Viral Marketing Killed the Rock and Roll Star

Gene Simmons Sex TapeI handed Gene Simmons his laundry once. This was more than ten years ago, so my memory is a bit murky, but, as I recall, I may have both handed him his clean laundry and picked up his dirty laundry to run back to the stadium. It was one of my last gigs as a stagehand. I was a runner. A runner is someone who will work for stagehand wages but has a working and ideally presentable car. At the time, I had already mostly transitioned into doing contract design work, corporate presentations and that sort of thing which paid better. My car actually was not terribly presentable, but some of the staff for the KISS tour recalled a nicer-looking (but less reliable) car I had owned at the time of an earlier gig and they liked me. I took the job because they had specifically requested if “the girl with the kinky zines” was still available. Plus working at a rock stadium was generally pretty sociable and fun, especially at a job which, unlike many I’d done there, was unlikely to cause injury.

I was never a member of the KISS Army or anything and my parents felt the KISS logo was unacceptable Nazi regalia and boys who wanted me to like KISS (and them) had always played me “Beth”. I guess guys always think the chick will like the power ballad better than the rocker, but it always struck me as really ill-conceived to try to seduce a girl with a song about blowing off your girlfriend. (Talk about “Lick My Love Pump” being in the saddest key!) I did think KISS had some fairly listenable music, but I was not crazy familiar with them either.

So, when my runner job afforded me the opportunity to watch part of a KISS concert, I didn’t have a ton of expectations, except that I’d vaguely thought they wore their makeup different. I missed the whole trauma the hardcore KISS fans endured when the band went from monster makeup to hair metal makeup. They are probably the only band in the history of the universe to get less pussy after donning hair metal makeup than they got without it.

Regardless, the thing which struck me most when I worked for KISS was that there were ridiculously hot unfamiliar girls at the show. Like super hot and super into the band. And, at the time, I was at least minimally acquainted with a pretty high percentage of the hot sluts in the DC/NoVa/Baltimore area. So it was surprising to have so many incredibly hot metal chicks at a KISS concert and not recognize any of them from other events I’d been at. I commented on the anomaly at the time to everyone I mentioned the show to, but I didn’t understand what the likely reason was that there were such hot girls there who I’d never seen at shows by Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row, Poison, Aerosmith, Warrant, Kix, Child’s Play, and countless good-looking national and local bands in related genres.

I joked at the time that the band must bring the girls with them or something. This went way beyond just what a band bringing groupies from the last city would entail, but it didn’t occur to me that it really would be beneficial for a band like KISS to in fact hire a hottie crew. A lot of their fanbase was homophobic, but there were persistent rumors that their lead singer Paul Stanley was homosexual or bisexual and Gene Simmons had this demon fuckmonster persona where he lived out fans’ male adolescent fantasies, so, from a PR perspective, it really would have made sense for them to cast some amazingly hot women as enthusiastic fans and pay them to come on tour at cheer them on. I mean, sports teams have cheerleaders and that is kind of the same benefit. The only difference is really that cheerleaders have uniforms and everybody knows what their roles are, but hired rock fans are kind of more disingenuous. The first time I photographed someone who made rent pretending to enjoy The Rolling Stones in concert, it was like I found out Santa Claus was a lie. Actually my parents never lied to me about Santa Claus, so I think I got that childhood trauma at a later age, when I realized that rock n’ roll was kinda dishonest.

The music industry has a long history of putting fake publicity out there. The habit greatly pre-dates rock and roll. It is ironic that the internet has put such a damper on music sales. On the one hand, the web has made it so much easier to disseminate dishonest presentations of self, but it has also made it easier to steal the music industry’s primary product. So, the industry is taking a huge hit to the wallet at the same time that its PR machine has destroyed any trust music fans might have had. Their disingenuous behavior makes it hard for anyone to feel much sympathy for the record industry.

It seems obvious to a teenager that a squeaky clean band might have a dark secret life, but it is less obvious that someone might be drinking apple juice out of a Jack Daniels bottle on stage. At this point, I pretty much disbelieve anything stated more than twice in any press release. I figure whatever they are trying to sell me is probably a lie. I used to listen to music every day and base large portions of my life around music and music-related events. But I’ve lost my faith.

So a site calling itself Gene’s Secret launched this week with a seven or so minute video purporting to be of Gene Simmons fucking some blonde. A couple of clips from the video have also been circulating the web and blog empire Gawker received a cease and desist from Gene Simmons’ attorneys for running them. If you care, the sex is not particularly inspired or emotional and the blonde actively avoids kissing the KISS bassist and they are apparently doing it to the dulcet tones of Steve Perry. Gawker feels the clips are sufficiently newsworthy as to not require them to comply with the C&D. Now I could go off about celeb sex tapes and Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee and Fred Durst and why these types of videos tend to have unappetizing sex and why our Puritan society refers to anyone in one as B list and what is wrong with a society which invades people’s privacy like this. But I’m not going to because I, perhaps cynically, believe that the whole thing is an orchestrated publicity stunt. I have no faith that this is a real stolen video or that the subjects did not know they were being recorded or that any of what is being presented is remotely as real as WWF.

