The untold truth of Gene Simmons

Gene Simmons has occupied the public consciousness since 1973, when Kiss first burst into the scene. A long-tongued, fire-breathing, towering bass player who performs in a demon warpaint, massive platform boots, and stylized armor, Simmons is a sight to behold. But out of costume, the Kiss co-frontman is an equally commanding presence. Just like his stage character, Simmons has taken all the properties that make up an enticing rock star and turned them up to 11 in his private life. Even if you can't name a single Kiss song, you've probably read about Simmons giving his opinion about one thing or another, seen his reality TV show, or heard him bragging about the thousands of women he's reportedly slept with. 

So what can you say about a man who's been in the spotlight for well over four decades, and is happy to reveal seemingly every single thing about himself to the world? Quite a lot, in fact. Today, we'll take a look at some of the lesser-known aspects of Gene the Demon's life and times. This is the untold truth of Gene Simmons.

Gene Simmons' net worth is absolutely ridiculous

Estimating a celebrity's net worth usually involves some creative guesswork, but in Gene Simmons' case, we actually have a pretty decent ballpark figure. According to Inc., Simmons is worth a whopping $300 million, but don't think for a second that all that money comes from playing rock music in a costume. Kiss songs are popular, but they're not that popular. To supplement his income from his day job, the business-savvy Simmons is a serial entrepreneur who's operated, among other things, a sports team, a restaurant chain, and a financial company. He's also a successful author, reality show star, and even a business lecturer.

Unsurprisingly, Simmons has also taken his business acumen to his mothership. As the man himself puts it, "I like being part of a rock and roll band, but I love being part of a rock and roll brand." In fact, the whole Kiss bad boy image is carefully cultivated to achieve precisely that, with remarkable success. The band's name has been licensed to a ridiculous 3,000 product categories — not products but product categories. From condoms to credit cards and lunch boxes, imagine a product, and there's a decent chance you can grab a Kiss-themed version of it. As a result, the Kiss brand is estimated to be worth nearly $1 billion. That's plenty of incentive to keep applying that greasepaint and climbing in those cumbersome boots. 

The strange rumor about Gene Simmons' tongue

Gene Simmons' abnormally long tongue is perhaps his most distinguishing physical feature, and it's arguably in contention with the Rolling Stones' logo for the position of the most iconic oral organ in the history of rock music. As Ultimate Classic Rock tells us, Simmons' distinctive mouth muscle is so famous that it's actually attracted its own conspiracy theories. Simmons says that his favorite Kiss rumor is a weird yet oddly popular theory from the 1970s that claims his tongue is actually a cow tongue that he had surgically crafted in his mouth. In reality, the "story" behind Simmons' tongue is much more mundane. Rolling Stone writes that the future rock star randomly discovered his tongue was abnormally long when he was 13, and he eventually discovered that it was ... uh, an "asset" with the opposite sex. 

Simmons' tongue standards are apparently so high that he's not quick to appreciate other famous tongue-flaunters. When Miley Cyrus started publicly flashing her tongue, the Kiss man decided to eschew praise in favor of a spot of sexism. "It was okay," he said. "But that was a girl's version. It's like girls' basketball. It's as good as girls get at basketball. But you can't play with the guys." 

His daughter is a talented musician in her own right

Gene Simmons' daughter, Sophie, has perhaps unsurprisingly drifted toward a musical career, but she's far from your typical rich kid using dad's fame as leverage. In a 2018 interview with Harper's Bazaar, Sophie Simmons said that she's wanted to be a musician since the age of four, but she specifically didn't want to ride any coattails to success. Instead, she set out to do things the hard way, writing her own songs and courting the record labels as her own woman. Depending on your viewpoint, this either worked like a dream or didn't work quite as planned, because she completely failed to get a record deal from the labels she contacted. 

Unabashed, she became an indie artist, and started "pestering" streaming companies to get her music on their playlists to get the massive exposure this entails. This tactic proved successful, and her 2018 debut single "Black Mirror" was on two different playlists on both Spotify and Apple Music. And in addition to her musical career, she's also done some modeling, starred on the reality shows Gene Simmons Family Jewels and Shannon & Sophie, and works a body positivity advocate.  

