Simmons offers one last Kiss

NEW YORK (Variety) - Few bands have as devoted a fan base as Kiss. But Kiss bassist and mouthpiece Gene Simmons is now asking fans to take their loyalty to a new place: the grave.

Ensconced in a private room at Gotham's Jacob Javits Center for the recent Licensing 2001 confab, Simmons showed off what he considers to be the ultimate piece of music memorabilia -- a life-size, fully functional ``Kiss Forever'' coffin.

Retailing for around $4,000, the coffin sports the band's logo, a panoramic graphic of the crowd at a Kiss show and, of course, the faces of the four founding members in full ``Destroyer''-era face makeup.

Simmons foresees strong demand from hardcore fans for the Kiss casket, and not just those headed to rock 'n' roll heaven. Indeed, the prototype set up in the rocker's suite doubled as a cooler, full of chilled soda and Budweiser.

``We figured, why not use it while you're alive?'' he says. ``For a guy that's home watching the game in his living room, he could just reach over and grab a cold one.''

The ``Kiss Forever'' coffin is only the latest offering from a merchandising empire that Simmons values at north of $500 million. The band's imprint appears on products ranging from wine and bubblegum to mobile phones. But the entrepreneurial rocker sees no reason to stop at the hereafter.

``Why not invent our own religion?'' Simmons volunteers. ``We could call it 'Kiss-tianity.'''