NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS, #3 OF 5: Gene Simmons

Gene Simmons (Bass)
Birth name: Chaim Witz
Birthday: August 25, 1949
Heritage: Jewish

If I compared KISS with a computer processor, KISS would be a high-tech dual core. One was Paul Stanley, and another was Gene Simmons. He has been the high power brain and motor of KISS with highly business skill. Hard working by all members was the number one factor of KISS’s success, but also one of the reasons KISS could obtain a record deal within a year after formation was Gene’s marketing and business skill. Those his skills contributed to the further KISS’s success.
Gene also added the same characteristic with New York City to his all New Yorkers band; he was a Jewish immigrant in 1950’s, 10 years after the independence of his native Israel. Many Jewish crossed the Atlantic Ocean to New York City for their new dream during the period. Gene was a child without a dream being a musician when he moved, but he became a great successor of his American dream in the new world.
Today, the places Gene Simmons grew up are the cultural and ethnic crossroads of New York City with different types. They are one of the factors making New York City an interesting melting pot like no others. Let’s take a look at his old neighborhoods where make New York City unique other than Manhattan!

“NEW AMERICA, NEW WORLD”: FLUSHING, QUEENS
Gene Simmon’s life as a New Yorker started when he moved to the United States with his mother at 8 years old, in the summer of 1958. He was born in Israel as Chaim Witz (Chaim means life in Hebrew). When he moved to New York City, he became Gene Klein, because Gene is an Americanized name and Klein is his mother’s maiden name. He became “New American” (Simmons, 2001, p. 26) when he moved to the new world. For Gene, the first place of “New America” was Flushing, Queens where the brother of his mother lived.

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Flushing, Queens. Flushing is located in the eastern Queens and the most northeastern terminal of NYC subway system in Queens with 7 subway line.

Today, Flushing is still “New America” to especially many Asian immigrants who consist 69% of Flushing’s population. The role of “New America” has been increasing in Flushing. Asian population was 22% in 1990, then jumped up to 52% in 2000. And the majority of Asian residents is immigrants while many American-born Asians also live in the area. The result is, upon going up to surface from underground Main Street Station of 7 subway line, the subway’s terminal, the world is pretty much Asia. The majority of people walking on the street is Asians. Most of the store signs along very crowded Main Street is mostly Chinese and less English. Probably the signs with only English are Macy’s, Burger King just next to the subway station and other fast food chains.
Flushing mainly consists of 2 parts; Chinese Flushing and Korean Flushing. Roughly south of Northern Boulevard is more Chinese, and the north of Northern Boulevard and the east of Union Street are more Korean today.

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Chinese Flushing on Main Street (above) and Korean Flushing on Union Street

My opinion is Queens has the most comfortable environment for Asians in New York City. Relatively safe and peaceful, and close to JFK Airport that has most flights to Asia from New York City.

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Skyview Center in Flushing which key store is Target (top) and the inside of huge Target (bottom). Gene wrote in his autobiography that he was surprised everything was big including stores and the size of groceries. I think this Target in his old neighborhood is bigger than old grocery stores and handles bigger items. What would young Gene think if he looked at the inside of this large retail store?

{EAT N’ ROLL!: NEW YORK FOOD COURT, FLUSHING}
Flushing has some Chinese food court around Main Street Station of #7 line. One day when I walked to Target for this article with being tired and hungry, I found this New York Food Court near Target. Only by my Asian intuition, I expected this place might be nice. The reasons of my intuition were first, many Asians went to inside. Second, the location was a little short walk away from busy subway station, not in front of the station. My opinion is many of the Asian restaurants near the subway station aren’t good in Flushing. The third was the food court was in an independent building, not the inside of busy malls like others. So I decided to try. And I think my intuition was right.

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There are many Chinese restaurants with a variety of styles inside of the large store space, from dumpling to BBQ, from Sichuan to Taiwanese. The dining area was clean with many seating.
The restaurant I chose was Lanzhou Hand Pull Noodles (#22). I always wanted to try Lanzhou beef noodle (Lanzhou is in northwestern China) but didn’t have a chance. Plus the store had a line of customers for their orders. That was a good sign to choose nice restaurants.
The staff’s service was nice, but what I was surprised first was good prices. The store had many kinds of noodles, and the average price was between $5.50 and $6. I chose Sirloin Beef Noodle for $7, and that was one of the most expensive items.
I expected the noodle wouldn’t be much because of the cheap price, but I was surprised again when I received my order. The bowl was big, and a lot of noodles were in the bowl. My hungry stomach became full after eating. Both the noodle and soup were pretty nice. I hardly drink all noodle soup, but I drunk all at that restaurant. That became my favorite restaurant.
If you have difficulty to find out nice Chinese restaurants in Flushing, I suggest you try this store. This style of the food court is popular in Asia especially Southeast Asia.

