KISS Frontman Gene Simmons Recalls Bloody Teenage Encounter With Antisemite, Says Racists Should Be Publicly Shamed
KISS lead singer Gene Simmons called for the public condemnation of racists and revealed an antisemitic experience he had as a teen, in an interview with the UK’s Daily Mail on Wednesday.
Simmons, whose Hungarian mother was a Holocaust survivor, recently joined a group of 170 Black and Jewish celebrities who formed the Black-Jewish Entertainment Alliance, a joint initiative to counter racism and antisemitism in the Black and Jewish communities.
Talking to the publication about facing hatred himself, the 71-year-old rock legend said that his first confrontation with antisemitism was at the age of 13, when a boy tried to keep him out of a YMCA pool because he was Jewish.
“I remember coming out of the pool and these two guys got in my face. One said ‘What are you doing here? You’re Jewish,'” recalled Simmons. “He started talking about Nazis. I remember thinking about my mother and everything. I leaned forward and said ‘Sorry I can’t hear you.’ As he got in my face, I smashed my forehead against his nose. Of course he started bleeding and fell into the pool. And I was thrown out of the YMCA.”
Simmons called on society to take action against those spreading prejudice and hate, calling them “cockroaches.”
“It is going to get better but you’ve got to confront it,” he said. “You’ve got to turn on the light and go after those cockroaches. And don’t just chase them out. Find out where they live. Identify them, make their lives miserable – legally. Shine the light on that cockroach.”
Simmons also talked about how people judged him and his ex-girlfriend, singer Diana Ross, for being an interracial couple in the early 1980s. He then slammed rock and metal bands for being ignorant in their use of hate symbols, like the late Motorhead bassist Lemmy Killmister, who Simmons said collected Nazi paraphernalia.
“I believe in my heart these bands just aren’t educated,” he said. ‘There was a Holocaust, but we just don’t confront these things. Especially guys in bands, let’s face it, if it wasn’t for the guitar around their neck they’d be asking you if you want more fries with that. They’re not the sharpest tools in the shed.”
“But you need to pick your targets,” he continued. “The subtle uses of hate, if it becomes fashionable, yes attack that. But the bigger issues are outright hate, neo-Nazi groups.”