His long relationship with Shannon Tweed

Despite Simmons' noted, uh, extracurricular interests when it comes to the ladies, the man is actually married. His spouse is Shannon Tweed, and her own career involves modeling and acting, with a specialty in the erotic thriller genre. Notably, she was also Playboy's Playmate of the Year in 1982, and it was in this capacity that she met Simmons at the Playboy Mansion. 

People tells us that he and Tweed have actually been together for quite a while — since 1983, to be precise. Though they have remained "happily unmarried" most of that time, People reports that Simmons unexpectedly popped the question in 2011, and they got hitched later that year, after 28 years of dating. Both the wedding and the proposal were captured on their Gene Simmons Family Jewels reality show, though the proposal bit turned out to be rather controversial. The episode had been filmed many months before it aired, at which point the two were obviously supposed to be happily engaged, but were in fact going through a particularly rough patch in their relationship. Still, regardless of the road they took to get there, they did eventually get married, and Tweed has said that Simmons' proposal was the "most shocking moment" of her life.  

His son was involved in a plagiarism scandal

As you can see from the picture, Gene Simmons' son, Nick, towers over his father (who Ultimate Classic Rock tells us stands at a respectable 6'2" himself). On the other hand, despite (or because of) their similar professional interests, Nick's body of work has thus far failed to escape his father's looming shadow. Nick Simmons' Discogs page reveals that his musical output before 2019 consists of one album with his band, Peroux, and appearances on albums by the Scene Aesthetics, the Minor Leagues, and former Kiss member Bruce Kulick. And while his IMDb shows that he does have a few acting credits and some voice work for Robot Chicken up his sleeve, his main body of TV work comes from his father's reality show, Gene Simmons Family Jewels.

Nick Simmons also appears to share his father's love of comic books, to the point that CBR tells us he once created a manga-style comic called Incarnate. While the comic received some considerable interest and hype, its ship ran afoul of a scandal storm in 2010, when it transpired that Simmons had allegedly plagiarized a number of manga's best and brightest titles, including Bleach, One Piece, and Hellsing.  

He used to have some very strange jobs

Many famous people used to have oddly mundane jobs to make ends meet before celebrity came calling, but Gene Simmons' early CV is a particularly counterintuitive one. For instance, would you believe that the Demon of Kiss, of all people, used to be a school teacher? It's true! According to Parade, he used to teach sixth grade, which might seem odd at first, but as Simmons himself has pointed out, both teaching and rock stardom involve being in the spotlight ... though he does note that a teacher's audience doesn't necessarily want to be at the show. 

As Biography tells us, teaching wasn't the only strange career path Simmons explored before the whole rock star thing started gaining traction. He's also worked as a deli cashier, a council assistant, and amazingly, an assistant at both Glamour and Vogue magazines. One can only wonder what would've happened if Simmons had given up on music and targeted his boundless energy on a career in fashion journalism. Presumably, the Paris Fashion Week would feature a lot more spiky shoulder pads and fake blood spitting. 

Then again, maybe he'd have taken things to a completely different direction. After all, SF Gate reports that Simmons did in fact return to magazine business in 2002. However, instead of high fashion, he opted to launch a men's magazine called Gene Simmons Tongue

Simmons is a massive comic book fan

Yeah, Gene Simmons is a famous rock star, but he's also a bit of a comic book geek. In fact, CBR tells us that the Kiss mastermind is a lifelong comic book and superhero fan, to the point that he can casually rattle off a list writers and artists of a specific title from the 1940s. Simmons even claims that his comic book habit actually paid for his college, as he used to run a small business trading comics and was eventually able to sell one particularly valuable Golden Age book for a hefty $10,000.

Still, don't think for a second that the Kiss man's obsession with the medium is completely profit-related. He appears to have a genuine appreciation for comic books and the stories they tell, going as far as calling them "Shakespearean" and "in some ways deeper than regular fiction." In fact, the Kiss you know today was a direct product of Simmons' comic book obsession. His famous "Demon" stage persona was directly inspired by the Marvel character Black Bolt, and according to Biography, his love of the superhero genre is why he persuaded the rest of the band to adapt their famous gimmicks as well.

Gene Simmons' early years

Gene Simmons' early years were spent in Israel. According to Biography, he was born in 1949 as Chaim Witz, the son of a Holocaust survivor mother and carpenter father. However, his parents separated when he was still young, and his early life was a blur of babysitters as his mom had to work to make ends meet. This lifestyle came with an unexpected bonus, as the constant exposure to different people and their languages helped young Chaim learn Turkish, Hebrew, Spanish, and Hungarian. 

