Gene Simmons: Kiss and Make-up

Kiss and Make-Up(click here to learn more)

Gene Simmons was my name. I gave myself that name, I wasn’t given the name. There are many things in life that we don’t have control over. We are born into a race and nationality. We are raised to follow a certain religion. We are raised to speak a certain language. We are given a first and last name by our parents. We don’t have any choice in the matter. And then we are expected to marry and have children, within our religion and our race. I would have none of it. I would decide how I would live my life. Who I would share my bed with. And I damn well couldn’t care less what anyone else thought. At the end of my life, I will have done or attempted anything I ever wanted to do. I will have no regrets. I will not think “I woulda, coulda, shoulda …”


This is the autobiography of Gene Simmons, bassist and front man of KISS.


“Kiss and Make-Up” tells the story of an immigrant kid that became an incredibly successful businessman. A true American story of hard work, savviness and bravado. With verve and determination, he turns rags into riches and lives his life the way he wants to.

Simmons loves cartoons.


He devours them and is drawn to anything with adventure. He has kept this passion from his youth into his adult years:
“Even if I had company at the house – other musicians, actors, celebrities – I was intent on watching these cartoons. People didn’t understand my obsession, but then a few years later everyone acknowledged these cartoons as seminal works of postwar American art. But I always knew they were.”
He also realized the power of being a musician on stage.
“Just a year and a half later, when I was a bit older, I would be watching Ed Sullivan again. But the screaming wouldn’t be quite so subdued. And onstage there wouldn’t be a single teen idol with slicked-back hair but four teen idols with shaggy hair and funny accents. When I saw that, I understood everything about the world in a flash.”
“The seeds of what would later be KISS were all planted during this period: television, the Beatles, superheroes, science fiction, girls. Everything about America was coalescing in my mind.”
The demon costumes rose from these early love for cartoons and comic book heroes.
Kiss and Make-Up

What can we learn from this book?


1. Go for your dreams. Dream big.

Simmons did not only want to play in a band. He wanted to make that band into an empire with the Disney corporation as “role model”.
Think about that. We often don’t even give ourselves the permission to dream big.


2. Work hard and show up.

This reflects something that has been mentioned in the Slight Edge that I have talked about earlier.
During the starting years, Simmons worked to pay the studio rent and other bills. Still, there wasn’t a day where he’d miss a studio session from 10 pm to 2 am.
He took on a lot of side jobs while the band was crystallizing. In addition to being a cashier at a deli, he was typist at a temp agency (which was “decent work, and also a great way to meet girls“), went from there to “Glamour” and “Vogue” magazine and became indispensable because he could type fast and knew how to repair the equipment. Eventually, he moved his furniture into the practise space so he could avoid the commute to work. He says he did not have a single moment’s rest.
As a side benefit though, he would then ask girls to spend the night with him after the band was gone.
The Golden Rules of the band
Rule #1: You practise all the time.

Rule #2: No phone calls.


3. Be smart about HOW you work.

He worked for a government project that oversaw the distribution of funds to Puerto Rican minorities. On the weekends, the band could use the offices to print their mailers out. They distributed them to as many executives and directors of recording companies as they could find. That was 30 years before the internet allows everyone to have a professional presence. Back in the seventies, rarely would a band get out a complete promotion package. KISS did it.
Thus, he used every resource he had available to advance his #1 goal.


4. Be obsessed

This is not so much a recommendation, but certainly a trait that helped Simmons become successful. He was into comics and cartoons. He loved girls. How did he keep his passions while working on his band?
a) he wanted to be closer to his workplaces to cut the time spent on commuting. What did he take with him? His bed AND his TV set.
b) he used ANY opportunity to have sex with girls. That meant he would take the maid down in the hotel room. He would use the time after band practise to bring girls over to the studio and have sex with them.
He did not think about how to make time for both passions. He just made them part of his everyday life.
I am starting to believe that when people talk about “work-life balance”, the problem is NOT that they don’t have enough time in the day. The problem is that they are not passionate enough about their activities. Because if you ARE passionate about something, it just becomes part of your every day life. You would not even THINK about how to make time. You’d just DO IT.

