It was worth the long wait and long lines as hundreds of people came face to face with rock legend Gene Simmons and family in View Royal on Saturday.
The famed reality TV clan — Simmons, his wife Shannon Tweed and their kids Nick and Sophie — were met with screams and cheers from more than 1,500 people packed outside the Great Canadian Casino.
Speaking about the roaring audience, the Kiss frontman shrugged: “The rest of the world says Canadians are nice. It’s true.”
In quick interviews with the Gazette and other local media, Simmons, 61, played coy on if he plans to wed his long-time partner Tweed, as alluded to on their reality show Gene Simmons Family Jewels. Tweed was not wearing a wedding band during the event.
“I’ve never been married. I desperately love Shannon Tweed. We’ve been together 28 years,” Simmons said. “We have two great kids. Tomorrow is another day. All I can deal with is today.”
After decades of success with the rock band Kiss and the long-running reality TV show, Simmons says he has always lived the life he wanted.
When Simmons was a boy growing up in Israel and then the U.S., his parents only had one dream for him. “They wanted me to be anything (I wanted to be). Healthy and happy,” Simmons said.
His advice to kids dreaming of becoming rock stars is be prepared to go “where the fires are burning.” Waxing philosophically, he said if you have the talent and the drive often people have to find the right place at the right time for themselves.
“Whatever it is you want to become, sometimes where you are from doesn’t have it all. That’s just life,” Simmons said. “Be proud of who you are, but the mountain is never going to come to you.”
Now in its sixth season, Gene Simmons Family Jewels has cast Simmons’ partner and kids in the spotlight, and helped him gain insight into his own personality.
“I think it has made us a closer family,” Simmons said. “(The show) helps me realize my perception of myself isn’t accurate. Sometimes I can be short, arrogant, selfish. It’s good to watch.”
Despite a busy schedule with the reality show — which was filming during the View Royal stop — and touring dates with Kiss, Simmons still revels in the personal meet-and-greet events, such as in View Royal.
“Staying home and twiddling my thumbs and watching I Love Lucy reruns or coming out here, what would you chose?” Simmons asked.
Sophie Tweed-Simmons, Simmons daughter, said she loves travelling with her family and coming to places such as View Royal. “I have been travelling since I was 13,” said Sophie, 19. “I have been to 15 different countries and lived in five.”
Even with a rock-star father and model mother, Sophie said her parents are strict. “There is zero tolerance for drinking or partying. My parents do encourage us to go out, but just not to be idiots about it.”
Fans waited in the morning sun for hours and some all night for a chance to meet the rock icon and his family. Crowds waiting to get a glimpse of the Simmons family were mostly made up of families themselves.
Along with his parents, Landen Shaw, 11, brought his guitar in hopes of getting a photo with the Simmons family. When Landen met Simmons on stage, he played him a few chords of the Kiss song “I was Made For Loving You” and got some guitar pointers from the Kiss bass player himself.
“This has got to be the biggest day in View Royal history,” remarked View Royal Mayor Graham Hill. “I have been asked to welcome royalty here today.”
Rob Cuitanovic of Victoria, brought his children Sofia, 8, and Marco, 6, to meet the Simmons family. A hardcore Kiss fan, Cuitanovic brought the board game Kissopoly, “Kiss This” bottle of wine and a 1997 Kiss tour program.
He’s been collecting Kiss memorabilia for 14 years and seen Simmons perform three times. “I think it’s cool (Simmons and family are coming). As a family they are pretty grounded. Not like typical celebrities.”
“Meeting Gene would make my life,” remarked Kayla Butts, 16, who drove from Salmon Arm for a chance to meet the family. “My dad has listened to Kiss my whole life. My 95-year-old grandma loves them too.”