Thomas Wictor

Preach it, Gene Simmons!

Preach it, Gene Simmons!

I don’t have anything to say about Gene Simmons’s personal life. I did watch his reality show for a season, the one in which his children confronted him with his failings. I’ve also seen the episode where he went to Israel to meet his half-siblings and visit his father’s grave. To me he made a professional miscalculation in revealing too much. I thought it stripped him of his mystique. But that’s just my own bias, so it probably isn’t valid.

When I met him, he was in persona, but we still created great art together. I don’t mind personas, as long as something worthwhile can be engineered. It wasn’t necessary or even desirable for me to “expose the real Gene Simmons.” He was in total control the whole time, by design. I was never one of those interviewers who wanted to make my subject uncomfortable or angry. The whole point of my failed career in music journalism was to do something different from the usual rote back-and-forth. And how’d that work out for me?

Anyway, I loved this interview with Simmons. Not because of the questions but because of two answers.

Ace and Peter have had a lifetime of being losers. And not just with drugs and alcohol. They’re losers because of wrong decisions. You sleep in the bed you make. How many chances in life do you get? They were in and out of the band three different times. Why should they get another chance?

That’s exactly how I feel about plenty of people. I’m pretty unforgiving in certain areas. What I can’t stomach is unchanging bad behavior. When all the evidence is right there at your fingertips that you’re screwing up, yet you refuse to do anything different, you are, indeed, a loser. And losers must always be cut loose, regardless of who they are. Because losers love company. They love spreading the wealth.

By most societal and personal standards, I’m a loser. But I never took anyone down with me. Whatever catastrophes I wallowed and staggered through, I did it alone. It was vital that I not inflict my loserdom on others, which is why I retreated from the world in 2003. I had nothing to offer anybody. My head, heart, and soul were simply too chaotic and negative for everyone. Tim was present, but he had his own demons. Boy, did he ever! There were times when—

Ah, I’ll let a movie scene convey what I wanted to do and say, what we felt about each other. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. No siree! But he was always there, so I never dumped anything on his head or said anything I couldn’t retract.

Back to Gene.

Anybody who’s got something to say to you, the response shouldn’t be “I agree, I disagree.” It should be “And what have you done with your life?” Everybody’s got an opinion, but there’s such a thing as qualified opinion. If Richard Branson’s got something to say to me, I’m going to listen. He’s accomplished something. If somebody farts through their mouth, you have to consider the source.

One hundred percent in agreement, except for the Richard Branson part. There isn’t much he has to say that I’m interested in hearing. I don’t know anything about him, but his TV appearances give me the willies. I can’t explain why. Which famous person would I really listen to at this point in my life?

I think right now…her.

She’s a major influence in my evolution. So I’d listen to her if she pulled me aside and had a word in my ear. But she wouldn’t. It’s not her style. She doesn’t impose herself on people, which is what I like about her. My poor father couldn’t help trying to control absolutely everything that everyone around him was doing. No matter what it was, he’d sidle up and utter the question that made me lose myself in fantasies of cataclysmic rudeness:

“Mind if I make a suggestion?”

YES I DO. I’VE MINDED MY ENTIRE LIFE. CAN’T YOU SEE THAT?

Never, never, never volunteer your opinion or make a suggestion unless someone asks for it. Really. There’s nothing more infuriating than someone offering up their wisdom when you haven’t asked for it, especially when it comes to major things.

Scott Thunes told me about a friend who insisted on criticizing the way Scott is raising his children. I can’t even comprehend the disrespect. If there’s a genuine problem—the kid’s drinking a fifth of gin a day or robbing banks—you call the cops. Otherwise, keep your trap shut unless you’re asked.

Having grown up under a Niagra Falls of criticism, it’s still hard for me to take it. But only from a tiny handful of people. Like Gene Simmons, I consider the source. Most people who criticize do so for reasons that have nothing to do with you but everything to do with them.

And perversely, the few times I asked my father for advice, he refused to give it. So the whole concept is messed up for me. Emotionally, I don’t know my elbow from my kneecap when it comes to this arena of human interaction. The good news is I no longer lash out when people criticize me. Still, I don’t read reviews of my work. Better safe than sorry.

I’ll do it in the next life.


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