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Lanzhou Hand Pull Noodles (#22).
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Top: A delicious Sirloin Beef Noodle. The bowl might look a little small in the photo, but it actually had depth. Bottom: Clean and large dining area.

NEW YORK FOOD COURT: no website
ADDRESS: 133-35 Roosevelt Avenue, Flushing, NY  11354 (MAP)
TEL: 917-285-2551

(PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FROM MIDTOWN MANHATTAN)
7 to Main Street-Flushing (the last stop)

THREE WORLDS IN LESS THAN A MILE: WILLIAMSBURG, BROOKLYN
Within a year, Gene and his mother moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Gene recalled about Williamsburg on KISS: Behind the Mask, “it was a ghetto right across the border from Bedford-Stuyvesant, which is now all black, but that point it was turning into a Latino neighborhood” (Leaf & Sharp, 2003, p. 18). From this, I assume they lived around the corner of Flushing Avenue and Marcy/Nostrand Avenues because the environment is still exactly same with what he wrote.

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Flushing Avenue. The left side is Marcy Project in Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood with the majority of the Black and Latino population. The right side is dominantly Jewish neighborhood of South Williamsburg.
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Marcy Houses on Flushing and Marcy Avenues.

Williamsburg side, the north of Flushing Avenue, is almost completely orthodox and conservative Jewish neighborhood with many Hasidic Jewish people, probably more orthodox than Kew Garden Hills where Paul Stanley lived. That area is also filled with many Hebrew signs.
On the other hand, across Flushing Avenue is the Bedford-Stuyvesant side (Bed-Stuy) with Marcy Houses, a large housing project. Marcy Houses was the place where Jay-Z grew up. Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood has dominantly Black and Latino population.
Marcy Houses improved more than the past. The housing project was known as notorious and much more dangerous before, even though it’s still tough. A change is coming to the area with a big modern apartment which is on the construction next to the housing project.

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The intersection of Flushing and Nostrand/Lee Avenues. The first photo is Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood with more Black and Latino population on the south side of the corner. The second photo is the mostly Jewish area of Williamsburg on the north side of the corner.
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South Williamsburg with the majority of the Jewish population.
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Many Hebrew signs in the area

Gene went to a Jewish school in 206 Wilson Street, what he recalled a religious school. The school, Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov, still exists at the same address.

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Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov, a Jewish school, on 206 Wilson Street.

Broadway, one of the area’s main streets runs east-west, is 2 blocks away from Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov. Broadway acts as the significant border of two different environments within the same Williamsburg neighborhood. The south side is very orthodox and conservative Hasidic Jewish area with many men wearing black suits and hat as written before. On the other hand, the north side is one of the trendiest, hippest, and very liberal areas of New York City. The previous Flushing Avenue is also different between the north side and south side, but they’re different neighborhoods. This case, the world is extremely different within the same neighborhood.
The distance between Flushing Avenue/Marcy Avenue and Broadway/Marcy Avenue, the following photo, is only 0.8 miles (1.3 km) according​ to Google Map. There are three different worlds in the short distance.

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Broadway runs under the elevated J, M, and Z subway lines. Beyond Broadway is the northside of Williamsburg, the different type of Williamsburg with southside.
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The corner of South 3rd Street and Bedford Avenue, the north side of Williamsburg. 3 blocks away from Broadway and the world is different with popular and trendy stores. Gene Simmons attended evening bible class after the school around the corner, but there is no school anymore and the area is much less Jewish today.

Gene had a lonely childhood because he had difficulty on English and making friends. The loneliness lead Gene to get attracted to TV first, then movies. He used to go to movie theaters under elevated subway lines in Williamsburg. J, Z, and M are the only elevated subway lines in Williamsburg. There is no movie theater on Broadway anymore, but I assume there were movie theaters Gene used to go around the area below.

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Broadway under the subway. Though there are many constructions along Broadway, this street is quite different with both north and south side of the neighborhood. Broadway has had tired and declined atmosphere.
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Marcy Avenue Station of J, M, and Z lines. This is the first stop of those lines in Brooklyn after Williamsburg Bridge. The racial demographic of passengers changed a lot at this station in this 10 years. The demographic is more mixed today.
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South Williamsburg has the most famous old steak house in the city, Peter Luger. The restaurant is a short walk from Marcy Avenue Station. The area around this restaurant has been changed a lot these years, being fancy like North Williamsburg.

