October 29, 2008


The Kansas City Star

By day, he s a maintenance worker for Mid-Continent Public Libraries.

By night, he s Gene Simmons of Kiss - Halloween makeup and all - and women bare their breasts for him to autograph.

Life is really rough for 50-year-old Scott Jensen of south Kansas City, known as Almost Gene, the lead singer of the Kiss tribute band called Almost Kiss.

They play shows around the Midwest and have built up a fan base of adoring baby boomers who remember the days before the real Gene Simmons stripped off his makeup and became mortal like the rest of us.

Ah, where did the magic go?

Preview: OK, my first question just has to be: Why?

Jensen: I ve been a fan of the band since my high school days, since 1974. Being a musician ... I play in other bands in town, as myself, and you really can t play Kiss music in those bands because it s not the coolest music to play. But when you dress up as the band, you can get away with it.

I have played their songs in bands in the past and gotten, as far as a cover band, a so-so response. But when you go out with the full production, you really get a response.

What does the full production entail?

The costuming. The big Kiss sign that lights up behind us. We bring in concert lighting, a concert P.A. system. The fog. Just everything Kiss had, we try to do. It s not like going to see a cover band in a bar. It s the whole ball of wax.

How long have you been doing this?

This band has been together three years. But like I ve always told everybody else, I ve had 35 years to prepare for this. It was just a matter of finding the right people.

How did you get to be Gene?

Well, I ve got the longest tongue.

Uh, yeah. How did you train to become Gene Simmons?

Hours in the mirror.

I knew it had to have something to do with a mirror.

You have to see what the people are seeing. And Kiss fans are particular about the littlest things. I figured it out one time, we do 22 songs in a show, and I wag my tongue about 100 times in each song. After we did the first few shows, I couldn t understand why my mouth hurt so much.

And my feet hurt because the 8-inch boots are (hard) to walk in. I m a physical wreck after each show.

Who makes the costumes?

I made mine from scratch. It s not that I m cheap. But I went on eBay, and Gene s costume was like $3,500 to $5,000. I read Gene made his costumes originally. If he can do it, I can do it. So I taught myself how to sew. The boots ... they re actual (replica) Kiss boots.

How tall are they?

Eight inches. I spent many an hour walking around the house in those. I m 6-3, which is the same height as Gene. And that puts me over 7 feet tall. I have to be careful going under doors. The last thing I want is to get my wig pulled off.

Tell me about the fire-breathing. Weren t you scared?

Yes. In fact, at a couple of shows I didn t do it. If there s a low ceiling, I won t do it. I have a roadie on the side with a fire extinguisher and a big beach towel soaking wet. I have a big wig full of hairspray and all I need is for a spark to catch that. So my base roadie ... he s instructed, 'If you see one spark, I want that towel on my head. It hasn t happened yet.

How many times have you seen Kiss in concert?

Oh, gosh, this is really embarrassing.

I thought it might be.

I've kept every one of my ticket stubs ... probably easily 50 times in my life. I saw them in 74 for the first time, opening for Blue Oyster Cult. The last time I saw them was in 2005.

Does Gene Simmons still tour with the band?

There are two original members still touring, Gene and Paul (Stanley). They actually own the rights to the makeup. Gene is a businessman. He owns the Kiss logo. He owns the name Simmons with the big dollar signs on each S. You can be buried in a Kiss coffin.

Do you have one?

No! I might get one.

Does your wife get mad when women throw their bras at you?

She just laughs. My wife is a very secure woman. She s my Shannon Tweed (Simmons longtime companion). To put up with what I do, she s an angel.

Maybe I should ask her about this.

What their big thing now is they pull their tops up when we re playing. And after we finish our shows, we do a meet-and-greet. We ve autographed so many breasts, it s unreal. The oddest thing we ve ever autographed ... we were doing a show at the Isle of Capri. This man took off his prosthetic leg and laid it up on the table, and we all autographed it.

Tell me about your audiences. Who comes to see you guys?

When we first started, we were getting a lot of baby boomers. But now, I notice a lot of younger people. It s spanning three generations now.

To me, Kiss is more than just a band. Even if you don t like Kiss or don t like their music, you ve heard of them.

Sometimes I wish that when they took the makeup off in 82 they would have stayed gone, that would have been the end of it. Because when they took the makeup off and everybody saw what they looked like and Gene s exposed himself, he s just this big, goofy guy.

Do you keep your identity a secret?

We tried that. No one really knows who s in the band. With this article, we re letting the cat out of the bag. But I don t mind.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- almost kiss in kc

Who they are: Scott Jensen as Gene Simmons. Dave Rediske as Peter Criss. Brandon Miller as Ace Frehley. Tony Collette as Paul Stanley.

Spend Halloween with them: 8 a.m. Friday on Fox 4 Morning Show; 9 p.m. Friday at Side Pockets, 1229 E. Santa Fe, Olathe. All ages show; under 21 must be accompanied by parent or guardian.

Learn more: