Gene Simmons (born Chaim Witz; Hebrew: חיים ויץ; August 25, 1949) is an Israeli-American rock bass guitarist, singer-songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, actor, and television personality. Known by his stage persona The Demon, he is the bass guitarist and co-lead singer of Kiss, the rock band he co-founded in the early 1970s. With Kiss, Simmons has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide.
Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Israel, on August 25, 1949. With his mother, he emigrated to New York City, at eight years of age, settling in the Jackson Heights section of Queens. Simmons was raised in a Jewish home where he practiced on his guitar hours without end. His mother Flóra "Florence" Klein (formerly Kovács) was born in Jánd, Hungary. The name Klein, which means "small" in German, has the Hungarian equivalent Kis (a common Hungarian surname); this, however, did not give the band its name. Simmons' mother Florence survived internment in Nazi concentration camps. She and her brother, Larry Klein, were the only members of the family to survive the Holocaust.
Simmons's father, Feri Witz, also Hungarian-born, remained in Israel, where he had one other son and three daughters, and worked as a carpenter. Simmons says the family was "dirt poor," scraping by on bread and milk. In the United States, Simmons changed his name to Eugene Klein (later Gene Klein), adopting his mother's maiden name. He learned at Yeshiva Torah Vodaas in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as a child, from 7:00 am to 9:30 pm.
Before his musical career began, Simmons worked a variety of jobs in the city. An "excellent typist," he served as an assistant to an editor of the fashion magazine Vogue, and also spent several months as a sixth grade instructor on the Upper West Side.
A significant influence on Simmons was the Beatles. "There is no way I'd be doing what I do now if it wasn't for the Beatles. I was watching The Ed Sullivan Show and I saw them. Those skinny little boys, kind of androgynous, with long hair like girls. It blew me away that these four boys [from] the middle of nowhere could make that music."