Best known as the fire breathing, blood splitting and larger than life co-founder of hard rock supergroup, KISS. Simmons was actually born Chaim Witz in August 1949 in Haifa, Israel, the son of Hungarian Jewish parents, Flóra “Florence” (Klein or Kovács) and Feri Yechiel Witz. He moved to New York as a young child. Like many American teenagers of the 1960s, he was influenced by a fascination with comic book super heroes, monster movies and rock and roll music, thus the teenage Simmons set about creating what he perceived as the ultimate music supergroup.
Simmons eventually crossed paths with like-minded musician / songwriter Paul Stanley (born Stanley Eisen) in the early 1970s, and after several failed attempts to create their dream band, they recruited fellow New Yorkers spaced out guitarist Ace Frehley (born Paul Daniel Frehley) and “do anything to make it” drummer Peter Criss (born Peter Crisscuola).
The four struggling young musicians practiced relentlessly in a rundown loft in New York City refining their music & stage show before eventually launching themselves on the New York live music scene in the early 1970s with their blitzkrieg style of hard rock, kabuki stage make up and unforgettable high energy performances. After bombarding media, TV & public relations identities with invites to their shows, Simmons and Stanley soon brokered a deal with Madison Ave executive Bill Aucoin for him to manage the band, and Aucoin soon scored KISS a record deal with the fledgling Casablanca Records & Filmworks…..and the rest as they say is KISStory!
Since their first album debuted in 1974, KISS have sold over 80 million albums and played over 2,000 shows to millions of loyal fans (known as the KISS Army) right around the globe. Never one to keep still for too long, the charismatic Simmons made his first feature film appearance as his alter ego (The Demon from KISS) in the 1978 telemovie Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978), which received scathing reviews in the USA from TV critics. However KISS fans internationally loved the film and it played theatrically to strong box office business in dozens of countries, and has since become something of a cult film….despite its corny, cartoonish plot! Since KISS didn’t drop wearing their distinctive make up until 1983, it was several years before Simmons appeared in front of the cameras again (this time without the Demon make up), as an evil techno-junkie killer battling Tom Selleck in the thriller Runaway (1984). Simmons has since continued to turn up in low-key roles in B-grade thrillers such as Wanted: Dead or Alive (1986) and Red Surf (1989) that utilize his ability to glower and look menacingly into the camera. In addition, Simmons has appeared in minor guest roles in several TV crime shows including Miami Vice (1984), Millennium (1996) and, most recently, in Third Watch (1999).
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