What was your first Halloween costume?
I never wore one. The first time I ever put on an outfit was as me. The irony is, now everybody dresses as me, and they can buy the Kiss makeup kit and pay for the privilege.
Did you have a bar mitzvah?
Oh, sure. I lived in Israel until I was nine, so I can parlez-vous the Hebrew. Although the Old Testament Hebrew is more like Aramaic. But while the rabbit was speaking, I was noticing our next-door neighbor. She was about 14, and she was blossoming. She was stacked, in the patois of the street. So while the rabbi was talking to me about the responsibilities of manhood, my own manhood was making itself felt in her direction.
What was your first job?
When I was five years old in Israel, I employed myself. I picked some cactus fruit and set up a stand with a pitcher of water and ice by the bus stop. I charged half a prutah–which was later changed to the shekel–about half a penny. So I would have about twelve pennies, which was enough to buy my mother some flowers and me some ice cream.
When did you first perform in front of an audience?
I jumped up on my mother’s coffee table and sang fake opera. I was still wearing diapers, shitting in my pants, but I heard symphonic sound. I’ve never grown from there: I’m still totally deluded. When I look in the mirror, I see a powerful and attractive man. Nobody else sees it, but I don’t give a shit. Fuck being humble! God, I love how this reads. I wish I could read it right away.
Were your parents strict?
My mother and father divorced when I was seven, and it was my mother who brought me up. And she was strict: I have yet to get drunk or get high, except in the dentist’s chair. And I don’t smoke.
Have you ever cursed in front of your mother?
Yes, but I felt terribly guilty afterwards.
When was your first kiss?
I was 13, at a sweet-sixteen party; I was big for my age. I was dancing with this girl and she rammed her tongue in my mouth–I thought I was going to throw up.
What were your nicknames at school?
They used to call me Buggy, because I would put bugs in my mouth to get a rise. Later, as a teenager, I was Moose. And then I was The Monster, because I was into Boris Karloff and Jack Pierce’s makeup work. The rest of the kids were oblivious to life–they just wanted to go watch sports. All those guys work for me today.
Were you into sports?
Yes, I played baseball, I was a lifeguard, I won archery awards. I just don’t like the idea of watching sports, of being a passive spectator. I don’t watch porno films for the same reason–I don’t like to watch somebody else do something that looks fun. The other thing about watching sports is that it’s visually boring: everybody dresses alike. You might as well put equidistant dots on a page. I’d rather see uniforms in every color of the rainbow; that would be more interesting, although I guess you couldn’t tell the teams apart.
What was your first car?
I grew up in New York, so I didn’t drive until I was 35. But once I got out to L.A., I bought a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.
Have you ever been fired from a job?
Nope. I worked as the assistant director for the Puerto Rico Interagency Council. I was earning 23 grand in 1972–that was a high-level job in those days. I was the assistant to Kate Lloyd, the editor at Vogue. I taught sixth grade for six months in Spanish Harlem. I worked at a deli as a checkout guy. And I was a Kelly Girl; I could type very fast. After work would be band rehearsal: I was never idle.
Who was the first woman you were sexually attracted to?
Well, the shrinks tell us it’s always our mother. My mother is stacked, and women with small breasts have never done it for me. You might as well be attracted to a 12-year-old boy. I’ve figured out that my eternal hunt for skirt has to do with being breastfed for too long. Just last week, my mother said “Get off!”
What did you believe when you were eighteen that you wish you still believed now?
If I believed it then, I believe it still. I haven’t lost any of my beliefs. I’ve gained everything: stature, power, weight, money, pousse.
Have you ever been arrested?
One time in my life. I spent three hours in jail in Birmingham, Alabama in 1986. I went offstage to adjust my jockstrap, pulling my pants down, and apparently there’s an ordinance in Birmingham that says the south lost, the north won, we’re still mad. The cops were apologizing the whole way in. The headline in the paper the next day said “Gene Simmons Moons Audience.” You should be so lucky to take a look at my beautiful ass! For free yet!
Interview by Gavin Edwards. Orignally published (in a somewhat shorter version) in the November 1998 issue of Details.