At the turn of the millennium shock-rocker, turned movie star, turned mogul Gene Simmons set out to write his autobiography. Though KISS and Make-Up (Three Rivers Press 2001) isn’t a groundbreaking work of literature, it does provide the reader with a better understanding of what makes the demon tick.
The best portion of the book is the beginning. Learning about the poor boy with the given name of Chaim Witz and how he began to form a very pragmatic world view. After Gene’s father left his family, it was just the boy and his mother alone in Israel. While telling of his boyhood, Gene paints a fairly rosy picture of life in poor Israel. While he and his mother were broke and alone, he said they were happy. An overprotective mother, Gene tells some pretty funny stories of the lengths his mother would go to keep her little boy safe.
Assimilation into American life is also a major part of the book. Gene moved to America at a fairly young age, but still had trouble communicating with other children. He couldn’t speak English and he felt like an outcast. This is when he became obsessed with television and comic books -- two forces that would prove instrumental in making KISS an international marketing phenomenon. It was during the assimilation process that Gene Witz became Gene Klein. When it was time to get serious about music, Klein became Simmons – simple as that. KISS and Make-Up has a very matter-of-fact voice, capturing Gene’s true business personality.
Readers must wade through pages of early sexual experiences and exploits before the story of KISS really begins. Finally, Gene introduces his readers to the original members of the band. Gene speaks fondly of Paul Stanley throughout the book and less so of guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss. In fact, Gene’s tone toward Ace is one of general disgust. Both Frehley and Criss had drug problems, which eventually separated the original version of the band. Still, Gene’s tone makes it pretty clear he’s not an easy man to work with, especially when (at the beginning, anyway) KISS was an equal partnership.
So it goes. Gene Simmons recounts his relationships with Cher and Diana Ross, plus countless flings. His authorial voice changes again with the introduction of long-time girlfriend Shannon Tweed. While never married, Simmons and Tweed have been together for more than two decades and have two children together. The demon writing about his children is pretty endearing, if not a little corny. Still, it’s pretty easy to notice priority shifts as the book moves along. Gene also makes the statement that Psycho Circus might be the final KISS record, period. He makes so much money from the KISS brand and his reality show on A&E he doesn’t need to make a new record. Still, die hard fans are clamoring for some music, and Gene guarantees his fans always get their moneys worth.