Music News

Gene Simmons, Sharp-Tongued Kiss Frontman, We Wish You a Happy Birthday

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As a result, Simmons turned himself into rock's version of P.T. Barnum, unabashedly hawking himself as much as he does the Kiss grab-bag. That's made him a very public persona, especially due to the series of reality shows that boast his name. The most successful of those, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, took its cue from The Osbornes, showing that when they're home, a heavy metal rocker is pretty much just like the rest of us -- harried, humble and wealthy beyond belief. Okay, maybe that last part creates a divide. Still, the ability to see Simmons putting his private life on display for seven seasons proved irresistible to more than a million viewers a week and helped make him a regular presence on cable TV.

Numerous other television appearances and the occasional film role have helped unmask Simmons' inner persona, giving viewers more Simmons than they can swallow (and no, that's not a snide innuendo). But just cause all his personal business is on the boob tube doesn't mean we know everything about this sharp-toothed man. Here are some intriguing insights that should prove especially revealing.

• Simmons was born Chaim Weitz, but after arriving in the U.S. from Israel, he changed his name to Eugene (later, Gene) Klein, borrowing his mother's maiden name. Ironically, the name "Klein" is sometimes tossed off as "Kis" in her native Hungary, although it had nothing to do with the handle Simmons later chose for his band. He eventually adopted the surname "Simmons," tagging himself after an early rockabilly hero named Jumpin' Gene Simmons.

• Politically, Simmons leans to the right. Although he supported Barack Obama in 2008, he's lately come to criticize the president for his healthcare reforms and policy toward Israel, which Simmons says is "gravely misguided." He's also accused the United Nations of being "the most pathetic body on the face of the earth." FYI, for those who relish celebrity endorsements, be advised that Simmons has officially endorsed Mitt Romney, because, "America should be in business and it should be run by a businessman." Thankfully, Donald Trump isn't on the ballot.

• Simmons says he has never used drugs or drank alcohol. Apparently, he leaves those indulgences to his fans.

• He digs the divas. In addition to the thousands of women Simmons claims to have bedded, he also squired Cher and Diana Ross.

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Lee Zimmerman