My relationship with KISS is both simple and transactional. I think that KISS rules and that all their albums after Alive II (with the exception of Ace Frehley and Lick It Up) don't count. In exchange I get to believe that Gene Simmons is a total asshole. It's just standard business with KISS. Or KISS-iness, maybe.
Simmons's status as a winking sphincter is not particularly controversial among the proudly enlisted soldiers of the KISS Army––his own son wrote a piece for VICE a couple years back lovingly declaring him "full of shit"––but the fact that he is an asshole is part of the fun of being a KISS fan. Gene Simmons is kind of like a low-stakes version of Donald Trump: cornily opulent, a bullshit artist par excellence, and shamelessly willing to slap his brand on anything in exchange for a buck. "It doesn't matter what I like or what you like," Simmons told Noisey in 2014 while plugging a KISS-affiliated restaurant in Mexico that was a hybrid of the Hard Rock Café and Hooters. "It only matters what the masses like."
And according to Gene Simmons, the masses like the shit out of the KISS brand. In the past, Simmons and/or KISS has made movies, comic books, coffins, pinball machines, drinkware, action figures, a reality TV show, and a mini golf course in Las Vegas––and that's just the shit I can think of off the top of my head. The internet just told me there's also KISS branded cologne, camping equipment, condoms, wine, hunting knives, water fountains, and something called "Mount KISSmore."
A few weeks ago, Gene Simmons noisily made headlines for attempting to file a trademark for the "devil horns" gesture, a.k.a. the thing you do with your hand that kinda looks like this: \m/. Amazingly, the original application used a picture of Gene flashing the devil horns next to Dave Grohl as an example of him using it. Last week, Simmons dropped the trademark claim. "It is clearly a stunt," an ad agency CEO told CNBC about the move. "He knows he can't really trademark the 'devil horns,' just like you can't trademark the middle finger." (My emails to Simmons's agent seeking comment on the matter were not returned, so I guess we'll never know his true motivations.)
The thing is, I'm not sure Gene Simmons knew he couldn't register the devil horns as a trademark––or if he did, he was willing to earnestly try to register it anyway. According to a search of the US Patent Database for "Gene Simmons," the bassist has attempted to register 182 trademarks, including "Chefs of Rock," "Gene Simmons Demon," "Gene Simmons Groupies," "Gene Simmons Wet," "Gene Simmons Rich & Famous," "Gene Simmons Tongue," "Gene Simmons Media Mogul," "Exotic Car Wash," "Naked Car Wash," "Nude Car Wash," "Topless Car Wash," "Symposium of Success," "International Fight Club," "Big Band," "Trophy Wife," "Sextacy," "Dominatrix," "Dominatrex," "Zipper," "Because It's My Life," "Space Hunter," "I Want to Marry a Millionaire," "$#it Girls Say," "Me, Inc," "Global Art Bank," "Titans of Rock," multiple images of bags with dollar signs on them, "Women Are From Mars -- Men Have ?enis," and simply "?enis."
Of the 182 trademarks Simmons has tried to register, he has succeeded 44 times. When you divide 44 by 182, you get 0.24175824, which when multiplied by 69 (which must be Gene Simmons's favorite number, because it refers to sex, which he loves) and then 420 (which must be Simmons's least favorite number, because it refers to marijuana, which he hates) yields 7,006––the exact number of songs that Gene Simmons has written in his lifetime. This is empirical, numerical proof that Gene Simmons's seemingly frivolous trademark applications are legit and part of a greater plan that most unenlightened sheeple cannot even begin to comprehend.
Let's start with his application for "Gene Simmons Rich & Famous," which Simmons filed in 2007 for the purpose of "conducting classes and seminars and motivational speeches in the field of entrepreneurship, and other personal and financial improvement." We all know the worst part of pyramid scheme-y get-rich-quick motivational speeches is that they're boring as shit––but what if Gene Simmons were the guy at the top of the pyramid scheme? That would rule like hell. Of course, a pyramid scheme is nothing without random bullshit that people who buy into it can try to sell to people, so Simmons needed some trademarked stuff to go along with that pyramid scheme. According to Simmons's application for "Baby 101," he's got a line of children's toys on the way. Additionally, "Gene Simmons Media Mogul" was filed in connection with a proposed magazine Simmons would like to launch––subscriptions of which represent a vital product that the noble followers of Gene Simmons Rich & Famous can foist upon a more than willing public. Also, Gene, if you're reading this, I'm down as hell to work for your magazine.
