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Gene Simmons Comes Clean

Tell-all autobiography uncovers life as the "demon lizard"

November 14, 2001 12:00 AM ET

The smell of dirty laundry will fill the air December 11th when Kiss and Make-Up, the autobiography of Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, hits shelves.

"It's time for our children to find out that all was not well with mom and dad," says Simmons. "From afar, Gene looks like the evil mean one; Paul looks like the romantic, thoughtful loving one; Ace looks like the spacey kind of innocent guy; Peter's just cute and cuddly. Kiss and Make-Up is here to tell you that what you see is not necessarily what you get -- that, behind the scenes, chemicals do in fact change people from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. In the very same breath of me loving Ace and Peter with all my heart, I hate them when they're high."

The book begins with Simmons' birth in Israel -- he was born Chaim Witz -- and details his emigration to America with his mother, as well as the formation of Kiss and choice turbulent moments throughout the band's thirty-year career. Also readily chronicled were Simmons' relationships with Cher, Diana Ross and Shannon Tweed -- his current companion and mother of his two children -- as well as a host of much briefer romantic encounters.

Lead guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss take the hardest hits from Simmons. "He never showed up on time, never did his work, hardly ever showed up in the studio and it was pulling teeth every step of the way," he says of Frehley. "Having said all that, I wouldn't have had anyone else in the band. He was the right guy for Kiss."

As for Criss, "his nickname was the 'Ayatollah Criscuola,'" says Simmons. "And 'The Moaner.' If the sun was up, Peter complained, 'Why wasn't it dark?' When it was dark, Peter would complain, 'Where's the sun?' Peter would enter the room and he brought the whole room down. And was there any other drummer for the band? No. He was the drummer for the band."

Rounding out Kiss's longtime-coming retirement, the band will release Kiss: The Box Set on November 20th. The ninety-four-track, five-disc compilation combines thirty previously unreleased demos, outtakes and live songs with album tracks from 1968 through 2001. Guitarist Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons waded through a wealth of material in assembling the anthology.

"It is the weirdest thing in the world," says Simmons of the anthology process. "Because when you're moving ahead in life and you take snapshots of where you've been and then someone turns around and says, 'Take the last thirty years and pick six hours of highlights,' the hardest thing is how to figure out what to put in not what to leave out."

Kiss plan to plug the upcoming release Kiss: The Box Set with an in-store appearance at Tower Records on November 20th in Hollywood. Guitarist Paul Stanley and bassist Gene Simmons will don the make-up to sign autographs and greet fans from 7 to 9 p.m. During the day, four forty-feet-tall blow-up dolls of Stanley, Simmons, Criss and Frehley will stand tall in the Tower parking lot, and, in the evening, Kiss tribute band Larger Than Live: The Ultimate Tribute to Kiss will play a free show at the Key Club, just down the street.

Staying as busy in his retirement as he ever did with Kiss, Simmons will also host the Court TV documentary The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll. The show, which includes as its subjects Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, Suge Knight, Ricky Martin and Guns n' Roses, will air December 4th.

"It doesn't just begin and end with robbery or stolen copyrights and so on," says Simmons of the show. "It really goes to murder, pedophilia and all sorts of things."

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Song Stories

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Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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