Gene Simmons: Grand Mar-Shill


Simmons’ hair is a pitch-black wad of matted Brillo that coils down to

just above his shoulders. This is no kind of hair for a 56-year-old man

to have, even if he is an aging rock star and world-famous tongue



also the grand marshal of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix, which is why I

was talking with Gene Simmons. We sat in a hallway next to the press

room in the Mahaffey Theater this (Friday) afternoon, the buzz of race

cars still loud through thick-paned glass.


in some sort of marketing partnership with the Indy Racing League, so

ostensibly I was there to interview him about that. The first thing his

L.A. publicist said before she introduced me to Gene Simmons was that

he had about five minutes; he and his group had to get going. Typical.


didn’t have any questions, really, but that didn’t stop Gene Simmons

from riffing on Indy car racing. He let go with fusillades of words, a

stream-of-consciousness shill about the greatness of the thing; how,

yes, he’s a “money-hungry hog” like everybody else, but he could not

front the event unless he had true, true passion for it.


know what? I wasn’t buying it. It all sounded like a hasty, hardly

cohesive pitch, and I didn’t believe for a second that Gene Simmons is

an Indy racing fanatic. Amid all the blather, he got a few bullet

points in: how fast the cars go, how the drivers are “rock stars in

rocket ships,” something about how Danica Patrick might be hot but

she’ll “leave you in the dust.” He showed me a baseball cap with the

IRL slogan: “I Am Indy.” “It’s all about being an independent person,”

he said -- as in choosing Indy racing instead of being part of the

NASCAR herd.


asked him if he liked to drive fast. “No, I’m chicken,” he said,

peering at me with watery brown eyes. “I didn’t get my license until I

was in my mid 30s. When I was 24, and I got my first (KISS) check, I

bought a limo and hired a driver. I wanted to be royalty coming down

the street.”


about then, the L.A. publicist came up and said that Gene Simmons and

his retinue had to get going. “What? I drove two-and-a-half hours from Orlando

in traffic just for this interview,” I lied. Simmons said that maybe I

could join them in the car on the way back to the hotel. Then his

partner piped up, all apologetic, saying something about having a

conference call. Ah, the art of extrication. Even though I appreciated

Gene Simmons’ offer, I really didn’t want to hang out with him at the

hotel, so I let him off the hook.

As Gene Simmons and his sidemen filed down the hall, he patted the young L.A. publicist’s cheek, turned back to me one last time, pointed a finger and said …




Gene Simmons insulted my shorts — something like, “Did you sue the guy who sold you those shorts?” This from a guy wearing tight jeans, black cowboy boots and a psychedelic T-shirt,Seedo_shortlist11_02 covered by a black, double-breasted suit jacket with a rose in the pocket. Now I like a good

rip, and it doesn’t bother me in the least that Gene Simmons insulted my decade-old cargo shorts 30 seconds after I shook his hand. What bothers me is that my rejoinder was, “Hey man, you don’t like my shorts?”

Talk about your lost opportunities. Ah, to have that moment back. It might’ve gone like this: “Did you sue the guy who sold you those shorts?”

“Uh, yeah, how long does it take to glue on your hair?”

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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