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A rockin' concert and a green-haired groupie: Gene Simmons recalls Edmonton firsts

For the fire-breathing, lizard-tongued rocker Gene Simmons, Alberta’s capital city brings up all kinds of fuzzy feelings.

Kiss frontman returns to Alberta for the Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo later this month

Gene Simmons and his Kiss bandmates kicked off their first official tour in Edmonton in 1974. (The Canadian Press/ Jonathan Hayward)

For fire-breathing, lizard-tongued rocker Gene Simmons, Alberta's capital city brings up all kinds of fuzzy feelings.

"Edmonton goes back a long way with me," Simmons, 68, said during an interview aired Wednesday on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "The very first tour and the very first show we ever did was in early February of 1974. Maybe it was 1874.

"And the Edmonton university was the very first show we ever did."

That inaugural performance that kicked of Kiss's "First Tour" brought the band to the University of Alberta campus. In full pancake makeup and high-heels, they played to a small crowd of likely befuddled university students.

An avowed comic-book geek, Simmons will return to his old stomping grounds later this month for the Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo.
Gene Simmons talks with CBCs Adrienne Pan about Kiss' beginnings and life as a rock star. Simmons will be performing at the Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo on Sept. 23. 8:30

'I was in heaven'

What Simmons neglected to mention was that he also bedded his "first authentic groupie" in Edmonton that night — the first of more than 4,000 women he claims to have seduced in his lifetime. Simmons never learned her name and said she had "no idea who Kiss was," but the affectionate girl with green hair certainly made a lasting impression.

"I was in heaven," Simmons wrote in his 2002 autobiography KISS and Make-Up. "This girl was spending the night with me just because I was in a band. No courting, no relationships, no dates. No 'what does it all mean?'

"The very thing that women want out of a relationship is this kind of heaviness of 'life and meaning.' All I wanted was no meaning. Twenty-four hours of experiencing life with a warm female body."

The band soon became a stadium-filling, platinum-selling powerhouse, and bassist Simmons become a business mogul, turning the Kiss into a branded, money-making machine.
Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer perform at Wembley Arena in May 2010 in London, England.
 His philosophy on life hasn't changed much. It's all about making money, and taking care of "me first."

"Without sugarcoating anything, I've always had the same philosophy, ever since I was a little kid, ever since I came to America," said Simmons, who was born Chaim Witz in Israel.

"If you're lucky enough to be born in Western civilization, where you can do and think whatever you damn well please, if you have food in your belly and you wake up in the morning reasonably healthy, you win.

"Everything else is just fantasy."

'Yesterday doesn't count'

Simmons will be back in Edmonton on Sept. 23 and 24 as a special guest for the annual Edmonton Expo convention.
A promotional poster for Kiss from 1977. The band's first tour kicked off in Edmonton at the University of Alberta.

His Gene Simmons Band will also play a special event concert at the Expo. Tickets for the Saturday night show are available now on Ticketmaster.

The rocker plans to live up to his legend during the live performance.

"Yesterday doesn't count. When you see me and the band, I have to prove it," Simmons said.

"Yesterday's heroes are nice, but they're part of the history books, not the here and the now. I'm all about the here and the now. And tomorrow."

About the Author

Wallis Snowdon

Wallis Snowdon is a digital journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has nearly a decade of experience reporting behind her. Originally from New Brunswick, her journalism career has taken her from Nova Scotia to Fort McMurray. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca