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Gene Simmons is speaking with Yahoo Entertainment from the Animazing Gallery in Las Vegas, where an exhibit of his never-before-seen sketches, drawings, and paintings, Gene Simmons ArtWorks, is set to run Oct. 14 through 16. The KISS bassist/singer rediscovered his childhood “secret passion” for art during the COVID-19 pandemic, when KISS’s End of the Road tour was postponed and he suddenly had a great of deal of time on his hands. Now, as that tour finally resumes Aug. 18 — and Simmons looks ahead to his art event taking place in one of America’s biggest tourist destinations — the conversation of course turns to the subject of vaccinations, masks, and coronavirus crowd safety in general.
Simmons has never been shy about voicing his opinions on just about anything, and he’s been very political on social media lately, tweeting regularly about this very subject. “But how sad is it that it's ‘political’?” he says of the ongoing vaccination debate in America. “I don't care what party you're affiliated with, or whether you think the election was stolen or not, which is all delusional. The earth is not flat. And this is really serious stuff. There are people dying because governors — DeSantis, cough, in Florida — are really hurting people by not mandating masks. You know, I may not be able to force you to get a vaccine. And by the way, I think it should be a law.”
Simmons continues: “Let's be honest: You can't drive through a red light. You don't have that freedom. You must wear a seatbelt. … You're not allowed to stand up in a movie theater and yell ‘fire’ just because you want to — that's incitement to riot. So these idiots who are complaining about getting COVID shots or not wearing masks are misunderstanding. They do not have the right to hurt other people. And this is a pandemic and it's very catchy potentially and you could be infecting other people, which is why I'm a firm believer that this should be a law.”
"Don't wait": Anti-vaxxer who suffered with COVID now strongly urging everyone to get their shots - CBS News https://t.co/hpVxmghDhz
— Gene Simmons (@genesimmons) August 12, 2021
Live Nation, the promoter of KISS’s End of the Road farewell trek, just announced that it will allow artists on the Live Nation roster to require concertgoers to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test in order to gain entry. Given Simmons’s hardline stance on the matter, it must be asked if KISS will implement such a policy themselves.
“There's a process. And I don't pretend to understand all of it, because we're all learning. I'm open to the idea that some people will just say, ‘Look, I don't want to do it. It's against my religion.’ Or ‘Martians landed.’ Or whatever. But everybody can wear a mask. I'm smart enough to at least presently say I don't know the answer,” Simmons says, adding more jokingly: “But I do understand that, even as a courtesy, everybody should watch their hands — and their butts, by the way, since we’re speaking about washing, because some of us just let it crust off, and you don't want to do that! Don't wait that long; wash the damn thing! And… wear masks. And if you don't want to wear a mask, then stand apart from each other… especially if you're unvaccinated. That's just the height of idiocy.”
Simmons, who competed on Celebrity Apprentice long before Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, blames the Trump administration at least in part for the pandemic. “The gentleman who was in office, the former president, I knew before, and it's the same person I knew before the political world. The stripes of the tiger don't change,” he says. “And the unfortunate thing is that, look, we all lie to some extent, but what happened in the last four years was just beyond anything I ever thought imaginable for people who have lots of power — not just him, but the administration, everybody…. all these QAnon people. But I do have to say one thing: Despite the disillusionment and semi-insanity, [anti-vaxxers are] still Americans. And I think just keeping pushing fact and not fiction, and keep fighting it. Because whether you're doing it with a religious symbol hanging over your head or a 'Q' on your T-shirt, they’re lies. And science is the only friend you've got, whether you like it or not.”
Despite what the country is going through right now, and has gone through during the past four years, Simmons — who moved to the U.S. from Israel as poor young boy and learned English through comic books (thus instilling his lifelong love of illustration that has culminated decades later with his new Vegas art exhibit) — still believes in the American dream. In fact, he believes in it more than ever. “People don't say it enough, but I love America,” he gushes. “This ‘promised land’ idea is biblical in its history, but there's only America, the land that gave you flight, this TV screen, the internet, just anything you can imagine, telephone, movies. All of that was invented here by a people who don't look, walk, or sound alike. We're just like this melting pot… all races, all creeds, all colors.
“It's better than ever,” he continues. “This is nothing. This is just growing pains. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. The last president polarized the country. And the one before that... this racist, former slave-owning country legally voted in an African-American president — for two terms! So, every flight has bumps. That's just the nature of the flight. As long as we don't hit the ground, we're fine. We're American."
Check out Gene Simmons’s full, extended interview below, in which he discusses in art background, his new Animazing exhibit, KISS’s farewell tour, his childhood struggles, and more:
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— Video produced by Anne Lilburn, edited by Jason Fitzpatrick