{EAT N’ ROLL!:PIES N’ THIGHS, WILLIAMSBURG}
I was interested in Pies’s Thighs Restaurant on S. 4rd Street when I read a restaurant review last year. I thought the combination of fried chicken and pies are interesting. This popular joint near Williamsburg bridge has pork and beef on their menu as well, but their fried chicken is the best known.

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Pies N’ Thighs Restaurant on S. 4th Street, Williamsburg. They also have a location in Lower East Side, Manhattan.

First of all, what I was impressed most was their good customer service. All waitresses and waiters were very friendly with good manner. Also, the restaurant didn’t have specifically assigned server per table. Whenever foods and drinks were ready, any available staffs brought them to the tables immediately. In my case, the servers who took my menu and handled payment, brought my drink, and brought my food were different, and they came quickly even at the busy evening time. I thought that was a very efficient way to serve without letting customers wait, as well as the best way for waitresses and waiters to corporate together. I felt they put customers on the top priority, not the staffs and their gratuity. I think that’s what many restaurants should learn.
And the interior was nice. The restaurant looked small but actually had three spaces; the front, the middle and the back. The front space looked busy and normal. Fortunately, I could sit down in the back room, that had the comfortable old brick interior. The middle space seemed not much used, but I liked the combination of brick and glasses walls and cozy, old-fashioned lightning.

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The beautiful and cozy back room
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I love the middle room, too. Comfortable setting.

I ordered Fried Chicken and Waffle, and Handmade Lemonade for a drink. Lemonade was good with a lot of lemons. The waffle was also very delicious. The restaurant used nice quality of buckwheat for the waffle, and the cinnamon and peach had a perfect accent with the waffle.
Well, fried chicken. I think they should make seasoning more significant. I didn’t taste much seasoning. And the crispiness was a little dull and a little soft for the friend chicken. The chicken itself was good, and inside was juicy and tender. But my opinion is seasoning and good fry is the keys to making their fried chicken different with others because those two make the harmony for fried chicken. Their original tabasco-based spice was a nice match with chicken, but the fried chicken should taste like “no additional sauce was needed”.

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Fried Chicken and Peach Waffles, plus Lemonade

PIES N’ THIGHS: http://piesnthighs.com
ADDRESS: 166 S. 4th Street (MAP)
TEL: 347-529-6090

(PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FROM MIDTOWN MANHATTAN)
To Flushing Avenue area: G to Flushing Avenue. Also, a short walk from Lorimer Street of J, M, Z
To Williamsburg Bridge area: J, M, Z to Marcy Avenue

THE LAND WHERE THE AMERICAS MEETS ASIA: JACKSON HEIGHTS, QUEENS
Gene Simmons and his mother were back to Queens a year after in 1961, that time they lived in Jackson Heights in the central queens.
Because Gene wrote he attended a public elementary school in Junction Boulevard and 93rd Street on his autobiography Kiss and Make-Up, I assume he attended PS 228, which is still at the same location.

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PS 228 in East Elmhurst

His public elementary school era brought him other new experiences. Much less traditional Jewish education system gave him an opportunity to be interested in science fiction and dinosaurs. Another was black students he hadn’t contacted before. Because his black friends and Gene were tall, they usually sit down back of the classroom. He had some black friends there. The area his elementary school was located on the border of Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst, located just below LaGuardia Airport. The black population was traditionally dominant in East Elmhurst. Today, the majority of the population is Latinos.

But probably Gene had more experiences while he was a middle school student. He attended Joseph Pulitzer Middle School (IS 145) on Northern Boulevard and 79th Street in Jackson Heights. Following the famous Beatles’ performance at Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, which made all across America obsessed with the Beatles and music, Gene formed his first band named Lynx with his two schoolmates who were also comic lovers. His Lynx experiences brought him more than just music. The band won at the school contest. That lead to his popularity at the school…and girls.

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Gene, these are your old middle school. IS145 (Joseph Pulitzer Middle School) is an artistic school with nice artworks.
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Gene Simmons went to Newton High School in Elmhurst, next to Jackson Heights. I should have known earlier…I lived only a few blocks away from the high school for more than 10 years before moving to the Bronx!

Jackson Heights is the crossroads of Queens today, both locationally and ethnically. Located in the central Queens, Jackson Heights serves as the important transportation hub of E, F, M, R and 7 subway lines and many city buses including to LaGuardia Airport. Jackson Heights also has an important intersection of two main streets, Broadway and Roosevelt Avenue. Ethnically, Jackson Heights is now the place where The Americas meets Asia in Queens, the melting pot of Latinos, Indians, Tibetans, Thai, and Koreans other than Americans. Jackson Heights used to be known as large Latino and Korean community. The Latino community still has the strong presence on Roosevelt Avenue while Korean businesses have been fading out.

