A Look At Gene Simmons' Childhood

Gene Simmons is known for his on-stage antics and melodramatic nickname, The Demon. His career with the long-running rock band KISS, his impossible tongue, and his controversial nature are well-documented. It seems he'll be a rocker forever, despite the fact that, as he stated in an Esquire interview, he believes rock was (partly) killed by file sharing in 2014. "Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered," he said. "File sharing started in... young people...who felt they were entitled to have something for free."

But what of the cynical megastar's childhood, a part of his life that is rarely covered?

Simmons was born Chaim Witz on August 25, 1949, in the city of Haifa in Israel. He may never have been born at all, as his Hungary-born mother, Florence Klein, was a survivor of the Holocaust. Biography reports that her family perished around her in internment camps while she was just 14 (only her brother Larry Klein survived with her). She would later tell a HuffPost journalist she met on an airplane in 1994, "My dear, I can never unlock that door and bring up those memories, because if I did, I would go crazy and never come back."

From humble beginnings, one of the world's least humble men

Gene Simmons' parents were very poor. Per Biography, his carpenter father, Yeichel Witz, would often fight with Florence. Ultimately, he departed forever for Tel Aviv and left Florence to raise her only son alone. The pair scraped by as Florence worked whenever and however she could while Simmons was with caregivers, until the young man was 8 years old. That year, in 1958, they moved to the U.S. to live with family in Queens, New York. There, the young Gene Klein (freshly renamed for this new chapter) spent a year studying at a Jewish yeshiva.

At Joseph Pulitzer Middle School, his love of music would blossom. As The Victoria Advocate reported in 1998, he would spend much of his free time practicing guitar. According to Biography, Simmons formed his first band, The Missing Links, and when they won a talent show at Joseph Pulitzer, he was bitten by a particularly ravenous fame bug that still has its mandibles in him today.

Was there a time when Alice Cooper was anything less than the formidable shock rocker he is today? When Ozzy Osbourne wasn't the showing-no-regard-for-his-own-safety Prince of Darkness? Yes, yes there was. Both were once just vulnerable children, as was fellow rocker Gene Simmons.