Speaking to People, Kiss’ bassist/vocalist recalled running into Van Halen in Los Angeles six years ago, and being unsure as to how to greet the guitarist, who he’s known since 1977, as he was aware that Van Halen was battling cancer.
“I ran into Eddie on Sunset Boulevard… after he caught the disease and I didn’t know what to say to him,” Simmons admits. "I didn't want to bring up the subject. Should I grab him and hug him and tell him how sorry I am? Should I put my hand on his shoulder?"
“He brought it up. He said, ‘Hey man, I got cancer. What are you gonna do?’ and he smiled. He was like, ‘Hey, wanna get a hot dog or something?’ And he just walked off — not looking for sympathy or anything.”
Like the rest of the world, Simmons was “shocked” to hear of Van Halen’s passing on October 6.
“The first image that hit me — so help me God — was Eddie Van Halen grinning from ear to ear with that big, huge, million-dollar smile," he told People. "He always had that on, whether he was onstage playing for packed houses or in videos or meeting a stranger. He would smile and his eyes would disappear. His cheeks would shoot up and they would take his whole face, like a little 12-year-old kid smiling when you're not trying to impress anybody or you're not aware of what you look like."
“He was unabashed and just comfortable in his own skin,’ Simmons adds. “I was not just amazed by his talent, but I admire him so much as a human being. Eddie was aware that he had this God-given talent, but I never saw him push that in anybody's face.”
“Every once in a while, God gets it right,” Simmons said. “He did a good job with Eddie Van Halen, I'll tell you that. He was a far better man than I'll ever be.”
In the wake of Van Halen’s passing on October 6, a number of his peers, including his friends Tony Iommi, Brian May and Angus Young have offered their own tributes to the late guitarist.