Gene Simmons wants you to be rich and powerful, but it’s not going to be easy. You’re going to have to learn English, wake up early, turn off the TV and study.
“I want to shake you up and tell, you a real harsh truth: The world doesn’t need you,” he says. “The only way you’re going to become rich and powerful is if you stand up on your hind legs. You’re only going to get the respect you demand.”
Simmons, the co-founder and bassist for the rock band Kiss, is brutal in his advice: Women, choose between a career or a family. Guys, get rid of your worthless friends. Above all, don’t listen to the self-esteem movement or be politically correct. Simmons is here to demand that you drop and give him 20.
“I want to be your drill sergeant and piss you off so that you wake up and smell the coffee and go out there and become that rich and powerful person you deserve to be,” he says. “You cannot fail in America.”
Why should you listen to this guy, someone who has spent much of his adult life slathered in scary makeup, in towering platform boots, wagging his tongue onstage and singing songs like “Lick It Up”?
Because he’s also an entrepreneur who came to America with no money and no English. He’s become, he says, a millionaire with a hand in a restaurant franchise, a wealth management services firm and a magazine, among others. “You don’t have enough hours in the day to understand what I do,” he says.
Now Simmons is ready to reveal the principles he’s learned in his book, “On Power,” part guidebook, part self-help manual, with several profiles of people we should admire, like Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett. It’s a small book, and that’s on purpose. “You can take it to the pooper with you,” he explains.
Jessica Sindler, his editor, called working with Simmons “without a doubt a memorable experience” and that all the concepts in the book came from him. “They’re based on the way he lives his life and runs his career. He is very much a man who practices what he preaches.”
In person, Simmons is a jokester and a wordsmith who clearly loves attention. He wags his impressive tongue to whoever asks and glad-hands strangers like a politician. He likes to wear a ball cap decorated with a picture of a sack of money that he’s trademarked. He puns outrageously (“Close but no guitar,” he says at one point. “See what I did there?”).
Simmons cheerfully poses for selfies, interrupts conversations and likes to take candid photos of people he encounters who are lost in their phones. “Every once in a while, look up,” he told one startled bystander. Sometimes, he goes too far, as he did recently during a visit to Fox News Channel. He was allegedly crude, taunted staffers and exposed his chest, triggering a network ban.
Simmons has become legendary for leveraging Kiss’s distinctive look and winking cool into everything from reality TV shows to action figures, colognes, keychains, cabernet sauvignon and even a coffin — the Kiss Kasket.
Simmons is a curious mix of things. He’s a hawk on foreign policy, no fan of unions or socialism, but a liberal when it comes to social issues. “You want to get married to a rock? Or change your sex? Go to Mars and become a Martian religious fanatic? I really don’t care,” he says.
He has boasted of his sexual conquests but is a long-married teetotaler who has no patience for illegal drug users. He can quote Kierkegaard and Kant and speaks four languages, but blames the recent global financial meltdown on greedy borrowers.
He believes we’re still basically hunter-gatherers, with men awash with testosterone and only vaguely civilized. He applauds the wave of women these days calling out men for sexual misconduct.
“There will always be bad guys, don’t kid yourself. The best thing that’s happening now is the female of the species is standing up collectively and saying, ‘That’s enough.’ Good for women. That should always have been the case.”
His advice to gaining wealth is simple: Start a limited liability partnership in your home, use social media and deduct your costs from taxes. You can keep your old job until the rewards flow in. If they don’t? You can declare bankruptcy and “then you can start again.” (It’s advice not all financial advisers endorse.)
Having a brilliant idea for a business is fine, but outhustling is more important to Simmons. “It doesn’t have to be new or original. It can be a stupid idea,” he says. “Some of the dumbest people have become enormously successful.”