Have you heard about how Gene Simmons from KISS is trying to patent a hand gesture? It only sounds like a joke until you think about it. The founding bass player and co-vocalist of “The Hottest Band in the World” has slapped his band’s logo on everything from condoms to coffins (womb to the tomb). He’s also a notorious patent whore, snapping up the right to everything KISS related, including said famous logo and even the iconic character makeup created by other bandmates. Rumor has it he’s scooped up hundreds of other patents to art/products he admits he had nothing to do with, simply because no pre-existing patent existed! (It’s the same method that made Thomas Edison a household name; when it comes to patents, it’s first-come-first-served).
Simmons says that the hand gesture was first used in commerce with the band on Nov. 14, 1974, in coordination with the KISS “Hotter Than Hell” tour. The rocker is making the claim on the hand gesture for “entertainment, namely, live performances by a musical artist; personal appearances by a musical artist.” A diagram of the hand gesture was included with the application and can be seen here.
But this quest to patent a hand gesture has reached a whole new level of self-entitled, greedy lunacy. KISS fans who go way back (like me) know that the “Sign of the Horns” has been a point of contention between “the Demon” and Dio founder Ronnie James Dio for decades. Simmons accused Dio (who also used the gesture frequently on stage) of stealing it from him, while the late singer/songwriter insisted he picked the gesture up from his Sicilian grandmother who used the sign as protection from “The Evil Eye”.
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If Simmons is granted this patent, KISStory suggests he’ll try to milk it for every penny. This means the mega-millionaire will be putting the screws to up-and-coming artists and musicians, simply because he can. Jokes that Simmons may try and collect from Marvel every time Spiderman uses the gesture to trigger his web-slingers may not be farfetched at all. After that, perhaps he’ll go after nonprofit groups for the deaf, since “the Horns” have been a part of American Sign Language for decades. Would Simmons really try to squeeze a dime from handicapped kids? All signs point to yes.
So why should horror fans care?
After Rob Zombie and Slash from Guns n Roses made transitions from rockers to horror movie producers, Simmons has been keen to get in on the action. On March 27th, 2015, RollingStone.com reported on the partnership between Simmons and WWE Studios to form Erebus Pictures (named after the Greek deity of perpetual darkness). Their mission: To produce and finance “elevated” horror movies. The whole things sent my pulse racing, and not for a good reason. While no one can deny that KISS is an amazing live experience, the band isn’t exactly known for the artistic merit of their music. It made me wonder what qualified him to judge “elevated” horror, and there seemed an inherent dig at existing horror filmmakers and studios.
But the unabashed greed Simmons is showing with this hand gesture patent bullshit makes me hope he stays the fuck out of our genre. We don’t need this kind of petty negativity, this obsessive penny-pinching in horror. Up-and-coming filmmakers and studios should never have to worry about a troll like Simmons looking over everyone’s shoulders, attempting to pull another nickel he doesn’t deserve. I mean, we already have the Weinstein Brothers to contend with; we don’t need another schlock in our business who clearly cares more about the bottom line than creating anything “elevated”.
Simmons is currently touring clubs with his band; no, I’m not talking about KISS, I’m talking about Gene Simmons and His Band, a solo project that’s performing in several towns as part of the Wizard World convention circuit this summer. While horror fans have always had mad love for KISS and The Demon, this solo gig has me wondering if even his closest collaborators need a vacation from his bat-shit bullshit.
I need to make one thing clear, on a personal note: KISS is one of my all-time favorite bands; I even have KISS tattoos. But as much as I love KISS, that’s how much I despise Gene Simmons. The man is very different from the fire-breathing, blood-spewing, outlandish showman I love to watch on stage. And that’s where he belongs: On stages, not trolling patent offices—and certainly not producing horror movies.