Chaim Witz (Hebrew: חיים ויץ, [xaˈim ˈvit͡s], born August 25, 1949), known professionally as Gene Simmons, is an Israeli-American musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, actor and television personality. Also known by his stage persona The Demon, he is the bass guitarist and co-lead singer of Kiss, the rock band he co-founded with rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley in the early 1970s.
Chaim Witz was born on August 25, 1949 at Rambam Hospital, in Haifa, Israel. At age 8, he emigrated to New York City, with his mother. Simmons was raised in a Jewish household, where he practised playing his guitar hours without end. His mother, Flóra “Florence” Klein (formerly Kovács), was born in Jánd, Hungary. The name Klein, which means “small” in German, has the Hungarian equivalent Kis (a common Hungarian surname); this, however, did not give the band its name. Simmons’ mother survived internment in Nazi concentration camps. She and her brother, Larry Klein, were the only members of the family to survive the Holocaust.
Simmons’ father, Feri Witz, also Hungarian-born, remained in Israel, where he had one other son and three daughters, and worked as a carpenter. Simmons says the family was “dirt poor,” scraping by on bread and milk. In the United States, Simmons changed his name to Eugene Klein (later Gene Klein), adopting his mother’s maiden name.
Before his musical career began, Simmons worked a variety of jobs in the city. An “excellent typist,” he served as an assistant to an editor of the fashion magazine Vogue, and also spent several months as a sixth grade instructor on the Upper West Side.
A significant influence on Simmons was the Beatles. “There is no way I’d be doing what I do now if it wasn’t for The Beatles. I was watching The Ed Sullivan Show and I saw them. Those skinny little boys, kind of androgynous, with long hair like girls. It blew me away that these four boys [from] the middle of nowhere could make that music.”
Simmons became involved with his first band, Lynx, then renamed The Missing Links, when he was a teenager. Eventually, he disbanded the band to form The Long Island Sounds, the name being a pun on Long Island Sound. While he played in these bands, he worked at odd jobs on the side to make more money, including trading used comic books. Simmons attended Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, New York. He then joined a new band, Bullfrog Bheer, and the band recorded a demo, “Leeta”; this was later included on the Kiss box set.
Simmons formed the rock band Wicked Lester in the early 1970s with Stanley Eisen (now known as Paul Stanley) and recorded one album, which was never released. Dissatisfied with Wicked Lester’s sound and look, Simmons and Stanley attempted to fire their band members; they were met with resistance, and they quit Wicked Lester, walking away from their record deal with Epic Records. They decided to form the “ultimate rock band,” and started looking for a drummer. Simmons and Stanley found an ad placed by George Peter John Criscuola (known as Peter Criss) who was playing clubs in Brooklyn at the time; they joined and started out as a trio. During this time, Criss and Simmons also appeared on an unreleased album by Captain Sanity together with members from Criss’ previous band Chelsea. Paul Frehley (better known as Ace Frehley) responded to an ad they put in The Village Voice for a lead guitar player, and soon joined them. Kiss released their self-titled debut album in February 1974. Stanley took on the role of lead performer on stage, while Simmons became the driving force behind what became an extensive Kiss merchandising franchise. The eye section of his “Demon” makeup with Kiss came from the wing design of comic book character Black Bolt.
In 1983, while Kiss’ fame was waning, the members took off their trademark make-up and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity that continued into the 1990s. At this time, Peter Criss, the original drummer, had decided to leave the band, and a replacement was sought to fill the drummer’s vacancy. The new drummer was Paul Charles Caravello, who went by the stage name of Eric Carr, and played for Kiss from 1980 until his death in 1991. The band hosted its own fan conventions in 1995, and fan feedback about the original Kiss members reunion influenced the highly successful 1996–1997 Alive Worldwide reunion tour. In 1998, the band released Psycho Circus. Since then, the original line-up has once again dissolved, with Tommy Thayer replacing Ace Frehley on lead guitar and Eric Singer (who performed with Kiss from 1991 through 1996) replacing Peter Criss on drums.
