Klassic KISS – Gene Simmons & Denny Sanders on WEWS-TV’s Afternoon Exchange
GENE SIMMONS (KISS) AT WMMS. Members of Kiss were regular guests on WMMS throughout the seventies and early eighties. Gene Simmons was a natural on the air and he had a standing invitation from me to be a guest DJ whenever he was in town. Back row, Left to Right: Dean Thacker (sales manager), Matt the Cat, Gene Simmons, J.C. (John Chaffee, Malrite Corporate programmer), John Gorman. Front Row: Unknown, Walt Tiburski (national sales manager), Don George (Casablanca Records), Rhonda Kiefer (WMMS programming assistant), Gary Bird (independent record promoter) Photo by Anastasia Pantsios
In the mid to late 70s, Gene Simmons and other members of KISS visited Cleveland frequently. One of their early investors in their stage show costumes, props, and pyrotechnics lived in Shaker Heights.
During their first Cleveland appearance at the Cleveland Agora in 1974, drummer Peter Criss was nearly asphyxiated from stage smoke when his rising drum stand malfunctioned, trapping him close to the club’s ceiling. He fell off the drum riser and was rushed to St. Vincent’s Charity Hospital by ambulance. After that KISS refused to play any clubs with low ceilings.
Gene Simmons was a semi-regular guest on WMMS.
On one show, where Simmons guest DJ’ed with Kid Leo prior to a concert at the Coliseum, he’d say hello by asking the predominantly female callers, “Have you been a baaaaad girl?” One caller made a request: “Gene, I want to sit on your face.” Immediately, Kid Leo interrupted the caller and said to Gene, “That’s not fair. She wants the best seat in the house.”
There was a reason for Leo’s rapid response. He wasn’t sure what the caller would say next. In those days WMMS was never on a delayed broadcast. Everything was live-as-you-heard-it.
Some of our older long-time listeners took offense to our relationship and airplay of KISS, claiming the band, with its simplistic lyrics and music and costumes were closer to bubblegum music than progressive rock, but our stance, as a popular culture station, was that “rock and roll” was a broad-based term that incorporated all styles of music from doo-wop and rockabilly to progressive rock – and that included everything in-between.
This video has Denny Sanders moonlighting on WEWS-TV’s Afternoon Exchange in 1978, with Gene Simmons at Tony Isabella’s Cosmic Comics at the Colonial Arcade in downtown Cleveland. Even though Gene was in full costume and make-up regalia, he was unusually subdued and candid in this interview.