Dad is Gene Simmons – the legendary, tongue wagging demon of KISS. Mom is Shannon Tweed — former Playmate of the Year, actress and model. And their kids, Nick and Sophie, are, well…surprisingly charming, well-behaved teenagers dealing with the trials and tribulations of adolescence, even though Mom and Dad are truly like no one else’s parents. A&E Network presents the original series premiere of GENE SIMMONS FAMILY JEWELS on Monday’s 10 PM//9 & 9:30C.
Gene and Shannon have been happily UNmarried for 23 years and have no plans of getting married any time soon. Gene is a multi-millionaire rock star and a multi-media magnate. He is a renowned ladies man – but also the kind of dad who brings Gatorade to his daughter’s soccer games and stands in the front row when his son’s rock band plays gigs. Each episode reveals another layer of Gene’s private self, a side that he has kept hidden until now, and shows how the most non-traditional, traditional family in America manages to make it all work under the strangest of circumstances. Funny, loving, often at odds, this is a real life extraordinary family — but one that we can all identify with.
We interview Gene Simmons!
HIP: I know you just did an interview with fans and their questions—I was wondering if you get as much questions as you do stories about what Kiss meant to them.
GENE SIMMONS: It’s a combination of things. Tonally I have to remind myself that they mean well even though the questions come out embarrassing or adversarial sounding. They mean well and are trying to make a connection. I’m aware of that. So the questions tend to be longer than a sentence because they want to know how we are connected. Questions usually come in paragraphs.
Are you finished filming the show?
We finished filming about two months ago—thirteen episodes.
Was is it disruptive or did you have set times for filming?
A bit of both. They originally came in and did seven days a week and that was too intrusive so we limited them to two days a week on the weekends. Which meant a longer shooting schedule but it also gave everyone a chance to have a life during the week. Both Sophie and Nick go to school during the week and have lives and I often leave L.A. to do work for Indy—the Indy race league.
Did you approach them or did A&E approach you about the show—because it seems like you are a whole different person than fans expect which goes against your persona.
It’s interesting that people are shocked when they see this stuff, but it’s nothing new. I always said this is who I am. I espoused a personal philosophy that you aren’t allowed to smoke, drink, or do drugs in my world. That means when guests come over and want to drink they can’t. You go to a bar. If you want to get high you can’t. If you want to smoke you can’t. The same rules for everybody: my house, my rules. A&E approached me.
Did you ever think it might hurt the persona?
No. I still espouse the same thing. I refuse to get married and I don’t believe in the institution. I think the institution would have more success if woman married each other because they tend to be more monogamous. I don’t think there is a problem with marriage—I think there is a problem with men. What I noticed is that 50% of the time there tends to be a man involved in marriage. Either God has a cosmic sense of humor or there is no reason we make billions of sperms every month. And during that time we make billions of sperm guess how many eggs she makes—one. It doesn’t take billions and billions of sperm to get there—it only takes one. So either God doesn’t know what he is doing or he is telling us what our blueprint is—and its not to get married.
So it’s all a lie?
Anyone that tells you any different is lying. Let me ask you a question, and try to answer as honestly as you can, and I’m not being cynical. I’m being real. Every girl will shake her head quietly and say “yeah he is right.” Okay, you love this girl and you want to marry her and you say to yourself, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” and you may have the best intentions. So you take the oath and promise under God, friends, family, [and] state. And you are walking down the stairs and they throw rice at you and you are looking into the eyes of your beloved, and you really do love her, and then you look to your right and there is a girl. She’s pretty with a set of double D’s. What is the first thing you are thinking of?
Yeah, I know what you are saying. (Laughs)
Answer my question.
I’m definitely looking. (Laughs)
That’s not what I said. I said, “what are you thinking of?”
Okay, I’m thinking “wow.”
You’re not going to say it are you?
“I’d sure love to mount them.”
And it isn’t anything personal. Girls know that and that is why girls go to doctors.
Well I know what you mean. If my wife catches me looking at another woman she always gives me the (what are you looking at?) look.
She knows what you are looking at. It’s not a question—it means “don’t.”
Was there anyone in the family that was apprehensive about doing the show?
Neither Nick, Sophie, or Shannon were interested in doing a show. They aren’t at all Hollywood and don’t care about these things. That is another thing that makes the people I live with so amazing.
Did you have to talk them into it?
No. My household is pretty simple—I say “this is what we are doing” and it’s done. There is no discussion.
I have to wonder if the show is as much about Gene Simmons as trying to get your kids, particularly Nick, a career.
No. I don’t push. The only job the kids have is to do a good job in school and behave. And my job and Shannon’s job is to protect them. My job is to bring in all the money and make sure they don’t go hungry and protect them with my life. There is no negotiation. It’s like, “these are the rules, and this is what you are doing.” Done. Simple. To all those little brats out there that we’ve all seen, these two year olds who control everybody’s lives and torture everybody, a quick study on how to discipline them is to watch them walk over to a dog that is eating and reach into their bowl and see how fast that child learns what the rules are. That will be the last time it will ever reach into the dogs bowl. My question to all human beings is if a dog knows how to discipline your child how come the mother and father can’t?
There is a lot of that out there.
Not at my home.
Not in mine either. But I see a lot of those kids.
Because they are allowed.
I’ve seen parents drag their kids out of places because they wouldn’t go with them.
That is the parents’ fault. They’ll run out if there is a fire.
If there is a fire an inch from their ass they run. So you have to make your words mean fire.
The main reason I asked about getting your kids a career is because that is what the Hogan show seems like—that Hulk wants to get his kids a career. And what is interesting is how over protective he is of his daughter. I’m the same way—are you?
