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Simmons signs, and fans lap it up

June 26, 2003|Susan Carpenter

He mugged for the camera, autographing books, T-shirts and every other bit of KISS ephemera presented to him, but Gene Simmons refused to stick out his tongue during an appearance at Book Soup on Monday night, despite repeated requests.

"I can't. I have to wait till we're in prison together," said Simmons, the KISS frontman whose flicking tongue helped lead the band to fame in the '70s. The band's 53-year-old bass player was promoting his second memoir, "Sex Money KISS."

The 100 or so fans gathered for the event didn't seem too disappointed. All they really wanted was to meet Simmons, who, by rock star standards, looked relatively tame in a teal shirt unbuttoned to the navel.

One fan stepped up to him and performed a few tongue tricks. Another asked for a photograph with his KISS beer stein. Yet another peeled off his shirt, revealing the tattoo of the band that covered his back.

"Tell me the truth. Does it get you laid?" asked Simmons, who, in his 2001 memoir "Kiss and Make-Up," claims to have bedded 4,600 women.

Despite 30-plus years in the limelight, Simmons still seemed to enjoy toying with his groupies.

When an older gentleman approached him with the small stack of books he'd bought, Simmons chided, "Only four?"

When a middle-aged man asked, "Do you remember Boston 1992?" he quipped, "Was I there?"

Everyone in the room was fair game.

"Hey, L.A. Times," Simmons said. "Come here. You see this?"

He pointed to the photo a fan had brought him. It was a picture, circa 1976, of two boys, about 10 years old, dressed in full KISS face paint.

"It's not about the music. Anybody can sing songs," he said. "This is about making a connection."

-- Susan Carpenter

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