking off the edge of the stage before a roadie grabbed
him.

After the show, Simmons and Bill Aucoin took off alone in a limo.
Simmons was still in shock. “What’s wrong?” asked Aucoin.
“I think I’ve lost my mind, Bill . . . I’ve snapped.”
“What do you mean, you’ve snapped?”
“I looked back there, and I saw myself playing the drums,” muttered
Simmons. He was stunned, slumped in the back of the limo “I think I’ve
lost my mind.”
Aucoin, who was in on the joke, couldn’t contain himself anymore.
“Oh no, that was Fritz!” he said.
Simmons went berserk. He never wanted to be anything less than the
scary gargoyle he was on stage. To lose control in front of an audience
was completely unacceptable, and he was angry at Postlethwaite for a
long time after that. Soon a lot more control would slip out of his hands





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