How the sexagenarian rocker from KISS turned his back on Flushing and the Mets
Before the second game of the Mets’ most recent trip to L.A., Gene Simmons of KISS threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Dodgers. Unfortunately, the 61 year-old bassist didn’t do it in his ghoulish whiteface makeup and platform boots, but despite throwing a strike he still managed to look monstrously tall and slightly inhuman perched on the Dodger Stadium mound. Celebrities are offered this honor fairly regularly without much thought to any possible team allegiance they may harbor (and this might be especially true in La La Land), but as a die-hard fan of both the Mets and KISS, my elation at a 6-0 win dissipated as I angrily clicked through a photo series of Gene tossing the ball. Understand that this rage goes beyond a desire to ensure my childhood obsessions simply toe my own idiosyncratic party line. It’s like this: he’s from Queens and should act accordingly. Where is the hometown pride?
In actuality Gene was born in Israel as Chaim Weitz and immigrated to the States in 1957 at the age of eight. Does 1957 remind you of anything? Yes, it’s the same year the National League team from Brooklyn went Hollywood and left its followers bereft of joy, ruining their summers for at least another five seasons before the Mets arrived to play second husband. So although Gene wasn’t born in Queens, he grew up there. As a teen, The Beatles’ first TV appearance on Ed Sullivan in 1964 served as the impetus for his obsession with rock ‘n’ roll; so the following year he would have been aware of their historic concert at the recently constructed Shea, a mere two miles east of his high school in Elmhurst. Whether or not Gene noticed the Mets, he probably guessed they built the stadium for other uses besides the lone Beatles show. (Coincidentally, if you ever want to blame the luck of our franchise on someone, pick the person responsible for sending The Fab Four to use the Shea away team’s locker room.) Not that anyone would ever accuse him of levelheaded choices, but Gene should have had sense enough to distance himself from Chavez Ravine, and acknowledge the borough where his lifelong cash cow of KISS was born by demonstrating a shred of attachment to his old stomping ground and the team that represents it.
On the other hand, since Gene’s lived in the Los Angeles area for years, maybe he’s really come to identify with the area. Besides constantly touring and recording with KISS dating back to the early 70s, he became a B-movie Hollywood actor in the mid-1980s, and is fully entrenched in television production, while also starring in his own reality program, Family Jewels. Like most Dodgers fans, I’m perfectly aware Gene could probably care less about baseball. If anything, he probably identifies with the Dodgers as former New Yorkers; like him they’re now a southern California-based institution, transplanted decades ago.
It doesn’t sit right with me, though. If you grew up in Queens, then technically as someone from Queens you should be a Mets fan, right? Unless of course you’re one of those hateful aberrations of humanity who supports the Yankees even though you regularly buy your auto parts in the shadows of the Citi Field lighting racks.
Speaking of hateful behavior, Gene’s mother was a Nazi concentration camp survivor; she subsequently fled to Israel, where Gene recently returned for the first time in over fifty years. With his family and reality show camera crew in tow, he had an emotional homecoming. He met some estranged half-siblings he never knew existed, and recognized that despite his unwavering American patriotism he always felt like an outsider, which he’s now attributed to his long-ignored Israeli background. What Gene should realize is his self-consciousness was impacted by not only living in L.A., but because he’s forgotten about Queens. This has to change.
Next season’s Family Jewels needs to shoot in Flushing, with the Wilpons taking Gene on a nostalgic tour of the Fan Walk, escorting him up to the Promenade level to feed him a kosher pretzel, and naggingly reminding him that his longtime partner and fellow KISS founder, Paul Stanley, also moved to Queens as a teenager. As long as no one mentions the Ebbets Field-inspired design or the fact that Jackie Robinson was never on the Mets, it should be a real heart-wrenching episode.
NOTE: this was a post by new MetsToday contributor Corey Gorey. You can read his bio below.