At first glance, some people felt the Gene’s Secret Gene Simmons sex tape was a hoax and utilized a lookalike. I mean, there are an awful lot of KISS cover bands, so I can understand how people would believe it would not be hard to find a Gene Simmons demon lookalike. Through the Manatt law firm, Gene Simmons confirmed the authenticity of the sex tape but denied that anyone but Gene Simmons’ Allied Industries corporation should be able to profit from it. Nonetheless, the video is still live on the Gene’s Secret site, which one would assume would be the first target for a C&D. If this reminds altporn fans of when a site called SuicideGirls unsuccessfully pretended it was not really them licensing their content when they decided to resell unretouched versions of photosets they had promised models they would not resell . . . well, it reminds me of that little fiasco too. (Full disclosure: At the suggestion of SuicideGirls head honcho Sean Suhl, Blue Blood has previously consulted with the law firm of Manatt, Phelps, & Phillips.) Both scenarios feature a lawyer letter which purports to be trying to stop the distribution of the content, while simultaneously giving the content authenticity. Of course, this is the internet, so Gawker promptly posted the C&D on their tech industry blog Valleywag under the heading “Gene Simmons lawyer confirms sex tape’s authenticity“. While this may prove that the man in the video is in fact the tongue-wielder from KISS, it doesn’t prove that the whole thing is not a hoax.

The Gene’s Secret site features the following copy:

“This isn’t Shannon, this isn’t the same Family Jewels that you can catch on late-night cable. This is Gene giving you his best on screen performance yet! Find out all the benefits of being the spokesperson for a the latest energy drink, Frank’s Energy. Although it looks like Gene would rather gulp done one of Frank’s Energy Girls! . . . What is Gene’s Secret? Actually, it’s a WHO, and she is a hot little Austrian babe, named Elsa. She is a model, and one of the Frank’s Engery Drink Girls, a brand which Gene endorses (apparently to fuel his sex drive.) Elsa and Gene party like rockstars, and we have it all here, EXCLUSIVELY on”

Now, I’ve never heard of this energy drink before, but I’m guessing a lot of people, who never heard of it before, have now heard of it. Most of the copy on the membership site tour is about how Gene has a reality show called Family Jewels and he uses this beverage. Celebrity sex tape site tours usually have a lot more text about how you just have to see this video and you should sign up now now NOW! This tour seems less interested in making sales and more interested in telling everyone about projects Gene Simmons gets paid on. Gene Simmons keeps his shirt on during the video and most people prefer to get naked for sex or at least don’t pay attention to the clothing they have on, but a video of an older guy having sex is less embarrassing if he is wearing a smoothly adjusted T-shirt for the whole thing. A publication called AVN, which is primarily about mainstream Valley porn video, puts on an award show for pornstars every January. Last year, Gene Simmons was a presenter at the AVN awards show and AVN was apparently the first to break the news about the Gene’s Secret celebrity sex tape. Coincidence or evidence of the occult? You be the judge.

When something like a celeb sex vid scandal happens, it is hard to parse out the truth, so people tend to partly believe the whole thing is fake and partly believe the whole thing is real. So many things like this have been presented to people in the Digital Age that most people carry constant cognitive dissonance around in their heads 24/7/365 now. No wonder prescriptions for antidepressants are so common. Cognitive dissonance is painful. It is bad for society when people suffer from constantly having mutually exclusive ideas in their heads. Aside from the mental health costs, when people are used to the puzzle pieces in their brain not fitting, then they become much less able to make decisions, less able to run their own lives well, less able to vote for candidates who hold their values, less able to form lasting relationships. People may think they are just doing internet marketing, but they are causing real world damage.

I wish I believed that hot chicks, who can really strut, just want to rock and roll all night. I wish I believed that some callous big titty whore tricked a genuinely promiscuous and wild rock star into starring in his own porn video, blackmailed him, and then cashed in anyway. I wish I believed that Gene Simmons was a victim here. That might all be true, but the music industry has cried wolf too many times for me to believe any of it. They’ve put too many snake oil salesmen behind the pulpit. I wish I believed that anything in music culture was real now. Viral marketing has destroyed any trust music fans, or people who would otherwise have been music fans, might have in music or musicians.

Viral marketing might get the word out, but it has destroyed my faith.


Posted by on February 23, 2008. Filed under Blue Blood. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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