|From: San Diego Union-Tribune|
KISS AND SELL: With marketing as his mother tongue, Gene Simmons is coming at you with a movie and merchandise (oh, yes, and some music).
Even when his famously long tongue is in a rare moment of repose, Gene Simmons projects the supremely self-satisfied air of someone who is certain that he has life licked. To drive home that point, the graying rock icon is quick to produce some of the spoils of his 26 years as the bassist and chief marketing maven behind Kiss, the proudly flamboyant, cartoon-come-to-life band he has helped transform into a multimillion-dollar-a-year franchise. The fact that no one has specifically asked the 49-year-old Simmons to display any of those spoils is at best a technicality. And Simmons, who is seated in a plush hotel suite and dressed in jeans, a dark T-shirt and a pin-striped blue banker's jacket, has never been one to rest on semantics. Quicker than you can say "Detroit Rock City" -- the title of the Kiss-inspired, teen-boys-coming-of-age movie that Simmons is purportedly promoting -- he takes out his wallet. It is the start of his unique way of answering a question about the secret of Kiss' success and longevity. And it has nothing and everything to do with his co-producing involvement in "Detroit Rock City," which he also appears in during the Kiss concert sequence that concludes the movie, which opens nationwide Friday.
**The fact that the dramatically challenged script for "Detroit Rock City" reads like a Cheech & Chong reject is also of little concern to Simmons, who views the movie as a well-timed marketing opportunity to keep his band's name in the limelight during its current hiatus. The fact that he is far more colorful and interesting than the film he is dutifully plugging is as unimportant as the fact that only one of the young actors in the movie admits to being a devoted Kiss fan. "Let's just say that, for me, it's opportunity knocks," Simmons says. "And it has more to do with an agenda, which oftentimes takes precedent for me. I know this gets me into trouble, because everybody always talks about content first. But when you get up to bat, and the ball's coming your way, and you only have one swing, you're going to swing at it, whether it's exactly what you want or not."
**As if on cue, Simmons quickly begins to plug a slew of upcoming Kiss-related business projects, only one of which -- the band's next release, an as yet unrecorded and undefined "concept album" -- has much to do with music. There's a "Kiss Psycho Circus" cartoon series, for which he is now in final negotiations with Fox TV's children's division; "Rock and Roll All Nite," a CBS-TV movie of the week, scheduled to air this fall; a possible Las Vegas Kiss production that, like the band, could run indefinitely; and a proposed event that, mysteriously but fittingly, would team Kiss with an even longer-lived show-biz institution: Barnum & Bailey's circus.
**"We don't care about being original," says Simmons. "You be original, you be cutting-edge. You blaze the trail. And then it becomes a mass-culture ritual, and I will follow. I don't want to be the first, I just want to do it right.