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Roosevelt Avenue/74th Street-Jackson Heights subway station in Jackson Heights, Queens. A big transit center of E, F, M, R, and 7 trains and many bus lines including the bus to LaGaurdia Airport.
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Jackson Heights has mixed ethnic features. Clockwise from top left: Latino businesses on Roosevelt Avenue, Korean restaurants and bars on Broadway recently closed, Indian businesses on 74th Street, Afgan/Nepalese/Tibet restaurants on 37th Avenue.
  • The video of Jackson Heights.

{EAT N’ ROLL!: AYADA THAI, JACKSON HEIGHTS/ELMHURST}
As Queens has a wide ethnic diversity, there are many kinds of ethnic restaurants you can enjoy in Jackson Heights. Jackson Heights has a variety of ethnic restaurants, such as Indian, Thai, Korean, Nepal, Tibetian, Bangladesh, and Latino.
Woodside Avenue is actually in Elmhurst neighborhood, but only 5 blocks away from Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue Station. This is a hidden area with some good Asian restaurants, especially Thai.
My opinion is you can enjoy more traditional and authentic Asian foods in Queens better than Manhattan. Also, Yelp isn’t really helpful for real Asian foods in Queens. Usually, the highly rated Asian restaurants are Americanized. Use a traditional method: a crowded restaurant by local is typically a good restaurant.
My recommendation is Ayada Thai on Woodside Avenue. I think this is one of the best Thai restaurants in New York City. Foods are nice, service is good, and the prices are good as well.

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Ayada Thai in Woodside Avenue, Elmhurst

This is a small restaurant with about 30 seats, and the restaurant is always crowded. The restaurant was pretty full even at 10 p.m. on Wednesday when I visited.

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The inside of restaurant at 10 p.m. Coincidently customers were all Americans on that side, but another side was all Thai and a Japanese (me). The restaurant is actually much darker than this. I adjusted camera exposure.

All foods are really nice at the restaurant. They serve real Thai foods without compromise. Curry is hot, spicy, and tasty. Noodle is thick, sticky and with long lasting taste. Spice is really good accent here as what Thai foods supposed to be. Tell them upon order if you want them to adjust spiciness. Their regular spicy is really hot! I always sweat a lot when I eat their regular curry…though regular spiciness is the best.
My favorite beside famous Thai curry is Drunken Noodle, sauteed thick rice noodle with a choice of meat and mixed vegetables. This is one of the restaurant’s signature dish.

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Top: Steam Dumplings with Chicken and Shrimp. Thai dumpling is more like Shumai. Full flavor of nice chicken and shrimp! Bottom: The restaurant’s popular Drunken Noodle. The noodle is thick, sticky and delicious. This is a spicy dish, and the restaurant usually asks the request of spiciness.

AYADA THAI http://ayadathaiwoodside.com
ADDRESS: 77-08 Woodside Avenue, Elmhurst, NY 11373 (map)
TEL: 718-424-0844

(PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FROM MIDTOWN MANHATTAN)
To Jackson Heights area: 7, E, F, M, R to Roosevelt Avenue/74th Street-Jackson Heights Station.

*The videos are recorded by TRIPMUZE.COM.

READ MORE EPISODES OF “NEW YORK MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS” SERIES!

  1. NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS: Prelude
  2. NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS, PART 1: Paul Stanley
  3. NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS, PART 2: Ace Frehley
  4. NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS, PART 4: Peter Criss
  5. NEW YORK CITY MUSIC TRIP/FROM THE LIFE OF ORIGINAL KISS MEMBERS, PART 5: From The Birth of KISS to Their Golden Era in NYC

GENE SIMMONS’ AUTOBIOGRAPHY, “KISS AND MAKE-UP” (Apple/Amazon)

REFERENCE
Simmons, G. (2001). Kiss and Make-Up. New York, NY: Crown Publishers

Leaf, D. & Sharp, K. (2003). Kiss: Behind the Mask. New York, NY: Hachette Book Group

KISS (band). (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 29, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiss_(band)

Gene Simmons. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 29, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Simmons

Flushing. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 29, 2016,
from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flushing,_Queens

Demographics of Flushing. In Peopling Of New York 2013 w/Professor Berger. Retrieved June 29, 2016, from http://macaulay.cuny.edu/eportfolios/berger2013/demographics-of-flushing

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