GENE SIMMONS: KISS & Make Up (12/2001)

Gene Simmons' autobiography is surprising well written, even to the point of coming across as convincing and sincere. Filled with numerous interesting photographs, the read about Gene's early life in Israel and his immigration to America are, shall we say "sweat". All of that changes when Gene hits puberty, and from the book, it would seem that Gene's sole measure of his life's worth is the amount of skirt he has chased. Regardless of what vignette he is recalling, it seems that Gene has to throw in a sex related story. He makes sure that the reader is informed that he's banged cops, mom and daughter duos, sisters, grandmothers, and just about anything that marginally fits the definition of "female". Interestingly, he treads very carefully when discussing his relationships with Cher and Diana Ross.

If you can get past the tedious sex bragging, you may get a sense of a man trying to make believe his role is bigger than it was or is. At least he places a high value on his children and Mother. His assertions about his band members would lead one to believe that Gene was the dominant force in KISS, that Paul just kept the band afloat while Gene went Hollywood; that Eric was sweat and insecure; that Vinnie was a troublesome loser; that Bruce and Eric Singer were very professional; and that Peter and Ace were so warped by substance abuse and personal issues that they were irrelevant. He manages to find one occasion for each of them that they behaved appropriately according to the word of Gene. Yet Gene seems to find more revelations to drop such as Bill Aucoin and Ace Frehley's sexuality, even going so far as to provide documentary evidence. Irrelevant. Neil Bogart is pretty much skipped over, as are Gene's early band histories or the struggles that his band's faced on the road to fame. There really is no insight into the musician's mind.

Where there are contracts and documentary evidence to prove otherwise, Gene is still selling a fantasy line concerning many issues which readers of the book would have wanted insight. And insight is really what is lacking in the book, there is very little that tells you anything about Gene. His solo album is selling the best, 20 years after they were released; there were more Spin covers with his picture printed than the other members; KISS are second only to the Beatles and Rolling Stones with numbers of Gold records for bands. Yet there are brief insights into the transformation of a band in to a brand, and glimpses into what must be considered a keen business mind. Playing Playboy off against Penthouse and getting himself on the cover of the former of those publications is hilarious.

Out of the book you may get a three hour read. But with the groupies, playboy, egomania, and wrestling, the book should have been titled, "From Haifa to Hollywood: In Search of the new American White Trash". The book is more a matter of what is not said than what is. Regardless, you know this book will sell.