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About to celebrate 40 years in rock and roll, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS are legendary veterans of the music business, and they’re “Hotter Than Hell.” Actually, hotter than ever since forming in 1973 and in no way slowing down.
They rattled off just a few of the highlights of what’s ahead at the grand opening of KISS by Monster Mini Golf on Thursday afternoon:
*On April 1, in full makeup, they will be back in Las Vegas arriving on the red carpet in a Monster truck to present Best Vocal Group at the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
*On April 2, they’ll perform in New Orleans at the NCAA Final Four game.
*On April 9, they’ll perform two songs on the new season of “Dancing With the Stars” on ABC. (Don’t think Las Vegas resident Gladys Knight will samba to the songs.)
*In one month, they start filming a KISS movie with Mark Johnson of the “Narnia” films producing.
*In May, Season 9 of Gene’s “Family Jewels” begins and a 10th renewal looks definite for filming this fall for 2013.
*Their nearly three-month dual headline tour with Motley Crue starts July 19 and includes a stop here, as we reported in a Vegas DeLuxe interview with Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil.
*This fall, they’ll host yet another of their weeklong KISS-abean cruises in the Bahamas over Halloween with thousands of fans already booked.
“It never stops -- it’s a business a day. There’s a lot going on every day every month -- all mapped out through next year. KISS really is an empire. Business has always been up there. I’m Jewish and proud of it, so there was no choice in the matter,” Gene told me as he showed me his new language-translation business -- the world’s largest universal language translator -- he’s bought to import from Israel on his KISS iPhone. “This new KISS by Monster Mini Golf in Las Vegas is the first of many we’ll open around the world. The next one is already set for Japan. And we have the KISS KoffeeHouse franchises, which are also opening up around the world.
“We have only begun to scratch the surface that the world is turning to KISS. I’m amazed at the longevity of it, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger. It was part and parcel of having the right thing and being at the right place and the right time. Planet KISS is already trademarked and owned by us. We have everything from KISS kondoms to KISS kaskets, so we’ll get you coming and get you going!”
Gene and Paul are longtime New York friends of mine and were with fellow KISS members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer at Thursday’s opening of their glow-in-the-dark mini golf entertainment venue opposite the Hard Rock Hotel and east of Rumor. Here’s Richard Corey’s YouTube video of my chat with Gene, and, yes, that’s yours truly in KISS boots at the start.
Said Gene: “I’ve done the miniature golf thing lots of times. The thing about this that I think is going to be great for Las Vegas is when I hear family entertainment, I yawn, usually it’s boring. Family entertainment usually means that the grown-ups aren’t usually interested in what the kids are doing, but this is really cool. This is grown-up and kid stuff. You can be a kid, come in here, play black-lit golf with your glowing golf ball and your glowing club and get it into the glowing hole.
“These are semantics, but I’m not anti-semantic, these are very important points. No, no, no, but grown-ups can get married here, we have gift shops, it’s a great place to come in from the heat or at night. You don’t know if it’s night or day, and you’re playing black-lit KISS glow-golf. It makes perfect sense to me -- it’s the first of many!”
Robin Leach interviews Gene Simmons
KISS by Monster Mini Golf grand opening
Moments before the first wedding in the Hotter Than Hell chapel, it seemed appropriate for me to talk with Gene about the wedding ring on his fourth finger and ask how new married life to Shannon Tweed was after all the years of staying with her but remaining single.
He told me: “I’ve waited 62 years to grow up but still had to call the ring by the name Bob. As you know, men are arrogant and have a hard time kind of just committing to the idea, that at some point you want to surrender. It’s a difficult thing for me to say, being an alpha male, because all your life you’re arrogant and selfish, and nobody is going to tell me what to do, and I’m just going to follow my schmeckle wherever it leads like the divining rod of … I look at it much more religiously.
“The good book, it says spread thy seed, and I was just doing the Lord’s work. Then you have to get over that stuff and get serious about it. Shannon has given me two wonderful, charming kids who are now grown up, and it’s probably time for Dad to grow up, too. I’m working on it. You know, we’ve been married only since October.”
The highlight of the grand opening was the first wedding. Natasha Fagen and David Howard had met as KISS fans on Match.com and decided after a year to marry and bid on eBay for the club’s first wedding. It cost them $15,000 “and worth every penny,” David, in a KISS outfit, told me. “I first saw this band when I was 11 years old. They’re my heroes. For both of us to get married with Gene and Paul in our bridal party was a dream come true. We’re waiting so we can take our honeymoon on the KISS cruise this fall.”
Our friend Mini-ster Brian “Lowercase g” Thomas performed the ceremony -- with numerous references to KISS hits and rock and roll. It was his first ceremony now that he’s ordained and won’t be doing leprechaun duties at O’Sheas when it makes way at the end of the month for the new Linq project at center Strip. Guests tossed KISS guitar picks in place of the traditional rice!
KISS by Monster Mini Golf here is the first of its kind and features the indoor, glow-in-the-dark, custom-designed, rockin’ 18-hole miniature golf course, with Gene’s tongue, Paul’s guitar and other unique hurdles. Also, a state-of-the-art arcade, the largest KISS merchandise gift shop in the world with makeup and costumes costing as much as $5,000, a KISS Gallery of star photos (everyone from Wayne Newton to David Copperfield and yours truly wearing the KISS footwear), the Hotter Than Hell wedding chapel, a private VIP Room, a FANtastic KISS-themed event room for birthdays, the Rock ’n Roll All Nite Cafe and a DJ playing continuous KISS music right through the “Crazy, Crazy Nights.”
Fans flew in from as far away as Tokyo for the opening and included Lady Demon winner Christine Mulleneaux, the Mr. Speed winning KISS tribute band from Cleveland and KISS Forever tribute band from Hungary. Gene says it’s four generations of fans now following the band, and indeed I met grandparents with grandkids all wearing KISS face makeup! It’s become more than a phenomenon, for Gene, a former math teacher from Queens, has turned it into a mind-boggling billion-dollar empire.
Event coordinator Nancy Junis told me that a second wedding followed at 9 p.m., and 75 others are booked already. One couple taking part in a Guinness World Record challenge plans to marry in 19 chapels next month and crown it with the 20th stop at Hotter Than Hell. Wedding packages are $249 to $1,199, which includes free KISS kondoms and garters.
Thursday’s partygoers included Gene and wife Shannon Tweed’s kids Nick and Sophie Simmons, “Absinthe” stars the Gazillionaire, Penny Pibbets and Angel Porrino, “Peepshow” star Cheaza, the casts of “Jersey Boys,” Chippendales, Thunder From Down Under and “Fantasy,” “Defending the Caveman” star Kevin Burke, magician Murray Sawchuck, comedian Andrew Dice Clay and “The Bachelor’s” Jake Pavelka, who is still in disbelief that his contract hosting Chippendales at the Rio was extended. Our thanks to Richard Corey for his YouTube videos.
Gene summed up: “We still love going out on tour. We still love performing for our fans. We’re still growing the business four decades on. We’re still having fun, and we’re now entertaining four generations. We’ve got grandfathers. Remember, we started almost 40 years ago, so the 15-year-old became the 25-year-old, and then at 45 he got a child, and we see him at the concerts.
“It’s the imagery, and what we sing about is timeless, self-empowerment, enjoying life, never political, never putting anybody down. It’s the joy of life, sort of like the John Philip Sousa marching song. You just want to get up and start marching.
“I’ll keep on rocking for decades to come. They’ll have to drag me kicking and screaming off that stage with the boots on because they are made for walking, Robin. And that is just what they’ll do, one of these days.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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