I have never been a big fan of the group KISS. Heavy Metal is just not my style. Bunch of guys wearing white demonic makeup one with a serpentine tongue it seemed more show biz than music. About a year ago, I got turned on to his A&E reality series, and I realized that Gene Simmons is the consummate impresario. He is not one of those drugged up Rock and Roll stars trying too survive for one more concert. He is more of a marketing manager for the brand KISS. A “family guy” who has been happily not married to the same woman for almost 25 years. They have two well adjusted kids, etc, etc. In this month Radar Magazine online there is an interview with Simmons, who along with his Rock and Roll credentials, is an Israeli and one of the few people in show business who “gets it” when it comes to the war on terror.
LICKER LICENSE Gene Simmons has never been shy about expressing himself with his most valuable asset.
Gene Simmons is the kind of guy who does and says whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Schedule an interview with him on Monday afternoon, and he’ll call you at 10 p.m. on Sunday. And when the legendary KISS front man is ready to go, you’d better have your recorder handy, because he’s always got something incendiary to say.
The “king of all beasts” (his words) cannot be tamed—at least not by anyone other than longtime girlfriend, former Playmate Shannon Tweed, and their two children, Sophie, 14, and Nick, 18. Their efforts are chronicled in the A&E reality series Gene Simmons Family Jewels, currently in its second season. In honor of Memorial Day, Simmons recently taped a special one-hour episode in which he and daughter Sophie get a taste for basic training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, then visit wounded soldiers at a veterans hospital in Long Beach. The experience inspired him to put on a subsequent concert for troops about to ship off to Iraq.
On the phone to Radar from L.A., Simmons exercised his oversize tongue on a range of issues, including the Iraq war, the need for racial profiling, and the “enemy of Western civilization,” Sean Penn.
RADAR: You seemed to have a deep respect for the soldiers you met at Camp Pendleton. What did you come away with?
GENE SIMMONS: It is embarrassing what’s happening to America nowadays. I’m embarrassed. The same thing happened in Vietnam, and I lived through that era. It was unbelievable. The answer seems to be, from some political experts, just get up and leave and the bad guys will decide, “Hey let’s disarm and everything’s going to be okay.” I’m so fucking sick and tired of such idiotic behavior.
I’m guessing you’re not in favor of the Iraq troop withdrawal bills being proposed right now in Congress.
It’s not the policies and the bills; it’s how we treat our military. It’s how we treat our young men or women who go out there, at 18 years old, and risk their lives. There’s no fame, they’re certainly not getting rich, and a lot of them are dying, simply for something they believe. By the way, it’s a volunteer army, all volunteer. The fact that anybody would have a fucking thing to say about that is astonishing. And the VA hospital that Sophie and I went to, it’s about an hour and a half down the road from Malibu. These morons can’t get up off their asses and out of their $10 million homes, get into their SUVs, and drive down to the VA hospital just to say, “Hey, what you do matters.” Doesn’t matter what they think of President Bush. It matters that 18-year-olds are getting out there and risking their lives. I didn’t see a single person there. That’s the most embarrassing thing. I’m furious at Hollywood.
No visitors at all?
No. Of course, if it means getting on a jet and going to Washington, D.C., to get in front of media, they’re all there. But they won’t get into a car where there’s no media and just go and shake the hand of a vet. And we met, as you know, Vietnam vets and Korean vets and Iraqi vets, and it just breaks your heart.
Do you think the troops in Iraq don’t get the respect they deserve?
I think it’s worse than ever. Because it’s never talked about. It’s just never talked about. We used to have a dialogue. I mean, there were peace marches, and people forget this, but the Vietnam vets that came back were spat at. Now, it’s just apathy.
But it seems like these people are protesting the war, not protesting the troops.
I don’t see the difference. Aid and comfort to the enemy is when you do it through media and there are big headlines like “We’ve Lost the War” and things like that. What makes you think that any graduate of any madrassa in the Middle East doesn’t blow that up? In other words, make a big copy of it and show it to everybody.
So someone like Sean Penn for instance … you don’t support what he’s doing?
Oh, I think he’s the enemy of Western civilization. I think he’s a terrific actor, but a political knucklehead. By the way, the difference between the Warren Beattys and Sean Penns and perhaps the Hannitys in the salons of the world is very little. The people who hate you don’t care what political side you’re on. They make no distinction between far left and far right. They just hate you. It’s so stupid. And the biggest problem, of course, is that media, no matter what you say, is skewed a certain way.
Given your Israeli background, are you more sensitive to what’s going on in the Middle East?
No, actually, I’m an earthling more than that. I’m completely in favor of a Palestinian state, and I’m completely against any other country in the Middle East having nuclear weapons. I believe that, if allowed, it would be the beginning of the end. Because once a graduate of any madrassa in the Middle East straps on bombs that can take out cities, you’re done.
Sean Penn and I are exactly alike, we just see danger in different degrees of distance. It’s a distance philosophy, and it goes something like this: If there’s a guy with a gun a mile away, I think it’s the same thing as if that gun is pointed right at my head. We don’t want to die by some madman’s hand. The difference is, I’m very proactive and want to take that guy out before he becomes a menace. In other words, I do think there’s a military option with Iran.
I didn’t know you were so political.
Oh I’m not shy. And by the way, I voted for Bill Clinton. But I also voted for George Bush.
I believe that most people are like me, which is why sometimes Republicans get in and sometimes Democrats. Very few people are either like Hannity or Sean Penn. Most people are centrists, and by the way, I get along with Hannity just fine. On political issues, foreign policy specifically, O’Reilly and I get along just fine—we agree on foreign policy. I think the war’s been handled poorly, but there’s no choice. You gotta get there. The Second World War was handled terribly until D-day.
In terms of this Republican administration, some views about stem cell research, gay rights, separation of church and state, and on and on—I don’t agree with any of them. But you can worry about the trees and the environment and gas emissions later. Right now there’s a bigger problem, and it’s a guy who doesn’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat; he wants to blow himself up and take you out. That’s the problem. I think racially profiling anybody from the Middle East … the Swiss have been good this year, and as an Israeli, I want you to look at me first. I want you to search my anal cavity and look at my tax records. I want you to look at me first, and then at every guy named Muhammad.
So you have no problem with profiling? If you were at the airport, you wouldn’t mind being searched?
I’m volunteering. I’m volunteering to have less rights. This whole notion that you can have all the rights in the world while there’s an emergency is nonsense. That’s why there are emergency hours that are given to law enforcement during times of war. And if the cop tells you to move and you don’t move, he’ll bat you over the head. That’s the way it should be.