Monday, November 14, 2011

Gene Simmons: The Rockin' Renaissance Man

By Thomas M. Kostigen
Gene Simmons is in the kitchen of his Beverly Hills mansion sitting on a tall bar chair. He has placed one of the grey suede boots he's wearing on the counter and sort of teeters as he strums a white guitar, playing with chords, and singing a bit here and there. An iPad on the counter blasts out a raspy tune about love, and Simmons, the famous frontman of the rock band KISS, chimes in offering advice on lyrics and music to a man in a blue suit and tie. The man is no music executive, though. He's an insurance executive, one of Simmons' partners in a new business venture. The man's daughter is an aspiring singer and Simmons has agreed to listen to her demo.
"It's like a blueprint for an insurance plan you're doing," Simmons says, referring to the demo. "It has to have all the pieces, but you also have to play with it to make it work, make it your own, make it different."

Few musicians could draw an analogy between insurance planning and songwriting. Simmons, however, prides himself on being a Renaissance man.

He may be known as "The Demon" in Kiss, the hard rock band he co-founded in the early 1970s, with his iconic makeup and serpentine tongue, but Simmons is a dead serious businessman. He is co-founder of Cool Springs Life, an estate and insurance planning firm in Franklin, Tenn., that caters to people worth more than $20 million. He is a principal in Ortsbo, an online language translation company that garners 20 million unique users per month, according to its CEO. He is a partner in Simmons Abramson, a marketing company that among other things promotes the IndyCar races. He has his own record label, a publishing company and an online venture with Sony. There is also his coffeehouse and a new airport restaurant chain, a joint venture with Hello Kitty and he is the star of Family Jewels, the longest-running celebrity reality show.

So what makes Gene Simmons tick? That's what I've come to discover as I pull through the massive gate that leads to his house halfway up one of the more esteemed streets in this ZIP code. The driveway winds around to a carport. And Simmons is there to greet, standing atop the stairs that lead to the front door. He is wearing dark sunglasses, a black suit and a black shirt. No tie.

I had tailed another car on the way in-one of Simmons' business associates. Two other business associates apparently have also just arrived, and Simmons waves to us all and then disappears inside.

The manse is highly organized and attended to. Floral arrangements and framed family pictures greet you. Simmons recently wed his longtime partner Shannon Tweed, the mother of his two children. To the right of the entranceway is a grand piano. The color scheme for the heavy furniture, drapes and rugs atop the dark, wood floors is mustard. Everything is just so: the leather-bound books that line the mezzanine bookshelves, the expensive-looking vases, the tea and coffee set that a uniformed house worker sets down for those gathered. The house could, in fact, be mistaken for your wealthy aunt's Connecticut estate.
Read the rest here at Private Wealth Magazine

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