Before last week, the only other Gene I was ever mistaken for was Gene Shalit, the oddball TV movie reviewer with the ludicrous fright-wig hair and totally goofy mustache, a man I happen to physically resemble quite a bit. So I’ve always been a little testy on the subject of mistaken identity.
Last week, though, something remarkable happened. On Twitter, I got a message in Spanish from a young man in Madrid named Fernando Valentin. He was thanking me for having “saved Christmas.” This left me a little puzzled, because I do not recall ever specifically saving Christmas, except for the time I helped a plumber unclog the sewage line from my house the day before a big holiday party, eliminating (haha) the need for a festive emergency rental porta-potty in my front yard. But that was a personal Christmas-saving achievement, word of which is unlikely to have reached Europe.
My confusion was instantly cleared up. In his tweet, Fernando included a link to a photo of me, which turned out to not be of me at all. It was a photo of Gene Simmons, the frontman for the hard rock band Kiss, which, as I discovered, once saved Santa Claus from a pterodactyl on an episode of “Family Guy.”
Clearly, Mr. Valentin had somehow conflated the two Genes. I must admit this was not quite as ego-thrashing as the Shalit mistake: Gene Simmons is said to have bedded 5,000 women. I decided I could live with that particular mistaken identity.
Now, I don’t want to brag, but I did have something of a brush with rock superstardom. One day in 1987, I played harmonica for the Urban Professionals, a band formed by Dave Barry for the sole purpose of performing a blues song he wrote about Tupperware before a convention of 1,000 Tupperware distributors.
I was the second most accomplished musician in our four-man band, after Dave, who could actually play his instrument competently and who, as he correctly noted in a column, was the only member of the band who knew for sure when the song began and ended. The other two band members were the dancers, Tom and Lou, who moved (as Dave wrote) “in what they presumably thought was unison.”
But I doubted that Fernando, in Madrid, had known about my pro tour; I assumed he got confused because Simmons and I are both Genes, and both are dynamic, public personalities adored by the masses. So I tweeted Fernando back, in Spanish, forgiving his mistake. I figured he’d ask for my autograph. Instead, he sheepishly informed me that he’d had no idea who I was, that he’d carelessly clicked on the first option Twitter gave him after he typed @Gene, and for some reason, that option was me. (The second was Simmons.)
Okay, fine. Still, Twitter had us one-two, in that order, joined at the hip! I decided to get to know my celebrity twin better, which is when I encountered an audio file of an NPR interview Simmons had done with Terry Gross in 2002.
Simmons informs the flabbergasted host, without any sense of playfulness or irony, that if she wished to greet him with open arms, she was also going to have to greet him “with open legs.” Also, that if she wanted his bod, she’d better stay sober: “If you were in my room and we were going to have a liaison, and you were high, you’d be out on your butt before you could spell your last name. Because if you don’t want to experience me with all the senses God gave you, you don’t deserve to be with me.” It may be the single most ego-besotted, obnoxious performance in the history of radio.
Just last week, on Twitter, a young French woman, who writes only in French, started following me. I decided not to ask why.
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