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The Other Side Of Ego: Two Fresh Takes On An Oft-Told Tale

Today's post is from our friend HIM.

I don’t even have to say his name. His reputation precedes him. A blowhard with a mind-boggling knack for breathless self-promotion. Tone deaf proclamations on thing both of his realm and, often times, far afield of it. A curiously coiffed pate with more than a whiff of the artificial. A history of braggadocio that has often demeaned the fairer sex (see what I did there?). A tendency to wield his self-importance like a force-field, bouncing every near hit and partial disaster out of range. A late stage attempt to revamp his crumpled reputation by wading through the sewer that is reality television.  

Obviously, I am talking about . . . Gene Simmons.  

As readers here know, I have a somewhat ambivalent view of KISS. I didn’t take issue with their 80s transformation into a circus-like cacophony of songs-by-committee, garish pastels, and enough shoulder pads and jazz hands to make both Bea Arthur and Joel Grey go, “Hey, you might want to walk that all back a bit.” I like their 70s stuff. I just don’t love it. Post-Animalize, my commitment to the band waxed and waned as time and interest dictated.  

I also recognize how easy it is to take Simmons’s sense of smug self-promotion too seriously. I mean, he begs you to dismiss him as an irrelevant, if very successful, huckster. Note that I said “too seriously.” There is Barnum in Simmons’s pitch. He plays—and sometimes is—the loathsome heel to Stanley’s pious protagonist. Together, they have made KISS into a brand that is stuck on every conceivable corner of the market. If Stanley is the man pulling most of the strings, Simmons is the one with the bugle, heralding the band and his importance thereto.  

Thing is, I have a sneaking suspicion that the fans that love Simmons are closer to seeing the truth in all of his carnival barking. He provides a service. In so doing, he sates his base while teasing the furious keyboard jockeys who mix their vitriol with equal parts longing and confusion. I mean, how can that man be that successful, all while wearing a Cher-pelt on top of his self-congratulatory smirk?!?! 

Two bits of evidence are not conclusive. But here is a bit of proof that Simmons, as a recent solo act, is showing off a truer measure of his self than one normally gets to see. With the spectacle of KISS nowhere to be found, we are getting a chance to see SIMMONS, exposed.  

The first video speaks for itself:

That is a gracious master of ceremonies, mixing equal parts shtick and sincerity. Those that matter—his fans—are having the time of their lives. As it should be.  

The second video is that rare sighting: an established, long-in-the-tooth, legacy act(or) trotting out a song many true fans wished was part of the rotation to begin with:

Yes, “Charisma” is no “Kashmir.” And, yes again, Dynasty is no Love Gun. So what? This song, even more than “God of Thunder,” gets at what makes fans squeal and detractors squirm: how can Simmons get away with singing something so catchy, yet so moronic (second best: “Domino” off of Revenge)? The song title is a measure of an answer. So, too, is the casual way he all but proclaims “Let’s have fun . . . my band can handle the stuff I have forgotten.” In another case, this would look sloppy and unprofessional. In his hands, it looks like the sort of night most fans, casual or diehard, would enjoy.  

These two videos are like the other side of the Simmons coin. He looks relaxed. He seems more than accommodating. His band sounds great. Everyone is having a good time. One moment, he is making it a night the fans will never forget. The next, he is (partially, and in fairly good form) belting out one of the most gloriously self-absorbed songs he has every released.  If rock is the calculated business that Simmons always suggests it is, he is also a master at making it look easy.  

I get it: Simmons is no saint. He has some decidedly retrograde views on women, no less on topics like depression and drugs. But he never claimed to be. So, while he goes about supporting the troops, donating to charities, and the rest, he has some definite reasons to smirk at those who criticize him.

He’s Gene Simmons. They are not. Fairly, or unfairly, simple math.

Reader Comments (9)

Excellent post bud! Kiss was the first heavy band in the 70's I discovered and loved, and it in turn opened up a whole new world to a young, impressionable 12 year old moron such as myself. I think you stripped "Mr. Witz" down to his true core here. That of a very kind,giving person to what he feels is right in life, coupled with an abrasive, no filtered blowhard with what he doesn't agree with. But I honestly think the first of the 2 personality traits is the closest to his real self. Like you point out, the second seems to suspiciously come out a lot more to coincide with an album or book release, pending tour, restaurant opening, or some other business venture he has a stake in ( see what I did there? Lol). Guy understands the publicity machine better than most. Love him or hate him, he's great at what he does...
May 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGary
Thee Rock N’ Roll Residency!! I was good till Love Gun then I guess I grew up? Say what you will, think what you want, he's still here and Kiss still tours. Personally I ignore most of what he says, it's entertaining (Like the TV show?)
May 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDarktown
I always loved the fact that he was a man who loved his mother. After his father left, his mom raised him alone and provided for him, after experiencing many years before that the terrible loss of all her family members during the holocaust.

While Gene was never my favorite member (Paul and Ace alternately filled that role for me), how can you not respect him for loving his mom so much and appreciating what she did for him, and being so vocal about that love throughout the years.

Plus, I did like many of his songs (pre-80's, except for Domino, as Him pointed out). That was and is a jewel. Could have done without the Burn Bitch Burn tunes of the 80's which were more filler for me.

Still have a soft spot for him, even though he can be a bit much sometimes.
May 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRita
@Rita. Domino kicks more ass than Chuck Norris in a bad mood. Lol 👍 Love that song.
May 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGary
Agreed Gary. That was a great album. Lots of great songs. Domino was probably right up their for me. Loved Unholy too.
May 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRita
I'd love to send you guys (and gals) my dick pic, but it would probably be a link to the Rachel Maddow show.
May 16, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterfletch
I'm with Rita.
I have respect for Gene's love of his mother, & his work ethic. I've had numerous business dealings with Gene, both through my time working for Playboy Entertainment, (Where my Kiss fandom put me on the decision committee on a project called "Girls of Kiss", which my vote got it cancelled.) and thru my musical & production skills on a series of 4 "Kiss Army Online" KAOL tribute CD's. I was tasked with obtaining copyright clearances from Gene... NOT fun. Even though the CD proceeds were going to the Children's Hospital of Winsconsin's Pediatric Cancer Center, in Eric Carr's name, Mr. $immons insisted on full upfront publishing payment before pressing. Only when Kiss producer Bob Ezrin got involved on the 2nd CD "Creatures of the Net", (producing a Partridge Family tribute band, "Sound Magazine" & their Partridge-fied version of "Shout It Out Loud", did Gene warm to the project.
May 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAce Steele
Great comments, one and all. Appreciate the textured opinions regarding a fairly divisive figure.

And, yes, "Domino" is one of those songs that just suits the band (at the time) and the man. "Unholy" wasn't a bad swipe at a hard(er) edge either, nor out of keeping with the persona he long before established.
May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHim
Him: my comment was a snarky take on the lyrics in domino- filled with sexual innuendo, as most KISS songs are.
May 18, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterfletch

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