The Demon vs. … My Mom
In the late 1970s I worked as an entertainment reporter and columnist for a small Southeast Texas daily newspaper. The Port Arthur News was close enough to Houston, Beaumont and Lake Charles (cities with venues that could host major concerts) that promoters and record labels often sought us out to help promote an upcoming concert.
We had this executive editor, a family man and apparently a heavy dude in his church, who called me into his office one day. He said: “Kiss is coming to play in Beaumont. Many people in my church are upset, and we’re thinking about protesting. I think you should go and cover the concert.” Nice coincidence, because covering concerts just happened to be my job. And I wanted to go because I thought Kiss pretty much rocked.
Then the editor sat back in his chair and pursed his lips. He was a really tall, thin guy with a curly perm (late 1970s, remember?) and he was a ridiculous-looking dumbass anyway. “And you know what the name Kiss stands for, right?” he said proudly. “Knights In Satan’s Service.” Wow, I thought, that REALLY rocks. “OK Harry, I’ll get on it.”
So anyway, this PR chick calls and asks if I want to do a “phoner” with Gene Simmons. Absolutely! They set it up for about 7 p.m. one night, he’ll have some time before a show, and he’ll call me. Now in those days before cell phones and BlackBerries … oh, who I am I fooling? I lived at home with my parents. Plus I had something to do that particular afternoon and was worried I wouldn’t make it home in time for Gene’s call.
So I set it up with my mother, just in case: this guy is gonna call, it’s business, and he’s a professional musician, please just tell him that I will be in shortly and can call him back. OK, OK, no problem. Soooo, cut to that night and it’s 6:59 and I’m at least five red lights away. I exploded into the back door and my mom calls out from the Barcalounger, “Your friend called …”
Oh God. My mother spoke to The Demon. Did he manage to snake that prodigious tongue through the phone line and tickle my mother’s earlobe? Even worse, did my mother say something completely embarrassing and retarded like, “My son isn’t home yet and he hasn’t had his supper and he probably is hanging out with his nasty rock and roll friends and doing something probably illegal.”
But she said: “Your friend Gene was very nice and polite.” Whaaa? Are we talking about the blood-spitting, fire breathing, spandex-wearing, teenage-girl-lusting, rock-and-rolling-all-nite bass player for Kiss? “He asked me about my accent, and when I told him I’m from Louisiana he asked about some of the food we eat.” Food? “Yes, gumbo. He wanted to know about gumbo.”
The Demon wanted to know about gumbo? Luckily about that time the phone rang. I answered, it was Gene Simmons calling from backstage in Tulsa. This astonishingly polite, soft-spoken gentleman told me, “Your mother sounds lovely, we had a nice chat about some great sounding food.” My mom traded recipes with the Lord of the Wastelands and she lived to tell about it – that is, if any of her coffee klatch friends even cared. Anyway, Gene gave a great interview although he didn’t want me to tape record it and re-sell the interview, or something. He talked a lot about merchandising, and comic books, and movies, and very little about his apparent Lord Satan. So back in 1979 I discovered what Kiss really stood for (if you’ve seen as little as 30 seconds of Simmons’ reality TV show you know too) – it stands for Let’s Make A Shitload of Money.
Somebody finally showed my mother a clip of Gene Simmons in action and she remarked, “That can’t be the same man … this one is so NASTY.” I can only wonder what was the picture in her mind, maybe a picture of this rock and roll musician sitting down in his cozy kitchen to a steaming hot bowl of gumbo. And that long tongue snakes out.