Simmons is famous worldwide for his giant tongue and on stage is remarkable for his demonic figure by spitting fire and vomiting stage blood, in addition to playing his ax down on format. He has his own magazine “Gene Simmons Tongue Magazine”, his own label (Simmons Records), and animated ” My Dad the Rock Star “. In most Kiss songs, lead vocals are performed by lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley, but there are some notable exceptions, in which Simmons sings lead vocals, such as “Rock and Roll All Nite”, “A World Without Heroes”, “I Love It Loud”, “Calling Dr. Love”, “Unholy”, “Spit (Second lead vocals)”, “Boomerang”, and “You Wanted the Best (First lead vocals)”, among others.
Stage makeup and persona
During an interview in 1999, Simmons was asked about the source and significance of Kiss’ stage makeup and personas:
I’ve always been a fan of Americana, and Americana has always been about imagery, often above content. I think there’s nothing wrong with that. The world worships this culture. Most people only think about America in terms of rock & roll, movies and television. Kiss is very all-American, in the sense that our constituency has never had anything in common with critics … because our power, our lifeblood, our very reason for existence is our fans. Without them, we’d be nothing.
Simmons is a science-fiction and comic book fan and published several science fiction fanzines, among them Id, Cosmos (which eventually merged with Stilletto to become Cosmos-Stilletto and then Faun), Tinderbox, Sci-Fi Showcase, Mantis and Adventure. He also contributed to other fanzines, among them BeABohema and Sirruish. By 1977, however, he would write in a letter of comment to Janus, “I haven’t been active [in fandom] for about five years”.
Simmons lives in Los Angeles, California, with Canadian former Playboy Playmate and actress Shannon Lee Tweed whom he had dated for 28 years. He often joked that he and Tweed were “happily unmarried” for over 20 years (1975). He often stated, “Marriage is an institution, and I don’t want to live in an institution.” Simmons and Tweed finally wed on October 1, 2011, at the historic Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. They have two children: a son, Nick (born January 22, 1989), and a daughter, Sophie (born July 7, 1992). He formerly had live-in relationships with Cher and Diana Ross. Simmons can speak Hungarian, German, English, and Hebrew.
Homecoming visit to Israel
In March 2011, Simmons visited his home country, Israel. He described the trip as a “life changing experience”. He talked about how he still feels that he is an Israeli: “I’m Israeli. I’m a stranger in America. I’m an outsider”. While there, Simmons met his half-brother Kobi, and triplet half-sisters Drora, Sharon, and Ogenia. Simmons has plans to take Kiss to Israel. He has always said that he is an ardent supporter of Israel. At a press conference in Israel, he spoke in both Hebrew and English.
Simmons was a supporter of the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration. He supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, writing on his website: “I’m ashamed to be surrounded by people calling themselves liberal who are, in my opinion, spitting on the graves of brave American soldiers who gave their life to fight a war that wasn’t theirs…in a country they’ve never been to… simply to liberate the people therein”. In a follow-up, Simmons explained his position and wrote about his love and support for the United States: “I wasn’t born here. But I have a love for this country and its people that knows no bounds. I will forever be grateful to America for going into World War II, when it had nothing to gain, in a country that was far away… and rescued my mother from the Nazi German concentration camps. She is alive and I am alive because of America. And, if you have a problem with America, you have a problem with me.”
During the 2006 Lebanon War between Israel and Lebanon, Simmons sent a televised message of support (in both English and Hebrew) to an Israeli soldier seriously wounded in fighting in Lebanon, calling him his “hero.”
