NPR's TERRY GROSS Comments On Infamous Interview With GENE SIMMONS

September 22, 2004

National Public Radio talk show host Terry Gross has commented on her infamous 2002 interview with KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons in her recently published book, "All I Did Was Ask" (Hyperion).

Writing in her book's introduction, Gross said, "When I interviewed Gene Simmons, a cofounder of the comic-book-like heavy metal band KISS, I expected we might share a laugh talking about what it was like for him to go on painting his face and strapping on a codpiece now that he was in his fifties. But neither of us wound up laughing, as you'll see when you read the interview. It's tough, not to say pointless, to pretend that you're conducting a typical interview when the guest says things like 'if you want to welcome me with open arms I'm afraid you're also going to have to welcome me with open legs.' I gave up trying. By the time the encounter was over, we sounded like two first-graders calling each other names, an indignity compounded by the fact that we're both middle-aged adults. Although the show's producers and I weren't even sure at first if the interview merited broadcasting, we eventually decided it made for gripping radio drama, even if it was unlikely to win any journalism awards. It ended up eliciting thousands of e-mails and drawing the attention of many newspapers and magazines. I guess this proves that controversy sells, and so does a good fight (or even a silly fight). But surely, some of this response was based on how totally out of character the whole thing was for National Public Radio. I suspect that if this had happened on commercial radio, the program director would have been in my office the next day encouraging me to fight with my guests all the time to boost our ratings. That's the sort of pressure that hosts on commercial radio and television come under. Thank goodness I'm not in that position."

Simmons had previously told the Cleveland Free Times that his interview with Terry Gross "was the largest audience they've (National Public Radio) ever had. Ms. Gross, I thought, came off rude. I give as good as I get. I'm as polite as anybody is to me. I asked, 'Tell me about NPR, which sounds like a disease.' Who gives a shit about NPR? It was very much a case of people in positions of power who believe that they're beyond recourse. Rude behavior is rude behavior. I said I'm happy to be in a band and welcomed her with open arms and open legs. She didn't appreciate it. She was taken aback."

To download an MP3 file containing the 27-minute interview, which originally aired on February 4, 2002, click here (file size: 25 MB). A transcript of the exchange can be viewed at this location.

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