To hear Gene Simmons tell it, he's the sexiest, richest and hardest-working man in show business (sorry, James Brown). And on his current DVD release, Speaking in Tongues, the demon-faced bassist of KISS documents his id-gone-wild lecture tour of Australia. Simmons is also keeping a high TV profile with a guest shot on the new season of Third Watch and a (still-in-discussion) makeover on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Seems like a good time to play a little kiss and tell.
TV Guide Online: On your new DVD, you are honest about your unconventional views about relationships.
Gene Simmons: I pretty much tell the truth: I love women. Gene Simmons the public person and Gene Simmons the private person are exactly the same guy. The reason the rags [tabloids] are in existence is because people have Jekyll-and-Hyde lives. I don't.
TVGO: How many women have you been with?
Simmons: I'm getting close to 4700. I know that by counting the photos, which I keep in books. I have names, cities and dates on the back of each picture. It's difficult to remember them all.
TVGO: You've been in a long relationship with Shannon Tweed. Could you ever love just one woman?
Simmons: Every man loves more than one woman — don't kid yourself. Nobody would ever ask a mother if she could love more than one child. Why can't a man love more than one woman? Everyone should read the book The Myth of Monogamy."
TVGO: You've dated some pretty famous women, like Cher and Diana Ross. Were they cool with your views?
Simmons: Cher was the best kind of modern woman. She didn't define herself by a man; she doesn't need a man's last name.
TVGO: You hang with a lot of famous folks, too. You even wrote a song with Bob Dylan on your latest solo album. How did that come about?
Simmons: I picked up the phone and said, "Do you want to write a song?" And Bob said, "Sure, Mr. KISS." He came over to my house and we strummed acoustic guitars. And a half hour later we had the guts of a song. Just two Jewish guys who assimilated and took on gentile names.
TVGO: Besides Dylan, you are also a big fan of the Beatles.
Simmons: The first time I saw the Beatles it was an epiphany. They were so different, they might as well have come from another planet. And I immediately thought, "Hey, these guys are cool!" I like to think KISS is just the Beatles on steroids. But we couldn't shine their shoes.
TVGO: KISS has become an amazing money-making juggernaut.
Simmons: KISS was the first band that was shameless in shilling itself. I prefer to be a whore. I want to be paid for my time. Who cares about artistic integrity? I'm enormously rich.
TVGO: Rich from those thousands of KISS products. You think you'll be buried in the officially licensed KISS casket?
Simmons: No, I don't want to take up any space in the ground. But do remember that the casket can also be used as a cooler for beer.
TVGO: I see — it can store cold bodies or cold beers. I wanted to ask you about TV.
Simmons: TV was the biggest influence on my life. As a kid I was fascinated with Superman, starring George Reeves. Superman was an immigrant like me, but he didn't just come from another land. He came from another planet. And I saw myself as Superman.
TVGO: You still wear a costume like Superman. Ever get tired of the KISS getup?
Simmons: Ah, I've worn more makeup and high heels than your mother ever did.
TVGO: True. Thanks for taking the time to chat.
Simmons: It's been my pleasure. I like talking about my favorite subject — me.