- NAME: Gene Simmons
- OCCUPATION: Bassist, Singer, Reality Television Star
- BIRTH DATE: August 25, 1949 (Age: 63)
- EDUCATION: Joseph Pulitzer Middle School, Sullivan County Community College, Richmond College
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Haifa, Israel
- Originally: Chaim Weitz
- AKA: Eugene Klein
- Nickname: The Demon
- ZODIAC SIGN: Virgo
Best Known For
Gene Simmons is best known as the frontman for KISS, the rock band he co-founded in the early 1970s, as well as for his TV show Gene Simmons Family Jewels.
Gene Simmons - Full Biography (42:10)
Meet Gene Simmons, the rowdy co-founder of KISS, one of the most successful rock'n'roll bands in American history, and see how he's managed to outlast, outthink, and outplay most other rock stars.
A preview of William Shatner's interview with musician Gene Simmons.
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Born Chaim Witz on August 25, 1949 in Haifa, Israel, Gene Simmons first decided he wanted to be in a band while in middle school, after watching girls scream at The Beatles on TV. He was in several bands before co-founding KISS with Paul Stanley in the 1970s. Simmons later pursued interests in fashion, publishing, and acting, and starred in the A&E reality TV show Gene Simmons Family Jewels.
Musician, entertainer. Born Chaim Witz on August 25, 1949 in Haifa, Israel. His mother, Flora, was a Hungarian Jew and Holocaust survivor, who watched her family die in the concentration camps when she was only 14 years old. After the end of World War II, Flora headed to Israel. It was there that she met carpenter Yeichel Witz, the man who would eventually become Chaim's father.
Yeichel and Flora's marriage began to dissolve shortly after Chaim's birth, mainly over arguments about money. Eventually, Chaim's parents agreed to separate, with Yeichel leaving for Tel Aviv to look for work. The family would never reunite, and Chaim would not see his father again.
Chaim's mother began raising him alone, and the family continued struggling in poverty. Flora found work in a coffee shop, and often left Chaim in the care of babysitters. As a result, he quickly became fluent in Turkish, Hungarian, Hebrew and Spanish, in order to communicate with caregivers.
In 1958, when Chaim was eight years old, he and his mother immigrated to New York to live with relatives in Flushing, Queens. After entering the country, Chaim changed his name to Gene, because it was easier to pronounce, and took his mother's surname of Klein. Gene quickly learned English through comic books and television, and entered the Hasidic theological seminary, called yeshiva, at the age of nine. He studied rigorously while his mother worked at a button factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
After a year in the yeshiva, he transferred to public school in Jackson Heights. It was during this time that he began to develop an interest in music. In his autobiography, Kiss and Make-up, Simmons admits his musical interests came while watching the Beatles on television one night. He thought "If I go start a band, maybe the girls will scream at me." So, while attending Joseph Pulitzer Middle School, Simmons and a couple of friends created a band called The Missing Links in order to get the attention of their female classmates. The group, fronted by Simmons, won a school talent show, and gave Simmons a modicum of fame.
This led to a series of bands for Simmons, including Long Island Sounds and Rising Sun. Simmons maintained dreams of stardom, but he also didn't want to disappoint his mother, who urged him to get his college degree. So, after high school, Simmons headed to Sullivan County Community College to get his associate's degree in education. After spending two years there, he returned to New York City to attend Richmond College and finish up his bachelor's degree.
Shortly after graduation in 1970, Simmons' bandmate and childhood friend Steve Coronel introduced Simmons to guitarist Stanley Eisen (later known as Paul Stanley). Stanley decided to join Simmons and Coronel's band, Wicked Lester, and the group began experiencing some success on the nightclub circuit.
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