KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons, who first saw VAN HALEN perform in 1976 at Starwood in Los Angeles, has opened up to People about his initial reaction after he heard the news of Eddie Van Halen's death.
"When I was shocked to find out Eddie had passed, 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," Gene said. "He always had that on, whether he was onstage playing for packed houses or in videos or meeting a stranger. He just smiles and says, 'Hey, how you doing?' 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. It was a full-face smile. It was catchy. It grabs you off-guard."
Simmons went on to praise Van Halen for being a standout individual.
"He was unabashed and just comfortable in his own skin," Simmons said. "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," Gene continued. "At the core, Eddie just seems to be a happy guy.
"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. That's the truth."
Simmons has claimed in several interviews that he once had to talk Eddie out of leaving VAN HALEN and teaming up with KISS. Asked in the April 2014 issue of Guitar World if it was true that Van Halen wanted to join KISS around the time of 1982's "Creatures Of The Night" album, Simmons said: "That is true. And he was very serious. He was so unhappy about how he and [David Lee] Roth were — or weren't — getting along. He couldn't stand him. And drugs were rampant. And so he took me to lunch, to a diner right across the street from the Record Plant. Vinnie Vincent, who was not yet in KISS, tagged along, too. Sneaky guy. And Eddie said, 'I want to join KISS. I don't want to fight anymore with Roth. I'm sick and tired of it.' But I told him, 'Eddie, there's not enough room. You need to be in a band where you can direct the music. You're not going to be happy in KISS.' I talked him out of it. It didn't fit."
During the 2018 "Kiss Kruise", KISS frontman Paul Stanley was asked by a fan if there is any truth to the rumor that Eddie nearly ended up in KISS. Paul responded: "No. Eddie Van Halen did not almost join KISS. Eddie [came down to] the studio. I think there was some strife within the band [VAN HALEN] at that point, for him, and Eddie came down just to see what was going on. And I remember he was really blown away by the solo in [the song] 'Creatures [Of The Night]'. He said, 'Get that guy.' That guy who played the solo in 'Creatures' was a guy named Steve Farris, who was in a band called MISTER MISTER, who had a bunch of hits. But the guitar player was great. And at that point, Eddie was getting into keyboards. And I remember he brought some tapes of some of the songs he was working on. And it was, like, this guy is this unbelievable guitar player. [I thought], 'Eddie, what are you doing on keyboards?' But that was the start of 'Jump' and all that other stuff that came afterwards. But Eddie was never going to join KISS and was never almost in KISS."
In a 1995 interview with The Times Leader, Eddie was asked if it was true that he met with Gene and Paul in Los Angeles 13 years earlier to discuss the possibility of him joining KISS. He responded: "Not that I know of… Unless I was so fucked up [that] I don't remember. They might have asked me… They might have just asked me in passing, and I just kind of laughed it off, probably. If it happened, I'm sure I would have remembered. Maybe they did ask me and I just thought they were joking."
Simmons has repeatedly taken credit for "discovering" VAN HALEN and flying the band to New York to record a 15-song demo at Electric Lady Studios, with Gene at the production helm. But he ended up not working with the group after his KISS bandmates and manager, Bill Aucoin, expressed little interest in his demos. "I gave the demo back to the band, told them I had a tour to go on and afterward I would try to get them a record deal, but until then, I tore up our contract and set them free," he said. "It didn't take them long to get on Warner Bros."
Eddie died on October 6 at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California at the age of 65. His wife, Janie, was by his side, along with Wolfgang, and Alex, Eddie's brother and VAN HALEN drummer.