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That's not his only foray into publishing: He registered "Gene Simmons House of Horrors," "Zipper," and "Dominatrix" for use in comic books––and sure enough, Simmons has released comics called Gene Simmons House of Horrors, Dominatrix, as well as Zipper. The icon on the top corner of each? No other than a bag of money with a dollar sign on it™, which Simmons for some reason registered under the category of "soft drinks." Is Gene Simmons going to eventually release some sort of beverage that tastes like money? I sure as shit hope so. I also hope he starts printing dollar signs on sturdy burlap bags so bank robbers, bookies, counterfeiters, bootleggers, jewel thieves, con men, and other old-school criminals can finally have appropriately marked bags to put their dirty money in.
Naturally, Gene Simmons Rich & Famous could be way more successful of a future venture if more gatekeepers understood the vision. The so-called "United States Patent and Trademark Office" may disagree, but even the trademarks Simmons applied for and failed to secure were in connection to his legitimate business interests and in no way because he wanted to sit on common symbols and phrases so other people couldn't use them without his permission. The ?enis stuff was intended to be featured in "books on the subject of music and general adult interest," while Dominatrex (NOT Dominatrix) was to be a line of "adult sexual aids; adult sex toys and novelties." "Nude Car Wash," meanwhile, was going to offer "car wash services," and we can only imagine what brilliant twist the mastermind Gene Simmons had in mind for that business given the vagueness of the trademark.
Clearly, the fact that these applications ended up not being granted by the government is proof that our nanny state is conspiring to restrict America's greatest Rock & Roll entrepreneur from participating in commerce, the most rockin' and rollin' shit ever invented.
Here's where Gene Simmons's attempt to trademark the devil horns comes in. Any expert in the field of business, sexy comics, sexy car washes, and sex toys knows that you need a secret signal to your army of followers that the market is hot and they should start selling like crazy. And what better secret signal for Gene Simmons to give to his followers than the devil horns gesture? If people other than Gene Simmons were to flash the devil horns, his intrepid sales force might get confused about whether they should start going door to door selling all of Gene Simmons's stuff, which would NOT be fair to Gene Simmons at all.
To wit: Recently, Simmons tweeted an image of the Pope throwing down the devil horns alongside a picture of the Dalai Lama and Simmons himself also throwing up the devil horns. Of these three holy men, only two––the Dalai Lama and the Dalai Simmons––are using it correctly. Clearly, it's important––nay, vital––for Simmons to trademark the gesture so pretenders such as Pope Francis and American Sign Language can't misappropriate and distort an image that Gene Simmons spent nearly five decades toiling to associate with his image of unchecked capitalistic hedonism and now wishes to use for the purpose of secret public communications.
Any real music expert knows that the most important part of music isn't actually music; it's branding. By refusing to acknowledge that making a \m/ with his hands is Gene Simmons's obvious intellectual property, the United States government is denying Simmons's divine right to exclusively use marketing materials that are extremely important to him. For too long, our nation has kowtowed to big business and corporate interests such as "The Pope" and "Sign Language," all the while refusing to provide the little guy, i.e. Gene Simmons, with the protections they need to succeed in the free market. If there's one thing that is true in this cold and dumb world, it is that Gene Simmons does not have enough money.
Since Gene Simmons is now unable to register the devil horns gesture, he will never make money from his very real and very important pyramid scheme. And if his pyramid scheme can't make him any money, Gene Simmons will be forced to perform concerts, which make him a lot of money. Gene Simmons is 67 years old, and that's way too old to safely play bass on a hot stage while wearing 50 pounds of makeup and leather. He might die, and if he dies, he will be poor because money does not exist in the afterlife. So when you really break it down, every moment that Gene Simmons cannot register the devil horns gesture––the linchpin of his post-rock pyramid scheme––he is at risk of death. Now that I have shown that the United States Patent and Trademark Office is literally killing Gene Simmons, I expect his attempt to trademark the devil horns gesture will be revived and accepted post-haste. His life, and all our lives, depends on it.
Future Days is a weekly column by Drew Millard. If you agree or disagree with what he writes, feel free to text him at 828-675-8574.
Drew Millard used to work at Noisey, but now he doesn't, so now he has this column. He lives in North Carolina with his dog. Follow him on Twitter.