When Chaim was eight, his mother decided they should move to the U.S. to live with their relatives. This prompted him to change his name to the easier-to-pronounce Gene, and to teach himself English by watching American television and reading comics. After a stint in the Hasidic "yeshiva" seminary, the Americanized Chaim/Gene started attending a public school in Jackson Heights. Soon, he heard the Beatles for the first time ... and the rest is history.

Gene Simmons' early bands

Some musicians manage to hit it big with their very first band. Gene Simmons, however, is decidedly not one of them. As Biography tells us, after young Simmons caught the rock and roll bug from the Beatles (and realized that rock stardom seemed like a great way to get girls), he formed a band called the Missing Links and got his first small taste of fame when they won a talent show at their middle school. After the Missing Links, he was in the Long Island Sounds. After that, there was another band called Rising Sun. After that, it was Wicked Lester, which finally led to some local recognition after a guitarist called Stanley Eisen (who you probably know better as Paul Stanley) joined in. 

Wicked Lester eventually scored a record deal with Epic, but even after agreeing to a record company mandated lineup change and spending close to a year making their debut album, they were eventually dropped, and the album was shelved. However, the group already had plans for their next band, which would be a lot more theatrical and tight — a project they decided to call Kiss. That one went a little better. 

He's a huge fan of Israel

As Biography tells us, Gene Simmons spent the first eight years of his life in Israel. According to The Jerusalem Post, he still remembers the country quite fondly, although it did take him 51 years to actually visit it again. This happened in 2011, when he revisited his birth country as a guest of their Tourism Ministry, with his son Nick and partner Shannon Tweed. They toured an assortment of locations for their reality show Gene Simmons Family Jewels, as Simmons commented on how the country had changed. 

In an interview with the Associated Press, he noted that his extremely busy schedule had kept him from returning to Israel before this visit, but he made a point of stating that he considered the visit a "homecoming." In fact, he went even further than that, saying that he felt like he belonged there. "I'm Israeli," he explained. "I'm a stranger in America. I'm an outsider." And while Kiss had never performed in Israel — Simmons put this down to logistical issues — the bass player indeed appeared to have plenty of pro-Israel comments at the ready, and he scoffed at the many other artists who refuse to perform in the country. 

His famous former flames

Most people who know about Gene Simmons also know that he claims he has slept with a truly absurd number of women. According to News.com.au, Simmons said the figure was "over 5,000" in 2018, and they haven't all been "nameless" groupies, either. In fact, The Washington Post tells us that in the 1980s, Simmons dated two of the most famous female stars of the era, and he says that he ruined their friendship in the process.

Simmons says that he was dating iconic singer Cher when she suggested that he should contact her best friend to choose Cher's Christmas present. Said friend turned out to be an equally iconic Diana Ross, who took Simmons shopping for said present. However, there was one minor hitch, as Ross and Simmons promptly fell head over heels for each other. One heartbreak later, the rocker started a two-year relationship with Ross. As for the two singers who used to be best friends before the Demon descended upon them? As Simmons put it, "I guess thereafter, Cher and Diana never spoke."

Gene Simmons and the Fox News incident

Gene Simmons has been known to appear as a guest on many Fox News programs, but in 2017, this state of affairs reportedly changed. According to The Week, Simmons picked up a lifetime ban from Fox News thanks to a strange incident where he burst unannounced into a staff meeting, started telling dirty Michael Jackson-themed jokes, and even smashed people on the head with his new book (which fortunately wasn't particularly heavy, being just 160 pages). 

As Metal Injection tells us, Simmons basically showed up in a conference room, opened his shirt to expose his torso, and screamed, "Hey chicks, sue me!" (Two "chicks" promptly did.) The aforementioned book head-hittings were also accompanied with nasty comments about the recipients' intelligence, based on the sound of the impact. Unsurprisingly, Simmons was soon escorted out of the building.

Simmons himself called the reports "highly exaggerated and misleading," and while he did offer an apology for the incident, it was of the "I am sincerely sorry that I unintentionally offended members of the Fox team during my visit" variety. However, this directly led to multiple women making #MeToo accusations about the Kiss bassist having behaved in a similarly unnerving manner toward them in the past.