Well, that was ... surreal.
When I left Dallas City Hall at 4:50 this afternoon, Gene Simmons was still there -- in the mayor's fifth-floor conference room, surrounded by cameras and politicos and one or two fans who'd managed to work their way into the room. Laid out before the God of Thunder were myriad gifts handed to him by council member Steve Salazar about 20 minutes earlier, up in the Flag Room outside city council chambers -- a key to the city, a street sign bearing his name, a state flag that once flew over the Capitol in Austin and a blue vase upon which was engraved the city of Dallas seal. (That particular present had been given to Shannon Tweed, the 1982 Playboy Playmate of the Year with whom Simmons has lived for 26 years.)
Somehow, in between spots, Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway managed to get the KISS singer and bassist and Tweed into his office, just down the hall from the conference room. When I walked in, after scootching by the A&E camera crew that perpetually follows around the couple for their Family Jewels reality series, I overheard them talking about Caraway's Pull 'Em Up campaign.
"I need your help in pullin' up those pants," said Caraway, who, earlier, had taken off his gold pin emblazoned with the seal and made Simmons "a citizen of Dallas." (A shot of that follows.) It was unclear if Simmons had agreed to enlist in the Caraway Army.
But at some point, Simmons noticed a framed poster of Muhammad Ali -- that famous photo in which he towers over a vanquished Sonny Liston. Simmons, speaking so softly it was hard to hear at times, began talking about Ali and civil rights. Then, he told Caraway, "I used to live with Diana for two years -- Diana Ross -- and she used to talk about touring the South with the Supremes and how their tour bus would get shot at." Caraway nodded and said, "S'tough, man."
Below are more photos from the Flag Room ceremony -- easily, one of the more raucous events in Dallas City Hall history. Said The News's Rudy Bush, facetiously, "City Hall has never been more ... alive." More than a few times the room erupted in cheers, never more so than when Simmons insisted, in rock-star parlance, "Dallas rocks."
Most of the event proved to be a rather serious tribute to the troops and a plug for Simmons and Tweed's Angels & Aces event at Fair Park on Wednesday benefiting the Wounded Warriors Project. As Simmons said, he was glad everyone came out to see a celebrity, but "I'm a nobody," just some schmuck who wears "stupid sunglasses even in the dark." Said Simmons, "We're forever indebted to our troops who make our lives possible."
Still, it was kinda funny when Salazar -- standing with Tennell Atkins, Ron Natinsky and Caraway -- said he spent 12 years trying to get a street named for César Chávez. But, he joked, this time around he didn't have to go through the City Plan Commission or the council to get the street in front of the Centennial Building at Fair Park renamed Gene Simmons Boulevard for Wednesday night's event.
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Simmons, who'd only expected to get the key to the city, actually seemed a little ... overwhelmed, maybe?
"I don't know what to say at this point," he said as the gifts kept on coming. He put his hand to his forehead -- a very oy vey look. But he happily, dutifully went where he was directed, and in between TV interviews, he signed autographs and posed for photos with the City Hall workers who'd packed into the Flag Room.
Oh -- and For Your Weekend Listening Pleasure, here's KISS at the Smirnoff on October 2, 2003. I should send it to Natinsky. When I asked him if he even knew who KISS was, he said, "Sure." I asked him to name a favorite song. "Hell, I dunno -- all of 'em." Riiight.
For all I know, Simmons is still at City Hall.