In 2010, Simmons said he regretted voting for Barack Obama and criticized the 2009 health care reforms. Following Obama’s 2011 Mideast speech, in which the President called on Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate a settlement “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps,” Simmons told CNBC that Obama was gravely misguided. “If you have never been to the moon, you can’t issue policy about the moon. For the president to be sitting in Washington D.C. and saying, ‘Go back to your ’67 borders in Israel’ – how about you live there and try to defend an indefensible border – nine miles (14 km) wide?” Simmons also accused the United Nations of being “the most pathetic body on the face of the earth.”
During his visit to Israel in 2011, he stated that the artists refusing to perform in Israel for political reasons are “stupid,” referring to artists who cancelled planned concerts in Israel.
In an April 2012 interview, Simmons endorsed Republican Mitt Romney for President, stating that “America should be in business and it should be run by a businessman.”
On 6 November 2015 he attended a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces gala in Beverly Hills, which raised more than $31 million.
Gene Simmons is a known advocate for ChildFund International’s work. He traveled to Zambia during his Gene Simmons Family Jewels show to visit several of his sponsored children, of whom he has more than 140. Simmons said that the trip “[was] a stark reminder that life doesn’t treat everyone the same.”
Simmons’ family received the MEND Humanitarian Award for their philanthropic efforts and support for Mending Kids International at the organization’s annual gala on November 9, 2013. The award was presented by Mel Gibson. In his acceptance speech, Simmons spoke of his own difficult childhood in Israel in a bullet-ridden house. He recalled his mother’s excitement when they received a CARE box one day; it wasn’t about the contents, it was about knowing that someone cared and that they weren’t alone – it gave them hope.
On August 15, 2013, Simmons, Paul Stanley and manager Doc McGhee became a part of the ownership group that created the LA Kiss Arena Football League team, which plays their home games at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Public statements and image
In February 2002, Simmons was interviewed on the NPR radio show Fresh Air and asked about his claim of having had sex with 4,600 women. He told Terry Gross: “If you want to welcome me with open arms, I’m afraid you’re also going to have to welcome me with open legs,” paraphrasing a lyric from The Who’s 1981 hit song “You Better You Bet”. Gross replied: “That’s a really obnoxious thing to say.” At the time, Simmons refused to grant permission to NPR to make the interview available online. However, it appears in print in Gross’s book All I Did Was Ask and unauthorized transcripts are available. NPR re-broadcast part of the interview in August 2007. In a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post, Simmons noted he was upset over what he perceived as Gross’s “holier-than-thou” attitude, which included mislabeling his band Kiss as “The Kiss” Simmons’ bandmate Paul Stanley has frequently used the phrase “… welcomed us with open arms and open legs” in onstage patter during Kiss concerts.
In 2004, during an interview in Melbourne, Australia, while talking about Islamic extremists, Simmons described Islam as a “vile culture”, saying that Muslim women had to walk behind their husbands, were not allowed to be educated or to own houses. He said: “They want to come and live right where you live and they think that you’re evil.” Amongst ensuing criticism, Australian Muslim of the Year Susan Carland argued that Simmons’ stereotyping of Muslims was inaccurate. Simmons later clarified his comments on his website, saying he had been talking specifically about Muslim extremists.
In 2005, Simmons was sued by a former girlfriend, Georgeann Walsh Ward, who said she had been “defamed” in the VH1 documentary When Kiss Ruled the World and portrayed as an “unchaste woman”. A settlement was reached in June 2006.
In 2007, Simmons openly spoke out against music piracy, and called for file-sharers to be sued. A year later, he threatened further lawsuits, and to withhold new recordings, if file-sharing continued. In 2010, Anonymous staged a DDoS on his Web site, prompting Simmons to hit back with provocative comments once he was back online, at which point Anonymous staged a second DDoS, taking Simmons’ site down again.
In 2008, a video on the Internet surfaced which purported to be Simmons engaging in sexual activity with an unnamed woman. Simmons later stated that the tape was recorded without his consent or knowledge and that his legal team was pursuing legal options including copyright infringement.
