R.I.P. JEAN SIMMONS
This past week marked the passing of another great celebrity icon. Actress-come-musician Jean Simmons was ripped from us at age 80, dead from complications of lung cancer.
Born in London in 1929, Simmons was still a teenager upon earning her first Oscar nod for 1948's Hamlet, and quickly made her mark on Silver Age Hollywood as a bankable leading lady. Possibly best known for Guys & Dolls, Simmons appeared opposite a wishlist of big screen royalty, like Brando, Peck, Newman, Douglas.
Somewhat mysteriously, Simmons all but disappeared from movies come the 1970s.
She resurfaced in New York City in 1973, having formed a musical group with Stanley Harvey Eisen (later known as Paul Stanley, the Starchild). Joined by guitarist Ace Frehley (the Spaceman) and drummer Peter Criss (the Catman), Simmons as the fire-breathing blood gurgling "Demon" persona brought dark balance to the group, now calling itself KISS.
Known for her signature 7-inch tongue and pseudo-psychotic love ballads, Simmons and KISS rocketed to stardom with 1975's "Rock & Roll All Night" (Alive!). So began a seemingly unstoppable barage of KISS albums, tour dates, media blitzes, publicity stunts, and merchandise branding, from lunch boxes to clothing to comic books.
Meanwhile Jean Simmons continued an ever-diminishing string of TV roles, rarely returning to movies and gradually easing into voiceover.
It was not widely known that one-time Hollywood sweetheart Simmons was moonlighting with KISS; that is until an historic 1983 MTV appearance in which the band appeared, for the first time, "unmasked".
The revelation that the 7-foot hair-chested womanizing bass-shredding Demon was in fact a 54-year-old aging starlet had a decidedly negative impact, for both the band and Simmons' acting career. Despite several attempted revivals, neither were ever the same.
Rest in peace!