Mike Naimoli on 08/13/2006
TALES OF KISS & MAKEUP
August 7, 2006 -- SO Gene Simmons of KISS, with more gold records than any other Ameri can band ever, is burbling about his 16,500-square-foot house and recent $8 million check he showed his mother. So I\'m asking him, so, then, why\'s he doing a schlockola B-TV reality show for A&E?
Said Gene: \"It\'s not about money. Bill Gates still gets up and goes to work. It\'s always, \'Now what are we going to do?\' I have books like \'Kiss and Tell\' and \'Sex, Money Kiss\' out with Phoenix. I have a pile of businesses. All tie-ins. I have to water those plants and remind the younger generation to spend on me. I use the show to shill.
\"I\'m a partner in this show\'s production but, basically, I\'m too rich to care. Watch it if you like, and if you don\'t, don\'t.\"
For whatever reason, we got onto his mom Florence, 81, who lives here, whom he just visited and about whom he says, \"Her English sounds like Zsa Zsa\'s.\" So a few minutes later Florence is telling me:
\"I left Hungary for Israel, and when Gene, whose name then was Chaim, which means \'life,\' was 9 we came here. To Williamsburg. I went to work, $39 a week, as a piece-goods worker in a factory and enrolled him in Yeshiva. He spoke Hungarian and Hebrew, but the boys beat him up because he didn\'t speak English. I told him, \'Go to the bakery. There they speak Hungarian.\' He said, \'Because they speak Hungarian, I don\'t go there. I want to speak English.\' \"
Will she be watching her only kid\'s show tonight?
\"I see all his shows. I not only watch, I tape it. You know, I was there for his first show 30 years ago. I schlepped myself to this Queens Boulevard coffeehouse. Not many people there. And I nearly didn\'t recognize him in the makeup. I thought he was someone else.
\"Always he wanted to be a musician, but I said, first you finish college. This is a country, I told him, that if you work hard you can make it. Friends called him a sissy because they smoked but not him. He wouldn\'t drink. Didn\'t do drugs. He was very hardworking. He would pray then go to school then do a paper route in Jackson Heights. Out of a schmatta, I made a bag to hold those newspapers. And the first money he got he bought me a corsage. My boy became a mensch all by himself. Never asked help from nobody.
\"He wanted a guitar for $70. I had to save for that money. But I gave my word to buy it and kept my word. And he kept his. He finished college. Now he says, \'I thank my mom for everything.\' He said to me, \'When I was young and I wanted a cone of ice cream you gave it to me. Now I give you everything.\'
\"I don\'t anymore have to worry about the rent like I once did. Today I even have a housekeeper I take along when I go to the senior center. Chaim would tell me, \'Mama, if I knock on one door and they don\'t open, I\'ll knock on another door.\' \"
So, tonight, as the door to \"Gene Simmons Family Jewels\" opens, what the former Chaim Witz tells me is: \"American TV must be broadcast around the world. Arab countries need to see that here women have two eyebrows not just one. It\'s jeans, rock \'n\' roll and hamburgers that won the war on communism. Nobody\'s saying, \'Let\'s go grab some hummus.\' They\'re saying, \'Let\'s grab a burger.\' Our culture must be heard around the world.\"