In August 2014, Simmons made comments in an interview with Songfacts.com that seemed to openly encourage people with depression to kill themselves. The comments drew criticism from Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe. Following his comments both Triple M and Power 97 stated that they were pulling all Kiss songs from their lineup in protest. Simmons later clarified his comments and apologized for the incident.
In September 2014, Simmons made more comments yet again in another interview, but this time implying “Rock Is Finally Dead. It Was Murdered”. The Kiss bassist recently made controversial remarks about Donald Sterling, immigration and depression (which he eventually backed off from), and now the Kiss bassist has another enormous statement to make: “Rock is finally dead,” Simmons declared in an interview with Esquire. “The death of rock was not a natural death. Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered,” he added. But rock’s killer wasn’t the blurring of musical genres or lack of craftsmanship. Instead, Simmons blames file sharing and the fact that no one values music “enough to pay you for it” for murdering rock n’ roll.
Film and television career
Simmons has been involved with such television projects as:
- My Dad the Rock Star, a cartoon by the Canadian animation company Nelvana, about the mild mannered son of a Gene Simmons-like rock star
- Mr. Romance, a show created and hosted by Simmons on the Oxygen cable television channel
- Rock School, a UK reality show in which Simmons tries to make a rock band out of a group of students of Christ’s Hospital School in the first season, and in the second, a group of kids from a comprehensive school in Lowestoft
- Gene Simmons Family Jewels, a reality show documenting the personal lives of Simmons, his wife, his son and daughter
On March 9, 2011, Simmons and Kiss co-founder Paul Stanley and E! Entertainment announced that they have finalized a production and development deal to create an as-yet-untitled comedic half-hour kids’ television series. Simmons appeared as a psychic working at the Mystic Journey Bookstore in Venice, California on the American hidden camera prank TV series I Get That a Lot. He also guest-starred as himself in the 2014 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode Long Road Home. He also performed in the 1984 Michael Crichton thriller movie Runaway starring Tom Selleck, Cynthia Rhodes and Kirstie Alley and the 1987 Gary Sherman movie Wanted: Dead or Alive starring Rutger Hauer. In March 2015 founded the film production company Erebus Pictures and announced as the first project was the Horror-thriller film Armed Response.
Awards and recognition
On January 28, 2011, Simmons was in Dallas, Texas, to host the Aces & Angels Salute to the Troops charity event. While in Dallas, Simmons was presented the key to the city in Dallas, Texas and a street, Gene Simmons Boulevard, was named for him. Simmons and Tweed also visited the U.S. Army base at Fort Hood to support the Troops as a part of the Aces & Angels event. On June 15 of the same year he was given the key to the city in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 2012, Simmons was awarded the Golden God award by the Revolver magazine. On October 30, 2013 during the KISS KRUISE 3, KISS Navy members John and Jamie Downs presented Gene Simmons with a plaque commemorating the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s acceptance of an autographed Gene Simmons Axe bass into their collection. The Smithsonian Museum’s statement reads, in part: “The bass will now be cared for in our permanent collections… We are happy to include the Axe bass as it relates to the impact Mr. Simmons and his band KISS have had on American culture, especially in the creation of a unique and iconic brand that has been embraced by fans worldwide.” “The story of Mr. Simmons’ American experience deserves to be preserved. An immigrant and son of a holocaust survivor, he used creative vision and entrepreneurial acumen to make a significant impact for our nation’s popular culture, becoming an iconic figure in American music and entertainment.”
Simmons is an honorary board member of Little Kids Rock, an national nonprofit that works to restore and revitalize music education in disadvantaged U.S. public schools. A&E’s Gene Simmons Family Jewels visited a Little Kids Rock classroom and featured the segment on the show. He also decorated a guitar for auction with his son Nick.
