I’ve waited years to tell this story. But when I saw the rock star on TV, I knew the time had come.
The rock star is Gene Simmons, the driving force behind Kiss, one of the most successful bands in history. Years ago, a friend called to say Simmons, who spit fire, posed with his tongue out, and hid behind that clown-like Kiss makeup, was looking for an author to help write a book.
I was younger then. I loved music. Why not? A meeting was arranged at Simmons’ home in a ritzy L.A. suburb. I drove up a winding hill, and pushed the buzzer at the gate.
“Who is it?” a voice mumbled.
Moments later I was at the door, waiting for someone to answer.
No one did. Knock, knock. No one. I wandered around the back of the house. Still no one. I was about to leave when I noticed, by the swimming pool, a slightly flabby man with a Middle Eastern look, and a micro-mini terry cloth robe that unfortunately revealed — how shall I put this? — nothing underneath.
Mr. Simmons, I presume?
“How ya doin’?” he mumbled. I could barely hear him. We went inside and sat down, me trying not to look anywhere near his robe and him about as interested in me as a cow is in life insurance.
“This book,” he whispered, “will contain nothing about my music. And nothing about my relationship with Cher.”
I’m thinking, “What relationship with Cher?”
“Also, nothing about Kiss.”
“Well,” I stammered, “OK. Um. What did you want to write about?”
“I’ve slept with thousands of women,” he whispered, “and I’ve got pictures of all of them. I want to write about that.”
“Oh, right,” I said, looking for the nearest door. “And, uh, what did you want to call this book?”
For the first time, he grinned.
Stories and scrapbooks
Now, there’s only so many places you can go at that point. Gene brought out scrapbooks, with snapshots of semi-naked women, all of them apparently taken in hotel rooms. And like a proud grandma, he had an anecdote for every smiling face.
“This one,” he said, “her mother banged on the door and said, ‘I know you’ve got my daughter in there!’
“But when I opened the door, the mother was smiling. Then she ran in and joined us.”
By this point, I’m sure the look on my face was akin to Donald Rumsfeld at a Metallica concert. We were interrupted by a shapely young woman, a former Playboy centerfold who was now Simmons’ girlfriend. She too, wore practically nothing (perhaps it was a house dress code) and she sat down on Gene’s lap.
She looked at the photo albums. Then she looked at me. And this is what she said:
“I can’t believe you’re considering writing this book with Gene. You disgust me.”
She then fed Gene some grapes.
I am not making this up.
The revised book
Well, being the disgusting one in the room, and also the only one who actually had any real clothes on, I was pretty uncomfortable by this point. Gene showed me more photos, his girlfriend sneered some more, and we went on having fun like this until I could invent an excuse to leave.
I never ran so fast to a car in my life.
Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. But for years, I checked to see if “My F—-” appeared in Publishers Weekly.
Finally, last week, I saw Simmons on the “Today Show.” And he was plugging a book. It was called “Kiss and Make-Up” so obviously, his vocabulary has upgraded.
So has his subject matter. The book indeed deals with his music, his band, even his relationship with Cher. And, yes, it details his thousands of women
— 4,600 to be exact.
When I saw him, I felt no regret. I figure I’ve done OK, even without that book. Besides, seeing him on TV, I realize we all grow up. Even Gene.
He was wearing pants.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He will sign charity copies of “Tuesdays With Morrie” at Barnes & Noble in Northville (7:30 p.m. Tuesday) and in Troy (7:30 p.m. Wednesday).