The sixth season of Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels began airing this week on A&E. Up to this point in the series, despite occasional moments of tension between the heads of the household, everything seemed reasonably calm and happy with the unmarried couple and their remarkably well-adjusted kids.
Not anymore. After Tuesday night’s episode concluded, it sure looked like splitsville for longtime Kiss co-founder Gene Simmons and his girlfriend (or common-law wife, if you prefer) of almost 30 years, former Playboy Playmate and direct-to-video sex siren Shannon Tweed.
After being sent an online report that featured a photo of Simmons exiting a restaurant with two beautiful women on his arm, Tweed confronted her man who proclaimed his innocence and claimed not even to know who the women were. Smooth, dude.
Saying she had had enough, by the end of the episode, Tweed left behind a note, packed some of her belongings and departed from the family home. Despite resisting at first, Simmons started on-air therapy for the first time since the first season five years ago. Who knows if he’ll take it seriously this time. (He doesn’t believe in it. He needs to give Howard Stern a call.)
The whole sad episode was quite perplexing if you’ve followed this series from the beginning as I have. For years, despite being rightly annoyed with his chronic workaholic ways, Tweed seemed perfectly ok with Simmons’ endless business trips (especially since she often rang up ridiculously huge bills on his credit cards while he was away). Despite Simmons’ tendency to always have babes by his side (an admittedly transparent attempt at wooing potential clients and business partners), Tweed never once indicated embarrassment, hurt feelings, resentment or even jealousy about any of this. Everything seemed kosher.
In fact, she told TMZ a few years ago that she was perfectly ok with Simmons hanging with babes while making personal appearances and doing deals. So, why on Earth is she suddenly so bent out of shape about that photo? What’s really going on?
As of now, we don’t really know for sure. (Judging by the A&E promos, it looks like the whole season of Family Jewels will be about this mess.) But the couple’s recent promotional appearances have certainly given us lots of room to speculate.
While being interviewed for The Today Show recently, Shannon noted the difficulties of her relationship over the last two years. (They were “a bitch”, she succinctly surmised.) During the premiere she appeared to have stated that Nicholas, her son, may have been the result of an unplanned pregnancy and seemed to imply that she stayed with Simmons much longer than she planned to as a result. Isn’t that lovely.
One thing I’ve never completely understood about their relationship is why Tweed stays with Simmons in the first place if she truly wants to be married since he has never expressed an interest in doing that. There have been plenty of jokes about this throughout the show’s history but one wonders if there’s a lot of truth behind the constant ribbing.
Getting back to the original point, what’s with the recent tension between them? As Tweed mentioned on The Today Show, their recent problems go back just a couple of years. What could’ve been the source of that tension? Oh, I could think of one possibility.
It was late February 2008. A mysterious new website called Genessecret.com suddenly sprang up out of nowhere. It offered a badly lit, black and white sex tape allegedly featuring Simmons getting it on with “an Australian marketing ‘babe’ named Elsa”.
Unsurprisingly, Simmons’ legal team had some work to do. They succeeded in having the site taken down (a flawed, cached version can still be accessed via The Internet Archive Wayback Machine) but stories and stills about the sex tape remain widely available online. (Just Google or Bing “Gene Simmons sex tape” to find a multitude of links.)
A contradictory letter from Simmons’ attorney Barry Mallen was sent to ValleyWag.com ordering the site to compensate for the “unauthorized use” of “Mr. Simmons’ name and likeness” (essentially confirming his identity on the tape) and to remove the video itself as well as the posted still photos. (In other words, only Simmons was entitled to make money off his own stupidity.)
Furthermore, Mallen claimed that the video was made “without Mr. Simmons’ knowledge by a woman named Traci Ann Koval” (I guess “Elsa” was her stage name) and that she had no right to sell it because Simmons and a company called Allied Industry Tours were its rightful owners. (Did Tweed know about this alleged deal?)
But at the very end of the letter, Mallen claims with zero irony none of the information provided “constitutes an admission of fact or waiver of any right”. Nice try.
Could this be the reason why Tweed has been crying the last few years (albeit off-camera since this has never been seen or mentioned on the show before) and why the very idea of seeing Simmons just walk out of a public place with other women on his arms irritates her to no end?
It wouldn’t surprise me in the least. It also wouldn’t surprise me if any or all of this is merely exaggerated schtick to drum up interest in Family Jewels, an aging “reality series” not likely to last much longer. (The show has been on the air twice as long as The Osbournes.) In fact, there’s been much skepticism in the media about the sincerity of all this tension which Tweed, Simmons and even A&E insist isn’t fake.
Regardless, even though it often feels like a neatly (and suspiciously) plotted sitcom and its most famous participant’s faux arrogance can be too much to bear at times, Family Jewels has remained very funny and very entertaining. In fact, you don’t have to be a Kiss fan to get into it.
But a lot of that wit and familial joy was missing in action during the sixth season premiere. Also notably absent was any real insight into Tweed’s anger and despair over that photo she was sent.
One thing that is certain. There has been no official break-up announcement. (If they have broken up privately, no one is talking about it.) Among the descriptions Tweed has listed on Twitter for herself, “Gene Simmons’ love” is still right there after “Mom”.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter whether they stay together or not and whether their show is completely real, somewhat real or totally reenacted. Their future on and off the air are their business (and theirs alone despite all this publicity) and the show works despite not always being completely honest and naturally spontaneous.
That being said, I have one last question. If Simmons did in fact cheat on Tweed (as evidenced by the sex tape which no one disputes), how in the hell did he pass that lie detector test on Adam Carolla’s radio show?
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, June 18, 2011