On December 15, 2014, Simmons was awarded in Spain with the Golden Medal by the Reial Circle Artístic de Barcelona (Royal Artistic Circle of Barcelona).
|1978||Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park||The Demon||Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley||TV movie|
|1984||Runaway||Dr. Charles Luther|
|1986||Trick or Treat||Nuke (radio DJ)|
|1986||Never Too Young to Die||Carruthers / Velvet Von Ragner|
|1987||Wanted: Dead or Alive||Malak Al Rahim|
|1988||The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years||Himself||Paul Stanley||Documentary|
|1999||Detroit Rock City||Himself||Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley,||Simmons also produced|
|2002||The New Guy||Reverend|
|2002||Wish You Were Dead||Vinny|
|2008||Detroit Metal City||Jack lll Dark||Japanese movie|
|2010||Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage||Himself||Documentary|
|2013||Sample This: The Incredible Story of the Incredible Bongo Band||Himself||Documentary|
|2015||Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery||The Demon||Paul Stanley, Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer||Voice only|
|2016||We Are X||Himself||Documentary|
|1974||The Mike Douglas Show||June 11, 1974||Himself||Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley||Kiss’ first national television appearance, performed “Firehouse”.|
|1976||The Paul Lynde Halloween Special||October 29, 1976||Himself||Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley||Performed “Detroit Rock City,” “King of the Night Time World,” and “Beth”|
|1979||Tomorrow||Himself||Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley|
|1985||Miami Vice||“Prodigal Son”||Newton Blade|
|1986||The Hitchhiker||“O.D.Feelin'” January 28, 1986||Mr. Big|
|1997||Action League Now!||“Rock-A-Big-Baby”||Toy version of himself||Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley||Performed “Rock and Roll All Nite”|
|1998||MADtv||October 31, 1998 (#406)||Himself||Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley.||Halloween special; performed in five sketches|
|1998||Millennium||“…Thirteen Years Later” October 30, 1998||Hector Leachman||Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Ace Frehley|
|2001||Family Guy||“A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas”||Animated version of himself||Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley|
|2001||Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?||May 27, 2001||Himself||Won $32,000 for a charity|
|2001||The Daily Show with Jon Stewart||June 12, 2001||Himself||Almost licked Jon Stewart’s face in response to Jon being unable to explain the difference between pleasure and joy to a man with a ‘twelve-inch tongue’|
|2002||Family Guy||“Road to Europe”||Animated version of himself||Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley||Lois Griffin claims she dated Gene Simmons while they were in high school, and calls him by his birth name, Chaim Witz.|
|2002||The Tonight Show with Jay Leno||September 6, 2002||Himself|
|2003||King of the Hill||“Reborn to Be Wild”||Jessie|
|2004||Third Watch||“Higher Calling”||Donald Mann|
|2004||Third Watch||“Monsters”||Donald Mann|
|2004||Third Watch||“More Monsters”||Donald Mann|
|2005||American Idol||“Auditions: New Orleans”||Himself- guest judge|
|2005||Family Guy||“Don’t Make Me Over”||Animated version of himself/ Prisoner No. 3|
|2005||Mind of Mencia||Episode #1.7||Himself|
|2006||The View||August 1, 2006||Himself||Promotional appearance for Gene Simmons Family Jewels|
|2007||SpongeBob SquarePants||“20,000 Patties Under the Sea”||Sea Monster|
|2007||Shrink Rap||“Gene Simmons”||Himself||UK’s More4 show|
|2008||Entertainment Tonight||January 2, 2008||Himself|
|2008||Jimmy Kimmel Live!||January 18, 2008||Himself|
|2008||Rachael Ray||March 11, 2008||Himself|
|2008||Criss Angel Mindfreak||“Mindfreaking with the Stars”||Himself|
|2008||Ugly Betty||“The Kids Are Alright”||Himself|
|2008||Ugly Betty||“A Thousand Words by Friday”||Himself|
|2008||Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?||Episode #3.9||Himself||Won $500,000 for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation charity|
