Gene Simmons might be an egotistical, greedy, sex-crazed narcissist – but at least he’s honest about it.
Aprapos of nothing: Here’s a radical thought for you. What if Gene Simmons isn’t the dick you think he is?
Now, stay with me here. I’m not saying that Simmons isn’t a dick – I’m saying that he might not be the dick he is often accused of being. There’s a slight difference and I beg your indulgence for a moment to explore it.
There are two reasons why Simmons is so widely hated, even by many Kiss fans. One is his insatiable greed – his lust to make money that has seen the Kiss logo plastered over every sort of merchandise you can imagine (and probably quite a lot that would never even enter the consciousness of most people before it existed: there is, after all, the Kiss Koffin and who apart from Simmons would have imagined that?). The other is his constant ability to fire his mouth off with the sort of embarrassing pronouncements that he makes in interviews or online, about everything from his old bandmates to political issues.
I’m not arguing that neither of these things is true. But I would argue that both represent an unfiltered reality that is actually quite honest. You don’t have to like what he thinks or does – but there’s little doubt that he isn’t hiding behind a public persona, which is all sorts of ironic when you think about the band he has spent fifty years as a member of.
By and large, rock stars love to pretend that it’s all about the music, maaan, or that they are rebellious figures raging against the machine, the voice of the oppressed masses making grand statements that will shake the very foundations of society. That most will do this by continually toeing the line of fashionable thought at any particular time, virtue-signalling their bravery in saying exactly what their young, liberal fans might want them to (or, conversely, making exactly the sort of reactionary commentary that their right-wing, redneck fans want to hear) suggests a bit more conformity than they might like to admit, though. And it is simple hypocrisy much of the time – having millionaire pop stars cheering on riots from the safety of their gated mansions is as pathetically, morally weak as some swaggering Brit-pop oaf trying to fight photographers and then running to hide behind his bodyguards the moment that someone tries to punch back.
Let’s be blunt here: Gene Simmons is not the only greedy rock star. He might well not even be the greediest. He is just more upfront about his desire to make as much money as possible than the bands of the people that play stadium gigs with VIP golden circles, release vastly expensive box sets, licence their name for official, overpriced, elitist merch, sell their logos to Primark and H&M or do vast corporate tie-ins. You might ask why, if they really wanted to make poverty history, bands like U2 don’t give away their vast fortunes instead of demanding that poorer people dig into their pockets – after all, how much money does anyone actually need? Preachy rock stars often seem to be extremely rich rock stars, you might notice, who live very comfortable lives in very big houses while sitting on piles of cash that they could never spend all of even if they tried. Like celebrities who demand that the rest of us stop flying to our once-a-year holiday locations while they jet around the world, the double standards and absolute belief in their own superiority are staggering.
Surely the only real difference between Simmons and Bono is that Simmons admits that it’s all about the money, the ego and the sex while Bono and his ilk pretend to be concerned with social justice even as they hoover up vast amounts of money and enter tax shelter schemes. I’ll take a rock star who absolutely revels in his own wealth over some rich celeb who pretends that he’s just like us while flying first class to attend climate change protests.
Similarly, let’s not pretend that our rock stars – or movie stars, for that matter – are the virtuous saints that they want us to believe they are. If recent celebrity scandals have taught us anything, it’s that the nicest, Wokest, most sincerely concerned star might be a complete fucking monster behind closed doors. They can shout about the obscenity of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia or any other intersectional cause all you like, but given how many have been caught doing terrible, terrible things to women and children and how many have been found to be exploitative employers and raging egomaniacs who verbally and physically abuse those who work for them, perhaps we should always be aware that the carefully crafted public image is not necessarily the truth. Similarly, their expressions of concern and support for social justice causes are as likely to have been written by publicists as they are to be sincerely held beliefs, safely righteous bullet-points to post on social media or trot out on the red carpet of some entirely elitist event.
Let me state this again, just to be clear: I’m not remotely suggesting that Simmons is a paragon of virtue. I’m not saying that he is a lovely chap, because all the evidence suggests that he is a vain, arrogant character who even his long-term Kiss partner Paul Stanley seems to find both annoying and embarrassing. But I think that we could say the same about many rich and famous celebrities. I can’t for the life of me see anything in Simmons that isn’t there – however carefully hidden and managed it might be – in anyone else who desperately seeks attention from the common people that they would never give the time of day to and who flaunt their wealth in ostentatious displays of elitism while telling the rest of us to make our miserable lives even more miserable.
Simmons, if nothing else, seems entirely unfiltered – it’s hard to imagine that he ever feels the need to say anything that he doesn’t actually believe, because he clearly doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him. And you know what? He’s not Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Roger Waters or Ted Nugent. His crass comments over the years pale into insignificance compared to the hateful shit that they have come up with. That has to count for something, right?
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