GENE SIMMONS: The Outrageous Entrepreneur

Josh Friedman of The Los Angeles Times has issued the following report:

As the tongue-wagging singer for the rock band KISS, Gene Simmons likes to brag about turning a band into a brand.

Behind the garish makeup, Simmons, 56, was the driving force behind a blitzkrieg of KISS-themed products, including lunch pails and caskets. The band's heyday is long gone, but Simmons says he's far from finished.

The Beverly Hills-based impresario is starring in two reality TV shows, developing a magazine, running his own music label and launching an entertainment-themed pay-TV show that will feature uncensored music videos and celebrity interviews. Think "Access Hollywood" meets "Girls Gone Wild".

Simmons, who calls himself "Disney without the overhead," still occasionally dons his KISS get-up to perform as the Demon.

"I'm as ravenous as ever," he said. "I remember when my belly was empty, and I didn't like the feeling."

Since January, he and entertainment industry veteran Richard G. Abramson have been marketing the Indy Racing League, the once-dominant auto racing circuit that has suffered since its split from CART, now the Champ Car World Series. Both "open-wheel" leagues lag behind stock-car racing's NASCAR in popularity, although Indy has the sport's signature event in the Indianapolis 500 and an emerging star in Danica Patrick.

Simmons got involved with the Indy Racing League after meeting marketing chief Phil Lengyel during a race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

According to Lengyel, Simmons pointed to an IRL sign and said, "Is that your logo? It stinks."

"We started off with a friendly confrontation," Lengyel said, "and we've been brutally honest ever since."

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