In high school, I hated Kiss. I loathed them. I despised them with an intensity that adolescents reserve well, um, for pretty much everything.
The origins of my Kiss hatred were simple: they were immensely popular. Therefore, ipso facto, Kiss were the product of focus groups, polling, and shadowy backroom corporate manipulations. They were talentless, made-up hacks who pandered to the lowest common entertainment denominator. That was Kiss.
And then, approximately twenty years later, backstage at a Canada AM green room, I met Gene Simmons. I was there to participate in a regular political panel. Gene was there to plug his new autobiography, titled Kiss and Make Up. While there, Gene hit on everything wearing a skirt, and quite a few things that did not. He also talked – a lot. I found myself laughing – a lot. He was surprisingly witty, and clearly intelligent.
A couple years later, offered the chance by accessmag to interview Simmons, I immediately said yes. Using guile and dirty tricks, I would give him the most unpleasant interview experience ever.
My Machiavellian plan: ask Gene Simmons twenty questions about twenty unrelated subjects, in rapid succession. Try and catch him out. Fool him. Get him, ahem, tongue-tied.
Here are the results, with the naughty bits (and there were plenty) edited out. Not all questions are reproduced here, due to space restrictions. At the end of it, the final score: Simmons 20, Kinsella 0.
1. GETTING ACQUAINTED
WK: You’ve been interviewed 20 zillion times, haven’t you?
WK: I met you before, in the green room at Canada AM. I was listening to you talk. I thought: ‘This guy is smarter than I thought’.
GS: You like men, don’t you?
WK: That’s what my wife says.
2. ROCK’N’ROLL I.Q. QUIZ
WK: If you were marooned on an island, what ten records would you bring with you?
GS: Something by Chilliwack. (Laughter.) These guys should have been beaten up, very badly, not because they put out good music or bad, but because they had the gall to call their band Chilliwack. You deserve a good bitch-slapping for that.
3. GENE-O ON WACKO JACKO
WK: Is there anything complementary that could be said about Michael Jackson? At all? In any respect?
GS: I’ve got some great Michael Jackson jokes for you.
WK: I would like to hear one.
GS: Okay. Why are Michael’s pants always so short? (Pause.) Because they’re not his pants!
(Many other Michael Jackson jokes ensue, none of which can be printed here. Or anywhere.)
4. TRICKY GREEK HISTORY QUESTION
WK: Okay, who won the battle of Thermopylae? [Battle between the Persians and Greeks in 480 B.C., in which a few dozen Spartans held off thousands of Persian soldiers in a narrow passage in central Greece, but eventually lost when a Greek traitor showed the invaders an alternate route. – ed.]
GS: Very good. The Persians didn’t.
WK: They did.
GS: Eventually, yeah. But the one hundred or so Spartans held them off in the first part of the battle.
WK: [In awe.] God, you rock.
5. UNFAIR POLITICAL QUESTION
WK: Does Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry have any realistic chance of winning any Southern electoral college votes?
GS: That’s a good question. I just want to say this for the record: emotionally, ethically, morally, I side with [Kerry]. But there is not a chance in Hell I want him to be President. And I’ll tell you why. I want a complete Rottweiler to be in charge of that country. Someone who is hated around the world, including in Canada, because in a time of war, when you’ve got maniacs willing to blow themselves up to get at you, you need a madman in charge. A war President. The worst thing for America, as far as I’m concerned, is to have someone who is ethical and moral, like John Kerry, because he is going to want to sit down and have a conversation with maniacs. Not good.
6. MANDATORY SEXUAL ESCAPADE QUESTIONS
WK: Name one starlet you did not bed, and regret missing the opportunity?
GS: It was never starlets for me. It was always Sophia Loren. You know, little girls, you give them a twirl. But there are very few really seductive women, like Sophia Loren. I would do her now. I would consider it a privilege. And I would be a stallion. I would do her proud.
WK: I see. What matters more to female passengers: the length of the train, or the amount of time it takes to get to the station?
GS: How much money you’ve got.
WK: Another possibility, true.
GS: Because if you’re a millionaire, but hung like a second-grader, she will love you. That’s true. Or, you can be broke and hung like Mr. Ed, I suppose.
7. WHEN THE GREASEPAINT IS PUT AWAY AT DAY’S END
WK: When you are alone and you are in a big fancy hotel like this one, do you ever jump on the bed a lot?
GS: I’m not alone much.
WK: Okay, with your friends. Do you all jump on the bed together?
GS: I don’t have friends.
8. CRUCIAL GREASEPAINT INQUIRY
WK: Was Kiss’s decision to abandon the makeup in the early 1980s a cataclysmic marketing error?
WK: Was it on par with the Classic Coke controversy, or was it a stroke of genius?
GS: Sometimes less is more.
WK: What do all those years of greasepaint do to one’s complexion?
GS: Richer. It’s a richer complexion. A lot goddamned richer complexion. One hundred million richer.
9. KINSELLA BOOK RESEARCH DETOUR
WK: I’m writing a book on punk rock for Random House. This is true. Is there anything culturally, politically or socially redeeming about punk rock?
WK: Thank you.
10. BIG FINISH
WK: How did Kiss get so frigging huge?
GS: You know the phrase – the harder I work, the luckier I get. And it’s true. There is such a thing as luck, and being at the right place at the right time. But there is no substitute for hard work. There is no substitute for showing up on time, doing the job that’s supposed to be done. Kiss did that.
WK: Alright, thank you sir.
GS: Asshole is wonderful word. Use it often.
WK: I do already.