|2008||The Celebrity Apprentice||First three episodes||Himself||Won $20,000 for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation charity; Fired in the third episode|
|2008||Jingles||Celebrity judge||Mark Burnett reality show|
|2009||Glenn Martin DDS||Glenn Gary, Glenn Martin||himself|
|2009||American Idol||Season Finale||Himself||Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer, Paul Stanley||Performed medley of 3 songs with contestant Adam Lambert|
|2009||The Fairly OddParents||“Wishology – Part 1: The Big Beginning”||Animated version of himself||Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer, Paul Stanley|
|2009||The Fairly OddParents||“Wishology – Part 3: The Final Ending”||Animated version of himself||Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer, Paul Stanley|
|2010||I Get That a Lot||Episode 2||As Himself||Simmons appeared as a psychic working at the Mystic Journey Bookstore in Venice, California|
|2010||Extreme Makeover: Home Edition||Episode 160||As Himself||Kiss made a personal appearance during the Wagstaff family’s vacation in Disneyland and honored them as special guests at one of their concerts. Kiss also made a personal appearance at a local school where a donation of new musical instruments was made in the Wagstaff family’s name.|
|2010||I’m in a Rock ‘n’ Roll Band!||Episode 1 And 5||As Himself||Discussing the requirements of being in a rock band.|
|2011||Castle||To Love and Die in LA||As Himself|
|2014||CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Long Road Home||As Himself|
|2014||American Idol||Season 13 Finale||Himself||Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer, Paul Stanley||Performed with Caleb Johnson|
|2014||Welcome to Sweden||S1 Ep4: Get a Job/Farthinder||Himself|
|2015||Scorpion||S2 Ep1:||Himself||30 September 2015 ), Himself, Interview|
|2016||Angie Tribeca (2016 TBS TV Series)||S1 Ep9:||Himself|
|2014||Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff||Himself|
Music video appearances
In 1994, Simmons appears as auditioning for the band with actor Al Lewis & comedian Gilbert Gottfried in a music video for “I’ll Talk My Way Out Of This” by Howard Stern comedian Stuttering John. In 2007, he appeared alongside other celebrities, as well as regular people, in the music video for “Rockstar” by Nickelback.
Video game appearances
Gene Simmons is a playable character in Tony Hawk’s Underground, unlocked when completing the story mode on Normal difficulty, and also appears with his Kiss bandmates in the Hotter Than Hell level to play one of three songs upon collecting the four K-I-S-S letters.
Gene Simmons’ Kiss character, The Demon, is a playable character in Kiss: Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child. Simmons also has a large role in the 2010 music video game Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. In addition to narrating the main storyline and doing advertising for the game, the Kiss song “Love Gun” is playable.
- Gene Simmons (1978)
- Asshole (2004)
In 2002, Simmons launched Gene Simmons’ Tongue, a men’s lifestyle magazine. The magazine lasted five issues before being discontinued.
In 1976/1977, Simmons signed a management/production contract with the band Van Halen. He produced a Van Halen demo tape and attempted to find a record deal for the band with a variety of major record labels. Simmons was unable to find a record deal for Van Halen and he released the band from their contract.
From 2006–2008, Simmons served in a marketing and publicity role with the Indy Racing League.
- Me, Inc.: Build an Army of One, Unleash Your Inner Rock God, Win in Life and Business , Gene Simmons (ISBN 0-062-32261-3)
- Kiss and Make-Up, Gene Simmons (ISBN 0-609-81002-2)
- Sex Money Kiss, Gene Simmons (ISBN 1-893224-86-4)
- Kiss: The Early Years, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley (ISBN 0-609-81028-6)
- Kiss: Behind the Mask, David Leaf and Ken Sharp (ISBN 978-0-446-69524-4)
- Ladies of the Night: A Historical and Personal Perspective on the Oldest Profession in the World, Gene Simmons (ISBN 1-59777-501-0)