Kiss and Make-Up
- Gene Simmons -
*Some time ago, I reviewed Makeup to Breakup by Peter Criss — the latest in a long line of tell-alls based on the iconic rock band, KISS. Although I realize these books typically have more to do with settling personal scores than telling good stories, I still was entertained by the drummer's memoir. And I thought I'd written a fairly even-handed, snappy review. However, a certain ex-wife of a particular KISS member was less than enthusiastic about my piece. In fact, she was so incensed, she reached out to me with a personal email in which she referred to my review as "garbage." OUCH! I then began to reflect on a few other KISS-related books I've read and reviewed over the years — and there have been MANY. So, when I discovered this old review recently that I'd written originally for a print magazine back in early 2003, I thought I'd re-post it here. Ex-wives, enjoy!
To some, he's a god. To others, he's a devil. But one thing can't be denied — Gene Simmons IS an iconic superstar. And his autobiography, Kiss and Make-Up, shines a bright light on the riveting tale of a boy who came to America with a dream — a really BIG dream.
At one point in my life, I was a faithful, fervent KISS follower. In fact, I actually felt somewhat honored when Simmons threatened to knock me out one night while at a hotel bar during the 1983 Lick it Up tour. It's a long story, but let's just say that I was very young at the time — I possessed limited people skills and probably needed to be put in my place. However, in my defense, I will say that the larger-than-life rock star did have his hand up my fiancée's skirt at that moment and well, like I said, it's a long story.
Anyway, the point is, even for as much of a drooling fan as I was at one point, I still found Kiss and Make-Up to be an informative and highly entertaining read. And although the book reveals plenty of dirt on one of rock's greatest bands, it also tells a compelling personal story of a poor, eight-year-old kid who emigrated from Israel with his mother and ultimately achieved the American Dream.
When he first arrived in this country as Chaim Witz in the 1950s, Simmons couldn't speak a word of English. Perhaps it was due to his mother's experiences in Nazi concentration camps or her struggles as a single parent, but early on Simmons developed essential survival skills, a strong work ethic and a desire to succeed.
Simmons quickly fell in love with all things American — TV, comic books, music and movies. He promised his mother that he always would have something to "fall back" on in life, so he went to college and earned several degrees before completely pursuing his rock and roll dream.
From there, Kiss and Make-Up is filled with salacious accounts of Simmons' outrageous rock and roll life — most of which involve his favorite pastime, "chasing skirt." Big girls and little girls, fat girls and thin girls, younger and older — if you're a (legal age) female with a pulse, Gene Simmons wants to give you his room number.
Of course Kiss and Make-Up also contains KISS-related-dish that most fans won't believe and many may not want to read. But as Simmons' puts it, the book contains "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." While that may, or may not be, I'd still be curious to compare notes if and when Paul Stanley publishes his story.