- 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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But the band wasn't pulling in enough money and, to support his musical aspirations, Simmons held a brief stint as a sixth grade teacher in Spanish Harlem, followed by a job as an assistant at the Puerto Rican Interagency Council. Other odd jobs including time at the Kelly Agency as a temp, work as a deli cashier, a role as an assistant at Glamour and, a job at Vogue as an assistant to editor Kate Lloyd.
Wicked Lester landed a lucky break after Stanley got the number of a studio engineer at Jimi Hendrix's studio, Electric Lady Land. Instead of calling the engineer, however, Simmons called the head of the studio, Ron Johnson. Stanley managed to convince Johnson to see the band perform and, after recognizing the group's promise, Johnson agreed to record and shop Wicked Lester's demo tape. Meanwhile, Simmons and Stanley did session work on the side, singing background vocals for artists such as Lynn Christopher, and learned how to use recording equipment.
With the help of Johnson, the group was picked up by Epic Records, who agreed to fund the recording of a full album. One of the conditions, however, was to replace Stephen Coronel with session musician Ron Leejack. Simmons and Stanley agreed to the arrangement, spending nearly a year to complete the new album. Once it was completed, however, Epic's A&R director said he hated the album and refused to release it. The next day, the group was dropped from Epic.
Determined not to let the failure affect them, Simmons and Stanley restructured the group. The first new member was drummer Peter Criss, who had placed an ad in Rolling Stone. Their second new member, guitarist Paul "Ace" Frehley, was chosen after he answered an ad in The Village Voice. By December of 1972, the group had instituted a rigorous practice regimen and renamed themselves KISS.
Inspired by his childhood obsession with comic book superheroes, Simmons suggested the group undergo a physical transformation as well, donning wild make-up and all-black clothing. Simmons later revealed that Marvel comic character Black Bolt inspired his bat-wing-patterned facial make-up, a look he nicknamed "The Demon."
With the help of a trainer, Simmons also learned how breathe fire for his performances. The new group played their first concert on January 30, 1973, at the Popcorn Club in Queens, New York. There were only three members in the audience.
In October of 1973, TV producer Bill Aucoin, who had seen the group perform, offered to become the band's manager. Simmons and his bandmates agreed, under the stipulation that Aucoin would get the group a recording contract within two weeks. Armed with demo tape produced by legendary engineer Eddie Kramer, who had worked with Simmons and Stanley during their time at Electric Lady Land, Aucoin landed KISS a contract with Emerald City Records.
Throughout the 1970s, the band toured virtually nonstop, and became hugely popular for their over-the-top stage antics. KISS developed a large cult following during this time, with fans—called the "KISS Army"—often imitating the group's dress and make-up.
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