Rock wild man just image for city-raised Simmons. Gene Simmons, the long-tongued lead singer of rock band KISS, didn't attend his 33rd Newtown High School class reunion last weekend. He also didn't even venture to Corona, where he went to Public School 92 from 1959 to 1963. He even bypassed his old Jackson Heights neighborhood, where he went to Joseph Pulitzer Junior High School 145 from 1963 to 1965. And he didn't even walk past his old apartment building at 33-51 84th St. "There's no action in Queens," Simmons said during a recent interview at the Righa Royal Hotel in Manhattan.Girls and music|
But that didn't stop the infamous 51-year old rock 'n' roll star from reminiscing about the good times he had while growing up. And, yes, most of the memories involved girls and music. One of the fondest memories? His first French kiss at a Joseph Pulitzer JHS dance. "I remember she stuck her tongue in my mouth and I thought I was going to throw up," Simmons said. And his first venture into musical theatre at Joseph Pulitzer. "Oklahoma," exclaimed Simmons, who then broke into song. "Pore Jud Is Daid..." And there was his first romance with a young woman who lived on 37th Ave in Jackson Heights. "I happened to mention it in the schoolyard to one of the guys and told him, 'Shhh, don't tell anybody!' It quickly spread around the school," Simmons smiled. Simmons didn't sing or play guitar in a rock band yet. Heck, he didn't even wear makeup, high heels, drool fake blood and wiggle his long red tongue. But he started establishing a reputation as a ladies man. He is not married, but has two children, Nicholas and Sophie, with former Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed. Back then in Queens, he wasn't known as Gene Simmons. He was known as Gene Klein, born Chaim Witz Jr. in Haifa, Israel. His mother emigrated with him to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She Americanized his name to Klein. It wasn't long before they settled into a six-story family apartment building in Jackson Heights. At Pulitzer, Simmons worked on the school newspaper, and counted music class as his favorite. "I remember really liking the music class of Mrs. Kassorla," Simmons said - for both the music and the girls. "One day a young lady who sat in front of me in Mrs. Kassorla's music class asked me to stick out my tongue and show her friend the silly thing I did when I wiggled it, and I never thought that there was anything to it, " Simmons said. He had the tongue, the vocal chords and was getting the girls - now all he had to do was form a band. It didn't happen at Elmhurst's Newtown High School. He quietly kept to himself. "I was never in a social group because I never got high or drank. I was in the choir at Newtown," Simmons said. So quiet, in fact, that most of Simmons' classmates, such as Sena (Rosenberg) Pelletier and Phyllis (Mislov) Brink never knew that Gene Klein is Gene Simmons until they were told this week. Simmons reached for his Newtown High School yearbook, examining his very conserative picture. "It's not so bad," he said. After high school, as a young pre-KISS musician, he remembers playing the Beehive Club on Northern Blvd. in Flushing.
Not drinking pays off
And he discovered that never drinking worked to his advantage. "When I would go to these parties, the guys would all get drunk and I would wind up with their girlfriends. I figured that worked well. "You want a drink, Gene? 'No, I'm fine,' he recalls saying. Simmons said he led an alcohol-and drug-free life because he never wanted to shame his mother. "My mother was in a concentration camp. She had such a horrible life, I could never think of ever disappointing her with anything because all she did all her life was work," Simmons said. As well as clean living and being good to your mother, Simmons hopes aspiring musicians attending PS 92, Pulitzer and Newtown will heed this advice: "Learn the music business at the same time you are learning how to play the instruments. Because it's not called 'show business' by accident. The show is fun- the business is hard work," he said.