5 things you don't know about KISS's Gene Simmons
He owns a football team, never drinks alcohol ... and he looks like a certain baby cow.
When Gene Simmons stepped up to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame podium during KISS's induction ceremony in 2014, the only person who was confident they'd be in that position when they started forty years ago was Simmons.
His confidence is legendary, even in the ultra-confident world of 1970s arena rock. Not only have he and Paul Stanley kept the band alive through disputes with fellow originals Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, the makeup-free era of the 1980s, and countless farewell tours, the bassist has been the face of the KISS merchandise empire, promoting everything from branded bobbleheads to caskets.
Of course, Simmons has had a life beyond spitting blood in platform boots. He's had an acting career (remember the movie 'Runaway'?) and starred with wife Shannon Tweed and their children on an A&E Network reality series, 'Gene Simmons: Family Jewels,' for seven seasons. But here are five things you may not have known about Simmons, starting with the fact that his name really isn't Gene Simmons:
1. Simmons was born in Israel as Chaim Witz.
Chaim was born in Haifa in 1949; his mother was a Hungarian concentration camp survivor. The two of them moved to Queens when Chaim was eight and a half, where he changed his name to Eugene Klein (reflecting his mother's maiden name) and learned English via comic books and TV.
2. There's a baby calf that looks just like him.
A calf born in Kerrville, Texas in the summer of 2017 looks remarkably like the 67-year-old rock star. Heather Taccetta, who lives on a ranch with her family, said that the calf belongs to her grandmother. They named it Genie, in honor of the singer. Simmons seems to approve, tweeting his admiration: "This is real, folks!!!" A local town website has come up with its own theory for the doppelgängers, wondering if perhaps KISS music was playing on the farm when the calf was conceived.
3. He owns a football team.
Well, he's one of the owners, along with Stanley, of an Arena League team called, appropriately enough, the LA KISS. The players are clad in fire-adorned jerseys and the cheerleaders parade around in leather bikinis. As you'd expect, Simmons parlayed the arrangement into a new reality series, AMC's '4th and Loud.' Despite Simmons' assertion that the team will win the league this season, they came in last place in their division with a 3-15 record. So much for "You want the best, you got the best!", right?
4. He's never had an alcoholic drink.
Despite the hard-living lifestyle that a 1970s arena act always projected – it was a lifestyle that contributed to Frehly and Criss's dismissal from the band – Simmons has never drank or done drugs. He told CNN he made that choice to honor his mother and her survival story. "Our entire family was killed off in the gas chambers of Nazi Germany," he said. "There is nothing that I would do ever to break my mother's heart."
5. He's a philanthropist.
Simmons has been recognized for his efforts to give back through various charitable endeavors. In 2013, for instance, he won the MEND Humanitarian award, for his support of Mending Kids International, which provides surgical care to children in developing countries. "I don’t have the right NOT to give back and neither do you. Some mother somewhere is crying her heart out because her child can’t have what we have in this country and we can change that," he said during his speech.
And a bonus factoid...
His biggest musical influence is The Beatles.
It may seem strange, given the fact that KISS is a hard rock band that sings about cars, women, and partying, but when Simmons watched the Fab Four on television as a teenager, he knew he wanted to be in a rock band. "If I start a band, maybe girls will scream at me," he said he remembered thinking at the time.
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