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Gene Simmons: Kiss and Tale of a 'Celeb Apprentice'

January 10, 2008 By:
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Gene Simmons ... a Kiss-up to Donald Trump?

This I gotta see.

It may or may not happen, but then again, when you're a member of "The Celebrity Apprentice" arrivistes, who knows what kind of tongue-lashing is due you from the Donald?

The new spin on the seemingly spun-around "Apprentice" will star Trump in charge, but with his wannabe stars already at that level. Simmons -- the upfront, outré-outsized star of Kiss, whose tongue-in-chic humor as the band's Demon demands a bigger cheek to hold it in -- is, as are the other contestants on NBC's Thursday-night series, such as Marilu Henner and Vincent Pastore, apprenticing not for approval but for charitable purposes.

Who cares about Trump's stamp of approval? Lick his contestants? Lick this: Simmons already has a postage stamp in his honor.

And he is no Raj Bhakta -- backing his way into dates, flirting his way to the forefront. Doesn't need to: Simmons' been "happily unmarried for 23 years to Shannon Tweed," with two kids to call their own. Not to mention the live-in life he once shared with Cher and that human hurricane known as Diana Ross.

You can't hurry love? Simmons is in no rush. The Kiss and tale of his TV tease? Speaking slowly and knowledgeably, with somewhat of a stentorian tone that once suited his sincere wish to become a rabbi, the sabra-born Chaim Witz has his wits about him. Even at 58, the "bad boy" rocker rocks that image with praise for family life on his own reality show, "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" -- a ballsy imprimatur invoked by the legendary lothario with a hot-to-trot legacy.

But beneath that bad-boy badinage is the "good Jewish boy" burgeoning by following the age-old adage passed on to him by his Holocaust-survivor mother: "Every day above ground is a good day."

And for the give-'em-hell howler from Haifa, a good 30-year-plus career it's been.

Apprenticing is apropos, though, for one who loves to give back. Gene therapy? Heavy-metal stars have mettle, too, Simmons wants you to know.

"Once you've got enough money, once you've got enough fame and glitz, and the glamour and the power, and the accoutrement of the American dream, when all the flashbulbs are gone and the girls stop kissing you, and you put the awards away and the sun comes up the next morning, and you're there by yourself -- will you get up at the crack of dawn and try to beat your own record?"

Yes -- the affirmative, not the band -- because "ultimately every champion is only in competition with themselves."

He's got much to compete against: Simmons' Kiss of fortune includes breaking a bounty of band box-office records established by the Beatles. Kiss can claim its medals and metal as the No. 1 gold-record award-winning group in the United States.

To market, to market: Simmons has his own marketing company; he also has an energy drink -- and the energy to go with it. "I'm lucky enough, blessed to be the king of my own domain," he says in a Seinfeld/ non-Seinfeld sense of sorcery. "But the question is, if the rug is pulled out from under you and you don't have your support system, your staff, how good are you really?"

He'll find out in the board room; that segment on the Thursday night "Celebrity Apprentice" has been enhanced.

Is the former sixth-grade teacher in Spanish Harlem bidding ola! to a chance to change himself? Chances are just maybe to get to know himself better.

"I'm the rat that knew the maze to get to the cheese," says the gorgonzola of guitar. "But how good am I in a brand-new maze?"

Amazing he'd want to know at this stage of his career, which has included journalism as part of his journey, working at Glamour and Vogue. Still in vogue after all this time, this "psycho circus" urchin of urbanity and ersatz glamour (he looks so much better without his kamikaze kabuki makeup) is the man of a thousand faces -- and one gigantic curdle of a tongue.

And sometimes, that curt tongue gets him in trouble. Just ask Terry Gross of WHYY/NPR.

"Fresh Air"? Fetid feedback to her question that he's been intimate with more than 1,000 females: "If you want to welcome me with open arms," he told her over-the-top, on-air, "I'm afraid you're also going to have to welcome me with open legs."

Someone open the window; the "Fresh Air" host took umbrage, reporting the vile-a-logue about Simmons' bed rest in her book, All I Did Was Ask.

He asked for trouble, too, with the Australian Islamic community, when, in 2004, during an interview, the Jewish juggernaut jeered at Islam, deriding the "vile culture."

Kiss and make-up -- also the name of his autobiography -- has been his occasional recourse to recriminations. But he's never given lip service to being other than he is. "I come from the bogeyman world," Simmons says of his rock-and-roil image.

And if it comes to Trump trashing him -- Simmons and the host are reportedly good friends -- would Simmons be fired up should his TV boss be able to get his tongue around the words, "You're fired!"?

As for the quintessential kiss-off, Simmons sizes it all up: "The truth is that in life, if people don't like what you do or you don't make sense, it's nothing personal. It's business."

This Corleone-quoting quipster ain't no choir boy, but can he take being bounced on his Kiss keister? "My suggestion for everybody watching, put on your thick skin -- buckle up. It's going to be a rough ride." 

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