Not at all. And Hulk is a cool guy—I know the family. They are very nice people and Ozzy’s family is terrific. But it’s a different environment. I’m not married—although we’ve been happily unmarried for twenty-three years—and there have never been any drugs, booze, or cigarettes in our lives. And these are my rules. There is no “our house” because this is my house. Shannon is actually the best disciplinarian I’ve ever seen. She also doesn’t torture me the way women torture the people they live with. She doesn’t play the girl game. As you see I’m always surrounded by beautiful woman and no one gets to ask me where I’m going. So no, there is no controlling within the confines that they do good in school and behave. It doesn’t matter what choices they make for themselves.
Shannon seems to be supremely confident and I wonder if that is part of the reason she doesn’t get jealous like other wives.
Not familiar with that term. What was that word, wife?
(Laughs) Significant other.
Yeah, the other. It doesn’t have to be significant.
(Laughs) So is it confidence?
I think its chemistry. Because there are woman out there that are terrific who lack self-confidence and are slaves to the guy. So if it works for you great. Shannon is not.
I heard you and Shannon on the Howard Stern Show and he was really pressing about what you are really up to and how much of it was marketing your image.
It’s unbelievable. No matter how much I say it—if people want to believe it great if not that is okay.
Do you see every episode before they run?
I have to okay everything.
What did everyone think?
They like it but they don’t check TV guide to see if it is on. They have lives—I don’t mean it to sound arrogant—but their lives don’t revolve around that. They like it and are happy it’s on.
I’m curious about the driving thing because that is something I didn’t know about you.
I’m a horrible driver. It’s a good thing I’m a rock star and have limo rides everywhere because there certainly would be less people on earth if I drove.
How do you go so long without driving?
If you live most of your life in New York you don’t need a car. I didn’t start driving until I was 34. First of all, if you have a car in New York you don’t know if it’s going to be there the next day, parking is impossible and traffic is a mess. You certainly do better and cheaper and can do whatever you want to do by hoping in a cab or the subway. You’ll get there better and cheaper.
I saw on the show you pitch ideas to your son about his band—but did you ever tell him he needed a gimmick—maybe not makeup—to make him stick out?
No. No. He’s his own guy. If anything he is closer to Jim Morrison than his dad.
When did he develop the interest in music?
Not sooner than two years ago. He’s more of a book kind of guy. He is working on his own graphic novel. He’s more of an art guy. He’s not at all a sports guy.
I see the scenes on the show where Nick feels kind of embarrassed when you walk in and offer advice—but does he come to you for advice?
Yeah we discuss. We have a great relationship. He asks for my opinion, considers it and decides.
Does he realize how invaluable your advice is?
Well I keep reminding him how powerful and attractive I am.
(Laughs) Oh really?
Yeah, but I don’t seem to be making any headway. I even drag people off the street to tell my son and daughter I’m cool. And they’ll tell them I’m a legend and my kids are like “yeah, well cool, okay want to get a hot dog?” They are completely unaffected by it and Shannon has been on the cover of Playboy a couple times and they just yawn. Everyone says it, Ozzy says it, but mine really are normal kids and the others are not.
(Laughs) They really do seem unimpressed by everything.
That doesn’t mean they are unkind or don’t have social skills. They are young and charming and behave. Those are the rules. What ever happened to waiting until your father gets home? You know the kids nowadays would say “then what?” It used to be ominous. That meant be on your best behavior.
Do you ever think or dream about your son carrying on the Kiss tradition?
There are no rules. Life is what you make it. You sit there, make your plans and life is going to have its own way.
So you never dreamed about it?
It’s possible, but no I don’t think too deeply about it. I’m too busy having a good time.
Was there thought about the finale being you and Shannon getting married?
No, that’s never going to happen. In fact, I wrote it down for Shannon when we first met. I wrote down if you want to be married it’ll never be me and I’ll help you find the guy.
How long ago?
Twenty-three years ago. We have a co-habitation agreement which means a judge or jury can’t decide what happens when we split and that the piece of paper decides. There is no money involved.
See, that is why guys end up hating woman when they divorce—because there is money involved.
That is the root of it.
That is the root—at least a prostitute has the dignity to tell you before how much its going to cost. Right?
Right and the woman will say “well she doesn’t love you.” Yeah, but she’s more honest with me. So I decided to put it down on paper and that isn’t the first time I put it down on paper—I did it with Cher, too.
I just read in Newsweek the thing about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When is the induction and will Kiss get in?
I know nothing about it. I’m not involved in it, but for the first time in the history of the Hall of Fame, which is a sham, that people descended and demanded their favorite band be inducted. And the way a band gets inducted is seventy-five people that live in New York, decide who gets in. No one knows what is involved, what the parameters are or what the prerequisites are. They just kind of say who gets in. Like a secret society.
So no one knows who gets it?
No one knows. And that is why it’s a sham. I thought this was America—of the people, for the people, by the people. Apparently it’s not by the people. Let me ask you a question—have you ever been asked who should be in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame?
That’s funny neither have I. I’ve never met a single person that has ever been asked.
I know that Bonnie Raitt is in the Hall of Fame but Kiss is not.
Maybe they should nominate the way the Football Hall of Fame does.
I still think the people should decide. And in the NFL it’s about points. Who has more points, more touchdowns, and Kiss has more gold records than almost any band in the Hall of Fame.
I’m still stunned Kiss isn’t in.
Me too. But I don’t lose sleep. But I do care that the fans care. They feel slighted.
+ Charlie Craine