December 02, 2009
By David Glessner

Ask a rock star to confess an addiction, and you're likely to start feeling dirty. Or not.

"I worship cake and cookies," said KISS bassist Gene Simmons when pressed for a guilty pleasure. "If women were made of cake, it would solve all my problems. I don't care about pasta and steaks. I don't eat lobsters or crabs; to me they're cockroaches. I tolerate food, but I dream about cake."

Not to be confused with Cookie Monster, 60-year-old Simmons is the larger-than-life, blood-smeared, fire-breathing demon of kabuki rock gods KISS. Celebrating 35 years as the self-proclaimed hottest band in the world, KISS brings its dynasty of spectacle to Texas this week, with a concert at Austin's Frank Erwin Center on Friday, followed by shows in Houston and Dallas on Saturday and Sunday.

Among KISS' caboodle of famous tricks and treats, of course, is Simmons' serpentine lollipop licker. "When I was a kid in seventh grade, the girls all used to say, 'Hey Gene, show us that trick you do,'" he said. "So, I'd stick my tongue out and start wiggling it, and they'd all start giggling like turkeys to the slaughter."

Forever paired with co-founding KISS guitarist Paul Stanley, along with first-rate Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer on guitar and drums, respectively, is touring to promote new album Sonic Boom. KISS also is revisiting the unlikely 1975 career-launching concert album Alive!

Financed on their manager's credit card and released as a last-ditch gamble following three failed studio albums, Alive! blasted Simmons, Stanley and original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss into fame and fortune.

"All we knew was we were making anywhere from $85 to $150 a week and never had to go flip burgers," Simmons said of the lean years. "We were having the time of our lives, and groupies were raining down like cats and dogs. In hindsight, it was just really a case of throwing caution to the wind."

As with all things KISS, Alive! offered as much for the eyes as the ears. Besides such staples as Rock and Roll All Nite, Deuce, Strutter, Firehouse and Black Diamond, the Detroit rock city in-concert album cover captured the dressed-to-kill fearsome foursome in all their action-figure glory. And it was staged.

Asked why KISS' pop-culture appeal persists, Simmons said, "Are you going to line up for the next Jennifer Aniston movie?" he asked. "Does he love me? Does he not? Shut up! Where's the monster and how are we going to survive? Give me the end-of-the-world story."