By Darryl Sterdan ,QMI Agency /Toronto Sun
If there's one thing KISS's Gene Simmons knows how to do, it's wag his tongue.
So it only makes sense that the multi-tasking entertainer and businessman has recently added a new credit to his lengthy resumé: Motivational speaker.
"I love the sound of my own voice, as you can imagine," says Simmons of his Rich & Famous Speaking Engagements. "So part of it is about me. But it's also about my path to success.
"When I was growing up, I read the newspapers. I would watch television. I would see celebrities and successful people. But they were always mythical people. You never got a chance to sit in the room and listen to them talk about their path. And everybody's path is different. There's no secret to success. No magic bullet. There are only time-tested and true pieces of the puzzle that can impact and increase your chances of becoming more successful -- or, in my language, make more cash.
"I'm not here to talk about spiritual or relationship issues. I may not be the most qualified person in the world on that," admits Simmons, whose 28-year relationship with Canadian beauty Shannon Tweed seems to have "pretty much unraveled," if you believe what she said during a tense TV appearance the pair made earlier this week.
But cashing in is something at which the 61-year-old Israeli immigrant-turned-Beverly Hills resident is indisputably a master. Nearly 40 years after their formation, KISS remain one of rock's biggest bands and brands, with 3,000 licensed products from condoms to caskets ("We'll get you coming and going," Gene quips). He also stars in the longest-running celebrity reality-TV show Family Jewels, about to begin its latest season. Between those gigs, he presides over the Canadian-based Simmons Records, pitches a variety of products, and is preparing to launch a chain of theme restaurants and a TV talent show.
But he's still willing to make time to pick up $100,000 for talking about how he got rich enough to charge $100,000 for talking about how he got rich.
Before winging to Winnipeg to put his mouth where his money is, Gene shared his keys to success, told me what's wrong with Men Without Hats and explained why I should change my name.
What's been the key to success for you?
I'm completely dedicated to myself. I don't suffer fools. I don't surround myself with losers. And because I don't allow it, it often comes off as arrogant -- 'Who does he think he is?' But I just don't have time for that. But those people are vampires. They will suck the life out of you. You have to surround yourself with people who know more, people who are more successful. And this idea that money can't buy happiness? It's wrong. Not having money makes you unhappy. Having money actually does make you happy. Even if you're a miserable son of a bitch, you're still going to be happier being a rich miserable son of a bitch.
How much will a KISS fan get out of a Rich & Famous event?
Well, a KISS fan can show up and ask me when we're going on tour. But that's not what it's about. This is not the Charlie Sheen tour.
So, you take questions from the audience?
Yes. The real magic that happens at these events is that about half of the time is spent in the audience. I get off the stage, we get some microphones, and people ask specific questions. Somebody might say, 'I own a dry cleaning service, and I want to spread it as a brand.' And I will say, 'What's your name?' For instance, what's your last name?
Sterdan? Yeah, that's no good. If you want to get into the branding business, I would change that. But let's say your name was Wallace. I would ask: 'Why isn't Wallace the name of your company? Why isn't it your dotcom? How come your email address isn't so-and-so at wallace.com?' Even these simple things help because, everybody is really in the same business: The fame business. You have to make your name mean something and people have to recognize your name is synonymous with quality. Your name and your story should precede you.
Switching topics, what can you tell me about the new KISS album?
We have all the songs arranged and written and all that. Like Sonic Boom, all the songs were written by the band. Paul is producing this one too. The first day in the studio, we cut two songs. So we're steaming ahead, not thinking too much about it.
Are you aiming for the same late-'70s vibe as Sonic Boom?
It's not just late-'70s, it's the classic sound of all time. Styles come and go; the only thing that sticks is The Stones and AC/DC, meat and potatoes stuff. That stuff is forever. When was the last time you listened to Men Without Hats? I personally would like to find the guy who came up with the name of that band. It's the stupidest name. You will never get laid with a name like that. Men Without Hats. Oh my f---ing god. Kill me now. You might as well wear a T-shirt that says, 'Please beat me up.'
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