5. Carefully prepare for your moment

What do you do when your moment arrives? How do you avoid letting it slip by?
KISS prepared themselves for their big moment.
#1 – They had arranged for Eddie Kramer – who had recorded and engineered Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Humble Pie etc. – to produce a professional high-quality demo tape.
#2 – Still, they could not pull any crowds on their own, so they hired two popular groups – the Brats and Luger – to play before and after them at a concert.
The crowd that these bands commanded had to stay for KISS.
#3 – They placed girls wearing KISS T-shirts in the front row. When the record execs entered the show at 9:30 pm, they saw the band on stage with a big show and plenty of female “die-hard fans” in the front row.
Gene Simmons even made sure he had a girl he already knew with a KISS T-Shirt on his lap when Bill Aucoin, their future manager, entered.
KISS never left anything up to chance. They had big goals, were passionate about them, showed up, worked incredibly hard and came up with creative solutions to get themselves into the best position possible that the last bit of “luck” could “strike”.

Further Golden Nuggets

Show business

People may think something you do is disgusting – but they can not look away.
Gene Simmons is fearless: As a child, he let beetles crawl around in his mouth. That’s pretty amazing even for a child. Even if people were grossed out, they had to watch and came to admire his bravado.
If you go and start a band, the girls will scream for YOU.
“Don’t let anyone tell you any different – the same impulse launched a thousand bands. (…)
We all picked up guitars because we all wanted to get laid. Plain and simple.”
When you have a band and get into a little trouble, your reputation soars.
A girl in class asked him to stick his tongue out and wiggle it around, for which he was sent to the principal’s office.
Afterwards, he was seen as a hero in school.

Sex and judgmentalness

He is not judgmental at all.
He always went into sexual encounters in a very natural way. Very early on, his long tongue was helping him, but the way he recounts his sexual adventures, he always talks respectfully and fondly about them. Sex, to him, was always just the fun part. Never something big he would put onto a pedestal.
He also very casually got laid spontaneously and in every situation. The sequence always seems to be the same, even when he was not famous yet: brush by a woman or see her, getting aroused, having sex. Simple.
He would also invite more than one girl over, taking into account that they may flake. When both showed up after another, he calmed down the second one and managed to have sex with ten both consecutively.
plus he still had “side projects” when he was with one girlfriend. just because he liked sex.
At the end of the conversation, I said, “Well, it was nice talking to you, I’ve gotta go.” She wanted to know where I was going. I said I had left a girl upstairs and I would have to go and keep her company. Karen was flabbergasted that the girl would wait for me and simply not leave. I thought it was bizarre that she would even ask me that.
His confidence is borderline delusional.
“I am one of the few guys who can look in a mirror and believe I am better looking than I actually am.”
Being “dumped” by girls meant nothing to him, because he’d just think the girl made a mistake, shrug his shoulders and go on to the next one.
Little dogs that bark at larger animals think themselves bigger than they really are. You think the dog is crazy but you also admire it for being fearless.
He thinks that any normal person would be scared to death getting on stage in front of a big audience. But that never fazed him, because all that counted were his drive and his passion.
Here are some videos of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Absolute confidence, no apologies.
Simmons was always the advance scout.
He always dared to do the biggest stunts in childhood; later on, he became the one tasked with bringing in the girls, and he was also the one who automatically volunteered to spit fire. When you are non-judgmental and only have this intense passion for life, you will be the first to do something new.

Additional points

He was  a theology major in school.
“Through the years, whenever religious fanatics accosted me, especially in the southern states, and quoted the Old Testament at me, I would quote them back chapter and verse. They didn’t know that I had been a theology major in school. An idiot is an idiot … whether he quotes the Bible or not.”
He popularized the “Devil” hand signal
To play guitar, he held the pluck with his thumb and his two middle fingers, leaving the pinky and index finger out. Some fans thought it was a sign and started waving the same “sign” back at KISS. He also copied spiderman, who had the middle finger pressed against the inside of his palm.
This hand sign became a standard gesture for other Heavy Metal bands. See also this excellent Onion Article.

What are the action steps I have taken after reading this book?

The line mentioned above:
“I am one of the few guys who can look in a mirror and believe I am better looking than I actually am.”
stuck with me, simply because I never found myself good-looking enough to be confident, whether on photos or in the mirror.
After reading that sentence, I started looking at pictures of myself in a different way. I checked out the parts that I liked or found were pretty “bad-ass”, while selectively “forgetting” the details about my face that I did not like. I’d always had in mind: what would I think if I was Gene Simmons?
Thus, “Kiss and Make-Up” has definitely contributed to elevating my self-confidence.

You can buy the book here.