Kiss fans are going nuts over this flirtatious Gene Simmons TV interview from 1978

Gene Simmons and Toni Tennille
(Image credit: Universal-MCA Television)

Kiss fans have reacted with glee to the emergence of footage that shows bassist Gene Simmons being interviewed on TV in November 1978.

The footage comes from a pilot episode of the Toni Tinnelle Show, which eventually ran for 104 editions between 1980 and 1981. Tinnelle was a musician herself – she was half of the pop duo Captain & Tennille, whose Love Will Keep Us Together was a US number one in 1975 – and sang on tracks by the likes of the Beach Boys, Elton John and Pink Floyd. She would go on sign to the same label as Kiss, Casablanca, in 1979.

Simmons' solo album had come out in September, and he marches onto the set in full Demon costume as the orchestra plays a version of the album's opening track Radioactive. From then on it's all Kiss, beginning as Simmons tenderly dabs some of his make-up on Tennille's cheek, and the delightful interview that follows is as flirtatious as it is an easy ride. 

"Before we get started," says Tennille, clearly flushed with excitement, "I just want to say that he is one of the most handsome, intelligent, articulate..."

"It's not true," interrupts the God Of Thunder, softly. 

"It is true," says Tennille, looking directly at the camera, her hand lingering on Gene's wrist. "There is a great looking guy under there."

Simmons goes on to talk about the philosophy behind Kiss. "The group started as kind of an experiment," he says. "We wanted to do everything we've ever dreamt of seeing onstage. The band that would stop at nothing to give the audience everything they could possibly conceive of."

"We'd go and see other bands in concert, and the thing we'd notice is that if the singer would have an off night, the whole band would perish. So the the premise behind Kiss was to put together a band with four lead guys, four guys who would do nothing short of going insane onstage to capture the attention of the audience."

Other subjects covered include the early days of Simmons' and Paul Stanley's early band Wicked Lester, how Peter Criss became a member of the band, the pros-and-cons of wearing make-up, and how the Kiss Army got started. There's also some live clips of the band. 

Sadly, the tape ends suddenly at the 15-minute mark, with Gene Simmons cut off mid-sentence, but there's enough for Kiss fans to get excited about. 

"I've been a fan for as long as I can remember and have tons of bootlegs," says jt20042, "but I've NEVER seen this!"

"I thought I had seen most Kiss clips from the 1970's," adds Fred Garvin. "I was wrong." And Drew Garaci says, "I'm stunned how you found this! Never had any idea, after all these years of being a fan."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.