Joey Fatale plays the bass in Mini Kiss. That makes him Mini Gene. And just like Gene Simmons, Fatale wants you to know he has a big, long tongue.
"I'm not bragging, but it's coincidental that my tongue is kinda long. It does the trick, being so short statured. You know what I'm saying?" Fatale says in his New Yorker accent.
"I gotta say, a lot of girls have wanted to hang out because of that," he adds and laughs.
Mini Kiss is so good at being Mini Kiss that they are featured in a Dr. Pepper TV ad with the real big Kiss. The ad debuted during the most recent Super Bowl.
That's quite the legacy. Can you think of any other tribute band in the history of America that has co-starred with the real band in a Super Bowl ad?
On the set of filming that commercial, Fatale hit it off with Kiss drummer Eric Singer.
"Me and him -- we had a pisser. We had a really good time. He's just like a really bouncy guy," Fatale says. "I mean it could be 6 in the morning or midnight, this guy looked like he was not tired. He just talks. And I had a great time with him."
Also on the set of the TV ad, Fatale and Simmons bonded over their stage-prep habits.
"I said, 'Gene, let me ask you. Is there a time that, before you go onstage, you go into your own little world for like a half-hour?'
"He said, 'Joey it's cool that you ask that. I do that all the time.'
"He said, 'That means you really care about what you do.' "
Simmons has been "really, really cool" about Mini Kiss, Fatale says.
Their paths first crossed years ago at Studio 54 in Manhattan.
"Someone asked if we wanted to do a freebie (show)" for Kiss at the nightclub, Fatale says.
Mini Kiss said yes. At that gig, Fatale saw happiness register across Simmons' face.
"I just looked at him while we were going through the songs, and that dude had a smile from ear to ear. He was so cool. He was so into it," Fatale says.
After that show, Simmons took Mini Kiss into a VIP area and signed whatever Kiss merchandise they wanted.
"He was just a great guy."
There's only been one little snare between Kiss and Mini Kiss, and that was when Simmons found out Fatale patented the name Mini Kiss -- which was a very Gene Simmons thing for Fatale to do.
"His lawyers called, and they were a little upset at first. But I just followed what Gene said. He said, 'Patent everything you do.' And that's what I did.
"But then, he was really cool and said, 'Ah, screw it. It is what it is. They're good guys.' "
Years later, on the set of the TV ad, Fatale told Simmons he really appreciated what he'd done for Mini Kiss.
Simmons replied, "If I could put food on your table, it's all good," Fatale recalls.
The question people want me to ask Mini Kiss is: What compensation does the real Gene Simmons take from Mini Kiss? Fatale says not a dime.
"There's really nothing to take from me. I don't make a lot. I just have fun," he says.
"I'm a musician my whole life. I play drums, guitar, piano. Never took a lesson. I've always loved music. I've always been musically talented. I saw Kiss a billion times. I always wanted to be a rock 'n' roll star.
"In the '80s, it was a pretty-boy look. There was no way I was gonna make it out there. I had very good skills, but it was all about the pretty-boy look. So I knew in reality I was never gonna make it.
"So I worked at all different kinds of stuff in my life."
Among the things Fatale did: He was Mini Jay Leno on Conan O'Brien's show.
"It was a huge success," Fatale says.
One day in 1996, Fatale looked at one of his Kiss albums and had the eureka moment of putting together a Kiss tribute band.
He can't imagine life without it.
"When I'm up there onstage," he says, "it's the most awesome-est feeling ever."
Fatale has tinkered with the act for so many years, he has it down to a science, from the Mini Blood to the Mini Pyrotechnics.
And he absolutely has Gene Simmons-esque confidence. In the course of our interview, he says:
"A minute into that first song, I've got the looks that kill!"
And: "People love our show. They don't walk away, they're always cheering, the encores are nonstop. People just keep yelling for more, more, more! We run out of songs!"
And: "It's a must-see show, because the uniqueness of us being little, just to begin with."
And: "I'm not bragging. But it's an awesome show!"
"You know," he says, "we play worldwide. We've played Paris, France, Sweden. We've played a lot of big places around the world. We are worldwide."
They are also available for private events.
"I've done bar mitzvahs. I don't care. We're Mini Kiss!"
Doug Elfman's column appears Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. E-mail him at delfman@ reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.