×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kiss and Make-Up

With a career spanning three decades and 80 million records sold, one would think that Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, who made an indelible mark on pop music by dressing up like a demon and barfing blood, would spin some toe-curling tales about rock 'n' roll excess.

With a career spanning three decades and 80 million records sold, one would think that Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, who made an indelible mark on pop music by dressing up like a demon and barfing blood, would spin some toe-curling tales about rock ‘n’ roll excess. Despite claims of bedding some 4,600 women, his tell-all autobiography “Kiss and Make Up” comes across more banal than carnal, disappointingly devoid of lurid road-dog details. However, that’s not to say that his book does not set up a compelling juxtaposition between Simmons’ carefully crafted rock god image and the man behind the make up.

Gene Simmons, ne Chaim Witz, emigrated from Israel to Brooklyn as a child. Coming from a broken home, the self-professed “mama’s boy” shunned sports for sci-fi books, super hero comics and television — “the seeds that would later become Kiss,” he writes. Like many kids coming of age in the 1960s, seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan inspired him to pick up a guitar and strike a few power chords, not as artistic expression, but as a way to get chicks.

Simmons may be a master showman who spit fire and flew around arenas on a high wire during concerts, but his first-person prose can be described as pedestrian at best. Instead of setting scenes and adding tension and drama with detail, “Kiss and Make-Up” lists memories like a loosely organized slide show, offering little context or analysis beyond a litany of well-worn cliches.

Furthermore, Simmons’ matter-of-fact writing style often slips into a self-congratulatory tone that many readers may find hard to take.

However, loyal members of the Kiss Army will surely gobble up the grist about the inter-band politics which pitted Simmons and singer Paul Stanley against drummer Peter Criss and ax-man Ace Frehley. “The truth was that Ace and Peter simply were not qualified to make decisions about band matters that depended on organization and structure,” he states.

Other readers less familiar with the band will be interested to know that Simmons had long-term relationships with both Cher and Diana Ross. Surprisingly enough, Simmons also dated Paramount’s own Sherry Lansing. The two met in the early 1980s when Simmons was pitching a film project. “I was attracted to her from the start,” he remembers, “but although we went out from time to time, I never did anything about it.”

Despite Simmons’ limitations as a writer, he comes across as a complex yet caring soul when chronicling his life. More than a musician, Simmons views himself as pragmatist and relentless marketer. “The master plan (with Kiss) was to create a cultural institution that was as iconic as Disney,” he writes. “We were not concerned with credibility.”

To this end, Simmons’ closes the book by hawking Kiss Kaskets — a final resting place for fans. “They say you can’t take it with you,” he writes. “I say you can.”

Popular on Variety

More Reviews

  • Midland Offers a Clever Take on

    Album Review: Midland's 'Let It Roll'

    At the end of 2019, if you tally up all the steel guitar playing that appeared on a mainstream country album released by a major label this year, chances are that at least 80 percent of it will have occurred solely on Midland’s new album. That’s not the only reason to buy “Let It Roll,” [...]

  • Tanya Tucker Finds Fresh Footing With

    Album Review: Tanya Tucker's 'While I'm Livin''

    Before there was a name and a place for it, an “outlaw” was what Tanya Tucker was in the years following her gentle country smash with the gospel lilt, “Delta Dawn,” in 1972. A hellraiser and heartbreaker (Merle Haggard and Glen Campbell were just a few of her noted lovers), Tucker made as many headlines [...]

  • Album Review: Jay Som's 'Anak Ko'

    Album Review: Jay Som's 'Anak Ko'

    If ever there was an album that could have come out at any point in the last 25 years, it’s Jay Som’s sophomore outing, “Anak Ko.” A mesh of multiple indie-rock influences, its low-key intensity, hushed vocals and emphasis on strong melodies could have placed it alongside Lush or the Boo Radleys on 4AD or [...]

  • Album Review: Brockhampton's 'Ginger'

    Album Review: Brockhampton's 'Ginger'

    It is a testament to the sheer creative force and prolific output of their last two breakout years that, though the members are only in their early 20s, Brockhampton has settled into a kind of artistic maturity on their new record, “Ginger.” In 2017, Brockhampton burst into the hip-hop consciousness offering a bold paradigm shift [...]

  • EP Review: Missy Elliott’s ‘Iconology’

    EP Review: Missy Elliott’s ‘Iconology’

    To drop all pretense of critical objectivity for a moment, it’s probably safe to assume that a fair number of fellow Missy Elliott fans will also have goofy grins on their faces when they first hear the trademark sass and bounce of “Throw It Back,” the opening track on her excellent but tantalizingly brief new [...]

  • Tigers Are Not Afraid

    Film Review: 'Tigers Are Not Afraid'

    A graffiti tiger paces behind the bars of his spray-painted cage. Rivulets of blood snake from a crime scene to track characters through paint-peeling hallways. A grand piano burns amid the shadows of a gutted warehouse. Goldfish swim in puddles carved into the cement that surrounds a shattered tank. These and countless other equally stunning [...]

  • Jacobs Ladder Movie 2019

    Film Review: 'Jacob's Ladder'

    It’s understandable that someone would want to remake “Jacob’s Ladder,” Adrian Lyne’s 1990 head-trip thriller about a Vietnam veteran haunted by fragmentary nightmare visions. I was far from alone in finding the original to be an overwrought but rather thin “psychological” horror film that was more punishing than pleasurable. And it wasn’t exactly a hit, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content