Kiss Kick It In Style, Komplete With Kaskets

(By Jon Wiederhorn)

NEW YORK It's been suggested that Kiss bass strangler Gene Simmons would do in his own family if enough hard cash was in it for him.

If so, now he'll have something in which to bury them. As a farewell gesture to well-off fans, Simmons and bandmates will sell 2,500 Kiss Kaskets at $5,000 a pop on the band's Web site (www.kissonline.com) and, Simmons insisted, at funeral homes across the country. The entrepreneurial rocker attended Licensing 2001 International at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to push the new product, which comes emblazoned with the Kiss logo and current bandmembers' images. Dearly departed members of the Kiss family including guitarists Bruce Kulick, Mark St. John, Vinnie Vincent and the late drummer Eric Carr are not depicted, however. Perhaps there wasn't room enough for them, since the slogan "Kiss Forever" appears on the coffin's side. Simmons stressed that a variety of items, apart from loved ones, could be stored in the coffins.

"The idea was a little bit morbid," agreed Simmons Wednesday at the trade show. "Obviously, caskets are all about death, and they're not reusable. It's a no-deposit, no-return policy. So I came up with the bright notion that if death was so awful, why not celebrate life? In other words, why not have a daily use for the caskets? Why not watch your favorite ball game on TV, invite your friends over and open the Kasket to get a drink?"

The consummate salesman slipped a scripted dirty joke into his pitch. "When I was growing up, I wanted to put frogs up girls' skirts. And I wanted to drive a hearse because then everybody would squeal and say, 'Look at that!' It's all about being alive and having fun, sometimes at the price of making your friends squeal especially girls. But that's fun." With the latest, and reportedly final, Kiss reunion tour coming to a close, Simmons continues to brainstorm ways to generate revenue. He is slated to produce a film version of the life of music-industry mogul and Casablanca Records owner Neil Bogart (see "Kiss' Gene Simmons To Produce Neil Bogart Biopic"). And he has a VH1 series called "Hit Men" coming up along with two MTV programs: the original movie "Groupies" and a horror-anthology series titled "Gene Simmons' Chill-O-Rama."

"Shill-O-Rama" might be a more appropriate title considering the products the fire-breathing demon hopes to market. His proposed line includes Kiss cola, video games, party cruises and, of course, intimate apparel.

"There's going to be butt-floss underwear with 'Kiss It' and 'Kiss This' on the front," said Simmons, launching into another well-rehearsed spiel. He turned to three scantily clad models (wearing the face paint of guitarist/vocalist Paul Stanley, guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss), who nodded suggestively. "Oh, you like it," coaxed Simmons. "See, they're shaking their heads, saying, 'Yeah, I'd wear that.' Because when your boyfriends unwrap the package, what do you get? It's like sucking on a Tootsie Pop. It's nice to have the candy, but it's good to get a surprise on the inside. Fuggedaboutit!" Simmons, Stanley, Frehley and drummer Eric Singer plan to tour Europe and Russia this fall, beginning in Red Square for a crowd of 500,000, according to Simmons. It will mark the first time Kiss has played the former Soviet Union.

"They didn't pay in American currency, and I really wasn't interested in going there unless it was real," he said. "No reason to rush into a burning building, I figured. Better to let the fire die down."

After Kiss return from Europe and Russia, the band will likely play their final American farewell show before sealing the lid on their own Kiss Kasket. Simmons hopes original drummer Peter Criss, who left the tour in January for unstated reasons, will rejoin the band for its final gig.

"I have always wanted Peter in the band," Simmons said. "Does Peter want to come back? I think so. We have always been about each other."

Simmons insisted the U.S. show really will mark Kiss' final encore. New records are still on the way, however, including the long-promised Live IV and a box set due in November that will include rare tracks such as "Mad Dog," "Don't Ya Hesitate" and the original "God of Thunder" with Stanley singing.

"Kiss Forever," indeed.